The History of Leith

August 28, 2012

Society Changing

It was in the year 1805 that the Police Act for
the city first came into operation, when John Tait,
Esq., was appointed Judge of the Court. Prior
to this the guardianship of the city had been entirely
in the hands of the old Town Guard, which
was then partially reduced, save a few who were
retained for limited and’ special service. The
Commissioners of Police first substituted gas for
oil lamps; and in 1823 the papers announce that
these officials had “fitted up 341 new gas pillars,
chiefly in the New Town; they are in progress
with other forty-two, and have given orders for
other 245 gas lights, chiefly in the Old Town.
They are to sell the superseded lamp-irons and
globes, from which they may realise about -£6oo.”
By that time the last traces of ancient manners
had nearly departed. ‘”The old claret-drinkers,”
says a writer in 1824, “are brought to nothing, and
some of them are under the sod. The court
dresses, in which the nobility and gentry appeared
at the balls and first circles in Edinburgh, together
with their dress swords or rafiiers, are all ‘ have
beats,’ for there has been introduced a half-dress
—and it is a half-dress : nay, some ladies make
theirs less than half; while the swords of the welldressed
men have been dropped for the fist, and
the dashing blades of the present day learn to mill,
to fib, and to floor, and to give a facer with their
‘ mawlies,’ and other equally gentleman-like accomplishments.”
Elsewhere he says :—” To prove
the more tenacious adhesion of the Scotch to
French manners and old fashions, I can assert that
for one cocked hat which appeared in the streets of
London within the last forty years, a dozen passed
current in Auld Reekie.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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