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Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

The Leith Constabulary Gallantry Medal, 1881.

Leith Constabulary Gallantry Medal 1881

 

Leith Burgh Police

 

PC John Cameron

 

 

This is a very rare Leith Constabulary Gallantry Award, presented by the Provost and other prominent citizens of Leith, to six police officers for an act of conspicuous bravery in 1881.

 

The front of the medal has an inscription of the Arms of Leith and "John Henderson, Provost" The inscription on the reverse reads:

 

"Presented with Thirty Guineas Stg., by the Provost, Magistrates, Town Council, Public of Leith and others, To Police Conble. Jno Cameron, for an act of conspicuous bravery in arresting two armed men who had shot at and wounded several persons in Edinburgh and Leith on 4 Feb. 1881"

 

John Cameron was born on 30 January 1844 in the Parish of Rothiemurchus in the County of Elgin (now Morayshire).  

 

John Cameron was living with his family in Duthil in the Census of 1861 when he was 15 and a ‘Farmer’s Son’. His father was also John Cameron and his mother was Anne Grant or Cameron.

 

The earliest date he would be eligible to join Leith Burgh Police would have been his eighteenth birthday in September 1862. By the Census of 1871 he was a Police Constable living as a Boarder at 149 Constitution Street, Leith, not far from Leith Police Station.

 

In February 1881, PC John Cameron was involved in “The Extraordinary Outrages in Edinburgh and Leith” during which two men discharged firearms and wounded several citizens of Edinburgh in the course of Robbery. They also shot and wounded two Leith Burgh Police officers. In the course of their arrest by officers including John Cameron, one of the suspects “blew his brains out” and the other only just failed to do so because his gun jammed. A full account of the incident taken from contemporary pages of The Scotsman newspaper may be found in the “Biographies” section soon.

 

By the Census of 1881, he was living as a Boarder at 12 George Street, Leith just off North Fort Street and Ferry Road.

 

Ten years later, now 46, he was living as a Lodger at 9 Bangor Road, Leith, just off Great Junction Street.

 

In the Census of 1901, John Cameron, a 'Retired Police Constable', was living with his sister Jessie Cameron at Forbreck in the Parish of Duthil.

 

On 20 October 1904 at Grantown on Spey in the County of Elgin, John Cameron, “Retired Police Constable”, died. His sister, Jessie Cameron registered his death.

 

John Cameron had never been married and he left no Will. On 30 December 1904, “A. J. Mackenzie, Solicitor, Inverness” presented an Inventory of the Personal estate of John Cameron among the items listed as “Sums in Bank” were the following:

 

Cash in House, Household Furniture

 

£3.17/0d

Amount lodged on deposit with Savings Bank, Leith

 

£204.16/0d

Amount lodged with Edinburgh Savings Bank Special Investment account

 

£102.5/10d

Balance of pension due to the deceased by the Town Chamberlain of Leith

 

£8.10/1d

Total

 

£319.8/11d

 

The document was signed by his sister, Jessie Cameron and Thomas MacKintosh Justice of the Peace for Elginshire. 

 

I have researched the incident for which he and the other five officers were awarded the medals in 1881 and in due course a fuller account of that will appear in the biographies section. In the meantime, a short account of the story can be found in the late Tom Archibald’s book ‘A History of Lothian and Borders Police’ on pages 54 and 55.

Leith Constabulary Medal for Gallantry, 1881 (Obverse).
PC Thomas McConville, one of the six Leith Burgh Police officers awarded the Leith Constabulary Medal for Gallantry in 1881.
Inscription on reverse of Leith Constabulary Medal for Gallantry, 1881.
Inscription on rear of PC John Cameron's medal.

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

PC John Coghill is the uniformed officer wearing the 1903 medal immediately behind the middle detective.

King Edward VII Police (Scotland) Medal 1903

 

Leith Burgh Police

 

PC John Coghill  

John, son of William Coghill a Farm Servant and Jane Dunnet or Coghill, was born on 2 September 1876 in the Parish of Thurso in the County of Caithness.

Lizzie, Elizabeth Manson, the daughter of Alexander Manson a Farm Servant and Jane Banks or Manson, was born on 16 September, 1877 in a farm near Watten, Caithness.

