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Title: Records of a Family of Engineers
Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Records of a Family of Engineers" ***

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Transcribed from the 1912 Chatto & Windus edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org.  Additional proofing by Peter Barnes.

                               RECORDS OF A
                           FAMILY OF ENGINEERS


                          ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

            [Picture: Decorative graphic for Chatto & Windus]


                             CHATTO & WINDUS


                          _All rights reserved_


From the thirteenth century onwards, the name, under the various
disguises of Stevinstoun, Stevensoun, Stevensonne, Stenesone, and
Stewinsoune, spread across Scotland from the mouth of the Firth of Forth
to the mouth of the Firth of Clyde.  Four times at least it occurs as a
place-name.  There is a parish of Stevenston in Cunningham; a second
place of the name in the Barony of Bothwell in Lanark; a third on Lyne,
above Drochil Castle; the fourth on the Tyne, near Traprain Law.
Stevenson of Stevenson (co. Lanark) swore fealty to Edward I in 1296, and
the last of that family died after the Restoration.  Stevensons of
Hirdmanshiels, in Midlothian, rode in the Bishops’ Raid of Aberlady,
served as jurors, stood bail for neighbours—Hunter of Polwood, for
instance—and became extinct about the same period, or possibly earlier.
A Stevenson of Luthrie and another of Pitroddie make their bows, give
their names, and vanish.  And by the year 1700 it does not appear that
any acre of Scots land was vested in any Stevenson. {2a}

Here is, so far, a melancholy picture of backward progress, and a family
posting towards extinction.  But the law (however administered, and I am
bound to aver that, in Scotland, ‘it couldna weel be waur’) acts as a
kind of dredge, and with dispassionate impartiality brings up into the
light of day, and shows us for a moment, in the jury-box or on the
gallows, the creeping things of the past.  By these broken glimpses we
are able to trace the existence of many other and more inglorious
Stevensons, picking a private way through the brawl that makes Scots
history.  They were members of Parliament for Peebles, Stirling,
Pittenweem, Kilrenny, and Inverurie.  We find them burgesses of
Edinburgh; indwellers in Biggar, Perth, and Dalkeith.  Thomas was the
forester of Newbattle Park, Gavin was a baker, John a maltman, Francis a
chirurgeon, and ‘Schir William’ a priest.  In the feuds of Humes and
Heatleys, Cunninghams, Montgomeries, Mures, Ogilvies, and Turnbulls, we
find them inconspicuously involved, and apparently getting rather better
than they gave.  Schir William (reverend gentleman) was cruellie
slaughtered on the Links of Kincraig in 1582; James (‘in the mill-town of
Roberton’), murdered in 1590; Archibald (‘in Gallowfarren’), killed with
shots of pistols and hagbuts in 1608.  Three violent deaths in about
seventy years, against which we can only put the case of Thomas, servant
to Hume of Cowden Knowes, who was arraigned with his two young masters
for the death of the Bastard of Mellerstanes in 1569.  John (‘in
Dalkeith’) stood sentry without Holyrood while the banded lords were
despatching Rizzio within.  William, at the ringing of Perth bell, ran
before Gowrie House ‘with ane sword, and, entering to the yearde, saw
George Craiggingilt with ane twa-handit sword and utheris nychtbouris; at
quilk time James Boig cryit ower ane wynds, “Awa hame! ye will all be
hangit”’—a piece of advice which William took, and immediately
‘depairtit.’  John got a maid with child to him in Biggar, and seemingly
deserted her; she was hanged on the Castle Hill for infanticide, June
1614; and Martin, elder in Dalkeith, eternally disgraced the name by
signing witness in a witch trial, 1661.  These are two of our black
sheep. {3a}  Under the Restoration, one Stevenson was a bailie in
Edinburgh, and another the lessee of the Canonmills.  There were at the
same period two physicians of the name in Edinburgh, one of whom, Dr.
Archibald, appears to have been a famous man in his day and generation.
The Court had continual need of him; it was he who reported, for
instance, on the state of Rumbold; and he was for some time in the
enjoyment of a pension of a thousand pounds Scots (about eighty pounds
sterling) at a time when five hundred pounds is described as ‘an opulent
future.’  I do not know if I should be glad or sorry that he failed to
keep favour; but on 6th January 1682 (rather a cheerless New Year’s
present) his pension was expunged. {4a}  There need be no doubt, at
least, of my exultation at the fact that he was knighted and recorded
arms.  Not quite so genteel, but still in public life, Hugh was
Under-Clerk to the Privy Council, and liked being so extremely.  I gather
this from his conduct in September 1681, when, with all the lords and
their servants, he took the woful and soul-destroying Test, swearing it
‘word by word upon his knees.’  And, behold! it was in vain, for Hugh was
turned out of his small post in 1684. {4b}  Sir Archibald and Hugh were
both plainly inclined to be trimmers; but there was one witness of the
name of Stevenson who held high the banner of the Covenant—John,
‘Land-Labourer, {4c} in the parish of Daily, in Carrick,’ that ‘eminently
pious man.’  He seems to have been a poor sickly soul, and shows himself
disabled with scrofula, and prostrate and groaning aloud with fever; but
the enthusiasm of the martyr burned high within him.

‘I was made to take joyfully the spoiling of my goods, and with pleasure
for His name’s sake wandered in deserts and in mountains, in dens and
caves of the earth.  I lay four months in the coldest season of the year
in a haystack in my father’s garden, and a whole February in the open
fields not far from Camragen, and this I did without the least prejudice
from the night air; one night, when lying in the fields near to the
Carrick-Miln, I was all covered with snow in the morning.  Many nights
have I lain with pleasure in the churchyard of Old Daily, and made a
grave my pillow; frequently have I resorted to the old walls about the
glen, near to Camragen, and there sweetly rested.’  The visible band of
God protected and directed him.  Dragoons were turned aside from the
bramble-bush where he lay hidden.  Miracles were performed for his
behoof.  ‘I got a horse and a woman to carry the child, and came to the
same mountain, where I wandered by the mist before; it is commonly known
by the name of Kellsrhins: when we came to go up the mountain, there came
on a great rain, which we thought was the occasion of the child’s
weeping, and she wept so bitterly, that all we could do could not divert
her from it, so that she was ready to burst.  When we got to the top of
the mountain, where the Lord had been formerly kind to my soul in prayer,
I looked round me for a stone, and espying one, I went and brought it.
When the woman with me saw me set down the stone, she smiled, and asked
what I was going to do with it.  I told her I was going to set it up as
my Ebenezer, because hitherto, and in that place, the Lord had formerly
helped, and I hoped would yet help.  The rain still continuing, the child
weeping bitterly, I went to prayer, and no sooner did I cry to God, but
the child gave over weeping, and when we got up from prayer, the rain was
pouring down on every side, but in the way where we were to go there fell
not one drop; the place not rained on was as big as an ordinary avenue.’
And so great a saint was the natural butt of Satan’s persecutions.  ‘I
retired to the fields for secret prayer about mid-night.  When I went to
pray I was much straitened, and could not get one request, but “Lord
pity,” “Lord help”; this I came over frequently; at length the terror of
Satan fell on me in a high degree, and all I could say even then
was—“Lord help.”  I continued in the duty for some time, notwithstanding
of this terror.  At length I got up to my feet, and the terror still
increased; then the enemy took me by the arm-pits, and seemed to lift me
up by my arms.  I saw a loch just before me, and I concluded he designed
to throw me there by force; and had he got leave to do so, it might have
brought a great reproach upon religion. {7a}  But it was otherwise
ordered, and the cause of piety escaped that danger. {7b}

On the whole, the Stevensons may be described as decent, reputable folk,
following honest trades—millers, maltsters, and doctors, playing the
character parts in the Waverley Novels with propriety, if without
distinction; and to an orphan looking about him in the world for a
potential ancestry, offering a plain and quite unadorned refuge, equally
free from shame and glory.  John, the land-labourer, is the one living
and memorable figure, and he, alas! cannot possibly be more near than a
collateral.  It was on August 12, 1678, that he heard Mr. John Welsh on
the Craigdowhill, and ‘took the heavens, earth, and sun in the firmament
that was shining on us, as also the ambassador who made the offer, and
_the clerk who raised the psalms_, to witness that I did give myself away
to the Lord in a personal and perpetual covenant never to be forgotten’;
and already, in 1675, the birth of my direct ascendant was registered in
Glasgow.  So that I have been pursuing ancestors too far down; and John
the land-labourer is debarred me, and I must relinquish from the trophies
of my house his _rare soul-strengthening and comforting cordial_.  It is
the same case with the Edinburgh bailie and the miller of the Canonmills,
worthy man! and with that public character, Hugh the Under-Clerk, and,
more than all, with Sir Archibald, the physician, who recorded arms.  And
I am reduced to a family of inconspicuous maltsters in what was then the
clean and handsome little city on the Clyde.

The name has a certain air of being Norse.  But the story of Scottish
nomenclature is confounded by a continual process of translation and
half-translation from the Gaelic which in olden days may have been
sometimes reversed.  Roy becomes Reid; Gow, Smith.  A great Highland clan
uses the name of Robertson; a sept in Appin that of Livingstone; Maclean
in Glencoe answers to Johnstone at Lockerby.  And we find such hybrids as
Macalexander for Macallister.  There is but one rule to be deduced: that
however uncompromisingly Saxon a name may appear, you can never be sure
it does not designate a Celt.  My great-grandfather wrote the name
_Stevenson_ but pronounced it _Steenson_, after the fashion of the
immortal minstrel in _Redgauntlet_; and this elision of a medial
consonant appears a Gaelic process; and, curiously enough, I have come
across no less than two Gaelic forms: _John Macstophane cordinerius in
Crossraguel_, 1573, and _William M’Steen_ in Dunskeith (co. Ross), 1605.
Stevenson, Steenson, Macstophane, M’Steen: which is the original? which
the translation?  Or were these separate creations of the patronymic,
some English, some Gaelic?  The curiously compact territory in which we
find them seated—Ayr, Lanark, Peebles, Stirling, Perth, Fife, and the
Lothians—would seem to forbid the supposition. {9a}

‘STEVENSON—or according to tradition of one of the proscribed of the clan
MacGregor, who was born among the willows or in a hill-side
sheep-pen—“Son of my love,” a heraldic bar sinister, but history reveals
a reason for the birth among the willows far other than the sinister
aspect of the name’: these are the dark words of Mr. Cosmo Innes; but
history or tradition, being interrogated, tells a somewhat tangled tale.
The heir of Macgregor of Glenorchy, murdered about 1858 by the Argyll
Campbells, appears to have been the original ‘Son of my love’; and his
more loyal clansmen took the name to fight under.  It may be supposed the
story of their resistance became popular, and the name in some sort
identified with the idea of opposition to the Campbells.  Twice
afterwards, on some renewed aggression, in 1502 and 1552, we find the
Macgregors again banding themselves into a sept of ‘Sons of my love’; and
when the great disaster fell on them in 1603, the whole original legend
reappears, and we have the heir of Alaster of Glenstrae born ‘among the
willows’ of a fugitive mother, and the more loyal clansmen again rallying
under the name of Stevenson.  A story would not be told so often unless
it had some base in fact; nor (if there were no bond at all between the
Red Macgregors and the Stevensons) would that extraneous and somewhat
uncouth name be so much repeated in the legends of the Children of the

But I am enabled, by my very lively and obliging correspondent, Mr.
George A. Macgregor Stevenson of New York, to give an actual instance.
His grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, and
great-great-great-grandfather, all used the names of Macgregor and
Stevenson as occasion served; being perhaps Macgregor by night and
Stevenson by day.  The great-great-great-grandfather was a mighty man of
his hands, marched with the clan in the ‘Forty-five, and returned with
_spolia opima_ in the shape of a sword, which he had wrested from an
officer in the retreat, and which is in the possession of my
correspondent to this day.  His great-grandson (the grandfather of my
correspondent), being converted to Methodism by some wayside preacher,
discarded in a moment his name, his old nature, and his political
principles, and with the zeal of a proselyte sealed his adherence to the
Protestant Succession by baptising his next son George.  This George
became the publisher and editor of the _Wesleyan Times_.  His children
were brought up in ignorance of their Highland pedigree; and my
correspondent was puzzled to overhear his father speak of him as a true
Macgregor, and amazed to find, in rummaging about that peaceful and pious
house, the sword of the Hanoverian officer.  After he was grown up and
was better informed of his descent, ‘I frequently asked my father,’ he
writes, ‘why he did not use the name of Macgregor; his replies were
significant, and give a picture of the man: “It isn’t a good _Methodist_
name.  You can use it, but it will do you no _good_.”  Yet the old
gentleman, by way of pleasantry, used to announce himself to friends as
“Colonel Macgregor.”’

Here, then, are certain Macgregors habitually using the name of
Stevenson, and at last, under the influence of Methodism, adopting it
entirely.  Doubtless a proscribed clan could not be particular; they took
a name as a man takes an umbrella against a shower; as Rob Roy took
Campbell, and his son took Drummond.  But this case is different;
Stevenson was not taken and left—it was consistently adhered to.  It does
not in the least follow that all Stevensons are of the clan Alpin; but it
does follow that some may be.  And I cannot conceal from myself the
possibility that James Stevenson in Glasgow, my first authentic ancestor,
may have had a Highland _alias_ upon his conscience and a claymore in his
back parlour.

To one more tradition I may allude, that we are somehow descended from a
French barber-surgeon who came to St. Andrews in the service of one of
the Cardinal Beatons.  No details were added.  But the very name of
France was so detested in my family for three generations, that I am
tempted to suppose there may be something in it. {12a}


It is believed that in 1665, James Stevenson in Nether Carsewell, parish
of Neilston, county of Renfrew, and presumably a tenant farmer, married
one Jean Keir; and in 1675, without doubt, there was born to these two a
son Robert, possibly a maltster in Glasgow.  In 1710, Robert married, for
a second time, Elizabeth Cumming, and there was born to them, in 1720,
another Robert, certainly a maltster in Glasgow.  In 1742, Robert the
second married Margaret Fulton (Margret, she called herself), by whom he
had ten children, among whom were Hugh, born February 1749, and Alan,
born June 1752.

With these two brothers my story begins.  Their deaths were simultaneous;
their lives unusually brief and full.  Tradition whispered me in
childhood they were the owners of an islet near St. Kitts; and it is
certain they had risen to be at the head of considerable interests in the
West Indies, which Hugh managed abroad and Alan at home, at an age when
others are still curveting a clerk’s stool.  My kinsman, Mr. Stevenson of
Stirling, has heard his father mention that there had been ‘something
romantic’ about Alan’s marriage: and, alas! he has forgotten what.  It
was early at least.  His wife was Jean, daughter of David Lillie, a
builder in Glasgow, and several times ‘Deacon of the Wrights’: the date
of the marriage has not reached me; but on 8th June 1772, when Robert,
the only child of the union, was born, the husband and father had scarce
passed, or had not yet attained, his twentieth year.  Here was a youth
making haste to give hostages to fortune.  But this early scene of
prosperity in love and business was on the point of closing.

There hung in the house of this young family, and successively in those
of my grandfather and father, an oil painting of a ship of many tons
burthen.  Doubtless the brothers had an interest in the vessel; I was
told she had belonged to them outright; and the picture was preserved
through years of hardship, and remains to this day in the possession of
the family, the only memorial of my great-grandsire Alan.  It was on this
ship that he sailed on his last adventure, summoned to the West Indies by
Hugh.  An agent had proved unfaithful on a serious scale; and it used to
be told me in my childhood how the brothers pursued him from one island
to another in an open boat, were exposed to the pernicious dews of the
tropics, and simultaneously struck down.  The dates and places of their
deaths (now before me) would seem to indicate a more scattered and
prolonged pursuit: Hugh, on the 16th April 1774, in Tobago, within sight
of Trinidad; Alan, so late as 26th May, and so far away as ‘Santt
Kittes,’ in the Leeward Islands—both, says the family Bible, ‘of a
fiver’(!).  The death of Hugh was probably announced by Alan in a letter,
to which we may refer the details of the open boat and the dew.  Thus, at
least, in something like the course of post, both were called away, the
one twenty-five, the other twenty-two; their brief generation became
extinct, their short-lived house fell with them; and ‘in these lawless
parts and lawless times’—the words are my grandfather’s—their property
was stolen or became involved.  Many years later, I understand some small
recovery to have been made; but at the moment almost the whole means of
the family seem to have perished with the young merchants.  On the 27th
April, eleven days after Hugh Stevenson, twenty-nine before Alan, died
David Lillie, the Deacon of the Wrights; so that mother and son were
orphaned in one month.  Thus, from a few scraps of paper bearing little
beyond dates, we construct the outlines of the tragedy that shadowed the
cradle of Robert Stevenson.

