Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

9/3/2004

Tales behind the Windows of Leith

The title of this article may seem strange on a site dedicated to genealogy. However one source of genealogical information often overlooked are church stain glass windows. In many cases they date from the 19th and they are usually dedicated to the memory of an individual or a family.

In this section of the Site I will tell the stories behind the Stain glass windows at South Leith Church. This is only to highlight how useful this source of information is to both the local and family Historian and can fill many gaps in the family tree and more then this it helps to being our ancestors closer to our selves.

So let us start from the east end of the church.

The Watt Window beneath the Great West Window is dedicated to James Watt. The Inscription says “In memory of James Watt Provost of Leith 1866-1875”

James Watt was born in Brechin in 1806, but came to Leith early in his Life. He found employment in the office of James Wilde and Company Wine Merchants. Afterwards he joined the similar business of Messrs J.A.Bertram and Company. His assiduous conduct led to promotion and eventually to the business. He is said to have had that scrupulous honour and integrity which made the name of Scottish man of business honourable over the world.

He was invited by his friends to enter the Town Council in 1863 and was immediately chosen as a magistrate. After six years on the retiral of Mr Lindsay from the Provostship he was elected to the position of Provost of Leith. He continued the work of his predecessor by works of promoting public improvements. However he was always interested in improving the water supply to Leith. He was present at the opening of the Albert Dock in 1869. He re-elected that year to the Provostship. However his main concern was the clearing of the Slums in Leith which laid the foundations for the Leith Improvement Act of 1881. By 1872 he was re-elected again as Provost but was forced by failing health to retire early.

He had been the first chairman of the Leith Education Board and served on the Leith Parochial Board. He was on the management committee of Leith Hospital and of the Watt’s Hospital for elderly people. Mr J.J.Watt of Belmont, Forest Hill, London is a Grandson.

The next Window is the Gibson Window.

The Inscription reads thus “I memory of Mungo Campbell Gibson born 9th March 1819 died 25th January 1890. Shipowner in Leith and Elder in the Church.

Mungo Campbell Gibson belonged to family which originally came from the Border country. His father was in the wine business. Afterwards he went into trade with the West Indies. The home in which Mungo Gibson was born in 1819 was in Bernard Street. He was trained in early life by James Taylor whose memory is also commemorated by a window at South Leith Church. For a short time during the Provostship of Mr Taylor he served on the Town Council of Leith. In 1850 he extended his business and Mr Somerville who died a few years ago at a very advanced age went into his business and succeeded to it.

The firm became known as Gibson and Son. A great business was developed with the continent mainly with the Baltic and Holland. His Son Campbell Gibson succeeded him as head of the firm. However his grandson who had entered the business died during the First World War. With his death the Gibson’s ceased to have any further interest in the old firm.

(Editors note-The above was taken from the Session Records of South Leith Parish Church 1925. At that time the following members of his family were still alive. They were Mrs Combe 14 Clarendon Crescent, Mrs Grant 3 Manor Place and Miss E.C.Gibson 24 Abercromby Place.

The next window is

The Inscription on the window reads “In memory of Euphemia Marshall born 27th April 1846 died 6th April 1868”

Euphemia Marshall was the second daughter of William Marshall engineer and Ship builder in Leith a partner of the firm S & H Morton and Company. .Descended from a Leith Family he however came from Glasgow to start business in Leith. His eldest daughter became the wife of John Low merchant of Leith and latterly Session Clerk of South Leith Church. Foe a long period of forty years he was a teacher and then Superintendent of the Sabbath School. Mrs Low who survives (as at 1925) was associated with the Mothers meeting as long as her strength permitted having taken on the work in response to her dieing sisters wishes. Until recently recently (1925) the youngest sister Miss Marshall of today was an active lady Visitor in one of our poor districts.

Miss Euphemia Marshall was born in April 1846 and died in the same month in 1868. She was the first lady to respond to the late Dr Mitchell’s request for Sabbath School Teachers and remained in her post to the end of her life. //when Dr Mitchell started his work with the millgirls of the Roperie she helped and turned many uneducated and untutored girls into self respecting people. With the coming of the 1872 education Act such classes became unnecessary. She died at the early age of 42

(Editors note-Pictures of the Roperie can be found on my Leith History Site at www.leithhistory.co.uk)

(c) South Leith Parish Church Kirk Session

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