The History of Leith

October 19, 2011

The tablet of the Association of Porters described in c1883

An unusually bold piece of sculpture, in a deep square panel, was above the archway that led into the courtyard behind. It was afterwards placed over the arched entrance leading from the Tolbooth Wynd to St. Andrew’s Street, and, as shown by Robertson, bears the date 1678, with the initials G. R., with two porters .carrying a barrel slung between them, a ship with a lee-board and the Scottish ensign, an edifice resembling a mill or two-storeyed granary, and above it a representation of a curious specimen of mechanical ingenuity.
The latter consists of a crane, the entire machinery of which ” was comprised in one large drum or broad wheel, made to revolve, like the wire cylinder of a squirrel’s cage, by a poor labourer, who occupied the quadruped’s place, and clambered up Sisyphus-like in his endless treadmill. The perspective, with the grouping and proportions of the whole composition, formed altogether an amusing
and curious sample of both the mechanical and the fine arts of the seventeenth century.”
A local writer in 1865 asserts—we know not upon what authority—that it is the tablet of the Association of Porters; and adds, that “had the man in the wheel missed a step when hoisting up any heavy article, he must have been sent whirling round at a speed in nowise tending to his personal comfort.” Robertson also writes of it as “The tablet of the Association of Porters, over the entrance
to the old Sugar House Close.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

(Editor-The Tablet can now be seen on the wall of the vaults in Henderson St. St Andrew Street does not exist now)

Some Text