Jean Lillie was a young woman of strong sense, well fitted to contend
with poverty, and of a pious disposition, which it is like that these
misfortunes heated.  Like so many other widowed Scots-women, she vowed
her son should wag his head in a pulpit; but her means were inadequate to
her ambition.  A charity school, and some time under a Mr. M’Intyre, ‘a
famous linguist,’ were all she could afford in the way of education to
the would-be minister.  He learned no Greek; in one place he mentions
that the Orations of Cicero were his highest book in Latin; in another
that he had ‘delighted’ in Virgil and Horace; but his delight could never
have been scholarly.  This appears to have been the whole of his training
previous to an event which changed his own destiny and moulded that of
his descendants—the second marriage of his mother.

There was a Merchant-Burgess of Edinburgh of the name of Thomas Smith.
The Smith pedigree has been traced a little more particularly than the
Stevensons’, with a similar dearth of illustrious names.  One character
seems to have appeared, indeed, for a moment at the wings of history: a
skipper of Dundee who smuggled over some Jacobite big-wig at the time of
the ‘Fifteen, and was afterwards drowned in Dundee harbour while going on
board his ship.  With this exception, the generations of the Smiths
present no conceivable interest even to a descendant; and Thomas, of
Edinburgh, was the first to issue from respectable obscurity.  His
father, a skipper out of Broughty Ferry, was drowned at sea while Thomas
was still young.  He seems to have owned a ship or two—whalers, I
suppose, or coasters—and to have been a member of the Dundee Trinity
House, whatever that implies.  On his death the widow remained in
Broughty, and the son came to push his future in Edinburgh.  There is a
story told of him in the family which I repeat here because I shall have
to tell later on a similar, but more perfectly authenticated, experience
of his stepson, Robert Stevenson.  Word reached Thomas that his mother
was unwell, and he prepared to leave for Broughty on the morrow.  It was
between two and three in the morning, and the early northern daylight was
already clear, when he awoke and beheld the curtains at the bed-foot
drawn aside and his mother appear in the interval, smile upon him for a
moment, and then vanish.  The sequel is stereo-type; he took the time by
his watch, and arrived at Broughty to learn it was the very moment of her
death.  The incident is at least curious in having happened to such a
person—as the tale is being told of him.  In all else, he appears as a
man ardent, passionate, practical, designed for affairs and prospering in
them far beyond the average.  He founded a solid business in lamps and
oils, and was the sole proprietor of a concern called the Greenside
Company’s Works—‘a multifarious concern it was,’ writes my cousin,
Professor Swan, ‘of tinsmiths, coppersmiths, brass-founders, blacksmiths,
and japanners.’  He was also, it seems, a shipowner and underwriter.  He
built himself ‘a land’—Nos. 1 and 2 Baxter’s Place, then no such
unfashionable neighbourhood—and died, leaving his only son in easy
circumstances, and giving to his three surviving daughters portions of
five thousand pounds and upwards.  There is no standard of success in
life; but in one of its meanings, this is to succeed.

In what we know of his opinions, he makes a figure highly characteristic
of the time.  A high Tory and patriot, a captain—so I find it in my
notes—of Edinburgh Spearmen, and on duty in the Castle during the Muir
and Palmer troubles, he bequeathed to his descendants a bloodless sword
and a somewhat violent tradition, both long preserved.  The judge who sat
on Muir and Palmer, the famous Braxfield, let fall from the bench the
_obiter dictum_—‘I never liked the French all my days, but now I hate
them.’  If Thomas Smith, the Edinburgh Spearman, were in court, he must
have been tempted to applaud.  The people of that land were his
abhorrence; he loathed Buonaparte like Antichrist.  Towards the end he
fell into a kind of dotage; his family must entertain him with games of
tin soldiers, which he took a childish pleasure to array and overset; but
those who played with him must be upon their guard, for if his side,
which was always that of the English against the French, should chance to
be defeated, there would be trouble in Baxter’s Place.  For these
opinions he may almost be said to have suffered.  Baptised and brought up
in the Church of Scotland, he had, upon some conscientious scruple,
joined the communion of the Baptists.  Like other Nonconformists, these
were inclined to the Liberal side in politics, and, at least in the
beginning, regarded Buonaparte as a deliverer.  From the time of his
joining the Spearmen, Thomas Smith became in consequence a bugbear to his
brethren in the faith.   ‘They that take the sword shall perish with the
sword,’ they told him; they gave him ‘no rest’; ‘his position became
intolerable’; it was plain he must choose between his political and his
religious tenets; and in the last years of his life, about 1812, he
returned to the Church of his fathers.

August 1786 was the date of his chief advancement, when, having designed
a system of oil lights to take the place of the primitive coal fires
before in use, he was dubbed engineer to the newly-formed Board of
Northern Lighthouses.  Not only were his fortunes bettered by the
appointment, but he was introduced to a new and wider field for the
exercise of his abilities, and a new way of life highly agreeable to his
active constitution.  He seems to have rejoiced in the long journeys, and
to have combined them with the practice of field sports.  ‘A tall, stout
man coming ashore with his gun over his arm’—so he was described to my
father—the only description that has come down to me by a light-keeper
old in the service.  Nor did this change come alone.  On the 9th July of
the same year, Thomas Smith had been left for the second time a widower.
As he was still but thirty-three years old, prospering in his affairs,
newly advanced in the world, and encumbered at the time with a family of
children, five in number, it was natural that he should entertain the
notion of another wife.  Expeditious in business, he was no less so in
his choice; and it was not later than June 1787—for my grandfather is
described as still in his fifteenth year—that he married the widow of
Alan Stevenson.

The perilous experiment of bringing together two families for once
succeeded.  Mr. Smith’s two eldest daughters, Jean and Janet, fervent in
piety, unwearied in kind deeds, were well qualified both to appreciate
and to attract the stepmother; and her son, on the other hand, seems to
have found immediate favour in the eyes of Mr. Smith.  It is, perhaps,
easy to exaggerate the ready-made resemblances; the tired woman must have
done much to fashion girls who were under ten; the man, lusty and
opinionated, must have stamped a strong impression on the boy of fifteen.
But the cleavage of the family was too marked, the identity of character
and interest produced between the two men on the one hand, and the three
women on the other, was too complete to have been the result of influence
alone.  Particular bonds of union must have pre-existed on each side.
And there is no doubt that the man and the boy met with common ambitions,
and a common bent, to the practice of that which had not so long before
acquired the name of civil engineering.

For the profession which is now so thronged, famous, and influential, was
then a thing of yesterday.  My grandfather had an anecdote of Smeaton,
probably learned from John Clerk of Eldin, their common friend.  Smeaton
was asked by the Duke of Argyll to visit the West Highland coast for a
professional purpose.  He refused, appalled, it seems, by the rough
travelling.  ‘You can recommend some other fit person?’ asked the Duke.
‘No,’ said Smeaton, ‘I’m sorry I can’t.’  ‘What!’ cried the Duke, ‘a
profession with only one man in it!  Pray, who taught you?’  ‘Why,’ said
Smeaton, ‘I believe I may say I was self-taught, an’t please your grace.’
Smeaton, at the date of Thomas Smith’s third marriage, was yet living;
and as the one had grown to the new profession from his place at the
instrument-maker’s, the other was beginning to enter it by the way of his
trade.  The engineer of to-day is confronted with a library of acquired
results; tables and formulae to the value of folios full have been
calculated and recorded; and the student finds everywhere in front of him
the footprints of the pioneers.  In the eighteenth century the field was
largely unexplored; the engineer must read with his own eyes the face of
nature; he arose a volunteer, from the workshop or the mill, to undertake
works which were at once inventions and adventures.  It was not a science
then—it was a living art; and it visibly grew under the eyes and between
the hands of its practitioners.

The charm of such an occupation was strongly felt by stepfather and
stepson.  It chanced that Thomas Smith was a reformer; the superiority of
his proposed lamp and reflectors over open fires of coal secured his
appointment; and no sooner had he set his hand to the task than the
interest of that employment mastered him.  The vacant stage on which he
was to act, and where all had yet to be created—the greatness of the
difficulties, the smallness of the means intrusted him—would rouse a man
of his disposition like a call to battle.  The lad introduced by marriage
under his roof was of a character to sympathise; the public usefulness of
the service would appeal to his judgment, the perpetual need for fresh
expedients stimulate his ingenuity.  And there was another attraction
which, in the younger man at least, appealed to, and perhaps first
aroused, a profound and enduring sentiment of romance: I mean the
attraction of the life.  The seas into which his labours carried the new
engineer were still scarce charted, the coasts still dark; his way on
shore was often far beyond the convenience of any road; the isles in
which he must sojourn were still partly savage.  He must toss much in
boats; he must often adventure on horseback by the dubious bridle-track
through unfrequented wildernesses; he must sometimes plant his lighthouse
in the very camp of wreckers; and he was continually enforced to the
vicissitudes of outdoor life.  The joy of my grandfather in this career
was strong as the love of woman.  It lasted him through youth and
manhood, it burned strong in age, and at the approach of death his last
yearning was to renew these loved experiences.  What he felt himself he
continued to attribute to all around him.  And to this supposed sentiment
in others I find him continually, almost pathetically, appealing; often
in vain.

Snared by these interests, the boy seems to have become almost at once
the eager confidant and adviser of his new connection; the Church, if he
had ever entertained the prospect very warmly, faded from his view; and
at the age of nineteen I find him already in a post of some authority,
superintending the construction of the lighthouse on the isle of Little
Cumbrae, in the Firth of Clyde.  The change of aim seems to have caused
or been accompanied by a change of character.  It sounds absurd to couple
the name of my grandfather with the word indolence; but the lad who had
been destined from the cradle to the Church, and who had attained the age
of fifteen without acquiring more than a moderate knowledge of Latin, was
at least no unusual student.  And from the day of his charge at Little
Cumbrae he steps before us what he remained until the end, a man of the
most zealous industry, greedy of occupation, greedy of knowledge, a stern
husband of time, a reader, a writer, unflagging in his task of
self-improvement.  Thenceforward his summers were spent directing works
and ruling workmen, now in uninhabited, now in half-savage islands; his
winters were set apart, first at the Andersonian Institution, then at the
University of Edinburgh to improve himself in mathematics, chemistry,
natural history, agriculture, moral philosophy, and logic; a bearded
student—although no doubt scrupulously shaved.  I find one reference to
his years in class which will have a meaning for all who have studied in
Scottish Universities.  He mentions a recommendation made by the
professor of logic.  ‘The high-school men,’ he writes, ‘and _bearded men
like myself_, were all attention.’  If my grandfather were throughout
life a thought too studious of the art of getting on, much must be
forgiven to the bearded and belated student who looked across, with a
sense of difference, at ‘the high-school men.’  Here was a gulf to be
crossed; but already he could feel that he had made a beginning, and that
must have been a proud hour when he devoted his earliest earnings to the
repayment of the charitable foundation in which he had received the
rudiments of knowledge.

In yet another way he followed the example of his father-in-law, and from
1794 to 1807, when the affairs of the Bell Rock made it necessary for him
to resign, he served in different corps of volunteers.  In the last of
these he rose to a position of distinction, no less than captain of the
Grenadier Company, and his colonel, in accepting his resignation,
entreated he would do them ‘the favour of continuing as an honorary
member of a corps which has been so much indebted for your zeal and

To very pious women the men of the house are apt to appear worldly.  The
wife, as she puts on her new bonnet before church, is apt to sigh over
that assiduity which enabled her husband to pay the milliner’s bill.  And
in the household of the Smiths and Stevensons the women were not only
extremely pious, but the men were in reality a trifle worldly.  Religious
they both were; conscious, like all Scots, of the fragility and unreality
of that scene in which we play our uncomprehended parts; like all Scots,
realising daily and hourly the sense of another will than ours and a
perpetual direction in the affairs of life.  But the current of their
endeavours flowed in a more obvious channel.  They had got on so far; to
get on further was their next ambition—to gather wealth, to rise in
society, to leave their descendants higher than themselves, to be (in
some sense) among the founders of families.  Scott was in the same town
nourishing similar dreams.  But in the eyes of the women these dreams
would be foolish and idolatrous.

I have before me some volumes of old letters addressed to Mrs. Smith and
the two girls, her favourites, which depict in a strong light their
characters and the society in which they moved.

    ‘My very dear and much esteemed Friend,’ writes one correspondent,
    ‘this day being the anniversary of our acquaintance, I feel inclined
    to address you; but where shall I find words to express the fealings
    of a graitful _Heart_, first to the Lord who graiciously inclined you
    on this day last year to notice an afflicted Strainger providentially
    cast in your way far from any Earthly friend? . . .  Methinks I shall
    hear him say unto you, “Inasmuch as ye shewed kindness to my
    afflicted handmaiden, ye did it unto me.”’

This is to Jean; but the same afflicted lady wrote indifferently to Jean,
to Janet, and to Ms. Smith, whom she calls ‘my Edinburgh mother.’  It is
plain the three were as one person, moving to acts of kindness, like the
Graces, inarmed.  Too much stress must not be laid on the style of this
correspondence; Clarinda survived, not far away, and may have met the
ladies on the Calton Hill; and many of the writers appear, underneath the
conventions of the period, to be genuinely moved.  But what unpleasantly
strikes a reader is, that these devout unfortunates found a revenue in
their devotion.  It is everywhere the same tale; on the side of the
soft-hearted ladies, substantial acts of help; on the side of the
correspondents, affection, italics, texts, ecstasies, and imperfect
spelling.  When a midwife is recommended, not at all for proficiency in
her important art, but because she has ‘a sister whom I [the
correspondent] esteem and respect, and [who] is a spiritual daughter of
my Hond Father in the Gosple,’ the mask seems to be torn off, and the
wages of godliness appear too openly.  Capacity is a secondary matter in
a midwife, temper in a servant, affection in a daughter, and the
repetition of a shibboleth fulfils the law.  Common decency is at times
forgot in the same page with the most sanctified advice and aspiration.
Thus I am introduced to a correspondent who appears to have been at the
time the housekeeper at Invermay, and who writes to condole with my
grandmother in a season of distress.  For nearly half a sheet she keeps
to the point with an excellent discretion in language then suddenly
breaks out:

    ‘It was fully my intention to have left this at Martinmass, but the
    Lord fixes the bounds of our habitation.  I have had more need of
    patience in my situation here than in any other, partly from the very
    violent, unsteady, deceitful temper of the Mistress of the Family,
    and also from the state of the house.  It was in a train of repair
    when I came here two years ago, and is still in Confusion.  There is
    above six Thousand Pounds’ worth of Furniture come from London to be
    put up when the rooms are completely finished; and then, woe be to
    the Person who is Housekeeper at Invermay!’

And by the tail of the document, which is torn, I see she goes on to ask
the bereaved family to seek her a new place.  It is extraordinary that
people should have been so deceived in so careless an impostor; that a
few sprinkled ‘God willings’ should have blinded them to the essence of
this venomous letter; and that they should have been at the pains to bind
it in with others (many of them highly touching) in their memorial of
harrowing days.  But the good ladies were without guile and without
suspicion; they were victims marked for the axe, and the religious
impostors snuffed up the wind as they drew near.

I have referred above to my grandmother; it was no slip of the pen: for
by an extraordinary arrangement, in which it is hard not to suspect the
managing hand of a mother, Jean Smith became the wife of Robert
Stevenson.  Mrs. Smith had failed in her design to make her son a
minister, and she saw him daily more immersed in business and worldly
ambition.  One thing remained that she might do: she might secure for him
a godly wife, that great means of sanctification; and she had two under
her hand, trained by herself, her dear friends and daughters both in law
and love—Jean and Janet.  Jean’s complexion was extremely pale, Janet’s
was florid; my grandmother’s nose was straight, my great-aunt’s aquiline;
but by the sound of the voice, not even a son was able to distinguish one
from other.  The marriage of a man of twenty-seven and a girl of twenty
who have lived for twelve years as brother and sister, is difficult to
conceive.  It took place, however, and thus in 1799 the family was still
further cemented by the union of a representative of the male or worldly
element with one of the female and devout.

This essential difference remained unbridged, yet never diminished the
strength of their relation.  My grandfather pursued his design of
advancing in the world with some measure of success; rose to distinction
in his calling, grew to be the familiar of members of Parliament, judges
of the Court of Session, and ‘landed gentlemen’; learned a ready address,
had a flow of interesting conversation, and when he was referred to as ‘a
highly respectable _bourgeois_,’ resented the description.  My
grandmother remained to the end devout and unambitious, occupied with her
Bible, her children, and her house; easily shocked, and associating
largely with a clique of godly parasites.  I do not know if she called in
the midwife already referred to; but the principle on which that lady was
recommended, she accepted fully.  The cook was a godly woman, the butcher
a Christian man, and the table suffered.  The scene has been often
described to me of my grandfather sawing with darkened countenance at
some indissoluble joint—‘Preserve me, my dear, what kind of a reedy,
stringy beast is this?’—of the joint removed, the pudding substituted and
uncovered; and of my grandmother’s anxious glance and hasty, deprecatory
comment, ‘Just mismanaged!’  Yet with the invincible obstinacy of soft
natures, she would adhere to the godly woman and the Christian man, or
find others of the same kidney to replace them.  One of her confidants
had once a narrow escape; an unwieldy old woman, she had fallen from an
outside stair in a close of the Old Town; and my grandmother rejoiced to
communicate the providential circumstance that a baker had been passing
underneath with his bread upon his head.  ‘I would like to know what kind
of providence the baker thought it!’ cried my grandfather.

