Leith is an ancient Scottish port with plenty of paranormal goings-on, says JOHN TANTALON, from North Edinburgh Nightmares
Welcome to the ancient Port of Leith, an area with a fascinating legacy. History records date as far back as 1128, identifying the founding of Holyrood Abbey. At a point, Leith commanded the title of Scotland’s principal Port. The connection of Edinburgh as the capital city allowed Leith to expand and flourish over the coming years. The Burgh of Leith gained its independence following the Burgh’s act in 1833. ended when the local government joined the two in 1920. To many Leith residents, the people of Leith never considered the amalgamation with Edinburgh justified.
Remnants of the Edinburgh and Leith boundary exist today. The appropriately titled Boundary Bar (now the bier-hoose) situated on Leith Walk contains an iconic brass divide. Half of the pub stands in Edinburgh, and the other in Leith. Just around the corner from this long-standing Leith location sits Dalmeny Street. It is here that our first story begins.
Dalmeny Street, Leith
During the summer of 1999, 10-year-old Jade Capasso met with a terrifying event that would haunt her forever. Jade stayed with her grandparents in a tenement situated on Dalmeny Street in the centre of Leith. Her father was visiting from America, so they decided to settle down and watch a video that night.
With her dad downstairs and in the front street having a cigarette, the impatient youngster left the house and descended the dark confines of the Leith stairwell. She recalls that before she could reach the front door, she was confronted by a tall female figure dressed in black. The woman prevented her from exiting and drove the terrified girl upstairs into the house. Jade recalls that the woman did not walk but floated up the stairs.
The dark figure would whisper the words “Jade, go up the road” to the frightened girl from behind the front door. A short time later, her father would return upstairs, entirely bewildered by the locked door and his daughter’s reluctance to let him inside. She was incensed that it was not her father on the opposite side and hysterically sobbed. Eventually, she would open the door. Her concerned father said, “Jade, I was just up the road”.
It was a sentence that would haunt her forever.
Situated off Newhaven Road and Pitt Street is an address with a haunted history. At the end of the narrow Trafalgar Lane, the property saw Poltergeist activity in the early months of 1980. The family first became aware of ghostly footsteps creaking on the stairs and upstairs of the property. The residents, at first, were not alarmed and put the sounds down to the next-door neighbour’s movement. It did not take long for terrifying paranormal activity to escalate.
The building converted farmer’s cottages constructed in 1804. The two four-bedroom property and the neighbouring house stood as the only residence of the predominately industrial location.
After living in the property for over a year, an incident occurred one day. The mother and teenage daughter engaged in a fierce argument that afternoon. The quarrel escalated, resulting in the enraged girl screaming in her mother’s face. At that precise moment, something slapped the startled girl on the back of the head. She screamed out and presumed it to be another family member who had assaulted her, but nobody except for her mother was present in the room. When the teenager described the incident, her mother bluntly replied
“Whatever it was that hit you, you bloody deserved it”
Some years later, the house owner was startled by his early evening slumber. The sight of a figure watching him from the bottom of the bed caused him to scream out. His wife presumed his revelation was possibly the effects of a nightmare and insisted he gets back to sleep. The exact nightmarish figure would return to visit him several times over the following years.
Something strange occurred in an area of Leith Docks some years ago. It was a Saturday afternoon; a painter named Stewart worked at a property in the heart of the docks. The building owned by local firm Bredero Shaw sat entirely unoccupied that day.
Making good progress on painting a section of Bredero House, Stewart paused upon hearing the main door open and then close. He ceased painting and ventured to the main entrance calling out as he walked. The undeterred man expected the noise to be the security guard arriving or maybe a work colleague. The painter called out with a suggestion of
“I’ll put the kettle on,” but nobody replied.
When Stewart arrived at the main entrance of the building, there was nobody there at all. To give you an idea of how peculiar this incident was, Bredero House is situated in the far reaches of Leith Docks and is challenging to reach on foot. When Stewart peered through the door, there was no footprint or a tyre track to see.
The main output from The Bredero Shaw Company was the exportation of enormous cast-iron pipes. The giant structures would be prepared in Leith Docks and shipped to Scandinavia.
One morning while working by the vicinity of the pipes, an unnamed worker claims to have witnessed a dark shape about the same size as an adult male watching him from a distance. The man became unnerved by the object’s intense, unrelenting stance and turned to ask a colleague who it was. The worker stopped for a moment and waved to the figure, but there was no reply. When he returned with his co-worker, the figure had vanished.
I recently spoke to somebody who worked in Leith Docks for many years and claimed to know the story and identity of the phantom. The witness, now in his late eighties, recalls a security guard employed by Bredero Shaw, whom he reckons continues to haunt the area.
He had a terrible temper and was shunned by many of the employees. After the guard died in the 1980s soon afterwards, the disturbances commenced.
The ex-employee I spoke with disclosed the security guard’s name to me but asked me not to publish the identity for discretion to the man’s family. My contact remains convinced that the same security guard haunts the grounds of Leith Docks. He is eternally patrolling the area of Bredero Shaw House and the lands where he worked so many years ago.
We arrive at another Leith landmark as we descend the long, straight road known as Leith Walk. The famous Kirk Gate, which translates as “Way to the Kirk, “dates to 1487.
South Leith Parish Church sits within and features connecting names King James 111, Mary of Guise, and John Knox. During excavation works on the nearby Constitution Street, workers made a bizarre discovery by the church boundary. Experts consider an adult skeleton buried in the middle of the road to be 700 years old.
Coatfield Lane runs off Constitution Street and connects with the Kirk Gate. It is here that the ghost of an older woman remains observed. Her spirit is said to depart from Coatfield Lane and disappear along Queen Charlotte Street, dressed in old-fashioned clothes and holding a posy. Witnesses have described a scent of flowers after her appearance, only to vanish before their eyes.
Residents of the area documented the sight of a man in Highland attire. The figure was sighted along Constitution Street late at night. The terrifying apparition was witnessed running and sitting across from the entrance to Coatfield Lane. There is a theory that the man may be Arthur Elphinstone, the 6th Lord of Balmerino. His nearby property Balmerino House sat close to Coatfield Lane’s vicinity and is now the site of St Mary, Star of the Sea Church. Lord Balmerino was executed in The Tower of London on 18th August 1746 for participation in the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745. It took no less than three separate attempts to behead the condemned man that fateful bloody day. On a summer night in 2018, local Leith residents Andrew Brydon and his wife Heather walked home along the now-darkening Constitution Street. Heather gained her husband’s attention when she suddenly moved, altering her path as they passed St Mary’s church entrance.
Andrew, intrigued by her sudden movement, enquired as to why. With an unconcerned reply, Heather informed him she was moving aside to bypass the older man. Bewildered by his wife’s revelation, Andrew looked back to double-check for the man. There was nobody there. Heather insisted that she had moved to avoid an older man wearing flat clap and flannel trousers seated by the church entrance. The man is dressed in a traditional dock worker’s style but from years ago, possibly the 1940s. The events convinced the thoroughly puzzled couple that they saw that warm summer evening in August 2018 may have been another of Constitution Street’s ghostly residents.
Find out more about John Tantalon and North Edinburgh Nightmares: https://linktr.ee/johntantalon
Have you seen a ghost in Leith – tell us in the comments section below!