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The Living Memory Association

Edinburgh's Reminiscence Project • Established 1986


Leith Docks special

There is no denying that Leith has a different feel to Edinburgh. Its separate identity is probably in large part due its being a port—at one time the busiest port on the east coast of Scotland. In 1913 an incredible 4,646,037 tons of cargo passed through Leith Docks, over 3 million of those being exports including coal, beer, paper and fish.

Still busy in 1956, the Leith Docks Yearbook notes that the principle exports were fertilisers, animal feeds and linoleum. It is also mentioned in the book that Leith was a licensed aerodrome for flying boats.

As with so many industries the Docks once had a huge workforce. In the late 1940s there were still 1000 dockers and 100 crane men on the books. If you factor in the many other trades and businesses associated with the Docks, it is no surprise that the port played a central role in so many people’s lives in Leith. In the 1970s shipping methods were beginning to change with cargo becoming containerised. The road networks around Leith meant that access for containers was not easy and the majority of the container trade went to Grangemouth. This and more automated ways of working now means that Leith Docks operates with a staff of around 19 dockers.

This issue of the Thelma magazine was dedicated to memories of the Docks, and is available to download here (PDF, 40 MB).

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