But the sally must have been unique.  In all else that I have heard or
read of him, so far from criticising, he was doing his utmost to honour
and even to emulate his wife’s pronounced opinions.  In the only letter
which has come to my hand of Thomas Smith’s, I find him informing his
wife that he was ‘in time for afternoon church’; similar assurances or
cognate excuses abound in the correspondence of Robert Stevenson; and it
is comical and pretty to see the two generations paying the same court to
a female piety more highly strung: Thomas Smith to the mother of Robert
Stevenson—Robert Stevenson to the daughter of Thomas Smith.  And if for
once my grandfather suffered himself to be hurried, by his sense of
humour and justice, into that remark about the case of Providence and the
Baker, I should be sorry for any of his children who should have stumbled
into the same attitude of criticism.  In the apocalyptic style of the
housekeeper of Invermay, woe be to that person!  But there was no fear;
husband and sons all entertained for the pious, tender soul the same
chivalrous and moved affection.  I have spoken with one who remembered
her, and who had been the intimate and equal of her sons, and I found
this witness had been struck, as I had been, with a sense of
disproportion between the warmth of the adoration felt and the nature of
the woman, whether as described or observed.  She diligently read and
marked her Bible; she was a tender nurse; she had a sense of humour under
strong control; she talked and found some amusement at her (or rather at
her husband’s) dinner-parties.  It is conceivable that even my
grandmother was amenable to the seductions of dress; at least, I find her
husband inquiring anxiously about ‘the gowns from Glasgow,’ and very
careful to describe the toilet of the Princess Charlotte, whom he had
seen in church ‘in a Pelisse and Bonnet of the same colour of cloth as
the Boys’ Dress jackets, trimmed with blue satin ribbons; the hat or
Bonnet, Mr. Spittal said, was a Parisian slouch, and had a plume of three
white feathers.’  But all this leaves a blank impression, and it is
rather by reading backward in these old musty letters, which have moved
me now to laughter and now to impatience, that I glean occasional
glimpses of how she seemed to her contemporaries, and trace (at work in
her queer world of godly and grateful parasites) a mobile and responsive
nature.  Fashion moulds us, and particularly women, deeper than we
sometimes think; but a little while ago, and, in some circles, women
stood or fell by the degree of their appreciation of old pictures; in the
early years of the century (and surely with more reason) a character like
that of my grandmother warmed, charmed, and subdued, like a strain of
music, the hearts of the men of her own household.  And there is little
doubt that Mrs. Smith, as she looked on at the domestic life of her son
and her stepdaughter, and numbered the heads in their increasing nursery,
must have breathed fervent thanks to her Creator.

Yet this was to be a family unusually tried; it was not for nothing that
one of the godly women saluted Miss Janet Smith as ‘a veteran in
affliction’; and they were all before middle life experienced in that
form of service.  By the 1st of January 1808, besides a pair of
still-born twins, children had been born and still survived to the young
couple.  By the 11th two were gone; by the 28th a third had followed, and
the two others were still in danger.  In the letters of a former
nurserymaid—I give her name, Jean Mitchell, _honoris causa_—we are
enabled to feel, even at this distance of time, some of the bitterness of
that month of bereavement.

    ‘I have this day received,’ she writes to Miss Janet, ‘the melancholy
    news of my dear babys’ deaths.  My heart is like to break for my dear
    Mrs. Stevenson.  O may she be supported on this trying occasion!  I
    hope her other three babys will be spared to her.  O, Miss Smith, did
    I think when I parted from my sweet babys that I never was to see
    them more?’  ‘I received,’ she begins her next, ‘the mournful news of
    my dear Jessie’s death.  I also received the hair of my three sweet
    babys, which I will preserve as dear to their memorys and as a token
    of Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson’s friendship and esteem.  At my leisure
    hours, when the children are in bed, they occupy all my thoughts, I
    dream of them.  About two weeks ago I dreamed that my sweet little
    Jessie came running to me in her usual way, and I took her in my
    arms.  O my dear babys, were mortal eyes permitted to see them in
    heaven, we would not repine nor grieve for their loss.’

By the 29th of February, the Reverend John Campbell, a man of obvious
sense and human value, but hateful to the present biographer, because he
wrote so many letters and conveyed so little information, summed up this
first period of affliction in a letter to Miss Smith: ‘Your dear sister
but a little while ago had a full nursery, and the dear blooming
creatures sitting around her table filled her breast with hope that one
day they should fill active stations in society and become an ornament in
the Church below.  But ah!’

Near a hundred years ago these little creatures ceased to be, and for not
much less a period the tears have been dried.  And to this day, looking
in these stitched sheaves of letters, we hear the sound of many
soft-hearted women sobbing for the lost.  Never was such a massacre of
the innocents; teething and chincough and scarlet fever and smallpox ran
the round; and little Lillies, and Smiths, and Stevensons fell like moths
about a candle; and nearly all the sympathetic correspondents deplore and
recall the little losses of their own.  ‘It is impossible to describe the
Heavnly looks of the Dear Babe the three last days of his life,’ writes
Mrs. Laurie to Mrs. Smith.  ‘Never—never, my dear aunt, could I wish to
eface the rememberance of this Dear Child.  Never, never, my dear aunt!’
And so soon the memory of the dead and the dust of the survivors are
buried in one grave.

There was another death in 1812; it passes almost unremarked; a single
funeral seemed but a small event to these ‘veterans in affliction’; and
by 1816 the nursery was full again.  Seven little hopefuls enlivened the
house; some were growing up; to the elder girl my grandfather already
wrote notes in current hand at the tail of his letters to his wife: and
to the elder boys he had begun to print, with laborious care, sheets of
childish gossip and pedantic applications.  Here, for instance, under
date of 26th May 1816, is part of a mythological account of London, with
a moral for the three gentlemen, ‘Messieurs Alan, Robert, and James
Stevenson,’ to whom the document is addressed:

    ‘There are many prisons here like Bridewell, for, like other large
    towns, there are many bad men here as well as many good men.  The
    natives of London are in general not so tall and strong as the people
    of Edinburgh, because they have not so much pure air, and instead of
    taking porridge they eat cakes made with sugar and plums.  Here you
    have thousands of carts to draw timber, thousands of coaches to take
    you to all parts of the town, and thousands of boats to sail on the
    river Thames.  But you must have money to pay, otherwise you can get
    nothing.  Now the way to get money is, become clever men and men of
    education, by being good scholars.’

From the same absence, he writes to his wife on a Sunday:

    ‘It is now about eight o’clock with me, and I imagine you to be busy
    with the young folks, hearing the questions [_Anglicé_, catechism],
    and indulging the boys with a chapter from the large Bible, with
    their interrogations and your answers in the soundest doctrine.  I
    hope James is getting his verse as usual, and that Mary is not
    forgetting her little _hymn_.  While Jeannie will be reading
    Wotherspoon, or some other suitable and instructive book, I presume
    our friend, Aunt Mary, will have just arrived with the news of _a
    throng kirk_ [a crowded church] and a great sermon.  You may mention,
    with my compliments to my mother, that I was at St. Paul’s to-day,
    and attended a very excellent service with Mr. James Lawrie.  The
    text was “Examine and see that ye be in the faith.”’

A twinkle of humour lights up this evocation of the distant scene—the
humour of happy men and happy homes.  Yet it is penned upon the threshold
of fresh sorrow.  James and Mary—he of the verse and she of the hymn—did
not much more than survive to welcome their returning father.  On the
25th, one of the godly women writes to Janet:

    ‘My dearest beloved madam, when I last parted from you, you was so
    affected with your affliction [you? or I?] could think of nothing
    else.  But on Saturday, when I went to inquire after your health, how
    was I startled to hear that dear James was gone!  Ah, what is this?
    My dear benefactors, doing so much good to many, to the Lord,
    suddenly to be deprived of their most valued comforts!  I was thrown
    into great perplexity, could do nothing but murmur, why these things
    were done to such a family.  I could not rest, but at midnight,
    whether spoken [or not] it was presented to my mind—“Those whom ye
    deplore are walking with me in white.”  I conclude from this the Lord
    saying to sweet Mrs. Stevenson: “I gave them to be brought up for me:
    well done, good and faithful! they are fully prepared, and now I must
    present them to my father and your father, to my God and your God.”’

It would be hard to lay on flattery with a more sure and daring hand.  I
quote it as a model of a letter of condolence; be sure it would console.
Very different, perhaps quite as welcome, is this from a lighthouse
inspector to my grandfather:

    ‘In reading your letter the trickling tear ran down ray cheeks in
    silent sorrow for your departed dear ones, my sweet little friends.
    Well do I remember, and you will call to mind, their little innocent
    and interesting stories.  Often have they come round me and taken me
    by the hand, but alas!  I am no more destined to behold them.’

The child who is taken becomes canonised, and the looks of the homeliest
babe seem in the retrospect ‘heavenly the three last days of his life.’
But it appears that James and Mary had indeed been children more than
usually engaging; a record was preserved a long while in the family of
their remarks and ‘little innocent and interesting stories,’ and the blow
and the blank were the more sensible.

Early the next month Robert Stevenson must proceed upon his voyage of
inspection, part by land, part by sea.  He left his wife plunged in low
spirits; the thought of his loss, and still more of her concern, was
continually present in his mind, and he draws in his letters home an
interesting picture of his family relations:

                      ‘_Windygates Inn_, _Monday_ (_Postmark July_ 16_th_)

    ‘MY DEAREST JEANNIE,—While the people of the inn are getting me a
    little bit of something to eat, I sit down to tell you that I had a
    most excellent passage across the water, and got to Wemyss at
    mid-day.  I hope the children will be very good, and that Robert will
    take a course with you to learn his Latin lessons daily; he may,
    however, read English in company.  Let them have strawberries on

                                              ‘_Westhaven_, 17_th_ _July_.

    ‘I have been occupied to-day at the harbour of Newport, opposite
    Dundee, and am this far on my way to Arbroath.  You may tell the boys
    that I slept last night in Mr. Steadman’s tent.  I found my bed
    rather hard, but the lodgings were otherwise extremely comfortable.
    The encampment is on the Fife side of the Tay, immediately opposite
    to Dundee.  From the door of the tent you command the most beautiful
    view of the Firth, both up and down, to a great extent.  At night all
    was serene and still, the sky presented the most beautiful appearance
    of bright stars, and the morning was ushered in with the song of many
    little birds.’

                                               ‘_Aberdeen_, _July_ 19_th_.

    ‘I hope, my dear, that you are going out of doors regularly and
    taking much exercise.  I would have you to _make the markets
    daily_—and by all means to take a seat in the coach once or twice in
    the week and see what is going on in town.  [The family were at the
    sea-side.]  It will be good not to be too great a stranger to the
    house.  It will be rather painful at first, but as it is to be done,
    I would have you not to be too strange to the house in town.

    ‘Tell the boys that I fell in with a soldier—his name is
    Henderson—who was twelve years with Lord Wellington and other
    commanders.  He returned very lately with only eightpence-halfpenny
    in his pocket, and found his father and mother both in life, though
    they had never heard from him, nor he from them.  He carried my
    great-coat and umbrella a few miles.’

                                            ‘_Fraserburgh_, _July_ 20_th_.

    ‘Fraserburgh is the same dull place which [Auntie] Mary and Jeannie
    found it.  As I am travelling along the coast which they are
    acquainted with, you had better cause Robert bring down the map from
    Edinburgh; and it will be a good exercise in geography for the young
    folks to trace my course.  I hope they have entered upon the writing.
    The library will afford abundance of excellent books, which I wish
    you would employ a little.  I hope you are doing me the favour to go
    much out with the boys, which will do you much good and prevent them
    from getting so very much overheated.’

                         [_To the Boys—Printed_.]

    ‘When I had last the pleasure of writing to you, your dear little
    brother James and your sweet little sister Mary were still with us.
    But it has pleased God to remove them to another and a better world,
    and we must submit to the will of Providence.  I must, however,
    request of you to think sometimes upon them, and to be very careful
    not to do anything that will displease or vex your mother.  It is
    therefore proper that you do not roamp [Scottish indeed] too much
    about, and that you learn your lessons.’

    ‘I went to Fraserburgh and visited Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, which I
    found in good order.  All this time I travelled upon good roads, and
    paid many a toll-man by the way; but from Fraserburgh to Banff there
    is no toll-bars, and the road is so bad that I had to walk up and
    down many a hill, and for want of bridges the horses had to drag the
    chaise up to the middle of the wheels in water.  At Banff I saw a
    large ship of 300 tons lying on the sands upon her beam-ends, and a
    wreck for want of a good harbour.  Captain Wilson—to whom I beg my
    compliments—will show you a ship of 300 tons.  At the towns of
    Macduff, Banff, and Portsoy, many of the houses are built of marble,
    and the rocks on this part of the coast or sea-side are marble.  But,
    my dear Boys, unless marble be polished and dressed, it is a very
    coarse-looking stone, and has no more beauty than common rock.  As a
    proof of this, ask the favour of your mother to take you to Thomson’s
    Marble Works in South Leith, and you will see marble in all its
    stages, and perhaps you may there find Portsoy marble!  The use I
    wish to make of this is to tell you that, without education, a man is
    just like a block of rough, unpolished marble.  Notice, in proof of
    this, how much Mr. Neill and Mr. M’Gregor [the tutor] know, and
    observe how little a man knows who is not a good scholar.  On my way
    to Fochabers I passed through many thousand acres of Fir timber, and
    saw many deer running in these woods.’

                            [_To Mrs. Stevenson_.]

                                              ‘_Inverness_, _July_ 21_st_.

    ‘I propose going to church in the afternoon, and as I have
    breakfasted late, I shall afterwards take a walk, and dine about six
    o’clock.  I do not know who is the clergyman here, but I shall think
    of you all.  I travelled in the mail-coach [from Banff] almost alone.
    While it was daylight I kept the top, and the passing along a country
    I had never before seen was a considerable amusement.  But, my dear,
    you are all much in my thoughts, and many are the objects which
    recall the recollection of our tender and engaging children we have
    so recently lost.  We must not, however, repine.  I could not for a
    moment wish any change of circumstances in their case; and in every
    comparative view of their state, I see the Lord’s goodness in
    removing them from an evil world to an abode of bliss; and I must
    earnestly hope that you may be enabled to take such a view of this
    affliction as to live in the happy prospect of our all meeting again
    to part no more—and that under such considerations you are getting up
    your spirits.  I wish you would walk about, and by all means go to
    town, and do not sit much at home.’

                                              ‘_Inverness_, _July_ 23_rd_.

    ‘I am duly favoured with your much-valued letter, and I am happy to
    find that you are so much with my mother, because that sort of
    variety has a tendency to occupy the mind, and to keep it from
    brooding too much upon one subject.  Sensibility and tenderness are
    certainly two of the most interesting and pleasing qualities of the
    mind.  These qualities are also none of the least of the many
    endearingments of the female character.  But if that kind of sympathy
    and pleasing melancholy, which is familiar to us under distress, be
    much indulged, it becomes habitual, and takes such a hold of the mind
    as to absorb all the other affections, and unfit us for the duties
    and proper enjoyments of life.  Resignation sinks into a kind of
    peevish discontent.  I am far, however, from thinking there is the
    least danger of this in your case, my dear; for you have been on all
    occasions enabled to look upon the fortunes of this life as under the
    direction of a higher power, and have always preserved that propriety
    and consistency of conduct in all circumstances which endears your
    example to your family in particular, and to your friends.  I am
    therefore, my dear, for you to go out much, and to go to the house
    up-stairs [he means to go up-stairs in the house, to visit the place
    of the dead children], and to put yourself in the way of the visits
    of your friends.  I wish you would call on the Miss Grays, and it
    would be a good thing upon a Saturday to dine with my mother, and
    take Meggy and all the family with you, and let them have their
    strawberries in town.  The tickets of one of the _old-fashioned
    coaches_ would take you all up, and if the evening were good, they
    could all walk down, excepting Meggy and little David.’

                                    ‘_Inverness_, _July_ 25_th_, 11 _p.m._

    ‘Captain Wemyss, of Wemyss, has come to Inverness to go the voyage
    with me, and as we are sleeping in a double-bedded room, I must no
    longer transgress.  You must remember me the best way you can to the

                       ‘_On board of the Lighthouse Yacht_, _July_ 29_th_.

