The History of Leith

May 23, 2012

Leith Trade in 1883

Even in times of undoubted depression the
docks at Leith have always retained an appearance
of bustle and business, through the many large sailing
ships laden with guano and “West Indian sugar
lying at the quays; but guano having been partly
superseded by chemical manures, and West Indian
by Continental sugar, the comparatively few vessels
that now arrive are discharged with the greatest
expedition. In the close of 1881 one came to
port with the largest cargo of sugar ever delivered
at Leith, the whole of which was for the Bonnington
As a source of revenue to the Dock Commission,
steamers which can make ten voyages for one performed
by a sailing vessel are, of course, very much
preferred; and, as showing the extent of the Continental
sugar trade, it may be mentioned that quite
recently 184,233 bags were imported in a single
month. Most of this sugar is taken direct from the
docks to the refiners at Greenock.
A very important ele’ment in the trade of Leith
is the importation of esparto grass, both by sailing
vessels and steamers. This grass is closely pressed
by steam power into huge square bales, and these
are discharged with such celerity by the’use of
donkey-engines and other appliances, that it is a
common thing to unload 150 tons in a single day.
The facilities for discharging vessels at Leith
with extreme rapidity are so admirable that few
ports can match it—the meters, the weighers, and
the stevedore firms who manage the matter, having
every interest in getting the work performed with
the utmost expedition.
As a wine port Leith ranks second in the British
Isles, and it possesses a very extensive timber trade;
and though not immediately connected with shipping,
the wool trade is an important branch of
industry there, the establishments of Messrs. Macgregor
and Pringle, and of Messrs. Adams, Sons, and
Co., being among the most extensive in Scotland.
The largest fleet of Continental trading steamers
sailing from Leith is that of Messrs. James Currie
and Co. In 1881 this firm had twenty-two
steamers, with a capacity of 17,000 tons. Messrs.
Gibson and Co. have many fine steamers, which
are constantly engaged, while the Baltic is open
and free of ice, in making trading voyages to Riga,
Cronstadt, and other Russian ports.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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