The couple were married on 20 May 1898 in the Parish of Dunnet in the County of Caithness “After Banns according to the Forms of the Established Church of Scotland”. Both were listed as ‘Farm Servants’ on the Marriage Certificate.

Their first child, Margaret was born in Caithness.

John Coghill had joined Leith Burgh Police by 1901 because in that year, his daughter Jane (Jeannie) was born in 2 Hamilton Street, Leith near the former Royal Garrison Artillery Barracks at Leith Fort and his occupation on her birth certificate is ‘Police Constable’.

In the Census of 1901, John and Lizzie are living at 13 Hawthornvale, Newhaven, Leith, right next door to Newhaven Police Station.

All but one of the other five flats at No 13 was occupied by Police Constables too.

Constables William Craig, James Sutherland, Gilbert Thomas, Henry Hollingsworth and Harry Henderson (the only Leith born officer) were the other flat occupants. Several had ‘boarders’ which is probably indicative of the low police wages of the day.

In so far as I have traced the records, I can state that John and Lizzie had three more children while living at Hawthornvale. Elizabeth was born on 4 September 1902 but in a tragically regular occurrence of the times, her death from tuberculosis is recorded in the District of North Leith on the 14 October 1903 when she was just 13 months old. A first son, John was born on 17 February 1905 and again the birth is registered in the District of North Leith. Another son, William was born on 3 May 1907.

What makes this record interesting is the repeated use of family names. John and Elizabeth’s children are named after their grandparents, William and Jane and their parents, John and Elizabeth. The other name given, Margaret is probably from Elizabeth’s side of the family. This is a social convention that was common in Scotland and elsewhere in the British Isles up until the 20th century and is a useful means of confirming identities when tracing families.

I have been unable to find any trace of John and Lizzie and their family after 1907. There are no known records of Leith Burgh Police before the amalgamation in 1920. It is often possible to trace Leith officers in the Edinburgh City Police Weekly Records after 1920 but not in this case.

Since I had bought the medal from New Zealand I decided to try there. After a visit to New Zealand House in Haymarket, London and a conversation with the helpful and courteous staff I tried the following website. www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz

The site is very easy to search but unlike the UK sites you cannot view the records online, you can only purchase the records. There were only four possible correct records shown in my search results but the details were not sufficiently close for me to take the risk of buying them. So, the mystery still remains.

 

If you have any information on John and Lizzie Coghill after 1907, please contact me via 

 

enquiries@scottishpolicemedals.co.uk.

Thank you.

 

Update: 12 September, 2015

 

Margo Mackay, a relative of John Coghill, recently got in touch and very kindly sent me the picture below of the Leith Burgh Police Swimming Team in 1905.

 

A few weeks later, Margo sent me a copy of the document proving that John Coghill,(30),  his wife Elizabeth, (29), and their children Maggie, (10),  Jeannie, (7), John, (2) and William (3 months) had sailed from Liverpool on 23 July,1907 to Sydney in Australia.

 

John’s occupation was listed as ‘Farmer’. It could be that he thought there was more need of farmers than police constables in Australia at that time?

 

The family lived in Yarram Yarram near Gippsland in rural Victoria. In the Voters Roll for the first few years there, John Coghill's occupation is listed as 'Labourer'. After a few years and up until his death, he is listed as an 'Engineer'.

 

Margo also sent me details of a 1940 newspaper cutting as follows:

 

 

COGHILL.-On September 30, at Alfred Hospital, (Prahram) John Coghill, of Yarram, beloved husband of Elizabeth. and loving father of Margaret (deceased), Jean (Mrs, Clark). John, William. Elizabeth (Mrs Pringle), Alexander, Jess (Mrs Speed),

 

 

John Coghill died aged 64 on 30 September, 1940, in the Alfred Hospital in Prahram, a suburb of Melbourne. His parents are listed as William Coghill and Jean Dunnet.

 

I am indebted to Margo Mackay for taking the time to send me the information that solved the mystery and completed the story of John Coghill’s life. Thank you Margo.

