The History of Leith

December 15, 2012

” Our Lady Kirk ” of Leith

South Leith Church, was, like the one at Restalrig,
dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who thus became the patron saint of the
community, and took the chief place in the town arms.
That is why in older days it was often called St. Mary’s,
and oftener still, ” Our Lady Kirk ” of Leith, as if it
had a very warm place in their hearts. And, indeed,
it might well have, for it gave them their great annual
holiday. A great time of rejoicing in all Catholic countries
to-day, as in days gone by, is the 15th of August,
when all make holiday because
” The blessed Virgin Marie’s feast,
Hath then his place and time,”
for on that day, according to Catholic belief, the Holy
Virgin was miraculously taken up into heaven, as depicted
in Rubens’s great picture at Antwerp.
But our old Catholic forbears in pre-Reformation
Leith had a double cause for rejoicing on that day.
The 15th of August was hot only the Festival of the
Virgin, but also the feast day of their patron saint.
Are not the town arms to-day a quaint old-world galley,
in which the Virgin sits enthroned under a canopy with
the Holy Child ? As in Edinburgh on St. Giles’ Day,
all the trade guilds in the town, headed by the priests
of St. Mary’s, went in procession, bearing the image of
the Virgin decked in jewels and costly raiment before
them. All the members of the family who worked elsewhere
endeavoured to pass the day among their own
people, with whom they spent a joyful evening over
pancakes and other dainties, telling ” geists,” or stories,
round the family hearth.
Strange as it may seem, we have no record as to
who were the founders of St. Mary’s Church, nor do we
know exactly the date of its erection ; but jaeither is
difficult to guess. We have seen how the good folk of
Leith, shut out from being merchants, became mariners
and shipowners, like Sir Andrew Wood and the Bartons,
bringing much wealth to the town. Under the peaceful
and ordered government of James IV., and the encouragement
he gave to Leith sailormen and shipping, the
town advanced rapidly in wealth, and was more prosperous
during his reign than at any succeeding period

source-The Story of Leith

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