Queen of Leith honoured in brand new portrait to hang in Leith Theatre

A painting of the former landlady of the Port O' Leith will be unveiled to the public on Thursday 14 November.
A new portrait of Mary Moriarty has been unveiled at Leith Theatre (Photo: Sarah Muirhead/TSPL)A new portrait of Mary Moriarty has been unveiled at Leith Theatre (Photo: Sarah Muirhead/TSPL)
A new portrait of Mary Moriarty has been unveiled at Leith Theatre (Photo: Sarah Muirhead/TSPL)

Leith legend Mary Moriarty, dubbed the 'Queen of Leith' has been honoured in a new portrait which will hang in the Leith Theatre.

The former landlady of the Port O' Leith is considered a living legend of the area and has witnessed Leith change with the decades.

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She has now been honoured by a painting, created by Edinburgh-based artist Sarah Muirhead and commissioned by a Ms K Hamilton, which will hang pride of place in Leith Theatre as it works to bring the arts centre back to full regular use.

The painting will be unveiled to the public on Thursday 14 November with special guests including Mary Moriarty herself. Visitors will be able to view the painting while attending classes or events in the theatre.

Lynn Morrison, the executive director of Leith Theatre, said the choice of having a picture of Mary hang in the theatre's Crush Foyer was part of a move to embed the identity of Leith into the theatre.

She said: "We are so grateful to be the permanent home for this amazing piece. We are always keen to find creative and innovative ways of bringing people in and embedding the identity in Leith and this wonderful portrait of Mary is so fitting."

'Honoured and delighted'

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Mary Moriarty said it was "thrilling and exciting" to have her portrait in Leith Theatre.

She said: “I am honoured and delighted that a portrait of me will hang in Leith Theatre, how thrilling and exciting. Both the Theatre and myself have shared exciting times in Leith.

"I have very fond memories of 25 years in the Port o' Leith Bar meeting lots of lovely Leithers and of course workers in the docks and crew members of ships docked in Leith.

"Credit should go to the lovely young talented artist Sarah Muirhead – it was great to be able to chat to her when she was preparing the painting, also a big thank you to those who commissioned the portrait.”

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Artist Sarah Muirhead added she tried to capture Mary's "warmth, character and nature" in the painting.

She said: “I was delighted to be asked to paint such an extraordinary woman. It was important to me that Mary was honoured and represented as someone who is so loved and respected in her community and known quite rightly as Queen of Leith.

"A nod to her status as elected monarchy is the formal composition of the painting. I wanted to optics in the bottom left corner to look like jewels but to refer to her trade and background.

“I thought it right to make her halo a scene of Leith Links and to include a photograph of her husband who still feels like a very present figure in her life and that of the community of Leith.

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"I included various objects in her home which she was kind enough to show me around and tried to communicate her warmth, character and nature which I think is distinct and unique.

"It was a pleasure painting someone I would have liked to paint regardless of the commission because she is fascinating and has a powerful presence.”