PC John Coghill's King Edward VII Police Medal (Scotland), 1903.
Leith Burgh Police, winners of Scottish Police Life-Saving Championships 1905. Back row, PC O'Malley (Reserve), PC Sinclair, PC Coghill, Front row, PC Falconer, DC Thom,(Instructor), PC Watt (Captain).

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

PC Duncan McDonald, Leith Burgh Police.

King George V Coronation (Scottish Police) Medal 1911

 

Leith Burgh Police

 

PC Duncan MacDonald 

  

  

Duncan MacLennan MacDonald was born on 21 February 1887 in the Parish of Duirinish in the County of Inverness. His father was John MacDonald, a Farm Manager and his mother, Marion Beaton or MacDonald.

 

He joined Leith Burgh Police on 1 February, 1907 when he was 19.

 

He is in the 1911 Census living as a boarder at 18 Lorne Street, Leith.

 

He was promoted to Sergeant (124) on 22 April, 1920 and on 2 November that year, became part of Edinburgh City Police when the two forces amalgamated.

 

In 1921 when he married Margaret Macaskill in Glasgow, his occupation was ‘Police Sergeant’ and his address was 11 Ballantyne Road, Leith. By that date, Leith Burgh Police was part of Edinburgh City Police.

 

He retired on pension 22 February, 1932.

 

When he died aged 60 on 27 August 1947 at Edinbane, Duirinish, his occupation was given as ‘Police Sergeant – Retired’. 

 

His police personnel record to confirms that this medal is his only entitlement from his service in Leith Burgh Police and Edinburgh City Police.

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

PC Alexander McDougall of Leith Burgh Police wearing the Ceremonial uniform of Edinburgh City Police as 605 E shortly before his retirement.

King George V Coronation (Scottish Police) Medal 1911

 

Leith Burgh Police

 

PC Alexander MacDougall 

 

Alexander MacDougall was born in Rattray in the County of Perth around 1872. 

 

He joined Leith Burgh Police in 1896 and took part in the Royal Visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Edinburgh in 1911 and was awarded the GVR Coronation (Scottish Police) Medal which he is wearing in the picture above. The uniform is the Ceremonial Dress of edinburgh City Police. It is likely this picture was taken around the time of his retirement.

 

He became part of Edinburgh City Police in November 1920 when Leith Burgh Police amalgamated with Edinburgh City Police. 

 

He retired on pension in 1927. He died on 30 April 1949 and his widow was entitled to a Police Pension.

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

The Newhaven Division of Leith Burgh Police after 1904 but before 1912.
PC Hugh Robertson, Leith Burgh Police.

King George V Coronation (Scottish Police) Medal 1911

 

Leith Burgh Police

 

PC Hugh Robertson   

 

 

Hugh Robertson was born on 11 May 1856 in the United Parishes of Mid and South Yell in the County of Orkney and Shetland.

 

He was a Merchant Seaman and married to Charlotte Sinclair before joining Leith Burgh Police between the Census of 1881 and his marriage on 3 June that year since his occupation then was 'Police Constable'.

 

In the Census in 1891, he is a Police Constable living at 10 Primrose Street, Leith. In 1901, he and the family are living at 2 Hawthornbank Terrace, Leith.

 

In 1911, the family are living at 18 Hawthornbank Terrace in Leith.

 

He and Charlotte have been married for 29 years, had nine children together, only four of whom were still alive at the date of the Census.

 

By the time Leith Burgh Police amalgamated with Edinburgh City Police in 1920, Hugh Robertson was retired as his name is not part of the register of those officers who transferred to Edinburgh City Police on 2 November, that year.

 

He died aged 81 years on 14 January 1938 at 57 Albany Street, Leith. His occupation on the Death Certificate is “Police Constable – Retired). He was survived by Charlotte who died in the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh on 21 April, 1944. Their son, Hugh Robertson,registered both deaths. 

 

The picture above is of the Newhaven Division of Leith Burgh Police in 1912. It is likely that Hugh Robertson is one of the officers since his address then was in Hawthornbank Terrace, Newhaven.

