The History of Leith

March 20, 2012


Mr Robertson, to whose archaeological skill, and
indefatigable labours, in deciphering the old South
Leith Minute Books, we are so much indebted for the
“Extracts,” appearing month by month in our Church
Magazine, contributes the following account of an interesting
interview which he had with the son of a former
minister of South Leith ; and also describes certain plans
of our Church prior to its restoration in the year 1848.
On behalf of the Kirk Session we have to acknowledge
receipt of certain plans of the old Church, Manse, and
Glebe of South Leith. These have been gifted by Mr
A. D. Grant, Edinburgh, a son of Dr James Grant, who
was minister of our Church from 1824-1844. Mr A. D.
Grant was present at the Tercentenary Service lasf year,
and although it is very many years since the time when
he lived in Cassell’s Place, his interest in our Church is
still maintained. In the course of a recent interview,
Mr Grant recalled some of the incidents connected with
his father’s ministry in Leith. At the early age of 24,
young James Grant had left College, and had engaged
to become assistant to Dr Dickson, first minister, but
before he could enter upon his duties, Dr Dickson died
to the sorrow and regret of the whole town. A year or
two before his death, King George made his famous
landing in Leith, an event which created much stir at
the time, and which is recounted with great detail in our
local histories. It seems that Dr Dickson bore a part in
this great ceremony, and the congregation presented
him with a gown in commemoration of the event. Upon
his deathbed, Dr Dickson bequeathed this gown to young
James Grant, and pointed him out as his successor. Mr
A. D. Grant still possesses the letter which Dr Dickson’s
Trustees wrote to his father when sending him the gown
and acquainting him of the wishes of the dying minister.
It was the old church to which young James Grant
came as minister, the church familiar to the great
majority of us by picture only, but which Mr A. D.
Grant can remember perfectly. One of the plans which
he has handed over shews how the sittings were divided
amongst the Corporations of the town. At the east end
of the Church, the sittings in the gallery and below were
appropriated to the Trinity House. At the west end the
sittings in the Gallery and below were appropriated to
the Maltmen. The north aisle going from west to east
was divided amongst the Carters, Cordwainers, Earl of
Moray, and Hammermen. The south aisle going from
west to east was divided between the Merchant Company
and the various crafts. The lofts above were divided
in a somewhat corresponding fashion. The pulpit stood
at the middle of the north aisle, and the body of the
Church was the property of the Kirk Session, who let the
sittings there.
Other plans which Mr A. D. Grant has gifted shew
the two portions of the Glebe at Restalrig, of which one
portion is still appropriated to this purpose, and the
other was acquired many years ago by the North British
Railway, and is now occupied by St. Maigaret’s Works.
The young minister faced the problem of building a
manse, for at this date no manse existed, the present one
not having been purchased. The plans shew that the
Heritors and Presbytery were bent upon building a
manse upon the latter portion of the Glebe, and the
schedules and estimates now in our hands shew a probable
cost of ,£1700. It is interesting to note that Mr
Grant at that time claimed the lands of Parsons Green as
the property of the Church, basing his contention upon
the name they bore. Fortunately the projected scheme
of erecting a manse at such a distance from South-Leith
was not carried into effect. The plan of the present
Glebe was prepared in connection with the restoration of
Restalrig Church, a work which was carried into effect
in the year 1836.

source-South leith Church

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