    ‘I got to Cromarty yesterday about mid-day, and went to church.  It
    happened to be the sacrament there, and I heard a Mr. Smith at that
    place conclude the service with a very suitable exhortation.  There
    seemed a great concourse of people, but they had rather an
    unfortunate day for them at the tent, as it rained a good deal.
    After drinking tea at the inn, Captain Wemyss accompanied me on
    board, and we sailed about eight last night.  The wind at present
    being rather a beating one, I think I shall have an opportunity of
    standing into the bay of Wick, and leaving this letter to let you
    know my progress and that I am well.’

                         ‘_Lighthouse Yacht_, _Stornoway_, _August_ 4_th_.

    ‘To-day we had prayers on deck as usual when at sea.  I read the 14th
    chapter, I think, of Job.  Captain Wemyss has been in the habit of
    doing this on board his own ship, agreeably to the Articles of War.
    Our passage round the Cape [Cape Wrath] was rather a cross one, and
    as the wind was northerly, we had a pretty heavy sea, but upon the
    whole have made a good passage, leaving many vessels behind us in
    Orkney.  I am quite well, my dear; and Captain Wemyss, who has much
    spirit, and who is much given to observation, and a perfect
    enthusiast in his profession, enlivens the voyage greatly.  Let me
    entreat you to move about much, and take a walk with the boys to
    Leith.  I think they have still many places to see there, and I wish
    you would indulge them in this respect.  Mr. Scales is the best
    person I know for showing them the sailcloth-weaving, etc., and he
    would have great pleasure in undertaking this.  My dear, I trust soon
    to be with you, and that through the goodness of God we shall meet
    all well.’

    ‘There are two vessels lying here with emigrants for America, each
    with eighty people on board, at all ages, from a few days to upwards
    of sixty!  Their prospects must be very forlorn to go with a slender
    purse for distant and unknown countries.’

                       ‘_Lighthouse Yacht_, _off Greenock_, _Aug._ 18_th_.

    ‘It was after _church-time_ before we got here, but we had prayers
    upon deck on the way up the Clyde.  This has, upon the whole, been a
    very good voyage, and Captain Wemyss, who enjoys it much, has been an
    excellent companion; we met with pleasure, and shall part with

Strange that, after his long experience, my grandfather should have
learned so little of the attitude and even the dialect of the
spiritually-minded; that after forty-four years in a most religious
circle, he could drop without sense of incongruity from a period of
accepted phrases to ‘trust his wife was _getting up her spirits_,’ or
think to reassure her as to the character of Captain Wemyss by mentioning
that he had read prayers on the deck of his frigate ‘_agreeably to the
Articles of War_’!  Yet there is no doubt—and it is one of the most
agreeable features of the kindly series—that he was doing his best to
please, and there is little doubt that he succeeded.  Almost all my
grandfather’s private letters have been destroyed.  This correspondence
has not only been preserved entire, but stitched up in the same covers
with the works of the godly women, the Reverend John Campbell, and the
painful Mrs. Ogle.  I did not think to mention the good dame, but she
comes in usefully as an example.  Amongst the treasures of the ladies of
my family, her letters have been honoured with a volume to themselves.  I
read about a half of them myself; then handed over the task to one of
stauncher resolution, with orders to communicate any fact that should be
found to illuminate these pages.  Not one was found; it was her only art
to communicate by post second-rate sermons at second-hand; and such, I
take it, was the correspondence in which my grandmother delighted.  If I
am right, that of Robert Stevenson, with his quaint smack of the
contemporary ‘Sandford and Merton,’ his interest in the whole page of
experience, his perpetual quest, and fine scent of all that seems
romantic to a boy, his needless pomp of language, his excellent good
sense, his unfeigned, unstained, unwearied human kindliness, would seem
to her, in a comparison, dry and trivial and worldly.  And if these
letters were by an exception cherished and preserved, it would be for one
or both of two reasons—because they dealt with and were bitter-sweet
reminders of a time of sorrow; or because she was pleased, perhaps
touched, by the writer’s guileless efforts to seem spiritually-minded.

After this date there were two more births and two more deaths, so that
the number of the family remained unchanged; in all five children
survived to reach maturity and to outlive their parents.



It were hard to imagine a contrast more sharply defined than that between
the lives of the men and women of this family: the one so chambered, so
centred in the affections and the sensibilities; the other so active,
healthy, and expeditious.  From May to November, Thomas Smith and Robert
Stevenson were on the mail, in the saddle, or at sea; and my grandfather,
in particular, seems to have been possessed with a demon of activity in
travel.  In 1802, by direction of the Northern Lighthouse Board, he had
visited the coast of England from St. Bees, in Cumberland, and round by
the Scilly Islands to some place undecipherable by me; in all a distance
of 2500 miles.  In 1806 I find him starting ‘on a tour round the south
coast of England, from the Humber to the Severn.’  Peace was not long
declared ere he found means to visit Holland, where he was in time to
see, in the navy-yard at Helvoetsluys, ‘about twenty of Bonaparte’s
_English flotilla_ lying in a state of decay, the object of curiosity to
Englishmen.’  By 1834 he seems to have been acquainted with the coast of
France from Dieppe to Bordeaux; and a main part of his duty as Engineer
to the Board of Northern Lights was one round of dangerous and laborious

In 1786, when Thomas Smith first received the appointment, the extended
and formidable coast of Scotland was lighted at a single point—the Isle
of May, in the jaws of the Firth of Forth, where, on a tower already a
hundred and fifty years old, an open coal-fire blazed in an iron
chauffer.  The whole archipelago, thus nightly plunged in darkness, was
shunned by sea-going vessels, and the favourite courses were north about
Shetland and west about St. Kilda.  When the Board met, four new lights
formed the extent of their intentions—Kinnaird Head, in Aberdeenshire, at
the eastern elbow of the coast; North Ronaldsay, in Orkney, to keep the
north and guide ships passing to the south’ard of Shetland; Island Glass,
on Harris, to mark the inner shore of the Hebrides and illuminate the
navigation of the Minch; and the Mull of Kintyre.  These works were to be
attempted against obstacles, material and financial, that might have
staggered the most bold.  Smith had no ship at his command till 1791; the
roads in those outlandish quarters where his business lay were scarce
passable when they existed, and the tower on the Mull of Kintyre stood
eleven months unlighted while the apparatus toiled and foundered by the
way among rocks and mosses.  Not only had towers to be built and
apparatus transplanted; the supply of oil must be maintained, and the men
fed, in the same inaccessible and distant scenes; a whole service, with
its routine and hierarchy, had to be called out of nothing; and a new
trade (that of lightkeeper) to be taught, recruited, and organised.  The
funds of the Board were at the first laughably inadequate.  They embarked
on their career on a loan of twelve hundred pounds, and their income in
1789, after relief by a fresh Act of Parliament, amounted to less than
three hundred.  It must be supposed that the thoughts of Thomas Smith, in
these early years, were sometimes coloured with despair; and since he
built and lighted one tower after another, and created and bequeathed to
his successors the elements of an excellent administration, it may be
conceded that he was not after all an unfortunate choice for a first

War added fresh complications.  In 1794 Smith came ‘very near to be
taken’ by a French squadron.  In 1813 Robert Stevenson was cruising about
the neighbourhood of Cape Wrath in the immediate fear of Commodore
Rogers.  The men, and especially the sailors, of the lighthouse service
must be protected by a medal and ticket from the brutal activity of the
press-gang.  And the zeal of volunteer patriots was at times

    ‘I set off on foot,’ writes my grandfather, ‘for Marazion, a town at
    the head of Mount’s Bay, where I was in hopes of getting a boat to
    freight.  I had just got that length, and was making the necessary
    inquiry, when a young man, accompanied by several idle-looking
    fellows, came up to me, and in a hasty tone said, “Sir, in the king’s
    name I seize your person and papers.”  To which I replied that I
    should be glad to see his authority, and know the reason of an
    address so abrupt.  He told me the want of time prevented his taking
    regular steps, but that it would be necessary for me to return to
    Penzance, as I was suspected of being a French spy.  I proposed to
    submit my papers to the nearest Justice of Peace, who was immediately
    applied to, and came to the inn where I was.  He seemed to be greatly
    agitated, and quite at a loss how to proceed.  The complaint
    preferred against me was “that I had examined the Longships
    Lighthouse with the most minute attention, and was no less particular
    in my inquiries at the keepers of the lighthouse regarding the sunk
    rocks lying off the Land’s End, with the sets of the currents and
    tides along the coast: that I seemed particularly to regret the
    situation of the rocks called the Seven Stones, and the loss of a
    beacon which the Trinity Board had caused to be fixed on the Wolf
    Rock; that I had taken notes of the bearings of several sunk rocks,
    and a drawing of the lighthouse, and of Cape Cornwall.  Further, that
    I had refused the honour of Lord Edgecombe’s invitation to dinner,
    offering as an apology that I had some particular business on hand.”’

My grandfather produced in answer his credentials and letter of credit;
but the justice, after perusing them, ‘very gravely observed that they
were “musty bits of paper,”’ and proposed to maintain the arrest.  Some
more enlightened magistrates at Penzance relieved him of suspicion and
left him at liberty to pursue his journey,—‘which I did with so much
eagerness,’ he adds, ‘that I gave the two coal lights on the Lizard only
a very transient look.’

Lighthouse operations in Scotland differed essentially in character from
those in England.  The English coast is in comparison a habitable, homely
place, well supplied with towns; the Scottish presents hundreds of miles
of savage islands and desolate moors.  The Parliamentary committee of
1834, profoundly ignorant of this distinction, insisted with my
grandfather that the work at the various stations should be let out on
contract ‘in the neighbourhood,’ where sheep and deer, and gulls and
cormorants, and a few ragged gillies, perhaps crouching in a bee-hive
house, made up the only neighbours.  In such situations repairs and
improvements could only be overtaken by collecting (as my grandfather
expressed it) a few ‘lads,’ placing them under charge of a foreman, and
despatching them about the coast as occasion served.  The particular
danger of these seas increased the difficulty.  The course of the
lighthouse tender lies amid iron-bound coasts, among tide-races, the
whirlpools of the Pentland Firth, flocks of islands, flocks of reefs,
many of them uncharted.  The aid of steam was not yet.  At first in
random coasting sloop, and afterwards in the cutter belonging to the
service, the engineer must ply and run amongst these multiplied dangers,
and sometimes late into the stormy autumn.  For pages together my
grandfather’s diary preserves a record of these rude experiences; of hard
winds and rough seas; and of ‘the try-sail and storm-jib, those old
friends which I never like to see.’  They do not tempt to quotation, but
it was the man’s element, in which he lived, and delighted to live, and
some specimen must be presented.  On Friday, September 10th, 1830, the
_Regent_ lying in Lerwick Bay, we have this entry: ‘The gale increases,
with continued rain.’  On the morrow, Saturday, 11th, the weather
appeared to moderate, and they put to sea, only to be driven by evening
into Levenswick.  There they lay, ‘rolling much,’ with both anchors ahead
and the square yard on deck, till the morning of Saturday, 18th.
Saturday and Sunday they were plying to the southward with a ‘strong
breeze and a heavy sea,’ and on Sunday evening anchored in Otterswick.
‘Monday, 20th, it blows so fresh that we have no communication with the
shore.  We see Mr. Rome on the beach, but we cannot communicate with him.
It blows “mere fire,” as the sailors express it.’  And for three days
more the diary goes on with tales of davits unshipped, high seas, strong
gales from the southward, and the ship driven to refuge in Kirkwall or
Deer Sound.  I have many a passage before me to transcribe, in which my
grandfather draws himself as a man of minute and anxious exactitude about
details.  It must not be forgotten that these voyages in the tender were
the particular pleasure and reward of his existence; that he had in him a
reserve of romance which carried him delightedly over these hardships and
perils; that to him it was ‘great gain’ to be eight nights and seven days
in the savage bay of Levenswick—to read a book in the much agitated
cabin—to go on deck and hear the gale scream in his ears, and see the
landscape dark with rain and the ship plunge at her two anchors—and to
turn in at night and wake again at morning, in his narrow berth, to the
glamorous and continued voices of the gale.

His perils and escapes were beyond counting.  I shall only refer to two:
the first, because of the impression made upon himself; the second, from
the incidental picture it presents of the north islanders.  On the 9th
October 1794 he took passage from Orkney in the sloop _Elizabeth_ of
Stromness.  She made a fair passage till within view of Kinnaird Head,
where, as she was becalmed some three miles in the offing, and wind
seemed to threaten from the south-east, the captain landed him, to
continue his journey more expeditiously ashore.  A gale immediately
followed, and the _Elizabeth_ was driven back to Orkney and lost with all
hands.  The second escape I have been in the habit of hearing related by
an eye-witness, my own father, from the earliest days of childhood.  On a
September night, the _Regent_ lay in the Pentland Firth in a fog and a
violent and windless swell.  It was still dark, when they were alarmed by
the sound of breakers, and an anchor was immediately let go.  The peep of
dawn discovered them swinging in desperate proximity to the Isle of Swona
{54a} and the surf bursting close under their stern.  There was in this
place a hamlet of the inhabitants, fisher-folk and wreckers; their huts
stood close about the head of the beach.  All slept; the doors were
closed, and there was no smoke, and the anxious watchers on board ship
seemed to contemplate a village of the dead.  It was thought possible to
launch a boat and tow the _Regent_ from her place of danger; and with
this view a signal of distress was made and a gun fired with a red-hot
poker from the galley.  Its detonation awoke the sleepers.  Door after
door was opened, and in the grey light of the morning fisher after fisher
was seen to come forth, yawning and stretching himself, nightcap on head.
Fisher after fisher, I wrote, and my pen tripped; for it should rather
stand wrecker after wrecker.  There was no emotion, no animation, it
scarce seemed any interest; not a hand was raised; but all callously
awaited the harvest of the sea, and their children stood by their side
and waited also.  To the end of his life, my father remembered that
amphitheatre of placid spectators on the beach; and with a special and
natural animosity, the boys of his own age.  But presently a light air
sprang up, and filled the sails, and fainted, and filled them again; and
little by little the _Regent_ fetched way against the swell, and clawed
off shore into the turbulent firth.

The purpose of these voyages was to effect a landing on open beaches or
among shelving rocks, not for persons only, but for coals and food, and
the fragile furniture of light-rooms.  It was often impossible.  In 1831
I find my grandfather ‘hovering for a week’ about the Pentland Skerries
for a chance to land; and it was almost always difficult.  Much knack and
enterprise were early developed among the seamen of the service; their
management of boats is to this day a matter of admiration; and I find my
grandfather in his diary depicting the nature of their excellence in one
happily descriptive phrase, when he remarks that Captain Soutar had
landed ‘the small stores and nine casks of oil _with all the activity of
a smuggler_.’  And it was one thing to land, another to get on board
again.  I have here a passage from the diary, where it seems to have been
touch-and-go.  ‘I landed at Tarbetness, on the eastern side of the point,
in a _mere gale or blast of wind_ from west-south-west, at 2 p.m.  It
blew so fresh that the captain, in a kind of despair, went off to the
ship, leaving myself and the steward ashore.  While I was in the
light-room, I felt it shaking and waving, not with the tremor of the Bell
Rock, but with the _waving of a tree_!  This the light-keepers seemed to
be quite familiar to, the principal keeper remarking that “it was very
pleasant,” perhaps meaning interesting or curious.  The captain worked
the vessel into smooth water with admirable dexterity, and I got on board
again about 6 p.m. from the other side of the point.’  But not even the
dexterity of Soutar could prevail always; and my grandfather must at
times have been left in strange berths and with but rude provision.  I
may instance the case of my father, who was storm-bound three days upon
an islet, sleeping in the uncemented and unchimneyed houses of the
islanders, and subsisting on a diet of nettle-soup and lobsters.

