From Sea to Shore: Working Lives

Leith was a busy sea port where people made a living working in the trades and industries connected to the sea.

People worked in the shipyards, building and repairing ships. There were sailors and fishermen, rope and  sail makers and dockers who unloaded  ships' cargo.  In the  breweries and whisky bonds, coopers  made the wooden barrels and nearby glass makers made bottles. Other areas  of work were in the Print  Industries and transport systems -shipping lines, road haulage and  Leith  trams.

We hold a fascinating collection of objects, photos and oral history recordings relating to working lives in Leith.

Nine colourful historic banners are from Leith trades, some of which were carried by members of the trades when George IV visited Leith in August 1822.

Ships were built in Leith for hundreds of  years. We hold shipbuilding tools and design models from Henry Robb’s which, in 1984, was the last shipyard to close.

The banging of coopers' hammers on  wooden barrels was once a familiar sound around the docks. We have a large collection of coopers tools collected from Dryborough’s Cooperage.

Our collections about  the drink industries include malt sample tins and tools from Seafield Maltings and examples of whisky and beer bottles.

The docks were a regular source of employment in Leith. Our collection of  docker’s hooks, used in the unloading of cargo, shows the different types of hooks that were used depending on the cargo.

Clay pipes were made in Leith and when the firm of William Christie closed in 1962 after 100 years of business, the museum service collected equipment and samples of products. In addition to clay pipes, Christies made pipe clay, which was used for cleaning steps.

We also hold a large collection of Trade Union banners, membership cards, certificates and badges.

Prints, paintings, photographs and other historical material relating to Leith can be found on Capital Collections.