The History of Leith

April 17, 2012

A bold piece of sculpture (Described in 1883 removed now to the Vaults Henderson Street)

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
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

Some Text