Leith’s seafaring past celebrated at Trinity House open day

Trinity House's impressive Convening Room. Picture: contributed
Trinity House's impressive Convening Room. Picture: contributed
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TWO centuries ago, Leith was Scotland’s chief port and the bustling hub of the country’s seafaring community.

It was at this time that Trinity House was built, as the headquarters of a nautical guild known as the Incorporation of Masters and Mariners.

Items from Trinity House's collection. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

Items from Trinity House's collection. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

Now to mark this milestone, the A-listed Georgian gem will open a porthole on the rich maritime heritage of Leith.

The Trinity 200 event on Saturday will see different aspects of the building’s rich seafaring past brought to life and retold. Visitors will be able explore the building and discover more about the Masters who shaped the area’s history between 10am and 4pm.

Among the 1600 nautical artefacts making up Trinity House’s unique collection are a whale’s eardrum, navigational equipment and a 200-year-old-harpoon used by Scottish whalers in the Arctic.

Costumed performers will re-create travel in the 1920s by portraying passengers from the Royal Fusilier steamship, which provided faster, more comfortable passage between London and Leith until the 1940s.

Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

There will also be object-handling, nautical-themed arts and crafts sessions.

Rachael Dickson, of Historic Environment Scotland, said: “This month marks an important milestone in the history of Trinity House.

“Its bicentenary is a truly exciting time and the perfect opportunity to celebrate its historic role within the Scottish seafaring community in Leith, as well as the area’s wider maritime history.

“Trinity 200 will provide visitors with a real insight and experience into different periods throughout Scottish nautical history, as well as Leith’s own maritime past and its time as Scotland’s chief port.

A whale's ear drum. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

A whale's ear drum. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

“They’ll have the chance to discover more about the House, the Incorporation and the important activities and programmes they helped support.

“As well as this, they’ll have the opportunity to view a selection of the House’s one-of- a-kind collection of maritime memorabilia, some of which are not usually on public display.”

The House was the headquarters for a charitable foundation that lead the way in improving the welfare and safety for seafarers. The Incorporation, which can trace its origins back to 1380, invested in training and helped establish the Leith Nautical College.

It also piloted programmes to help ships navigate through Scottish waters and was involved in building of lighthouses.

King George VI visits in 1948. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

King George VI visits in 1948. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland

john.connell@jpress.co.uk