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

PC Peter Shearer Sinclair's Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal with Edinburgh City Police in 1930 and his 1903 and 1911 medals with Leith Burgh Police.
Leith Burgh Police, winners of Scottish Police Life-Saving Championships 1905. Back row, PC O'Malley (Reserve), PC Sinclair, PC Coghill, Front row, PC Falconer, DC Thom,(Instructor), PC Watt (Captain).

King Edward VII Police (Scotland) Medal 1903

King George V Coronation (Scottish Police) Medal 1911

Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal 1930

 

 

 

Leith Burgh Police 

PC Peter Shearer Sinclair

 

 

 

Peter Shearer Sinclair was born 27 January 1883 at Hundy on Stronsay in the County of Orkney.

 

Peter Sinclair joined Leith Burgh Police on 27 March 1902 and was awarded both the 1903 and 1911 medals while serving in that force.

 

On 2 November, 1920, Leith Burgh Police amalgamated in to Edinburgh City Police becoming first 'E' Division and later, 'D' Division.

 

However, right up until 1975 when Edinburgh City Police became part of Lothian and Borders Police, 'D' division was simply called 'Leith'.

 

Peter Sinclair was PC 622 "D".

 

He was awarded the Bronze Medal of the Royal Humane Society for attempting to save the life of a young man who had jumped in to Leith Docks on 30 May 1930.

 

The young man was James Campbell, (17), a Butcher’s assistant of 2 Portland terrace, Leith. His body was recovered from Leith Harbour at Commercial Street about 30 minutes past midnight on 6 May 1930

 

On 20 May 1930, the Edinburgh City Police weekly Record has the following entry under ‘Meritorious Conduct’:

 

Police Officer

Comments

PC 622 Peter Sinclair

Highly commended for courageous conduct in attempting to rescue a man from drowning in Leith Harbour.

 

 

The minutes of the Royal Humane Society Committee Meeting of 17 June 1930 and chaired by Admiral C. J. Eyres, D.S.O record the following:

 

Number

Name… Occupation… Person who saved or attempted to save  Life

Age

Subject – Name Address and Occupation

Age

50226

Peter Sinclair Police Constable

 

47

James Campbell

17

Time & Place

Particulars

Exertions of the Claimant

11 p.m. 5th May, 1930 Harbour, Leith

The lad had thrown himself into the harbour 20 yards out and 9’ deep, tide going out and quite dark.

Sinclair jumped in but failed to reach him before he sank and then dived but could not find him

 

Remarks

Pecuniary Awards

Case sent by the Chief Constable of Edinburgh

On 22nd July 1930, a Bronze award was sent by post to the Chief Constable of Edinburgh

 

           

 

 In ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper on Page 10 of the edition of Friday June 27 1930, the following appeared:

 

CARNEGIE AWARDS

 

Brave Edinburgh Constable

 

LEITH DROWNING SEQUEL

 

The monthly meeting of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trustees for the United Kingdom was held at Dunfermline yesterday – Mr James Norval, the chairman, presiding. Among the awards made were the following:-


 

Police Constable Peter Sinclair, City Police, Edinburgh, on 5th May 1930 sustained injury while endeavouring to rescue a man from drowning in the harbour at Leith. The constable swam a distance of 20 yards to the man, who, however, disappeared before he could be reached, and although Sinclair dived twice and swam about for 20 minutes the man did not reappear.

 

As a result of injury to one of his hands the rescuer was afterwards off duty for a week. He was awarded an inscribed silver watch.

 

 

 

According to the Weekly Record of 11 April, 1933, PC 622 E Peter Sinclair retired from Edinburgh City Police on 10 April 1933.
 

In ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper on Page 9 of the edition on Wednesday April 19 1933 the following was written.

 

 

Gifts to Ex-Constable

 

Ex-Constable Peter Sinclair who recently retired from Edinburgh City Police after thirty years' service in the "E" (Leith) Division, has been presented by his former colleagues with a gold Albert, receiving at the same time the gift of a wrist watch for Mrs Sinclair.

 

A native of Orkney, Mr Sinclair is a well-known swimmer, and on several occasions has figured in rescues from drowning at Leith. In 1930 he was awarded the bronze medal of the Royal Humane Society for a particularly brave attempt to save the life of a youth who had fallen into Leith Harbour late at night.