The name of Soutar has twice escaped my pen, and I feel I owe him a
vignette.  Soutar first attracted notice as mate of a praam at the Bell
Rock, and rose gradually to be captain of the _Regent_.  He was active,
admirably skilled in his trade, and a man incapable of fear.  Once, in
London, he fell among a gang of confidence-men, naturally deceived by his
rusticity and his prodigious accent.  They plied him with drink—a
hopeless enterprise, for Soutar could not be made drunk; they proposed
cards, and Soutar would not play.  At last, one of them, regarding him
with a formidable countenance, inquired if he were not frightened?  ‘I’m
no’ very easy fleyed,’ replied the captain.  And the rooks withdrew after
some easier pigeon.  So many perils shared, and the partial familiarity
of so many voyages, had given this man a stronghold in my grandfather’s
estimation; and there is no doubt but he had the art to court and please
him with much hypocritical skill.  He usually dined on Sundays in the
cabin.  He used to come down daily after dinner for a glass of port or
whisky, often in his full rig of sou’-wester, oilskins, and long boots;
and I have often heard it described how insinuatingly he carried himself
on these appearances, artfully combining the extreme of deference with a
blunt and seamanlike demeanour.  My father and uncles, with the devilish
penetration of the boy, were far from being deceived; and my father,
indeed, was favoured with an object-lesson not to be mistaken.  He had
crept one rainy night into an apple-barrel on deck, and from this place
of ambush overheard Soutar and a comrade conversing in their oilskins.
The smooth sycophant of the cabin had wholly disappeared, and the boy
listened with wonder to a vulgar and truculent ruffian.  Of Soutar, I may
say _tantum vidi_, having met him in the Leith docks now more than thirty
years ago, when he abounded in the praises of my grandfather, encouraged
me (in the most admirable manner) to pursue his footprints, and left
impressed for ever on my memory the image of his own Bardolphian nose.
He died not long after.

The engineer was not only exposed to the hazards of the sea; he must
often ford his way by land to remote and scarce accessible places, beyond
reach of the mail or the post-chaise, beyond even the tracery of the
bridle-path, and guided by natives across bog and heather.  Up to 1807 my
grand-father seems to have travelled much on horseback; but he then gave
up the idea—‘such,’ he writes with characteristic emphasis and capital
letters, ‘is the Plague of Baiting.’  He was a good pedestrian; at the
age of fifty-eight I find him covering seventeen miles over the moors of
the Mackay country in less than seven hours, and that is not bad
travelling for a scramble.  The piece of country traversed was already a
familiar track, being that between Loch Eriboll and Cape Wrath; and I
think I can scarce do better than reproduce from the diary some traits of
his first visit.  The tender lay in Loch Eriboll; by five in the morning
they sat down to breakfast on board; by six they were ashore—my
grandfather, Mr. Slight an assistant, and Soutar of the jolly nose, and
had been taken in charge by two young gentlemen of the neighbourhood and
a pair of gillies.  About noon they reached the Kyle of Durness and
passed the ferry.  By half-past three they were at Cape Wrath—not yet
known by the emphatic abbreviation of ‘The Cape’—and beheld upon all
sides of them unfrequented shores, an expanse of desert moor, and the
high-piled Western Ocean.  The site of the tower was chosen.  Perhaps it
is by inheritance of blood, but I know few things more inspiriting than
this location of a lighthouse in a designated space of heather and air,
through which the sea-birds are still flying.  By 9 p.m. the return
journey had brought them again to the shores of the Kyle.  The night was
dirty, and as the sea was high and the ferry-boat small, Soutar and Mr.
Stevenson were left on the far side, while the rest of the party embarked
and were received into the darkness.  They made, in fact, a safe though
an alarming passage; but the ferryman refused to repeat the adventure;
and my grand-father and the captain long paced the beach, impatient for
their turn to pass, and tormented with rising anxiety as to the fate of
their companions.  At length they sought the shelter of a shepherd’s
house.  ‘We had miserable up-putting,’ the diary continues, ‘and on both
sides of the ferry much anxiety of mind.  Our beds were clean straw, and
but for the circumstance of the boat, I should have slept as soundly as
ever I did after a walk through moss and mire of sixteen hours.’

To go round the lights, even to-day, is to visit past centuries.  The
tide of tourists that flows yearly in Scotland, vulgarising all where it
approaches, is still defined by certain barriers.  It will be long ere
there is a hotel at Sumburgh or a hydropathic at Cape Wrath; it will be
long ere any _char-à-banc_, laden with tourists, shall drive up to Barra
Head or Monach, the Island of the Monks.  They are farther from London
than St. Petersburg, and except for the towers, sounding and shining all
night with fog-bells and the radiance of the light-room, glittering by
day with the trivial brightness of white paint, these island and moorland
stations seem inaccessible to the civilisation of to-day, and even to the
end of my grandfather’s career the isolation was far greater.  There ran
no post at all in the Long Island; from the light-house on Barra Head a
boat must be sent for letters as far as Tobermory, between sixty and
seventy miles of open sea; and the posts of Shetland, which had surprised
Sir Walter Scott in 1814, were still unimproved in 1833, when my
grandfather reported on the subject.  The group contained at the time a
population of 30,000 souls, and enjoyed a trade which had increased in
twenty years seven-fold, to between three and four thousand tons.  Yet
the mails were despatched and received by chance coasting vessels at the
rate of a penny a letter; six and eight weeks often elapsed between
opportunities, and when a mail was to be made up, sometimes at a moment’s
notice, the bellman was sent hastily through the streets of Lerwick.
Between Shetland and Orkney, only seventy miles apart, there was ‘no
trade communication whatever.’

Such was the state of affairs, only sixty years ago, with the three
largest clusters of the Scottish Archipelago; and forty-seven years
earlier, when Thomas Smith began his rounds, or forty-two, when Robert
Stevenson became conjoined with him in these excursions, the barbarism
was deep, the people sunk in superstition, the circumstances of their
life perhaps unique in history.  Lerwick and Kirkwall, like Guam or the
Bay of Islands, were but barbarous ports where whalers called to take up
and to return experienced seamen.  On the outlying islands the clergy
lived isolated, thinking other thoughts, dwelling in a different country
from their parishioners, like missionaries in the South Seas.  My
grandfather’s unrivalled treasury of anecdote was never written down; it
embellished his talk while he yet was, and died with him when he died;
and such as have been preserved relate principally to the islands of
Ronaldsay and Sanday, two of the Orkney group.  These bordered on one of
the water-highways of civilisation; a great fleet passed annually in
their view, and of the shipwrecks of the world they were the scene and
cause of a proportion wholly incommensurable to their size.  In one year,
1798, my grandfather found the remains of no fewer than five vessels on
the isle of Sanday, which is scarcely twelve miles long.

    ‘Hardly a year passed,’ he writes, ‘without instances of this kind;
    for, owing to the projecting points of this strangely formed island,
    the lowness and whiteness of its eastern shores, and the wonderful
    manner in which the scanty patches of land are intersected with lakes
    and pools of water, it becomes, even in daylight, a deception, and
    has often been fatally mistaken for an open sea.  It had even become
    proverbial with some of the inhabitants to observe that “if wrecks
    were to happen, they might as well be sent to the poor isle of Sanday
    as anywhere else.”  On this and the neighbouring islands the
    inhabitants had certainly had their share of wrecked goods, for the
    eye is presented with these melancholy remains in almost every form.
    For example, although quarries are to be met with generally in these
    islands, and the stones are very suitable for building dykes
    (_Anglicé_, walls), yet instances occur of the land being enclosed,
    even to a considerable extent, with ship-timbers.  The author has
    actually seen a park (_Anglicé_, meadow) paled round chiefly with
    cedar-wood and mahogany from the wreck of a Honduras-built ship; and
    in one island, after the wreck of a ship laden with wine, the
    inhabitants have been known to take claret to their barley-meal
    porridge.  On complaining to one of the pilots of the badness of his
    boat’s sails, he replied to the author with some degree of
    pleasantry, “Had it been His will that you came na’ here wi’ your
    lights, we might ‘a’ had better sails to our boats, and more o’ other
    things.”  It may further be mentioned that when some of Lord Dundas’s
    farms are to be let in these islands a competition takes place for
    the lease, and it is _bona fide_ understood that a much higher rent
    is paid than the lands would otherwise give were it not for the
    chance of making considerably by the agency and advantages attending
    shipwrecks on the shores of the respective farms.’

The people of North Ronaldsay still spoke Norse, or, rather, mixed it
with their English.  The walls of their huts were built to a great
thickness of rounded stones from the sea-beach; the roof flagged, loaded
with earth, and perforated by a single hole for the escape of smoke.  The
grass grew beautifully green on the flat house-top, where the family
would assemble with their dogs and cats, as on a pastoral lawn; there
were no windows, and in my grandfather’s expression, ‘there was really no
demonstration of a house unless it were the diminutive door.’  He once
landed on Ronaldsay with two friends.  The inhabitants crowded and
pressed so much upon the strangers that the bailiff, or resident factor
of the island, blew with his ox-horn, calling out to the natives to stand
off and let the gentlemen come forward to the laird; upon which one of
the islanders, as spokesman, called out, “God ha’e us, man! thou needsna
mak’ sic a noise.  It’s no’ every day we ha’e _three hatted men_ on our
isle.”’  When the Surveyor of Taxes came (for the first time, perhaps) to
Sanday, and began in the King’s name to complain of the unconscionable
swarms of dogs, and to menace the inhabitants with taxation, it chanced
that my grandfather and his friend, Dr. Patrick Neill, were received by
an old lady in a Ronaldsay hut.  Her hut, which was similar to the model
described, stood on a Ness, or point of land jutting into the sea.  They
were made welcome in the firelit cellar, placed ‘in _casey_ or
straw-worked chairs, after the Norwegian fashion, with arms, and a canopy
overhead,’ and given milk in a wooden dish.  These hospitalities attended
to, the old lady turned at once to Dr. Neill, whom she took for the
Surveyor of Taxes.  ‘Sir,’ said she, ‘gin ye’ll tell the King that I
canna keep the Ness free o’ the Bangers (sheep) without twa hun’s, and
twa guid hun’s too, he’ll pass me threa the tax on dugs.’

This familiar confidence, these traits of engaging simplicity, are
characters of a secluded people.  Mankind—and, above all, islanders—come
very swiftly to a bearing, and find very readily, upon one convention or
another, a tolerable corporate life.  The danger is to those from
without, who have not grown up from childhood in the islands, but appear
suddenly in that narrow horizon, life-sized apparitions.  For these no
bond of humanity exists, no feeling of kinship is awakened by their
peril; they will assist at a shipwreck, like the fisher-folk of Lunga, as
spectators, and when the fatal scene is over, and the beach strewn with
dead bodies, they will fence their fields with mahogany, and, after a
decent grace, sup claret to their porridge.  It is not wickedness: it is
scarce evil; it is only, in its highest power, the sense of isolation and
the wise disinterestedness of feeble and poor races.  Think how many
viking ships had sailed by these islands in the past, how many vikings
had landed, and raised turmoil, and broken up the barrows of the dead,
and carried off the wines of the living; and blame them, if you are able,
for that belief (which may be called one of the parables of the devil’s
gospel) that a man rescued from the sea will prove the bane of his
deliverer.  It might be thought that my grandfather, coming there
unknown, and upon an employment so hateful to the inhabitants, must have
run the hazard of his life.  But this were to misunderstand.  He came
franked by the laird and the clergyman; he was the King’s officer; the
work was ‘opened with prayer by the Rev. Walter Trail, minister of the
parish’; God and the King had decided it, and the people of these pious
islands bowed their heads.  There landed, indeed, in North Ronaldsay,
during the last decade of the eighteenth century, a traveller whose life
seems really to have been imperilled.  A very little man of a swarthy
complexion, he came ashore, exhausted and unshaved, from a long boat
passage, and lay down to sleep in the home of the parish schoolmaster.
But he had been seen landing.  The inhabitants had identified him for a
Pict, as, by some singular confusion of name, they called the dark and
dwarfish aboriginal people of the land.  Immediately the obscure ferment
of a race-hatred, grown into a superstition, began to work in their
bosoms, and they crowded about the house and the room-door with fearful
whisperings.  For some time the schoolmaster held them at bay, and at
last despatched a messenger to call my grand-father.  He came: he found
the islanders beside themselves at this unwelcome resurrection of the
dead and the detested; he was shown, as adminicular of testimony, the
traveller’s uncouth and thick-soled boots; he argued, and finding
argument unavailing, consented to enter the room and examine with his own
eyes the sleeping Pict.  One glance was sufficient: the man was now a
missionary, but he had been before that an Edinburgh shopkeeper with whom
my grandfather had dealt.  He came forth again with this report, and the
folk of the island, wholly relieved, dispersed to their own houses.  They
were timid as sheep and ignorant as limpets; that was all.  But the Lord
deliver us from the tender mercies of a frightened flock!

I will give two more instances of their superstition.  When Sir Walter
Scott visited the Stones of Stennis, my grandfather put in his pocket a
hundred-foot line, which he unfortunately lost.

    ‘Some years afterwards,’ he writes, ‘one of my assistants on a visit
    to the Stones of Stennis took shelter from a storm in a cottage close
    by the lake; and seeing a box-measuring-line in the bole or sole of
    the cottage window, he asked the woman where she got this well-known
    professional appendage.  She said: “O sir, ane of the bairns fand it
    lang syne at the Stanes; and when drawing it out we took fright, and
    thinking it had belanged to the fairies, we threw it into the bole,
    and it has layen there ever since.”’

This is for the one; the last shall be a sketch by the master hand of
Scott himself:

    ‘At the village of Stromness, on the Orkney main island, called
    Pomona, lived, in 1814, an aged dame called Bessie Millie, who helped
    out her subsistence by selling favourable winds to mariners.  He was
    a venturous master of a vessel who left the roadstead of Stromness
    without paying his offering to propitiate Bessie Millie!  Her fee was
    extremely moderate, being exactly sixpence, for which she boiled her
    kettle and gave the bark the advantage of her prayers, for she
    disclaimed all unlawful acts.  The wind thus petitioned for was sure,
    she said, to arrive, though occasionally the mariners had to wait
    some time for it.  The woman’s dwelling and appearance were not
    unbecoming her pretensions.  Her house, which was on the brow of the
    steep hill on which Stromness is founded, was only accessible by a
    series of dirty and precipitous lanes, and for exposure might have
    been the abode of Eolus himself, in whose commodities the inhabitant
    dealt.  She herself was, as she told us, nearly one hundred years
    old, withered and dried up like a mummy.  A clay-coloured kerchief,
    folded round her neck, corresponded in colour to her corpse-like
    complexion.  Two light blue eyes that gleamed with a lustre like that
    of insanity, an utterance of astonishing rapidity, a nose and chin
    that almost met together, and a ghastly expression of cunning, gave
    her the effect of Hecate.  Such was Bessie Millie, to whom the
    mariners paid a sort of tribute with a feeling between jest and


From about the beginning of the century up to 1807 Robert Stevenson was
in partnership with Thomas Smith.  In the last-named year the partnership
was dissolved; Thomas Smith returning to his business, and my grandfather
becoming sole engineer to the Board of Northern Lights.

I must try, by excerpts from his diary and correspondence, to convey to
the reader some idea of the ardency and thoroughness with which he threw
himself into the largest and least of his multifarious engagements in
this service.  But first I must say a word or two upon the life of
lightkeepers, and the temptations to which they are more particularly
exposed.  The lightkeeper occupies a position apart among men.  In
sea-towers the complement has always been three since the deplorable
business in the Eddystone, when one keeper died, and the survivor,
signalling in vain for relief, was compelled to live for days with the
dead body.  These usually pass their time by the pleasant human expedient
of quarrelling; and sometimes, I am assured, not one of the three is on
speaking terms with any other.  On shore stations, which on the Scottish
coast are sometimes hardly less isolated, the usual number is two, a
principal and an assistant.  The principal is dissatisfied with the
assistant, or perhaps the assistant keeps pigeons, and the principal
wants the water from the roof.  Their wives and families are with them,
living cheek by jowl.  The children quarrel; Jockie hits Jimsie in the
eye, and the mothers make haste to mingle in the dissension.  Perhaps
there is trouble about a broken dish; perhaps Mrs. Assistant is more
highly born than Mrs. Principal and gives herself airs; and the men are
drawn in and the servants presently follow.  ‘Church privileges have been
denied the keeper’s and the assistant’s servants,’ I read in one case,
and the eminently Scots periphrasis means neither more nor less than
excommunication, ‘on account of the discordant and quarrelsome state of
the families.  The cause, when inquired into, proves to be
_tittle_-_tattle_ on both sides.’  The tender comes round; the foremen
and artificers go from station to station; the gossip flies through the
whole system of the service, and the stories, disfigured and exaggerated,
return to their own birthplace with the returning tender.  The English
Board was apparently shocked by the picture of these dissensions.  ‘When
the Trinity House can,’ I find my grandfather writing at Beachy Head, in
1834, ‘they do not appoint two keepers, they disagree so ill.  A man who
has a family is assisted by his family; and in this way, to my experience
and present observation, the business is very much neglected.  One keeper
is, in my view, a bad system.  This day’s visit to an English lighthouse
convinces me of this, as the lightkeeper was walking on a staff with the
gout, and the business performed by one of his daughters, a girl of
thirteen or fourteen years of age.’  This man received a hundred a year!
It shows a different reading of human nature, perhaps typical of Scotland
and England, that I find in my grandfather’s diary the following pregnant
entry: ‘_The lightkeepers_, _agreeing ill_, _keep one another to their
duty_.’  But the Scottish system was not alone founded on this cynical
opinion.  The dignity and the comfort of the northern lightkeeper were
both attended to.  He had a uniform to ‘raise him in his own estimation,
and in that of his neighbour, which is of consequence to a person of
trust.  The keepers,’ my grandfather goes on, in another place, ‘are
attended to in all the detail of accommodation in the best style as
shipmasters; and this is believed to have a sensible effect upon their
conduct, and to regulate their general habits as members of society.’  He
notes, with the same dip of ink, that ‘the brasses were not clean, and
the persons of the keepers not _trig’_; and thus we find him writing to a
culprit: ‘I have to complain that you are not cleanly in your person, and
that your manner of speech is ungentle, and rather inclines to rudeness.
You must therefore take a different view of your duties as a
lightkeeper.’  A high ideal for the service appears in these expressions,
and will be more amply illustrated further on.  But even the Scottish
lightkeeper was frail.  During the unbroken solitude of the winter
months, when inspection is scarce possible, it must seem a vain toil to
polish the brass hand-rail of the stair, or to keep an unrewarded vigil
in the light-room; and the keepers are habitually tempted to the
beginnings of sloth, and must unremittingly resist.  He who temporises
with his conscience is already lost.  I must tell here an anecdote that
illustrates the difficulties of inspection.  In the days of my uncle
David and my father there was a station which they regarded with
jealousy.  The two engineers compared notes and were agreed.  The tower
was always clean, but seemed always to bear traces of a hasty cleansing,
as though the keepers had been suddenly forewarned.  On inquiry, it
proved that such was the case, and that a wandering fiddler was the
unfailing harbinger of the engineer.  At last my father was storm-stayed
one Sunday in a port at the other side of the island.  The visit was
quite overdue, and as he walked across upon the Monday morning he
promised himself that he should at last take the keepers unprepared.
They were both waiting for him in uniform at the gate; the fiddler had
been there on Saturday!

