Fascinating photos from Leith high rise show site of Ocean Terminal in the 1980s

Leith Docks was a centre for shipping before the shopping centre

A set of photographs taken from a Leith high rise flat have emerged showing the site of Ocean Terminal in the late 1980s, long before the shopping centre was built.

The five fascinating colour images were taken by former John Russell Court (now Persevere Court) resident Joann Arthur who recently posted them to the Spirit of Leithers Facebook group.

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Joann lived on the 9th floor of the block of flats which provided her with a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the area around Leith Docks back when it was famous as a centre of shipping than for a shopping centre.

The set of snaps show a very different looking Leith.

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Speaking to the Evening News, Leith-born Joann, 67, recalled she had just unboxed her new camera and was keen to put it through its paces.She said: “I remember I just got a new camera and was keen to try it out and used a roll of film. I took random pictures from my balcony along with photos of my children.”

Most startling perhaps is Joann’s view into Henry Robb’s shipyard which has now changed beyond recognition.

The famous Leith shipbuilders had ceased trading in 1984, but the yard buildings remained for a number of years before the land was cleared to make way for the Ocean Terminal complex in 2001.

Joann's view north looked out over the former Henry Robb shipyard which closed in 1984. Now the site of Ocean Terminal.

The pictures also show the docklands in their un-gentrified former guise, long before moves were made to convert the whisky bond warehouses of Commercial Street into upmarket flats and restaurants and even prior to the construction of the Scottish Executive building in 1993.

Joann bemoans the loss of the industries that once defined the old port, but admitted it was good to see some buildings being given a new lease of life.

She added: “There have been lots of changes. Not sure if it’s all for the better. They broke up the community when they moved everyone out to refurbish the flats – not for the first time, I believe, in Leith.

“They demolished the tenements around Leith in the ‘60s and ‘70s and people moved all over the city. All the industries closed, the shipyards, bonds and other factories to be replaced by trendy bars, restaurants and shops.

Joann Arthur lived on the 9th floor of what is now Persevere Court.

“It’s good to see empty buildings repurposed and I suppose it’s progress, but there’s not enough social housing in the area.”

The ongoing Waterfront Plaza construction by Cala Homes, which promises to deliver 388 homes to the former Henry Robb site opposite Ocean Terminal, will change the area further.

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Joann's northeast view showing the bonds of Commercial Street and Leith Docks with the concrete grain elevator in the distance.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director

Joann's view east showing the residential developments between the high rise flats and Sandport Place.
Joann's view south boasted a majestic backdrop with Arthur's Seat taking centre stage.
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