The History of Leith

February 21, 2011

The Leith Races

In those apocbryphal days spoken of as the ”good old times,” Leith Races lasted for an entire week. There were plate and cups to be run for to a considerable value, and such important matters had to be managed with all becoming deliberation. The Magistrates of Edinburgh, attended by the City Guard,countenanced the proceedings, and the festivities were considered worthy of embalmment in the pages of Bobert Pergusson. It was usual for one of the city officers, in gala dress, accompanied by the drummer of the city guard, to form a precession of two, the former bearing aloft on the end of a pole a gaily ornamented purse, styled the city purse, and the latter row-de-dowing behind him after the most approved fashion. This of course was sufficient to attract all the tag-rag-and-bobtail of the city, so that by the time the procession reached Leith, it had swelled into a goodly mob of ragged urchins and mischief-loving lads, who gave full scope to their propensities as soon as they had reached the Sands. Our space will not permit us to enumorate the varied and valuable “purses’1 that were run for, from;; the king’s of 100 guineas, down to the final ” subscription ” for beaten horses ; nor can we do more than touch upon the multitude of minor amusements which served to fill up the intervals between the races. These consisted of shows, wheels of fortune, and rowley.,powley in endless variety, and last, though not least, whole, streets of drinking-booths and tents: Suffice it to, say that for an entire week the town was one continued scene of racing, drinking, and
fighting j and the sports were usually concluded by a general demolition of the booths, and a promiscuous fighting, match amongst
those who, in spite of whiskey and previous pugilistic encounters.,were still able to keep their legs, That anybody, save the most degraded, should have regretted the abolition of these saturnalia ; may seem rather strange, but nevertheless it is the fact.

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