My grandfather, as will appear from the following extracts, was much a
martinet, and had a habit of expressing himself on paper with an almost
startling emphasis.  Personally, with his powerful voice, sanguine
countenance, and eccentric and original locutions, he was well qualified
to inspire a salutary terror in the service.

    ‘I find that the keepers have, by some means or another, got into the
    way of cleaning too much with rotten-stone and oil.  I take the
    principal keeper to _task_ on this subject, and make him bring a
    clean towel and clean one of the brazen frames, which leaves the
    towel in an odious state.  This towel I put up in a sheet of paper,
    seal, and take with me to confront Mr. Murdoch, who has just left the
    station.’  ‘This letter’—a stern enumeration of complaints—‘to lie a
    week on the light-room book-place, and to be put in the Inspector’s
    hands when he comes round.’  ‘It is the most painful thing that can
    occur for me to have a correspondence of this kind with any of the
    keepers; and when I come to the Lighthouse, instead of having the
    satisfaction to meet them with approbation, it is distressing when
    one is obliged to put on a most angry countenance and demeanour; but
    from such culpable negligence as you have shown there is no avoiding
    it.  I hold it as a fixed maxim that, when a man or a family put on a
    slovenly appearance in their houses, stairs, and lanterns, I always
    find their reflectors, burners, windows, and light in general, ill
    attended to; and, therefore, I must insist on cleanliness
    throughout.’  ‘I find you very deficient in the duty of the high
    tower.  You thus place your appointment as Principal Keeper in
    jeopardy; and I think it necessary, as an old servant of the Board,
    to put you upon your guard once for all at this time.  I call upon
    you to recollect what was formerly and is now said to you.  The state
    of the backs of the reflectors at the high tower was disgraceful, as
    I pointed out to you on the spot.  They were as if spitten upon, and
    greasy finger-marks upon the back straps.  I demand an explanation of
    this state of things.’  ‘The cause of the Commissioners dismissing
    you is expressed in the minute; and it must be a matter of regret to
    you that you have been so much engaged in smuggling, and also that
    the Reports relative to the cleanliness of the Lighthouse, upon being
    referred to, rather added to their unfavourable opinion.’  ‘I do not
    go into the dwelling-house, but severely chide the lightkeepers for
    the disagreement that seems to subsist among them.’  ‘The families of
    the two lightkeepers here agree very ill.  I have effected a
    reconciliation for the present.’  ‘Things are in a very _humdrum_
    state here.  There is no painting, and in and out of doors no taste
    or tidiness displayed.  Robert’s wife _greets_ and M’Gregor’s scolds;
    and Robert is so down-hearted that he says he is unfit for duty.  I
    told him that if he was to mind wives’ quarrels, and to take them up,
    the only way was for him and M’Gregor to go down to the point like
    Sir G. Grant and Lord Somerset.’  ‘I cannot say that I have
    experienced a more unpleasant meeting than that of the lighthouse
    folks this morning, or ever saw a stronger example of unfeeling
    barbarity than the conduct which the ---s exhibited.  These two
    cold-hearted persons, not contented with having driven the daughter
    of the poor nervous woman from her father’s house, _both_ kept
    _pouncing_ at her, lest she should forget her great misfortune.
    Write me of their conduct.  Do not make any communication of the
    state of these families at Kinnaird Head, as this would be like

There is the great word out.  Tales and Tale-bearing, always with the
emphatic capitals, run continually in his correspondence.  I will give
but two instances:—

    ‘Write to David [one of the lightkeepers] and caution him to be more
    prudent how he expresses himself.  Let him attend his duty to the
    Lighthouse and his family concerns, and give less heed to
    Tale-bearers.’  ‘I have not your last letter at hand to quote its
    date; but, if I recollect, it contains some kind of tales, which
    nonsense I wish you would lay aside, and notice only the concerns of
    your family and the important charge committed to you.’

Apparently, however, my grandfather was not himself inaccessible to the
Tale-bearer, as the following indicates:

    ‘In walking along with Mr. --- , I explain to him that I should be
    under the necessity of looking more closely into the business here
    from his conduct at Buddonness, which had given an instance of
    weakness in the Moral principle which had staggered my opinion of
    him.  His answer was, “That will be with regard to the lass?”  I told
    him I was to enter no farther with him upon the subject.’  ‘Mr.
    Miller appears to be master and man.  I am sorry about this foolish
    fellow.  Had I known his train, I should not, as I did, have rather
    forced him into the service.  Upon finding the windows in the state
    they were, I turned upon Mr. Watt, and especially upon Mr. Stewart.
    The latter did not appear for a length of time to have visited the
    light-room.  On asking the cause—did Mr. Watt and him (_sic_)
    disagree; he said no; but he had got very bad usage from the
    assistant, “who was a very obstreperous man.”  I could not bring Mr.
    Watt to put in language his objections to Miller; all I could get was
    that, he being your friend, and saying he was unwell, he did not like
    to complain or to push the man; that the man seemed to have no liking
    to anything like work; that he was unruly; that, being an educated
    man, he despised them.  I was, however, determined to have out of
    these _unwilling_ witnesses the language alluded to.  I fixed upon
    Mr. Stewart as chief; he hedged.  My curiosity increased, and I
    urged.  Then he said, “What would I think, just exactly, of Mr. Watt
    being called an Old B-?”  You may judge of my surprise.  There was
    not another word uttered.  This was quite enough, as coming from a
    person I should have calculated upon quite different behaviour from.
    It spoke a volume of the man’s mind and want of principle.’  ‘Object
    to the keeper keeping a Bull-Terrier dog of ferocious appearance.  It
    is dangerous, as we land at all times of the night.’  ‘Have only to
    complain of the storehouse floor being spotted with oil.  Give orders
    for this being instantly rectified, so that on my return to-morrow I
    may see things in good order.’  ‘The furniture of both houses wants
    much rubbing.  Mrs. ---’s carpets are absurd beyond anything I have
    seen.  I want her to turn the fenders up with the bottom to the
    fireplace: the carpets, when not likely to be in use, folded up and
    laid as a hearthrug partly under the fender.’

My grandfather was king in the service to his finger-tips.  All should go
in his way, from the principal lightkeeper’s coat to the assistant’s
fender, from the gravel in the garden-walks to the bad smell in the
kitchen, or the oil-spots on the store-room floor.  It might be thought
there was nothing more calculated to awake men’s resentment, and yet his
rule was not more thorough than it was beneficent.  His thought for the
keepers was continual, and it did not end with their lives.  He tried to
manage their successions; he thought no pains too great to arrange
between a widow and a son who had succeeded his father; he was often
harassed and perplexed by tales of hardship; and I find him writing,
almost in despair, of their improvident habits and the destitution that
awaited their families upon a death.  ‘The house being completely
furnished, they come into possession without necessaries, and they go out
NAKED.  The insurance seems to have failed, and what next is to be
tried?’  While they lived he wrote behind their backs to arrange for the
education of their children, or to get them other situations if they
seemed unsuitable for the Northern Lights.  When he was at a lighthouse
on a Sunday he held prayers and heard the children read.  When a keeper
was sick, he lent him his horse and sent him mutton and brandy from the
ship.  ‘The assistant’s wife having been this morning confined, there was
sent ashore a bottle of sherry and a few rusks—a practice which I have
always observed in this service,’ he writes.  They dwelt, many of them,
in uninhabited isles or desert forelands, totally cut off from shops.
Many of them were, besides, fallen into a rustic dishabitude of life, so
that even when they visited a city they could scarce be trusted with
their own affairs, as (for example) he who carried home to his children,
thinking they were oranges, a bag of lemons.  And my grandfather seems to
have acted, at least in his early years, as a kind of gratuitous agent
for the service.  Thus I find him writing to a keeper in 1806, when his
mind was already preoccupied with arrangements for the Bell Rock: ‘I am
much afraid I stand very unfavourably with you as a man of promise, as I
was to send several things of which I believe I have more than once got
the memorandum.  All I can say is that in this respect you are not
singular.  This makes me no better; but really I have been driven about
beyond all example in my past experience, and have been essentially
obliged to neglect my own urgent affairs.’  No servant of the Northern
Lights came to Edinburgh but he was entertained at Baxter’s Place to
breakfast.  There, at his own table, my grandfather sat down delightedly
with his broad-spoken, homespun officers.  His whole relation to the
service was, in fact, patriarchal; and I believe I may say that
throughout its ranks he was adored.  I have spoken with many who knew
him; I was his grandson, and their words may have very well been words of
flattery; but there was one thing that could not be affected, and that
was the look and light that came into their faces at the name of Robert

In the early part of the century the foreman builder was a young man of
the name of George Peebles, a native of Anstruther.  My grandfather had
placed in him a very high degree of confidence, and he was already
designated to be foreman at the Bell Rock, when, on Christmas-day 1806,
on his way home from Orkney, he was lost in the schooner _Traveller_.
The tale of the loss of the _Traveller_ is almost a replica of that of
the _Elizabeth_ of Stromness; like the _Elizabeth_ she came as far as
Kinnaird Head, was then surprised by a storm, driven back to Orkney, and
bilged and sank on the island of Flotta.  It seems it was about the dusk
of the day when the ship struck, and many of the crew and passengers were
drowned.  About the same hour, my grandfather was in his office at the
writing-table; and the room beginning to darken, he laid down his pen and
fell asleep.  In a dream he saw the door open and George Peebles come in,
‘reeling to and fro, and staggering like a drunken man,’ with water
streaming from his head and body to the floor.  There it gathered into a
wave which, sweeping forward, submerged my grandfather.  Well, no matter
how deep; versions vary; and at last he awoke, and behold it was a dream!
But it may be conceived how profoundly the impression was written even on
the mind of a man averse from such ideas, when the news came of the wreck
on Flotta and the death of George.

George’s vouchers and accounts had perished with himself; and it appeared
he was in debt to the Commissioners.  But my grandfather wrote to Orkney
twice, collected evidence of his disbursements, and proved him to be
seventy pounds ahead.  With this sum, he applied to George’s brothers,
and had it apportioned between their mother and themselves.  He
approached the Board and got an annuity of £5 bestowed on the widow
Peebles; and we find him writing her a long letter of explanation and
advice, and pressing on her the duty of making a will.  That he should
thus act executor was no singular instance.  But besides this we are able
to assist at some of the stages of a rather touching experiment; no less
than an attempt to secure Charles Peebles heir to George’s favour.  He is
despatched, under the character of ‘a fine young man’; recommended to
gentlemen for ‘advice, as he’s a stranger in your place, and indeed to
this kind of charge, this being his first outset as Foreman’; and for a
long while after, the letter-book, in the midst of that thrilling first
year of the Bell Rock, is encumbered with pages of instruction and
encouragement.  The nature of a bill, and the precautions that are to be
observed about discounting it, are expounded at length and with
clearness.  ‘You are not, I hope, neglecting, Charles, to work the
harbour at spring-tides; and see that you pay the greatest attention to
get the well so as to supply the keeper with water, for he is a very
helpless fellow, and so unfond of hard work that I fear he could do ill
to keep himself in water by going to the other side for it.’—‘With regard
to spirits, Charles, I see very little occasion for it.’  These abrupt
apostrophes sound to me like the voice of an awakened conscience; but
they would seem to have reverberated in vain in the ears of Charles.
There was trouble in Pladda, his scene of operations; his men ran away
from him, there was at least a talk of calling in the Sheriff.  ‘I fear,’
writes my grandfather, ‘you have been too indulgent, and I am sorry to
add that men do not answer to be too well treated, a circumstance which I
have experienced, and which you will learn as you go on in business.’  I
wonder, was not Charles Peebles himself a case in point?  Either death,
at least, or disappointment and discharge, must have ended his service in
the Northern Lights; and in later correspondence I look in vain for any
mention of his name—Charles, I mean, not Peebles: for as late as 1839 my
grandfather is patiently writing to another of the family: ‘I am sorry
you took the trouble of applying to me about your son, as it lies quite
out of my way to forward his views in the line of his profession as a


A professional life of Robert Stevenson has been already given to the
world by his son David, and to that I would refer those interested in
such matters.  But my own design, which is to represent the man, would be
very ill carried out if I suffered myself or my reader to forget that he
was, first of all and last of all, an engineer.  His chief claim to the
style of a mechanical inventor is on account of the Jib or Balance Crane
of the Bell Rock, which are beautiful contrivances.  But the great merit
of this engineer was not in the field of engines.  He was above all
things a projector of works in the face of nature, and a modifier of
nature itself.  A road to be made, a tower to be built, a harbour to be
constructed, a river to be trained and guided in its channel—these were
the problems with which his mind was continually occupied; and for these
and similar ends he travelled the world for more than half a century,
like an artist, note-book in hand.

He once stood and looked on at the emptying of a certain oil-tube; he did
so watch in hand, and accurately timed the operation; and in so doing
offered the perfect type of his profession.  The fact acquired might
never be of use: it was acquired: another link in the world’s huge chain
of processes was brought down to figures and placed at the service of the
engineer.  ‘The very term mensuration sounds _engineer-like_,’ I find him
writing; and in truth what the engineer most properly deals with is that
which can be measured, weighed, and numbered.  The time of any operation
in hours and minutes, its cost in pounds, shillings, and pence, the
strain upon a given point in foot-pounds—these are his conquests, with
which he must continually furnish his mind, and which, after he has
acquired them, he must continually apply and exercise.  They must be not
only entries in note-books, to be hurriedly consulted; in the actor’s
phrase, he must be _stale_ in them; in a word of my grandfather’s, they
must be ‘fixed in the mind like the ten fingers and ten toes.’

These are the certainties of the engineer; so far he finds a solid
footing and clear views.  But the province of formulas and constants is
restricted.  Even the mechanical engineer comes at last to an end of his
figures, and must stand up, a practical man, face to face with the
discrepancies of nature and the hiatuses of theory.  After the machine is
finished, and the steam turned on, the next is to drive it; and
experience and an exquisite sympathy must teach him where a weight should
be applied or a nut loosened.  With the civil engineer, more properly so
called (if anything can be proper with this awkward coinage), the
obligation starts with the beginning.  He is always the practical man.
The rains, the winds and the waves, the complexity and the fitfulness of
nature, are always before him.  He has to deal with the unpredictable,
with those forces (in Smeaton’s phrase) that ‘are subject to no
calculation’; and still he must predict, still calculate them, at his
peril.  His work is not yet in being, and he must foresee its influence:
how it shall deflect the tide, exaggerate the waves, dam back the
rain-water, or attract the thunderbolt.  He visits a piece of sea-board;
and from the inclination and soil of the beach, from the weeds and
shell-fish, from the configuration of the coast and the depth of
soundings outside, he must deduce what magnitude of waves is to be looked
for.  He visits a river, its summer water babbling on shallows; and he
must not only read, in a thousand indications, the measure of winter
freshets, but be able to predict the violence of occasional great floods.
Nay, and more; he must not only consider that which is, but that which
may be.  Thus I find my grandfather writing, in a report on the North Esk
Bridge: ‘A less waterway might have sufficed, but the _valleys may come
to be meliorated by drainage_.’  One field drained after another through
all that confluence of vales, and we come to a time when they shall
precipitate by so much a more copious and transient flood, as the gush of
the flowing drain-pipe is superior to the leakage of a peat.

