Leith has been many things over the years. Its been separate to the rest of the city, part of it and hovered on the edge – but it’s key function has always been Edinburgh’s port, it’s gateway to the world beyond our shores. Its been home to many industries – including glass, whisky and wine storage, distilling, ship building, and lead working – and was even the original home of Rose’s Lime Cordial, but what it is most famous for is whaling.
Whaling and Leith were synonymous for decades, with the ships reaching beyond local waters all the Antarctica – there’s even a port on South Georgia called Leith, and it was a whaling ship that brought the first penguins to Edinburgh Zoo around 1900.
Not much is left of this historic tradition and not many memories beyond a coupe of memorials that have survived Leith’s many regenerations (I should probably point out that I am very much against the practice of whaling, just before the rage comes flowing in – but it was different times in the 19th Century), but one that has remained in place is an old whaling harpoon that can bee seen today down at the Shore, perfectly placed for our latest Friday Photo. It once belonged to the Christian Salveson company, a group that controlled virtually all of the whaling ships in Leith at its height, and had a presence in Edinburgh until the 1980s.
If the whalers were still around today they probably wouldn’t recognise Leith, through extensions by reclaiming land from the Forth Estuary and many series of face lifts and regenerations the port has been utterly transformed. Today it’s one of the most vibrant and exciting Edinburgh communities, famed for food, drink and the creative industries – you can read about one of these, Mimi’s, in our interview with them – instead of making soup and shipping wine, but if you look around you will see signs of past glories just below the surface.