Down in the port of Leith the haar is rising, wrapping its sticky tendrils around the masts of ships that lie tethered to the docks like sleeping giants.
Above them gulls shriek in an echoing chorus, diving and dipping in the scrabble for scraps of fish and fallen cargo while hardened merchants and salted mariners make their way in the world off the back of tobacco and snuff.
As silver crosses palms up and down the shore, most of the earnings stay around the docks as evidenced by the loud and jaunty sea-chants belted out from the local ale houses.
On the gang-plank of one of the merchant ships, Northern Star, a man emerges, droplets of damp fog clinging to his hair and falling off his long coat as he disembarks and makes his way down Bridge Street.
Passing men unloading cargo of heavy iron and steel, while bags of sugar and China clay are lined up next to the damp port walls to be brought inland, he sets his path towards the Black Swan pub, the go-to haunt for a sailor in need.
“He’s been away from Leith for eleven years and is trying to get back in contact with the wife and daughter he left behind,” explains Miles Tubb, 50, author of new historical graphic novel Fallen.
“Along the way he meets people from his past and we follow him through Leith and through history as his story and his past unfold.”
Miles, a key member of the Living Memory Association based in Leith, has co-produced a comic style story depicting the life and times of people living in Leith during the 1920s.
Along with creative artist Ian Emerson, 59, the duo have published their first graphic novel directly inspired by the memories of people who lived in Leith and Newhaven during the interwar period.
“Miles had the idea originally,” explains Ian. “This was a joint project between us to try and tell a reminiscence story in a medium that it has never been done in before – the graphic novel. We wanted to present local history in a completely different, non-stuffy kind of way.
“I’m semi-retired now after a long career in IT. I was stuck in the house all the time going stir crazy when I saw an advert for the association Miles belongs to – the Living Memories Association which gathers memories and history of local people.
“We started off with a script that Miles drew up which sets the scene, a bit like a film. The trick for me was to take Miles’ story and convert it into a style usually seen in comics.
“I was inspired by comics from the early sixties and seventies, like TV 21 which featured the Thunderbirds.
“I was brought up in Edinburgh and have been interested in comics and drawing since I was a kid. My mother used to bring me them.”
Starting in June, the men worked together tirelessly over the coming weeks, pulling together their finished story in just over two months.
“We would meet up every week and make edits,” Ian said. “I pretty much worked full time on it. I wanted it to have the right kind of feel, to reflect what it was like to live in Leith in the past.
“I really focussed on the 1920s as we had a really good photographic archive built up at the Living Memories Association contributed from interviews with local people.
“The 1920s became a vehicle for telling stories with pictures though the trick this time round was to tell an old story with modern images.”
Miles and Ian pulled together a story about a sailor who has been away from Leith for eleven years who arrives in port and tries to get back in contact with the wife and daughter he left behind.
Along the way he meets people from his past and we follow him through Leith and through history as his story and his past unfold.
“It’s based on a story recounted to Miles about a woman from Leith who was disabled and carried around Leith in an arm chair,” adds Ian. “This story is about her too.”
“It was a story from a lady named Rose Minto,” explains Miles. “She told us of a woman who lived in the Shore who had been thrown down the stairs by her husband and broke both her hips. She was made lame but she was very skilled with the sewing machine and that’s how she went on to make her living.”
Peppered with historical facts about the area and sketched from old maps and photographs of Leith, the local history novel is now on sale as part of the Memory Exchange Project supported by the Big Lottery.
With plans already down on paper for their next project, both men are keen to keep their new history medium going.
“We have started on the next one and it’s already looking bigger than the first one,” laughs Ian. “It’s such a pleasure to do this kind of work.”
Anyone wishing to request a copy of Fallen can contact Miles on 0131 553 4580.
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