It is plain there is here but a restricted use for formulas.  In this
sort of practice, the engineer has need of some transcendental sense.
Smeaton, the pioneer, bade him obey his ‘feelings’; my father, that
‘power of estimating obscure forces which supplies a coefficient of its
own to every rule.’  The rules must be everywhere indeed; but they must
everywhere be modified by this transcendental coefficient, everywhere
bent to the impression of the trained eye and the _feelings_ of the
engineer.  A sentiment of physical laws and of the scale of nature, which
shall have been strong in the beginning and progressively fortified by
observation, must be his guide in the last recourse.  I had the most
opportunity to observe my father.  He would pass hours on the beach,
brooding over the waves, counting them, noting their least deflection,
noting when they broke.  On Tweedside, or by Lyne or Manor, we have spent
together whole afternoons; to me, at the time, extremely wearisome; to
him, as I am now sorry to think, bitterly mortifying.  The river was to
me a pretty and various spectacle; I could not see—I could not be made to
see—it otherwise.  To my father it was a chequer-board of lively forces,
which he traced from pool to shallow with minute appreciation and
enduring interest.  ‘That bank was being under-cut,’ he might say.  ‘Why?
Suppose you were to put a groin out here, would not the _filum fluminis_
be cast abruptly off across the channel? and where would it impinge upon
the other shore? and what would be the result?  Or suppose you were to
blast that boulder, what would happen?  Follow it—use the eyes God has
given you—can you not see that a great deal of land would be reclaimed
upon this side?’  It was to me like school in holidays; but to him, until
I had worn him out with my invincible triviality, a delight.  Thus he
pored over the engineer’s voluminous handy-book of nature; thus must,
too, have pored my grand-father and uncles.

But it is of the essence of this knowledge, or this knack of mind, to be
largely incommunicable.  ‘It cannot be imparted to another,’ says my
father.  The verbal casting-net is thrown in vain over these evanescent,
inferential relations. Hence the insignificance of much engineering
literature.  So far as the science can be reduced to formulas or
diagrams, the book is to the point; so far as the art depends on intimate
study of the ways of nature, the author’s words will too often be found
vapid.  This fact—that engineering looks one way, and literature
another—was what my grand-father overlooked.  All his life long, his pen
was in his hand, piling up a treasury of knowledge, preparing himself
against all possible contingencies.  Scarce anything fell under his
notice but he perceived in it some relation to his work, and chronicled
it in the pages of his journal in his always lucid, but sometimes inexact
and wordy, style.  The Travelling Diary (so he called it) was kept in
fascicles of ruled paper, which were at last bound up, rudely indexed,
and put by for future reference.  Such volumes as have reached me contain
a surprising medley: the whole details of his employment in the Northern
Lights and his general practice; the whole biography of an enthusiastic
engineer.  Much of it is useful and curious; much merely otiose; and much
can only be described as an attempt to impart that which cannot be
imparted in words.  Of such are his repeated and heroic descriptions of
reefs; monuments of misdirected literary energy, which leave upon the
mind of the reader no effect but that of a multiplicity of words and the
suggested vignette of a lusty old gentleman scrambling among tangle.  It
is to be remembered that he came to engineering while yet it was in the
egg and without a library, and that he saw the bounds of that profession
widen daily.  He saw iron ships, steamers, and the locomotive engine,
introduced.  He lived to travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh in the inside
of a forenoon, and to remember that he himself had ‘often been twelve
hours upon the journey, and his grand-father (Lillie) two days’!  The
profession was still but in its second generation, and had already broken
down the barriers of time and space.  Who should set a limit to its
future encroachments?  And hence, with a kind of sanguine pedantry, he
pursued his design of ‘keeping up with the day’ and posting himself and
his family on every mortal subject.  Of this unpractical idealism we
shall meet with many instances; there was not a trade, and scarce an
accomplishment, but he thought it should form part of the outfit of an
engineer; and not content with keeping an encyclopaedic diary himself, he
would fain have set all his sons to work continuing and extending it.
They were more happily inspired.  My father’s engineering pocket-book was
not a bulky volume; with its store of pregnant notes and vital formulas,
it served him through life, and was not yet filled when he came to die.
As for Robert Stevenson and the Travelling Diary, I should be ungrateful
to complain, for it has supplied me with many lively traits for this and
subsequent chapters; but I must still remember much of the period of my
study there as a sojourn in the Valley of the Shadow.

The duty of the engineer is twofold—to design the work, and to see the
work done.  We have seen already something of the vociferous thoroughness
of the man, upon the cleaning of lamps and the polishing of reflectors.
In building, in road-making, in the construction of bridges, in every
detail and byway of his employments, he pursued the same ideal.
Perfection (with a capital P and violently under-scored) was his design.
A crack for a penknife, the waste of ‘six-and-thirty shillings,’ ‘the
loss of a day or a tide,’ in each of these he saw and was revolted by the
finger of the sloven; and to spirits intense as his, and immersed in
vital undertakings, the slovenly is the dishonest, and wasted time is
instantly translated into lives endangered.  On this consistent idealism
there is but one thing that now and then trenches with a touch of
incongruity, and that is his love of the picturesque.  As when he laid
out a road on Hogarth’s line of beauty; bade a foreman be careful, in
quarrying, not ‘to disfigure the island’; or regretted in a report that
‘the great stone, called the _Devil in the Hole_, was blasted or broken
down to make road-metal, and for other purposes of the work.’


Off the mouths of the Tay and the Forth, thirteen miles from Fifeness,
eleven from Arbroath, and fourteen from the Red Head of Angus, lies the
Inchcape or Bell Rock.  It extends to a length of about fourteen hundred
feet, but the part of it discovered at low water to not more than four
hundred and twenty-seven.  At a little more than half-flood in fine
weather the seamless ocean joins over the reef, and at high-water springs
it is buried sixteen feet.  As the tide goes down, the higher reaches of
the rock are seen to be clothed by _Conferva rupestris_ as by a sward of
grass; upon the more exposed edges, where the currents are most swift and
the breach of the sea heaviest, Baderlock or Henware flourishes; and the
great Tangle grows at the depth of several fathoms with luxuriance.
Before man arrived, and introduced into the silence of the sea the smoke
and clangour of a blacksmith’s shop, it was a favourite resting-place of
seals.  The crab and lobster haunt in the crevices; and limpets, mussels,
and the white buckie abound.

According to a tradition, a bell had been once hung upon this rock by an
abbot of Arbroath, {91a} ‘and being taken down by a sea-pirate, a year
thereafter he perished upon the same rock, with ship and goods, in the
righteous judgment of God.’  From the days of the abbot and the
sea-pirate no man had set foot upon the Inchcape, save fishers from the
neighbouring coast, or perhaps—for a moment, before the surges swallowed
them—the unfortunate victims of shipwreck.  The fishers approached the
rock with an extreme timidity; but their harvest appears to have been
great, and the adventure no more perilous than lucrative.  In 1800, on
the occasion of my grandfather’s first landing, and during the two or
three hours which the ebb-tide and the smooth water allowed them to pass
upon its shelves, his crew collected upwards of two hundredweight of old
metal: pieces of a kedge anchor and a cabin stove, crowbars, a hinge and
lock of a door, a ship’s marking-iron, a piece of a ship’s caboose, a
soldier’s bayonet, a cannon ball, several pieces of money, a shoe-buckle,
and the like.  Such were the spoils of the Bell Rock.

From 1794 onward, the mind of my grandfather had been exercised with the
idea of a light upon this formidable danger.  To build a tower on a sea
rock, eleven miles from shore, and barely uncovered at low water of
neaps, appeared a fascinating enterprise.  It was something yet
unattempted, unessayed; and even now, after it has been lighted for more
than eighty years, it is still an exploit that has never been repeated.
{92a}  My grandfather was, besides, but a young man, of an experience
comparatively restricted, and a reputation confined to Scotland; and when
he prepared his first models, and exhibited them in Merchants’ Hall, he
can hardly be acquitted of audacity.  John Clerk of Eldin stood his
friend from the beginning, kept the key of the model room, to which he
carried ‘eminent strangers,’ and found words of counsel and encouragement
beyond price.  ‘Mr. Clerk had been personally known to Smeaton, and used
occasionally to speak of him to me,’ says my grandfather; and again: ‘I
felt regret that I had not the opportunity of a greater range of practice
to fit me for such an undertaking; but I was fortified by an expression
of my friend Mr. Clerk in one of our conversations. “This work,” said he,
“is unique, and can be little forwarded by experience of ordinary masonic
operations.  In this case Smeaton’s ‘Narrative’ must be the text-book,
and energy and perseverance the pratique.”’

A Bill for the work was introduced into Parliament and lost in the Lords
in 1802–3.  John Rennie was afterwards, at my grandfather’s suggestion,
called in council, with the style of chief engineer.  The precise meaning
attached to these words by any of the parties appears irrecoverable.
Chief engineer should have full authority, full responsibility, and a
proper share of the emoluments; and there were none of these for Rennie.
I find in an appendix a paper which resumes the controversy on this
subject; and it will be enough to say here that Rennie did not design the
Bell Rock, that he did not execute it, and that he was not paid for it.
{94a}  From so much of the correspondence as has come down to me, the
acquaintance of this man, eleven years his senior, and already famous,
appears to have been both useful and agreeable to Robert Stevenson.  It
is amusing to find my grandfather seeking high and low for a brace of
pistols which his colleague had lost by the way between Aberdeen and
Edinburgh; and writing to Messrs. Dollond, ‘I have not thought it
necessary to trouble Mr. Rennie with this order, but _I beg you will see
to get two minutes of him as he passes your door_’—a proposal calculated
rather from the latitude of Edinburgh than from London, even in 1807.  It
is pretty, too, to observe with what affectionate regard Smeaton was held
in mind by his immediate successors.  ‘Poor old fellow,’ writes Rennie to
Stevenson, ‘I hope he will now and then take a peep at us, and inspire
you with fortitude and courage to brave all difficulties and dangers to
accomplish a work which will, if successful, immortalise you in the
annals of fame.’  The style might be bettered, but the sentiment is

Smeaton was, indeed, the patron saint of the Bell Rock.  Undeterred by
the sinister fate of Winstanley, he had tackled and solved the problem of
the Eddystone; but his solution had not been in all respects perfect.  It
remained for my grand-father to outdo him in daring, by applying to a
tidal rock those principles which had been already justified by the
success of the Eddystone, and to perfect the model by more than one
exemplary departure.  Smeaton had adopted in his floors the principle of
the arch; each therefore exercised an outward thrust upon the walls,
which must be met and combated by embedded chains.  My grandfather’s
flooring-stones, on the other hand, were flat, made part of the outer
wall, and were keyed and dovetailed into a central stone, so as to bind
the work together and be positive elements of strength.  In 1703
Winstanley still thought it possible to erect his strange pagoda, with
its open gallery, its florid scrolls and candlesticks: like a rich man’s
folly for an ornamental water in a park.  Smeaton followed; then
Stevenson in his turn corrected such flaws as were left in Smeaton’s
design; and with his improvements, it is not too much to say the model
was made perfect.  Smeaton and Stevenson had between them evolved and
finished the sea-tower.  No subsequent builder has departed in anything
essential from the principles of their design.  It remains, and it seems
to us as though it must remain for ever, an ideal attained.  Every stone
in the building, it may interest the reader to know, my grandfather had
himself cut out in the model; and the manner in which the courses were
fitted, joggled, trenailed, wedged, and the bond broken, is intricate as
a puzzle and beautiful by ingenuity.

In 1806 a second Bill passed both Houses, and the preliminary works were
at once begun.  The same year the Navy had taken a great harvest of
prizes in the North Sea, one of which, a Prussian fishing dogger,
flat-bottomed and rounded at the stem and stern, was purchased to be a
floating lightship, and re-named the _Pharos_.  By July 1807 she was
overhauled, rigged for her new purpose, and turned into the lee of the
Isle of May.  ‘It was proposed that the whole party should meet in her
and pass the night; but she rolled from side to side in so extraordinary
a manner, that even the most seahardy fled.  It was humorously observed
of this vessel that she was in danger of making a round turn and
appearing with her keel uppermost; and that she would even turn a
half-penny if laid upon deck.’  By two o’clock on the morning of the 15th
July this purgatorial vessel was moored by the Bell Rock.

A sloop of forty tons had been in the meantime built at Leith, and named
the _Smeaton_; by the 7th of August my grandfather set sail in her—

    ‘carrying with him Mr. Peter Logan, foreman builder, and five
    artificers selected from their having been somewhat accustomed to the
    sea, the writer being aware of the distressing trial which the
    floating light would necessarily inflict upon landsmen from her
    rolling motion.  Here he remained till the 10th, and, as the weather
    was favourable, a landing was effected daily, when the workmen were
    employed in cutting the large seaweed from the sites of the
    lighthouse and beacon, which were respectively traced with pickaxes
    upon the rock.  In the meantime the crew of the _Smeaton_ was
    employed in laying down the several sets of moorings within about
    half a mile of the rock for the convenience of vessels.  The
    artificers, having, fortunately, experienced moderate weather,
    returned to the workyard of Arbroath with a good report of their
    treatment afloat; when their comrades ashore began to feel some
    anxiety to see a place of which they had heard so much, and to change
    the constant operations with the iron and mallet in the process of
    hewing for an occasional tide’s work on the rock, which they figured
    to themselves as a state of comparative ease and comfort.’

I am now for many pages to let my grandfather speak for himself, and tell
in his own words the story of his capital achievement.  The tall quarto
of 533 pages from which the following narrative has been dug out is
practically unknown to the general reader, yet good judges have perceived
its merit, and it has been named (with flattering wit) ‘The Romance of
Stone and Lime’ and ‘The Robinson Crusoe of Civil Engineering.’  The
tower was but four years in the building; it took Robert Stevenson, in
the midst of his many avocations, no less than fourteen to prepare the
_Account_.  The title-page is a solid piece of literature of upwards of a
hundred words; the table of contents runs to thirteen pages; and the
dedication (to that revered monarch, George IV) must have cost him no
little study and correspondence.  Walter Scott was called in council, and
offered one miscorrection which still blots the page.  In spite of all
this pondering and filing, there remain pages not easy to construe, and
inconsistencies not easy to explain away.  I have sought to make these
disappear, and to lighten a little the baggage with which my grandfather
marches; here and there I have rejointed and rearranged a sentence,
always with his own words, and all with a reverent and faithful hand; and
I offer here to the reader the true Monument of Robert Stevenson with a
little of the moss removed from the inscription, and the Portrait of the
artist with some superfluous canvas cut away.


                                                       [Sunday, 16th Aug.]

Everything being arranged for sailing to the rock on Saturday the 15th,
the vessel might have proceeded on the Sunday; but understanding that
this would not be so agreeable to the artificers it was deferred until
Monday.  Here we cannot help observing that the men allotted for the
operations at the rock seemed to enter upon the undertaking with a degree
of consideration which fully marked their opinion as to the hazardous
nature of the undertaking on which they were about to enter.  They went
in a body to church on Sunday, and whether it was in the ordinary course,
or designed for the occasion, the writer is not certain, but the service
was, in many respects, suitable to their circumstances.

                                                       [Monday, 17th Aug.]

The tide happening to fall late in the evening of Monday the 17th, the
party, counting twenty-four in number, embarked on board of the _Smeaton_
about ten o’clock p.m., and sailed from Arbroath with a gentle breeze at
west.  Our ship’s colours having been flying all day in compliment to the
commencement of the work, the other vessels in the harbour also saluted,
which made a very gay appearance.  A number of the friends and
acquaintances of those on board having been thus collected, the piers,
though at a late hour, were perfectly crowded, and just as the _Smeaton_
cleared the harbour, all on board united in giving three hearty cheers,
which were returned by those on shore in such good earnest, that, in the
still of the evening, the sound must have been heard in all parts of the
town, re-echoing from the walls and lofty turrets of the venerable Abbey
of Aberbrothwick.  The writer felt much satisfaction at the manner of
this parting scene, though he must own that the present rejoicing was, on
his part, mingled with occasional reflections upon the responsibility of
his situation, which extended to the safety of all who should be engaged
in this perilous work.  With such sensations he retired to his cabin; but
as the artificers were rather inclined to move about the deck than to
remain in their confined berths below, his repose was transient, and the
vessel being small every motion was necessarily heard.  Some who were
musically inclined occasionally sung; but he listened with peculiar
pleasure to the sailor at the helm, who hummed over Dibdin’s
characteristic air:—

    ‘They say there’s a Providence sits up aloft,
    To keep watch for the life of poor Jack.’

