CD Review – Leith over the Decades by John Stewart

The sounds of “The Moonlight Sonata” gently waft over the animated index page and accompany some of the pages which follow when you click the links – notably the tour round the churches of Leith.

The cemeteries section focuses first on the Gretna Railway Disaster of 22nd May 1915 when 214 officers and men of the 7th Royal Scots lost their lives on their way to fight for their country.

Towards crimson fields and trenches deep

They journeyed on

‘Til fate decreed that they should sleep

Much nearer home

But though their couch be far removed

From scenes of strife

Still to the land they dearly loved

Each gave his life.

The churches section amazed me as I hadn’t really taken in how many there are, but right enough, once you start to think about it, they are everywhere. My great grandfather on my granny’s side (the who married the second Henry Robb’s) was a daughter of the manse, so I know that the church was as important to him as to the first Henry Robb. I have very early memories of attending church with her and family lore says that the church helped the Robb family in harsh times when the father of the family died, which I am still exploring.

(As an aside, Henry Robb who started the yard was not the first in my family of that name, nor the first in the shipbuilding industry, but for the purposes of my blog, he is the one I have taken to referring to in those terms.)

The “Fit ‘o the Walk” section shows images of just that, with the focus on the statue of Queen Victoria and what she can see, John’s old pal “Vicky”. However, it also shows some images from days gone by to allow the viewer to make comparisons.

A range of sections showing different streets again in past and present gives us young ‘uns a good overview of the variety of streets and buildings in Leith and some sense of the history of it too, once again the coverage is extremely comprehensive.

Granton, Bonnington Bridge and Newhaven are not forgotten either, with a good selection of images to show these closely linked communities in similar vein to the central theme!

Of course my favourite section is the one of the docks, even although reminders that a certain yard has been superseded by the giant Ocean Terminal shopping centre is never my favourite topic! Images of visits by Ark Royal, RMS Uganda and older pictures of the Turmoil in her bid to rescue the sinking Enterprise and the Cossack returning with rescued seamen appear in this section. Even the Gardyloo makes an appearance! Disused cranes are artistically incorporated and shortly followed by a picture of the Imperial Dock Big Crane in action. A later section also shows scenes of the shore.

spit spit ....

The hospital, today and in the past, including photos of it in action in days gone by also pops up, as do the boys brigade, scouts, rugby teams, brownies, parks and gardens and a whole range of “old icons” from the “buroo” through Portobello Beach to the former Central Railway Station. There is a round up of local schools, past and present and of transport of days gone by and modern times in action in Leith as well.

A range of personal photos adds the personal touch and brings a whole range of links to places as far afield as Canada and New Zealand where Leithers clearly still hold dear their memories and attachments. The “real oldies” photographs show the contrast in styles of family photos with the starched formality screaming of the times when they were taken and the detail such as their clothing and the objects in the background offering plenty of food for thought.

Of course, in the work and play section, as elsewhere too, there are glimpses of Robb’s workers and work in progress as well as a range of everyday photos showing the way life was in the days of the yaird. Pricelessly informative and offering a peek into the way things were and how people went about their lives and work.

The music varies throughout the presentation including “Sunshine on Leith” … even I can recognise The Proclaimers, “There Goes My Baby” which I suspect is sung by The Drifters, and other familiar and appropriate titles including “Those were the Days” and “I would walk ten thousand miles”. All very appropriately attached to suitable sections and enhancing the whole experience.

All in all a very well organised piece which will need many run-throughs in order to pick up on all the detail that has been included.

My congratulations to John Stewart on his excellent work, yet again, in bringing some more of the history of Leith and surrounds to life.

When the summer holidays start I will then be able to turn my attention to his latest book and share that with my readers too.

Copyright Ruth Patterson 2010


About Ruth Macadam

Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb. School teacher.
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2 Responses to CD Review – Leith over the Decades by John Stewart

  1. Pingback: A Little Treasure – “Build the Ships” (HMSO 1946) | Henry Robb's Shipyard

  2. Pingback: A New Book from John Stewart – this time it is one of Odes about Leith. | Henry Robb's Shipyard

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