The History of Leith

October 17, 2011

The Sand-Bar 0f Leith

From the Gentleman s Magazine for May, 1786, we learn that, owing to a long continuance of easterly wind, the bar at the mouth of Leith harbour had attained such a height, that vessels could scarcely pass out or in with any chance of safety; that many were aground upon it; and that the magistrates of Edinburgh were considering how it could best be removed.
It is related that when, in the spring of the year 1820, Lord Erskine re-visited Edinburgh, after an absence of nearly half a century, on which occasion a banquet was given him in the Assembly Rooms, at which all the then master spirits of the Scottish bar were present, and Maxwell of Carriden presided, he returned to London by sea from Leith. He took his passage in the Favourite, one of the famous old fighting-smacks, Captain Mark Sanderson; but it so happened that she either grounded on the bar, or there was not in the harbour sufficient water to float her over it; thus for days no vessel could leave the harbour. Lord Erskine, with other disappointed passengers, was seen daily, at the hours of the tide flowing, waiting with anxiety the floating of the vessel; and
when at last she cleared the harbour, and stood round the martello tower, he wittily expressed his satisfaction in the following verse :—
“Ofdepth profound, o’erflowing far,
I blessed the Edinburgh Bar ;
While muttering oaths between my teeth,
I cursed the shallow Bar of Leith !”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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