Leith Museum dream step closer

The former Customs House building ' a preferred venue for the museum ' may soon become available. Picture: Bill Henry
The former Customs House building ' a preferred venue for the museum ' may soon become available. Picture: Bill Henry
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THE battle to establish a Leith Museum is being fought on a united front at last as disparate campaign groups combine to lobby for its creation.

Calls have been made for decades for a dedicated venue to exhibit artefacts and relics chronicling the port’s rich history.

But campaigners believe a milestone may have been reached this week during a summit with Edinburgh’s Lord Provost after the four separate bodies striving for the museum pledged to work together.

And sources have revealed that the former Customs House building – a preferred venue for the museum – may soon become available amid plans by owners National Museum of Scotland to relocate to expanded premises in Granton.

Today, long-time lobbyists said the campaign had taken a “step forward” as a nine-page vision for Leith Museum document was pored over by the Lord Provost. Jim Tweedie, chair of the Leith History Society and member of the Museum of Leith Company, said the recent talks were a “meeting of minds”.

“I think this really could become a reality now but it is probably still years away yet,” he said. “We are moving in the right direction and all pulling the same way now instead of in all different directions.

“In the short term there may be pop-up museums, small exhibitions in Ocean Terminal or two or three other places to give people a flavour of what the museum might be like.”

Campaigners want a Leith Museum to chart the history of the area, as well as honour the achievements of famous persoanlities associated with Leith such as author Irvine Welsh and pop stars The Proclaimers.

It would also celebrate landmark occasions in Leith over the years, including the visit of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1561, the attempted attack by the American navy during the War of Independence in 1779, the Siege of Leith from 1559 to 1560 and Leith’s controversial merger with Edinburgh in 1920.

Mark Lazarowicz, Edinburgh North and Leith MP, who has backed the museum drive for the last six years, helped to co-ordinate the meeting at the Lord Provost’s office. He said: “A number of groups have been working in this direction over the last few years and I thought it would be useful to get the various groups together with the Lord Provost, who is very committed to the idea.”

“I think we have built a foundation together that we can build on in future.”

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “There has long been an appetite amongst the local community, and beyond, to create a museum celebrating Leith’s rich and quite wonderful heritage.

“I have joined the campaign to help identify a suitable and sustainable venue for this to be housed but, ideally, for it also to become a focal point for local residents.

“Leith is already blessed with such a fine selection of bars and restaurants. Adding attractions such as a new museum or, more ambitiously, bringing HMS Edinburgh home to berth, would do wonders for the area as a visitor destination.”