To Trinity and beyond!
23 October 2006
The history of Leith is full of wild and wonderful tales of the ocean brought back to the port by countless generations of seafarers. School children from Leith and Edinburgh will be gathering at Trinity House Maritime Museum this week to find out more about the area’s rich and intriguing past.
Historic Scotland, which cares for the museum, has organised three days of activities as part of the 17th annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival.
Craig Fletcher, Historic Scotland Education Officer, said: "Trinity house is a hidden gem. It’s packed with wonderful artefacts and curiosities which belonged to seafarers across the centuries. There are the ancient sextants from the times when sailors navigated their ships round the globe by measuring the position of the stars. Some of these objects, like the Narwhal’s tusk and the whale’s eardrum, will be used as the basis for the storytelling.
The children will also hear stories about the men depicted in some of the huge portraits on the walls, whose fleets sailed every ocean in search of wealth."
The Narwhal is an arctic species similar to the Beluga whale. The most conspicuous characteristic of this whale is its single extraordinarily long tusk, which is a tooth that projects from its upper jaw. Narwhal tusks were often believed to be unicorns’ horns and whales’ eardrums were collected by sailors because of their uncanny resemblance to human faces.
The sessions will be led by Noel Cochrane, of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, who has an in-depth knowledge of Leith’s folklore and history. Children will also see a video about Leith’s past and how it was moulded by its links with the sea.
Notes for editors
- Trinity House Maritime Museum is at 99, Kirkgate, Leith. Tours, available daily but only by appointment, can be arranged by calling 0131 554 3289. Parties are limited to a maximum of 15.
- The museum contains treasures and curiosities collected by sailors across the centuries. Among them is the Narwhal tusk used as a walking cane by Captain John Wood, who owned a fleet of whalers. The tusk can be seen in the Henry Raeburn portrait of Captain Wood which hangs in Trinity House. There is also the triple-locking charter chest which held the Incorporation’s records at Stirling Castle from 1650 to 1654 after Cromwell’s army evicted it from its headquarters.
- An important feature of Trinity House is the stained glass window that commemorates the merchant seamen of Leith who died in World War I. This was gifted by Colina Grant, the only woman to ever join the Incorporation, who was made an honorary member in 1933.
- The Incorporation of Masters and Mariners of Trinity House has been based at buildings on the site since at least 1555 and the vaults beneath the Georgian house are medieval. The guild itself dates back to 1380.
- Historic Scotland has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae.