Perseverance pays off as coat of arms to fly above Leith once more

The Leith Coat of Arms
The Leith Coat of Arms
Share this article
Have your say

IT has been almost a century since the historic Leith coat of arms was seen flying over the port.

Now the flag is set to be returned to the ownership of the community as part of a long-running campaign to allow Leithers to fly their coat of arms once again.

The Court of the Lord Lyon, the heraldic authority for Scotland, has been responsible for the historic crest since 1920.

However, Leith councillor Rob Munn revealed that Leith will once again be allowed to use the coat of arms freely in three months’ time.

Councillor Munn, Deputy Lord Provost, said: “When Leith amalgamated with Edinburgh, the coat of arms fell out of use and was in the care of the Lord Lyon’s office. Previously the Borough Council had it. Over the past decade or so there’s been discussions about getting it back.

“The letter I received this week from the Lord Lyon’s office says they will be ready to hand the coat of arms back to the people of Leith in three months. It’s quite exciting.

“Getting it back won’t solve Leith’s problems, but if it gives it a stronger identity and sense of place, that’s something to be welcomed.

“It should be flown and it should be flown proudly.”

The decision to return the flag follows a campaign, led in part by local resident, writer and historian Alex Wilson. The drive to restore the flag has also been helped by Leith Academy pupils, who use a version of its symbol for their school crest.

With the support of Cllr Munn, and a petition signed by 582 people, the process began in summer 2010 to reinstate the flag under the charge of Leith Neighbourhood Partnership.

Mr Wilson, 58, who lives in Ferry Road, said: “The flag will bring back a sense of community in Leith which has been lost a bit over the years.

“Everybody, old or young, will benefit and see the flag flying. Nobody alive today has seen the flag flying, so it’s going to be a revelation.”

The crest of the flag features representations of Mary and Jesus in a sailing ship, under the legend “Sigillum Oppidi De Leith”, which translates as “the seal of the town of Leith”, and above the phrase “Persevere”, and is believed to have been brought to the community by 11th-century French traders.

The crest can still be seen on some lampposts, and on several old buildings in Leith.

The Court of the Lord Lyon is understood to have heraldic artists currently designing a slightly different version of the flag for the handover.

Its official title will be The Arms of Leith Neighbourhood Partnership and it will be based on the Arms of the former Leith Borough Council.

Cllr Munn added: “As far as I’m aware, there’s no great change apart from the galley will appear in brown rather than sable because it’s not going back to the actual borough council. The change is to denote the new body taking it over.”