Editor at Large
This Island Leith
100 Days of Leith (at leithforever.org), was/is an initiative set up as a response to the City of Edinburgh Council Archives’ ReDrawing Edinburgh - which commemorated the boundary changes of 1920 as a way of uniting a community during lockdown.
More than 50 Leith-based groups have been involved in contributing to the project, overseen by Leith Civic Trust.
Alastair Campbell wrote: ‘What did it mean to be a Leither then (1920), and what does it mean to be one now? Did the merger with Edinburgh signal the end of this “island” Leith’?
The 100 Days project certainly proposes a new beginning, as well as a deep understanding of what went before: Here’s a flavour of the latter, you’ll find many other perspectives on this site and the many others dedicated to Leith…
“As a bairn in the 196Os looking up Leith Walk from the old Kirkgate, the road seemed to go on, and on, for ever. Now, in my 60’s, whenever I visit it’s a different vista in a differing world yet as thriving as it ever was. There is, clearly, a ‘Spirit of Leith’; one that has welcomed incomers and facilitated travellers to spread themselves across the globe, yet still offers a ‘hame tae a’.” Kinny Gardner
Bombings in Leith 1940-42
James Robb remember his mum’s cousin, who was killed in a shelter by the same bombs that damaged the newly built Leith Town Hall complex (including Leith Theatre and Leith Library): “She was killed in the Largo Place bombing. She went into the shelter but the bomb landed on it. Her gravestone in Seafield Cemetery describes her as having died as a result of enemy action. My Mother said hers was the last walking funeral in Leith RIP.”
Jill McGlaughlin’s mother told her about the same event: “She was about 10 years old and she said that when the mines hit, in her head she saw a giant tearing up the pavements. She’d never heard noise like it, terrifying!”
The winter of 1947
“I remember the last of the snow… Me holding my wee brother’s hand in James Place, lots of long icy slides made by the boys at school, chapped knees and lugs, breath smoking when you got up, ice on windows, mum queuing for rations in the snow. Don’t remember being kept off school.
Walked up the Links every day to Easter Road, ploutering through the snow topping your welly boots to get the bus to Moray House School!” Christine Muir
Tim Bell, part of the steering group behind the project was unequivocal: “100 Days has been and remains a wonderful exercise in collective memory and celebration. Except it’s not always celebration, sometimes it’s being honest with the past and it isn’t always happy. Not many communities are this lucky.”
Ron Neish, “What I’ve got out of it is reminding people of our amazing maritime heritage, Leith was building ships 400 years before the Clyde but there is little evidence of that in national museums.
Co-producer Barbara Kerr: “100 Days of Leith will continue as an online presence and Leith For Ever has now received funding to continue the project. Everyone I have spoken to has been very positive…”
Amongst the suggestions for the future are: creating a book, curating a physical exhibition and staging a mini festival.
Leith Civic Trust, were supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and The People’s Postcode Trust while creating 100 Days of Leith.
Thanks also go to: TheSpiritofLeithers, Edinphoto.org.uk, City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh Libraries Capital Collections
Personal thanks to: Claire Smith.