The History of Leith

October 18, 2012

Pak nor peill

Leith appears as the Cinderella of Scots
towns, for she had no regular weekly market, and certainly
never had a fair, and, although she was for centuries
the most important seaport in Scotland, no Leither
was allowed any share in the overseas trade of his own
town. He could neither export any goods to, nor import
them from, foreign countries. Such trade in our district
was the monopoly of the merchant burgesses of Edinburgh
only.
Nor was any foreign produce allowed to be sold in
Leith. An old Scots Act of Parliament declared ” that
no man pak nor peill ” in Leith—that is, trade nor traffic
in Leith. If Leithers wished to purchase any foreign
produce they could only do so from Edinburgh merchants
at the Cross of Edinburgh. Leithers might own or man
the ships as mariners ; they could be ” pynouris ” (the
old Scots name for a dock labourer), but they could not
otherwise share in the foreign trade of their own town.
Such was the law of the land as enacted by the old
Scots Parliament. Such a law could only be passed in
a Parliament where the burgesses of royal burghs had
representation and the inhabitants of unfree burghs had
not. It was unjust, although few, if any, saw it exactly
in that light in those times, for it supported the utterly
selfish policy of giving commercial privileges to the inhabitants
of royal burghs from which the rest of the
nation were shut out.

source-The Story of Leith

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