A new skin for the old ceremony

Posted by in May's Magazine

To that wonderfully allusive room, oft tantalisingly glimpsed, above the police station on Queen Charlotte Street, and it doesn’t disappoint, shabby yes, but poignantly redolent of broken histories – the population of Leith is the same now as it was 200 years ago, which speaks volumes about the devastating depopulation – and lined with portraits of Leith Provosts long dead.

The last, the current Lord Provost of Edinburgh reminds us, was John Lindsay, a lonely, autonomous, 91 years ago. The occasion of our visit? A symbolic meeting of the Council of the City of Edinburgh at the formal launch of the nascent Leith Trust – a group whose remit is to promote growth and national and international recognition for the historic old port. According to that admirable serial appearer on various voluntary committees (including this one), David Rutherford, they hope to “come up with initiatives that capture the imagination” such as the, long in gestation Leith Museum. “Malcolm Chisholm intends to raise the question in Parliament.” Money, of course is tight, but they hope for enough to conduct a feasibility study. There was much talk of a ‘memorandum of intent’, the current political buzz phrase, and a nice ‘creative tension’ with them up the road.


Canapés and wine – which the Lord Provost waspishly pointed out, were provided by Edinburgh Council – followed. When the Provost shimmied towards the gaggle of politicos who were eagerly scrambling away (fists full) from the serried ranks of red wine glasses, he offered David and I a typically endearing, “I say, one seems to be walking against the tide.” Mr. Rutherford piped up, swift as you like, “you’re the Lord Provost, you can do what you like.” Whilst I managed a wholly disrespectful, and probably actionable, “s’awright boss.” This last acted as the catalyst for our early departure for, in truth, the event was ill served by this magazine’s reporter and photographer. Looking, as we did, rather as if we had taken a wrong turning on the way to the drunk tank. I feel sure the police in attendance had a more resolute demeanour whenever we stopped at the Ceremonial Sword and Mace. “Half a million quids worth,” offered Councillor Munro, helpfully.

Guerrilla wallah’s
And so it was that your two representatives signed some sort of historic charter (looked like a piece of A4 paper to me), made our excuses, and boosted out of the building before we were ‘found out’.

What we missed: An informative, colourful, and effortlessly witty speech on the history of the old Leith Town Hall, from PC Mark Muir. How do we know this if we weren’t there? Look, he’s a policeman, he may be wanting ‘a word with us’ in the (very) near future… trust me, he was grandiloquent and wise. We also had to duck the bus tour, the organiser of which approached me over the mince pies and strawberries (in April? Bit of an own goal for the caterers) with a gruff, “Robert Leslie, in charge of bus tour, speak later.” He had a military bearing – you know the type, a leg in each corner – and, by military, I mean one of those guerrilla wallahs’s who earns top dollar in the African bush organising an African despot’s immediate family into a fearsome fighting unit. So you can absolutely guarantee that the Leith Bus Tour and his considered, thought provoking and stitch-inducingly funny commentary thereon was far and away the best ‘tourist related’ attraction I have never been on.

One response to “A new skin for the old ceremony”

  1. Callum Alden says:

    ahh, well done sir. this made me chuckle. then i added a silly picture to boot. enjoy.

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