Leith looking to restore flag days

IT WAS last seen flying over the historic port of the Capital more than 90 years ago, and has been all but forgotten about since.

Now moves are under way to restore the Leith flag to the ownership of the community.

It is hoped the flag, which pre-dates the Saltire, could become a powerful community symbol and even help local businesses attract customers.

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

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

The drive to restore the flag has been helped by Leith Academy pupils, who use a version of its symbol for their school crest.

Nine students worked on researching the flag's history and putting together a petition, which was then handed around by other students at the school.

Headteacher Jack Simpson said: "We obviously use a version of the original crest for the school, but no-one's entirely sure what the original looks like.

"It is our 450th anniversary later this year, and so this seemed like an ideal project for the kids to get involved in.

"People from Leith are very sure to tell you they are from Leith, and not Edinburgh, so I think that community spirit is there, and that people would be delighted to get the flag back."

The campaign was started by designer Alex Wilson, 56, of Ferry Road.He said: "I read about it while I was in California a few years ago, and I thought someone else would look into getting it back, so I was surprised to find no-one had.

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"It would be a huge asset to Leith, and could help get the social regeneration of Leith going. And it's also an important part of the area's history."

It is thought the crest originated in France and first came to Leith around 1050, when it became the flag of the area. It was used for centuries in the port, but when Leith merged with Edinburgh in 1920 it was effectively forgotten about.

No decisions were made over who should take ownership of the flag, and so it passed to the Lord Lyons office, which has stored the original template.

It confirmed that currently no-one has the right to create or use the flag, and that privilege can only be granted to a community body covering the whole of Leith.

Should the campaign be successful, It is understood ownership of the flag would pass to the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership, which would then be able to oversee the creation of flags, banners and other uses of the crest.

Mr Wilson suggested local businesses would be keen to get behind the symbol of Leith. Local councillor Rob Munn, the deputy Lord Provost, said that he had been working with Leith Academy and Mr Wilson to look at returning the flag to the community of Leith. "It is a historic symbol of the area and one which I think the local community would be very pleased to be able to use again," he said.