Leith Local History Society

Leith People from the Past

The Leith Newspapers from the 19th and early 20th centuries contain lots of ‘potted biographies’ of Leith people. Some of these were published when the person concerned was elected to the Town Council, the School Board or some other local body. There is a lot of interesting material there. To give a taster of what is available I have set out below some material about Mr Henry Ward, the builder of the ‘Dudleys’.

Henry Ward

Henry Ward was born in North Leith in 1852. He served an apprenticeship as a plumber and afterwards went to Glasgow for four years to broaden his experience. He then returned to Leith and worked as a foreman plumber before starting up his own plumbing business.

In 1889 he started a building business and built Dudley Avenue followed by 20 villas in Summerside Place. He went on to build Dudley Gardens and Dudley Crescent. By 1900 he lived at 198 Newhaven Road and at the age of 48 had decided to retire and stand for the Town Council. He seems to have changed is mind about retiring because by December 1902 he was advertising some 7 apartment villas in Dudley Terrace for sale at £720. Anyone interested could contact him at his office at Elizafield House on North Fort Street.

Adam Archibald

Another example of the material to be found in the Leith Observer concerns Leith’s only VC of the First World War, Sapper Adam Archibald of the Royal Engineers.

When we think about the men who served in the First World War, we usually think in terms of young men in their late teens and early twenties. Adam Archibald, however, was 40 when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery when engaged in constructing a bridge across a canal on 4th November 1918 - a few days before the end of the war. He was gassed in the course of this work and when the Leith Observer reported the award on 11 January 1919, he was in hospital recovering.

Adam Archibald was born in Leith and his home, and that of his wife and four children, was at 53 Balfour Street. Before he joined the Army in 1916 he had been outside foreman with Stewart’s Granolithic Co Ltd of Duff Street, Edinburgh. In his younger days he had been a keen footballer and had had a trial with St Bernard’s F.C. He was also a bowler and at the time of his enlistment he had been President of the Eastfield Bowling Club. Another of his hobbies was gardening and he had won prizes at local flower shows. He was a freemason belonging to the Elgin and Bruce Lodge at Limekilns in Fife. Perhaps some further research would reveal how he fared after the War. Does anyone know any of his descendents?

The Leith Observer is full of biographical material about Leith men who served in the First World War - mostly those who were killed or who were awarded medals. It gives us a glimpse of the sort of lives led by ‘ordinary’ (in fact often far from ordinary) Leith people at the beginning of the 20th century.