NEWHAVEN PIER

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NEWHAVEN derives its name and origin from James the Fourth, the most
accomplished monarch of his day : here he created a yard for shipbuilding, a harbour
for the reception of vessels, and a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saint
James. The superior advantages which the new harbour possessed in depth of water
was sufficient to give it a decided superiority over Leith, from which it is only a mile
distant; but, as this result was easily foreseen, measures were promptly adopted for
its prevention, and the people of Edinburgh — to whom the prosperity of Leith was of
vital importance — succeeded in purchasing the town and harbour, with all rights and
privileges thereto belonging. Thus the rising importance of Newhaven was completely
checked, and its rival trade restored to Leith.

The great natural advantages of Newhaven as a harbour, however, were not lost
sight of; and in recent times the subject was once more revived by the city of Edinburgh,
and arrangements for its improvement unanimously agreed to. A pier and harbour
have been erected, beautiful in design and substantial in execution, affording abundant
accommodation and shelter for the large steam-vessels and other craft frequenting this
part of the coast, and to which the depth of water affords for the most part, an easy
entrance or exit, at all states of the tide.

To the westward of Newhaven is the elegant chain-pier, erected for the special
accommodation of steam-vessels ; and along the coast, and the intervening space
between that and the city, numerous villas, cottages, and gardens, contribute great
beauty and animation to the scenery, which is here peculiarly rich and variegated. On
the opposite shore of Fife is seen the picturesque village of Aberdour, with its feudal
keep and richly- wooded declivities. Half-way across the frith stands the venerable
ruins of Inchcomb, the ancient Æmonia, one or the earliest monastic establishments in
the kingdom, and the subject of many a pious and monastic legend. On the south the
bulwarks of Edinburgh Castle, the blending structures of the ” new city and the old, “the
Calton-hill, with its Acropolis-like finish of monumental splendour, Salisbury Crags and
Arthur’s Seat, refresh the eye and fill the mind with such striking combinations of nature
and art, as are nowhere to be met with but in the precincts of the Scottish “Athens.”

Although the establishment of a harbour has operated greatly to the advantage
of Newhaven, by giving additional value to every rood of ground in its vicinity, it has
not materially interfered with the internal economy of the village, which retains most

of those ancient characteristics which for ages has given its inhabitants an isolated
position in the community. A stranger cannot enter it without being struck by the
singularity of everything around him — men, women, children, the fish-“creel” and the
fishy cabin make their appeal to his senses in a manner not to be misunderstood. The
remotest village in the Alps has not been left by the “march of improvement” more
decidedly in the back-ground than that of the fish-dealing denizens of Newhaven.

These fish-wives of Newhaven dress themselves in a manner which, however
coarse or homely in appearance, is not uncostly. They are unable to wear any head-
dress except a napkin, on account of the necessity of supporting their burden by a
broad belt which crosses the forehead, and must be slipt over the head every time they
take off their merchandise. They usually wear, however, a voluminous and truly Flemish
quantity of petticoats, and several fine napkins enclosing the neck and bosom. Their
numerous petticoats are of different qualities and colours, as in the Netherlands; and
it is customary, while two or three of these are allowed to hang down to the ancles, to
have as many more bundled up over the naunches, so as to give a singularly bulky and
sturdy appearance to the wearer. Thirty years ago, the poissardes of Newhaven wore
neither shoes nor stockings; but in this particular they have at last yielded to the force
of example, and clothed their nethermost extremities in comfortable worsted stockings
and neat’s-hide. Along with the fishermen occupying the village of Fisherrow, those of
Newhaven supply the fresh fish consumed in Edinburgh and Leith; while their wives,
sisters, and daughters carry them to market, or hawk them about the streets in baskets.
They generally ask, like their sisters In the Courgain of Calais, three times the value,
but their customers, aware of this propensity, have little difficulty in reducing the “upset
price” to the estimate of the buyer.

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