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…and here we are


In the winter of 2003/04 we were in the throes of buying the old Slammers Bar (motto ‘Leith’s Premier Throat Emporium’) - on the corner of Constitution and Queen Charlotte, with the intention of turning it into the Compass Bar & Grill.

People would pop in to see what was going on, some excited by the changes taking place, others clearly disgruntled that their early morning watering hole was being turned into what London’s chattering classes were calling a Gastropub.

Although I didn’t like the term at the time, it fitted the bill. Old pubs, given a new lease of life, serving restaurant worthy food from a tiny kitchen (in this case the old Ladies Toilet).

One day I decided to stick a blackboard outside with a (spurious) cry of help for a missing pigeon chalked on it. It read:

Lost Pigeon
It has beady eyes a slate-grey head, green-purple iridescent neck, ash-grey wings and tail with black barring.

Reward Offered
I followed that with, ‘Where do pigeons go to die?’ And, ‘Why do you never see baby pigeons?’

At which point a chap called Peter Laing presented himself, and said without preamble: “See those weird blackboards you put up outside, could you contribute a column in that style for a new magazine we are launching?”

And that was the day I started writing a column for The Leither.

158 issues later we’ve arrived (roughly) at our 20th anniversary. According to our advertising whizz, Sue Laing. Who is now, it seems, a Private Investigator to boot. I am indebted to her for holding me in an arm lock and whispering in my ear:

“You must make a bit of a fuss about this!”

Ahem… and here we are. Hello.

I’ve dusted down that first issue of The Leither, which properly, had the wonderful Mary Moriarty on the cover, offering these wise words: “This is exactly what the community needs.”

Inside Protempore runs with the problems inside and outside the nascent Parliament. Writing, ‘First Minister Henry McLeish said that the investigation into dodgy rent payments at his constituency was “a muddle, not a fiddle.” A phrase that will no doubt go on to grace many a Sheriff Court as council tax payments are chased up’.

The first issue attracted a lot of interest, so there were a lot of local businesses wishing to advertise, add a double page map, a What’s On page and the cover taking up ten of the twenty pages. However, Peter and his team packed in a lot. A plan for Leith to have it’s own radio and television stations, the council “dumping on Leith” and ‘Prostitutes – Time for Tolerance’, amongst others.

The launch was a big success and the team went from strength to strength. It was a joyous roller coaster ride of learning fast while having fun. In short. A blast!

And here we are now, 110 issues into my time as custodian, there have been many changes and time moves on, I like to think we’ve stuck to its guiding principles, but for me it has always been a magazine rather than the original proposal, a weekly Leith (news) paper.

We have in depth pieces in this issue relating to Leith. The opioid crisis, Foodbanks, Boundaries Scotland proposals to remove Leith’s name from the next Scottish Parliament elections, and The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2023 implemented on 1st April 2024.

Leith is front and centre, but you’ll also find creative writing, polemic, film, poetry, short stories, restaurant reviews, politics, and much more.

Space here only to thank our advertisers, who keep the SS Leither afloat. And too every contributor who has walked through the metaphorical “doors” of the editor’s office.

Which in Peter’s day meant The Carriers Quarter’s and for yours truly, the Docker’s Club. (Though you’ll oftentimes find me at the end of a dog leash in Leith Links.)

Finally, we applaud Leith itself, and too its inhabitants, in all their myriad shapes and sizes. Without whom there would be no meaning. ■

The first issue of The Leither, with the wonderful Mary Moriarty

You must make a bit of a fuss about this!



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