Ceremony to mark return of heraldic rights to Leith after 92 years

Leith library
Leith library
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WHEN the burgh of Leith lost its independence in 1920, it also lost the rights to its historic coat of arms.

But now, almost 100 years after it last flew proudly over the port, the iconic symbol will be returned.

The Leith coat of Arms

The Leith coat of Arms

Scores of residents are expected to attend a ceremony at Leith Library next week when the Court of the Lord Lyon, the heraldic authority for Scotland, hands the coat of arms to its new custodians, the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership.

A flagpole will be erected at the library – with a little help from the Leith Sea Cadets – as part of its 80th anniversary celebrations, as Elizabeth Roads, Snawdoun Herald of Arms, returns the coat of arms to Councillor Angela Blacklock, below.

The move follows a two-year campaign, led in part by local resident, writer and historian Alex Wilson, and pupils from Leith Academy, who use a version of the design on their school crest. Councillor Rob Munn also lent his support, while 582 people also signed a petition backing the calls.

Mr Wilson, who lives on Ferry Road, said: “It’s great that the coat of arms is coming back to Leith. We are looking forward to the flag flying over Leith once again.”

The Leith Neighbourhood Partnership will now have control over how the coat of arms is used and by whom. The icon is set to feature on the partnership’s paperwork and website.

The design, however, has changed slightly from when it was owned by Leith Borough Council. The change in colour of the sailing ship featured in the coat of arms from sable to brown denotes the new body taking it over.

Bruce Gorie, the Secretary to Lyon Office, added: “A variation of the Leith coat of arms has been granted to Leith Neighbourhood Partnership. It is based on the arms of the former Leith Borough Council but the ship is a different colour.

“The arms of former burghs can only be granted to the appropriate local authority – in the case of Leith it would be the community council – so the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership was granted arms which closely resembled the arms of the former burghs. If there had been a single community council in Leith, the arms could have been granted to the community council that covers the area of the former borough.”

Cllr Blacklock said: “The coat of arms will be much more meaningful as an emblem for the Neighbourhood Partnership. ”

The official handover ceremony will take place at 11am on July 20.

What it means

THE Leith coat of arms depicts a woman and child in a sailing ship above the phrase “Persevere”.

Historian Alex Wilson said the figures were Mary Magdalene and her child and that the ship was the vessel that she travelled in from Egypt to the south coast of France.

“It remained the flag of the Port of Leith until the Burgh of Leith was formed in 1833. It was then that the legend Sigillum Oppidi De Leith – emblem of the Port of Leith – along with the word ‘Persevere’ became the coat of arms.

“On the absorption of Leith by the city of Edinburgh in 1920, the coat of arms was seized and the flying of the flag proscribed.”