Leith Local History Society

Great Junction Street Ancestors

My Great-Grandfather, Anthony, had a sawmill at 89 Great Junction Street from 1880 until 1899. The sawmill was known as ‘Seaport Sawmill’ and I have a photograph of him and his employees (bowler hat and flat caps) taken around 1890 in the timber yard which I think was situated where Leith Victoria baths are now. Anthony was born in Leith in 1836 and died in 1906 when he was living at ‘Bank Cottage’, 77 Ferry Road (now the BP Garage). I have a copy of his will which reveals he left an estate of £3,000 and was owed significant sums by various shipbuilders in Leith.

Genealogy is a fascinating subject and with the help of a Leith historian I was able to trace my Leith ancestry in a direct line back to David Gilchrist who arrived in Leith about 1760 from Gladsmuir in East Lothian.

I came across two John Gilchrists in Leith in the 1690s. One was 2nd minister at South Leith from 1695-1697 and the other was master of a ship named ‘Anna’ in Leith which he sold to William Moncrieff of Burntisland in 1684. The same John Gilchrist appears again in the records which state “John Gilchrist, Master of ‘Janet of Leith’ arrived in Leith from Bordeaux 20th November 1680”, carrying claret perhaps?

My great-grandfather’s father, Adam was a carter in Leith and he had two wives and at least ten children. Sadly he drowned at the entrance to the Albert Docks in December 1882.

In the Carters of Leith records in the Scottish Record Office I also came across three other Gilchrists bracketed with Adam. Apparently they all emigrated to Australia between 1850 and 1852 (the time of the Great Gold Rush). So far I have been unable to trace these three men.

I did however find that my great-grandfather, Anthony, bought 77 Ferry Road from the father of J D Fergusson the Colourist. My Grandfather Robert and J D Fergusson were in the same class at the Royal High School according to the old school records.

My own family connection with Leith ended when my grandmother died at her home at 286 Easter Road. My father, James kept a lifelong interest in Leith until his death in 1998. (I still have his 100 yards medal from Leith Academy School Sports Day 1924). Since then have enjoyed studying Leith’s history and my ancestors’ part in it. This has taken me in many directions including a few skeletons in the cupboard.