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Leith Eurowalk

Point E - Salvesen Harpoon Gun

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On the Waterfront Lane at about 12-2 Tower Place

In 1851 a Norwegian, Christian Salvesen, joined his older brother Theodore who was already in partnership with a Leither and running a shipping agency. In 1872, Christian, with his sons, set up their own cargo company which then diversified into whaling.

As the company grew, this harpoon gun is a striking relic of what followed in the early 20th century when Leith hosted the world’s largest whaling fleet employing 13,000 people and operating in 7 European countries.

Covering, as they did, both the Arctic and Antarctic, Salvesen established several bases. One of the largest, with its own hospital, library, cinema, and narrow gauge railway, in the South Georgia Islands was called Leith Harbour or Port Leith and continued to operate until 1965.

Whaling continued until after the second World War. This harpoon commemorates the whaling interests of Christian Salvesen company in Leith but its presence continued beyond that as it diversified to become the UK’s largest provider of private-label frozen vegetables, processing, storing and packing peas, carrots, beans and other vegetables for major retailers such as Tesco and Waitrose until being sold to a Belgian company in the early 21st Century. It’s fairly easy in Edinburgh to find someone who spent their summers shovelling frozen peas.

Find out more about Christian Salvesen business at this link.

Turn round and walk back about 300 metres along The Shore to the cross roads where the King’s Wark pub is. Turn left down Bernard Street and walk about 50metres until you come to Carpet Lane on the right. Turn right down Carpet Lane and walk about 150 metres. Carpet lane changes its name to Waters Street at one point. Turn right at Burgess Street and after about 30 metres, Lamb House/the Icelandic consulate is on the right.

Picture credit: Denise Fisher/Edinburgh4Europe