Sunday, 15 January 2017

Port of Leith. Ships. Monuments. History.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
A dazzle ship at Port of Leith docks. Due to the success of U- boats during WW1 and WW11 and the number of causalities and ships sunk at sea, painting the remainder in bright colours as a form of reverse camouflage in the style of zebras and other animals was seen as a tactic to confuse the enemy, hopefully converting torpedo direct hits to near misses. It was thought that they might confuse the range, speed, distance and outline of allied shipping but according to the info boards there is not much evidence that it actually worked. But they had to do something and boost flagging morale... so it might have worked that way.
A view down Leith Walk. As I mentioned before two posts ago I skipped New Year in Edinburgh to spend it quietly in Glasgow. I have never seen the point of New Year since childhood- all that anticipation and waiting throughout the day for a few minutes of drunken flash, bang, and sometimes wallop... handshakes, hugs or kisses... then the inevitable anti climax hangover the next morning. No thanks.
What I did fancy was to catch the end of Belinda and Anne's (her Mum) holiday trip in Edinburgh before they came back through to Glasgow. So once again a short time after New Year with the transport running normally again I boarded the Glasgow -Edinburgh bus in the early morning and made my way through there to hook up with them for a day of sightseeing and fun.
I'd timed it perfectly from my point of view as I wasn't keen on spending money on expensive city centre attractions I'd already been in years ago when prices were much cheaper than they are now. Fortunately, Belle and Anne had splurged out to see the city centre attractions and had also indulged in various shopping and eating out treats so by the time I came through they'd done the city centre district thoroughly for now and were more easily swayed towards different, cheaper options...and views... as they were both skint and stuffed :o)
I suggested a trip to Edinburgh's main and only city port which was reached by a short bus ride down Leith Walk. Edinburgh-especially at New Year- can feel slightly claustrophobic as the city centre pedestrian numbers almost double in size and volume at that time with nearly every nationality represented in the babel of different languages flowing around you on the crowded pavements. It's fair to say that Leith is more downmarket than Princes Street but like all the outer districts it's where you find Edinburgh's real citizen's hanging out and it does have its own special attractions... and they are mostly free. Yippee!
The water of Leith (a small river flowing right through the city) and its popular walkway/cycle-track, reach the sea here at the port which has been modernized and redeveloped in the last 15 years. This river front together with six large individual docks turn Leith into a mini Venice in places. It also explains why Glasgow and Edinburgh look so different in style, attitude and architecture despite being just over 30 miles apart. West coast Glasgow faces America and in the days of sailing ships most of its fortune and trade started out there along with its influences. East coast Edinburgh faces  Europe and the Baltic States and even today you can see their influence in the architecture all around you. I'm sure it also influenced the world of Harry Potter in some fashion as J K Rowling lived in Leith in the early stages of the books, obviously knows Edinburgh very well, and you can see that in the films with various backdrops of tall thin houses,
Not that different from Amsterdam... or is it just my imagination?
The town of Leith itself is worth a wander round with many interesting old buildings on show to demonstrate the wealth that used to routinely flow through this area. Leith Walk is also a long, fairly stately and vibrant shopping street for much of its length with an individual history all its own that could easily fill a book. All I can provide here is just a few brief snapshots.
Robert Burns travelled and stayed in Edinburgh to promote his work once it started to become better known outside of his native Ayrshire. This monument with its ornate decorative panels is also seen in the photo above this one in larger view. The subject is playing blind man's bluff in a traditional Victorian household presumably... although in the modern era this just looks like a friendly neighbour/ pedophile brought in to catch the child on the floor but also giving her a sporting chance of escape. At least that was Belinda's opinion of it on close inspection. I'm just old enough to remember playing this as a child myself.

Also in the full street photo above is the 19th century corn exchange with its distinctive tower and  elevated lengthy panel of child workers. "What do they signify?" I was asked by my companions. I had to confess I hadn't a clue and made something up about Leith only using child labour on the docks in the old days. " Life was hard then and as you died at 40 it was better to start them young and get more out of them for longer before they snuffed it."
" They do look very mature for their age." Belinda commented, laughing then pointing to the spot where she was looking.
"No, that's a shoe or a hand." Her mother scolded after squinting up at the panel. "You are terrible."
She then turned to me. "take a zoom of that so we can send it to my friend. That's funny."
 I eventually found the real explanation for the child figures, see link above. That's why I love exploring places as you learn so much about the history of everything and educate yourself in the process. I did know about 'Putti' but only as winged cherubs in religious paintings and not as depicted here in a long line of workers as the only subject matter. I wouldn't be surprised if this particular style and display is unique in the UK. Again an influence from European/ Italian art. I have seen examples in Glasgow but in a much more conventional setting sitting on the shoulders of someone important or in the background, flying around.
We struck it lucky on our visit to Leith docks as many different ships were tied up here at the same time giving us plenty to look at. Well known artist Antony Gormley placed six of his person shaped statues along the Water of Leith walkway in the river itself and this is the last in that line, looking out to sea.
A massive modern offshore support ship was also berthed here registered out of Nassau in the Bahamas of all places. Deep Arctic. As of the 15th Jan 2017 it was heading out past the Shetlands and Orkney Islands towards the Faroe group so we were lucky to see it here. Incidentally, this name got me thinking  about some of the things I've read recently concerning ice melting rapidly at both poles year on year and a possible new frontier opening up in the far north in previously unattainable frozen wastes. This could maybe explain one of the reasons behind the billionaires that are queuing up behind Donald Trump and an apparent thawing out of Russian relations as these days it's all about oil, thinking ahead, and the superpowers carving up dwindling resources around the planet. Forget the wall and immigration- that's the usual smoke and mirrors trick for the hopeful masses. Very impressive big beast this. It might also explain the climate change deniers outlook despite the vast majority of scientific opinion and on the ground research stating the opposite. If current climate trends continue the arctic is up for grabs- sadly for any wildlife  or humans in the way. As the old saying goes... just follow the money trail to reveal any truth.
Always liked this monument and memorial to the Merchant Navy around the world for its clever yet simple depiction panels. Suez, Egypt,  and the desert countries here.
Hong Kong Harbour.
Info board telling you what each panel is about.
Where it is situated. Leith waterfront.
Leith docklands. Much more open and spacious than the city centre district and both Belle and her mum enjoyed their day out as it was all new ground for them.
And a suitably Gothic sunset greeted us on our return to Edinburgh's West End district where they were staying.
Edinburgh. So much to see. My love letter... to it.. here.