 

Mr Sinclair was a member of the Leith Police tug-of-war team which carried all before it at Scottish athletic gatherings some years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Sinclair died on 16 February 1947 at Beechwood, Stronsay in the County of Orkney. He was survived by his second wife, Eliza Flett or Sinclair.

Inscription on PC Sinclair's Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal.
PC Sinclair's RHS medal, (Obverse).
PC Sinclair's RHS medal, (Reverse).

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

PC Charles Tait, Leith Burgh Police.

King George V Coronation (Scottish Police) Medal 1911

 

Leith Burgh Police

 

PC Charles Tait

 

 

This is his only police medal entitlement.

Leith Burgh Police 1806 - 1920

Gold fob presented to ex-PC John Low of Leith Burgh Police & Edinburgh City Police on his retirement in 1926.
Inscription on the gold fob presented to ex PC John Low on his retirement from Leith Burgh Police.

Leith Burgh Police/Edinburgh City Police

 

PC John Low

 

John Low, a Ploughman and Charlotte Ford or Low were married on 13 December 1861 “after Banns according to the Forms of the Established Church of Scotland” at Herdhill near Kirriemuir in the County of Forfar.

 

Their son, John Low was born on 20 January 1873 in Barnyards, near Tannadice, just off the present B957, 1.5 miles North West of Finavon in the County of Forfar (Angus).

 

In the Census of 1881, those listed living at Tannadice in the County of Forfar were John Low, (41), Farm Servant, his wife Charlot, (40), his sons, John (7), William, (5) and his daughter Helen, (3).

 

On 24 June 1892 “after Banns according to the Forms of the Established Church of Scotland”, John Low, (19), a Ploughman, married Ann Gordon, (24, a Domestic Servant, at 44 Blackiemuir Avenue, Laurencekirk in the County of Kincardine. The witnesses were John Gordon and Helen Low.

 

It was at the same address that Charlotte Ford Low was born on 4 September 1892.

 

On 7 June 1894, at 22 South Esk Terrace, Brechin in the County of Forfar William Gordon Low was born.

 

His father, John Law was a General Carter and his mother was Ann Gordon or Low.

 

John Low joined Leith Burgh Police on 4 December 1896 and in the Census of 1901 he was living at 52 Primrose Street (off Lochend Road) in Leith along with his wife Ann and daughter Charlotte and son William. He had been a Fram Servant before joining the police.

 

Ann Gordon or Low, (40), “Married to John Low, Police Constable”, died at 22 Lorne Street, Leith (off Leith Walk) on 30 December 1908. The death was the subject of a Precognition, the result of which concluded that her death was due to Heart Failure.

 

According to the Census of 1911, John Low, (38), a Police Constable in Leith was living at 42 Buchanan Street, Leith (off Albert Street). Also living there were Charlotte, (18), William, (16) and a son, John, (7) born in “Midlothian, Bonnyrigg”. I can find no trace of John, (7) being born.

 

On 27 August 1913, “after Banns according to the Forms of the Church of Scotland”, John Low, (40), Police Constable, married Janet Hay Foster, (39), a Shop Assistant, at 167 Easter Road, Leith.

 

Leith Burgh Police amalgamated with Edinburgh City Police in 1920 and ‘Leith’ became “E” Division of the combined force until 1933. John's collar number was 606E.

 

The Police Box Beat system was introduced in Edinburgh in 1933 and the Territorial Divisions were reduced to four with ‘Leith’ becoming “D” Division from that date.

 

John Low retired from Edinburgh City Police on 7 December 1926.

 

It was customary in the late 19th and early 20 centuries to present police officers retiring from the force with an inscribed  watch and fob The watch fob presented to Constable John Low is inscribed;

 

“Presented by the Members of the “E” Division, Edinburgh City Police, to Ex P.C. J. Low, on the occasion of his retirement after 30 years.”

 

 

On 29 December, 1940 at 4 Piershill Terrace, Edinburgh, John Low, (67), a “Retired Police Constable” died. His widow, Janet Low registered his death.

 

On 29 June, 1949, at Hillhead, Hillside, Montrose in the County of Angus, Janet Low, (75), “Widow of John Low, Police Constable” died.

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