For another muse and equally delightful inspiration. Every artist needs one... or two.
Fantastic graphics best watched full screen. Thanks for the invite girls.



Anabel Marsh said...

Only been down to Leith a couple of times to meet folk for drinks / dinner and didn't pay much attention, can see I need to do better next time!

Linda said...

I absolutely love this song, thank you so much for sharing the video, and your photos are wonderful. I love the monuments! Thank you so much for sharing.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
I lost both the womenfolk at Ocean Terminal shopping centre after Leith docks but I'll save that for another post sometime. So good there I took dozens of photos around that location as well.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Linda,
I love the visuals but the song itself was suggested by Anne as she thought the blog needed cheering up somewhat with some decent music. Unfortunately, I can't see that lasting though as I like equal spoonfuls of darkness in my tea and I usually pick less well known songs for the mysterious new flavours although the video images are always key for me in any post.

Similar to the Neil Young quote. "I suddenly found to my horror I was coasting along in the middle of the road, getting really popular, and instinctively headed back towards the ditch." or words to that effect :o)

Linda W. said...

Another interesting tour of one of your great cities! Thanks for the photos and information.

Anonymous said...

I learn stuff on your blog! :)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda W.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Andy,
I usually learn loads of stuff as well on trips away. Pity I forget most of it a few months later :o)

Kay G. said...

I knew about the brightly painted ships in the patterns but I honestly didn't know it was called "dazzle". I thought just now that must be where we get the term "razzle dazzle". I looked it up and it is.
Lovely photos of the sunset.
Am in a feverish haze just now, a reaction to a vaccination. I am so out of it I might even read a book of fiction.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Didn't know about the 'razzle dazzle' bit in the USA. Just looked it up. Very typical that Wilkinson ('socially well connected') is credited with inventing this pattern despite two other folk promoting this idea first in great detail to the establishment. Don't know how many times I've came across that... it's not how clever you are or how good an idea it is... predictably, 9 times out of 10, it's how well connected you are that wins the day and scoops any credit.
What's wrong with works of fiction, unless it's passing itself off as real news? Hope you get well soon.

Carol said...

"it can feel slightly claustrophobic as the city centre pedestrian numbers almost double in size and volume at that time with nearly every nationality represented in the babel of different languages flowing around you on the crowded pavements."

That sounds like most English cities nowadays - scarcely an English accent or even the English language any more!

Never thought of the east/west-facing influence on Edinburgh and Glasgow
Does Leith still have the dry-dock facility which MacBraynes use for their ferry maintenance?

I can remember Blind Man’s Buff perfectly well – it’s very sad that people can see something sinister in a childhood game nowadays!

Love the Neil Young quote (in the comments)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
It's probably because they only really have one long main major shopping street in Edinburgh where the masses gather(Princes Street)and although I enjoyed it I had to be very careful stopping there to take photos as the camera and elbows would get routinely bumped by accident or I'd be blocking the crowds so I always stood behind or in line with a pole or other solid street furniture so that no-one walked straight into me. Also with packed pavements everywhere keeping track of a constantly moving Belinda and Anne as they strolled around while still taking photos was a real challenge- especially after dark.
Cal Mac. I'd be very surprised if Cal Mac use Leith for ferry maintenance apart from ships operating near the Pentland Firth area as it's mostly a west coast service and the bigger ones would have to go around the whole of the Scottish mainland past the Orkneys to get there. That was also the reason why Edinburgh's sailing ships traded mostly with Europe while Glasgow forged a lucrative partnership with America.
Yes, he said that many years ago but it always stuck in my mind as a great line and perfectly in tune with my own philosophy.

Carol said...

'My' Claymore used to go around to Leith and she was on the Barra/Uist run.

My philosophy is pretty much like that too - I like to be individual and different. However, that's just caused me a load of aggro at work. Everytime I opened my mouth to say anything last week, the whole shift plus the manager jumped down my throat for not thinking in exactly the same way as they do. I'm now learning to keep my mouth firmly shut at work! Obviously, alternative thinking isn't allowed in conversation there...