                                                      [Tuesday, 18th Aug.]

The weather had been very gentle all night, and, about four in the
morning of the 18th, the _Smeaton_ anchored.  Agreeably to an arranged
plan of operations, all hands were called at five o’clock a.m., just as
the highest part of the Bell Rock began to show its sable head among the
light breakers, which occasionally whitened with the foaming sea.  The
two boats belonging to the floating light attended the _Smeaton_, to
carry the artificers to the rock, as her boat could only accommodate
about six or eight sitters.  Every one was more eager than his neighbour
to leap into the boats and it required a good deal of management on the
part of the coxswains to get men unaccustomed to a boat to take their
places for rowing and at the same time trimming her properly.  The
landing-master and foreman went into one boat, while the writer took
charge of another, and steered it to and from the rock.  This became the
more necessary in the early stages of the work, as places could not be
spared for more than two, or at most three seamen to each boat, who were
always stationed, one at the bow, to use the boat-hook in fending or
pushing off, and the other at the aftermost oar, to give the proper time
in rowing, while the middle oars were double-banked, and rowed by the

As the weather was extremely fine, with light airs of wind from the east,
we landed without difficulty upon the central part of the rock at
half-past five, but the water had not yet sufficiently left it for
commencing the work.  This interval, however, did not pass unoccupied.
The first and last of all the principal operations at the Bell Rock were
accompanied by three hearty cheers from all hands, and, on occasions like
the present, the steward of the ship attended, when each man was regaled
with a glass of rum.  As the water left the rock about six, some began to
bore the holes for the great bats or holdfasts, for fixing the beams of
the Beacon-house, while the smith was fully attended in laying out the
site of his forge, upon a somewhat sheltered spot of the rock, which also
recommended itself from the vicinity of a pool of water for tempering his
irons.  These preliminary steps occupied about an hour, and as nothing
further could be done during this tide towards fixing the forge, the
workmen gratified their curiosity by roaming about the rock, which they
investigated with great eagerness till the tide overflowed it.  Those who
had been sick picked dulse (_Fucus palmatus_), which they ate with much
seeming appetite; others were more intent upon collecting limpets for
bait, to enjoy the amusement of fishing when they returned on board of
the vessel.  Indeed, none came away empty-handed, as everything found
upon the Bell Rock was considered valuable, being connected with some
interesting association.  Several coins, and numerous bits of shipwrecked
iron, were picked up, of almost every description; and, in particular, a
marking-iron lettered JAMES—a circumstance of which it was thought proper
to give notice to the public, as it might lead to the knowledge of some
unfortunate shipwreck, perhaps unheard of till this simple occurrence led
to the discovery.  When the rock began to be overflowed, the
landing-master arranged the crews of the respective boats, appointing
twelve persons to each.  According to a rule which the writer had laid
down to himself, he was always the last person who left the rock.

In a short time the Bell Rock was laid completely under water, and the
weather being extremely fine, the sea was so smooth that its place could
not be pointed out from the appearance of the surface—a circumstance
which sufficiently demonstrates the dangerous nature of this rock, even
during the day, and in the smoothest and calmest state of the sea.
During the interval between the morning and the evening tides, the
artificers were variously employed in fishing and reading; others were
busy in drying and adjusting their wet clothes, and one or two amused
their companions with the violin and German flute.

About seven in the evening the signal bell for landing on the rock was
again rung, when every man was at his quarters.  In this service it was
thought more appropriate to use the bell than to _pipe_ to quarters, as
the use of this instrument is less known to the mechanic than the sound
of the bell.  The landing, as in the morning, was at the eastern harbour.
During this tide the seaweed was pretty well cleared from the site of the
operations, and also from the tracks leading to the different
landing-places; for walking upon the rugged surface of the Bell Rock,
when covered with seaweed, was found to be extremely difficult and even
dangerous.  Every hand that could possibly be occupied now employed in
assisting the smith to fit up the apparatus for his forge.  At 9 p.m. the
boats returned to the tender, after other two hours’ work, in the same
order as formerly—perhaps as much gratified with the success that
attended the work of this day as with any other in the whole course of
the operations.  Although it could not he said that the fatigues of this
day had been great, yet all on board retired early to rest.  The sea
being calm, and no movement on deck, it was pretty generally remarked in
the morning that the bell awakened the greater number on board from their
first sleep; and though this observation was not altogether applicable to
the writer himself, yet he was not a little pleased to find that thirty
people could all at once become so reconciled to a night’s quarters
within a few hundred paces of the Bell Rock.

                                                    [Wednesday, 19th Aug.]

Being extremely anxious at this time to get forward with fixing the
smith’s forge, on which the progress of the work at present depended, the
writer requested that he might be called at daybreak to learn the
landing-master’s opinion of the weather from the appearance of the rising
sun, a criterion by which experienced seamen can generally judge pretty
accurately of the state of the weather for the following day.  About five
o’clock, on coming upon deck, the sun’s upper limb or disc had just begun
to appear as if rising from the ocean, and in less than a minute he was
seen in the fullest splendour; but after a short interval he was
enveloped in a soft cloudy sky, which was considered emblematical of fine
weather.  His rays had not yet sufficiently dispelled the clouds which
hid the land from view, and the Bell Rock being still overflowed, the
whole was one expanse of water.  This scene in itself was highly
gratifying; and, when the morning bell was tolled, we were gratified with
the happy forebodings of good weather and the expectation of having both
a morning and an evening tide’s work on the rock.

The boat which the writer steered happened to be the last which
approached the rock at this tide; and, in standing up in the stern, while
at some distance, to see how the leading boat entered the creek, he was
astonished to observe something in the form of a human figure, in a
reclining posture, upon one of the ledges of the rock.  He immediately
steered the boat through a narrow entrance to the eastern harbour, with a
thousand unpleasant sensations in his mind.  He thought a vessel or boat
must have been wrecked upon the rock during the night; and it seemed
probable that the rock might be strewed with dead bodies, a spectacle
which could not fail to deter the artificers from returning so freely to
their work.  In the midst of these reveries the boat took the ground at
an improper landing-place; but, without waiting to push her off, he leapt
upon the rock, and making his way hastily to the spot which had privately
given him alarm, he had the satisfaction to ascertain that he had only
been deceived by the peculiar situation and aspect of the smith’s anvil
and block, which very completely represented the appearance of a lifeless
body upon the rock.  The writer carefully suppressed his feelings, the
simple mention of which might have had a bad effect upon the artificers,
and his haste passed for an anxiety to examine the apparatus of the
smith’s forge, left in an unfinished state at evening tide.

In the course of this morning’s work two or three apparently distant
peals of thunder were heard, and the atmosphere suddenly became thick and
foggy.  But as the _Smeaton_, our present tender, was moored at no great
distance from the rock, the crew on board continued blowing with a horn,
and occasionally fired a musket, so that the boats got to the ship
without difficulty.

                                                     [Thursday, 20th Aug.]

The wind this morning inclined from the north-east, and the sky had a
heavy and cloudy appearance, but the sea was smooth, though there was an
undulating motion on, the surface, which indicated easterly winds, and
occasioned a slight surf upon the rock.  But the boats found no
difficulty in landing at the western creek at half-past seven, and, after
a good tide’s work, left it again about a quarter from eleven.  In the
evening the artificers landed at half-past seven, and continued till
half-past eight, having completed the fixing of the smith’s forge, his
vice, and a wooden board or bench, which were also batted to a ledge of
the rock, to the great joy of all, under a salute of three hearty cheers.
From an oversight on the part of the smith, who had neglected to bring
his tinder-box and matches from the vessel, the work was prevented from
being continued for at least an hour longer.

The smith’s shop was, of course, in _open space_: the large bellows were
carried to and from the rock every tide, for the serviceable condition of
which, together with the tinder-box, fuel, and embers of the former fire,
the smith was held responsible.  Those who have been placed in situations
to feel the inconveniency and want of this useful artisan, will be able
to appreciate his value in a case like the present.  It often happened,
to our annoyance and disappointment, in the early state of the work, when
the smith was in the middle of a _favourite heat_ in making some useful
article, or in sharpening the tools, after the flood-tide had obliged the
pickmen to strike work, a sea would come rolling over the rocks, dash out
the fire, and endanger his indispensable implement, the bellows.  If the
sea was smooth, while the smith often stood at work knee-deep in water,
the tide rose by imperceptible degrees, first cooling the exterior of the
fireplace, or hearth, and then quietly blackening and extinguishing the
fire from below.  The writer has frequently been amused at the perplexing
anxiety of the blacksmith when coaxing his fire and endeavouring to avert
the effects of the rising tide.

                                                       [Friday, 21st Aug.]

Everything connected with the forge being now completed, the artificers
found no want of sharp tools, and the work went forward with great
alacrity and spirit.  It was also alleged that the rock had a more
habitable appearance from the volumes of smoke which ascended from the
smith’s shop and the busy noise of his anvil, the operations of the
masons, the movements of the boats, and shipping at a distance—all
contributed to give life and activity to the scene.  This noise and
traffic had, however, the effect of almost completely banishing the herd
of seals which had hitherto frequented the rock as a resting-place during
the period of low water.  The rock seemed to be peculiarly adapted to
their habits, for, excepting two or three days at neap-tides, a part of
it always dries at low water—at least, during the summer season—and as
there was good fishing-ground in the neighbourhood, without a human being
to disturb or molest them, it had become a very favourite residence of
these amphibious animals, the writer having occasionally counted from
fifty to sixty playing about the rock at a time.  But when they came to
be disturbed every tide, and their seclusion was broken in upon by the
kindling of great fires, together with the beating of hammers and picks
during low water, after hovering about for a time, they changed their
place, and seldom more than one or two were to be seen about the rock
upon the more detached outlayers which dry partially, whence they seemed
to look with that sort of curiosity which is observable in these animals
when following a boat.

                                                     [Saturday, 22nd Aug.]

Hitherto the artificers had remained on board the _Smeaton_, which was
made fast to one of the mooring buoys at a distance only of about a
quarter of a mile from the rock, and, of course, a very great conveniency
to the work.  Being so near, the seamen could never be mistaken as to the
progress of the tide, or state of the sea upon the rock, nor could the
boats be much at a loss to pull on board of the vessel during fog, or
even in very rough weather; as she could be cast loose from her moorings
at pleasure, and brought to the lee side of the rock.  But the _Smeaton_
being only about forty register tons, her accommodations were extremely
limited.  It may, therefore, be easily imagined that an addition of
twenty-four persons to her own crew must have rendered the situation of
those on board rather uncomfortable.  The only place for the men’s
hammocks on board being in the hold, they were unavoidably much crowded:
and if the weather had required the hatches to be fastened down, so great
a number of men could not possibly have been accommodated.  To add to
this evil, the _co-boose_ or cooking-place being upon deck, it would not
have been possible to have cooked for so large a company in the event of
bad weather.

The stock of water was now getting short, and some necessaries being also
wanted for the floating light, the _Smeaton_ was despatched for Arbroath;
and the writer, with the artificers at the same time shifted their
quarters from her to the floating light.

Although the rock barely made its appearance at this period of the tides
till eight o’clock, yet, having now a full mile to row from the floating
light to the rock, instead of about a quarter of a mile from the moorings
of the _Smeaton_, it was necessary to be earlier astir, and to form
different arrangements; breakfast was accordingly served up at seven
o’clock this morning.  From the excessive motion of the floating light,
the writer had looked forward rather with anxiety to the removal of the
workmen to this ship.  Some among them, who had been congratulating
themselves upon having become sea-hardy while on board the _Smeaton_, had
a complete relapse upon returning to the floating light.  This was the
case with the writer.  From the spacious and convenient berthage of the
floating light, the exchange to the artificers was, in this respect, much
for the better.  The boats were also commodious, measuring sixteen feet
in length on the keel, so that, in fine weather, their complement of
sitters was sixteen persons for each, with which, however, they were
rather crowded, but she could not stow two boats of larger dimensions.
When there was what is called a breeze of wind, and a swell in the sea,
the proper number for each boat could not, with propriety, be rated at
more than twelve persons.

When the tide-bell rung the boats were hoisted out, and two active seamen
were employed to keep them from receiving damage alongside.  The floating
light being very buoyant, was so quick in her motions that when those who
were about to step from her gunwale into a boat, placed themselves upon a
cleat or step on the ship’s side, with the man or rail ropes in their
hands, they had often to wait for some time till a favourable opportunity
occurred for stepping into the boat.  While in this situation, with the
vessel rolling from side to side, watching the proper time for letting go
the man-ropes, it required the greatest dexterity and presence of mind to
leap into the boats.  One who was rather awkward would often wait a
considerable period in this position: at one time his side of the ship
would be so depressed that he would touch the boat to which he belonged,
while the next sea would elevate him so much that he would see his
comrades in the boat on the opposite side of the ship, his friends in the
one boat calling to him to ‘Jump,’ while those in the boat on the other
side, as he came again and again into their view, would jocosely say,
‘Are you there yet?  You seem to enjoy a swing.’  In this situation it
was common to see a person upon each side of the ship for a length of
time, waiting to quit his hold.

On leaving the rock to-day a trial of seamanship was proposed amongst the
rowers, for by this time the artificers had become tolerably expert in
this exercise.  By inadvertency some of the oars provided had been made
of fir instead of ash, and although a considerable stock had been laid
in, the workmen, being at first awkward in the art, were constantly
breaking their oars; indeed it was no uncommon thing to see the broken
blades of a pair of oars floating astern, in the course of a passage from
the rock to the vessel.  The men, upon the whole, had but little work to
perform in the course of a day; for though they exerted themselves
extremely hard while on the rock, yet, in the early state of the
operations, this could not be continued for more than three or four hours
at a time, and as their rations were large—consisting of one pound and a
half of beef, one pound of ship biscuit, eight ounces oatmeal, two ounces
barley, two ounces butter, three quarts of small beer, with vegetables
and salt—they got into excellent spirits when free of sea-sickness.  The
rowing of the boats against each other became a favourite amusement,
which was rather a fortunate circumstance, as it must have been attended
with much inconvenience had it been found necessary to employ a
sufficient number of sailors for this purpose.  The writer, therefore,
encouraged the spirit of emulation, and the speed of their respective
boats became a favourite topic.  Premiums for boat-races were instituted,
which were contended for with great eagerness, and the respective crews
kept their stations in the boats with as much precision as they kept
their beds on board of the ship.  With these and other pastimes, when the
weather was favourable, the time passed away among the inmates of the
forecastle and waist of the ship.  The writer looks back with interest
upon the hours of solitude which he spent in this lonely ship with his
small library.

This being the first Saturday that the artificers were afloat, all hands
were served with a glass of rum and water at night, to drink the sailors’
favourite toast of ‘Wives and Sweethearts.’  It was customary, upon these
occasions, for the seamen and artificers to collect in the galley, when
the musical instruments were put in requisition: for, according to
invariable practice, every man must play a tune, sing a song, or tell a

                                                       [Sunday, 23rd Aug.]

Having, on the previous evening, arranged matters with the landing-master
as to the business of the day, the signal was rung for all hands at
half-past seven this morning.  In the early state of the spring-tides the
artificers went to the rock before breakfast, but as the tides fell later
in the day, it became necessary to take this meal before leaving the
ship.  At eight o’clock all hands were assembled on the quarter-deck for
prayers, a solemnity which was gone through in as orderly a manner as
circumstances would admit.  When the weather permitted, the flags of the
ship were hung up as an awning or screen, forming the quarter-deck into a
distinct compartment; the pendant was also hoisted at the mainmast, and a
large ensign flag was displayed over the stern; and lastly, the ship’s
companion, or top of the staircase, was covered with the _flag proper_ of
the Lighthouse Service, on which the Bible was laid.  A particular toll
of the bell called all hands to the quarter-deck, when the writer read a
chapter of the Bible, and, the whole ship’s company being uncovered, he
also read the impressive prayer composed by the Reverend Dr. Brunton, one
of the ministers of Edinburgh.

Upon concluding this service, which was attended with becoming reverence
and attention, all on board retired to their respective berths to
breakfast, and, at half-past nine, the bell again rung for the artificers
to take their stations in their respective boats.  Some demur having been
evinced on board about the propriety of working on Sunday, which had
hitherto been touched upon as delicately as possible, all hands being
called aft, the writer, from the quarter-deck, stated generally the
nature of the service, expressing his hopes that every man would feel
himself called upon to consider the erection of a lighthouse on the Bell
Rock, in every point of view, as a work of necessity and mercy.  He knew
that scruples had existed with some, and these had, indeed, been fairly
and candidly urged before leaving the shore; but it was expected that,
after having seen the critical nature of the rock, and the necessity of
the measure, every man would now be satisfied of the propriety of
embracing all opportunities of landing on the rock when the state of the
weather would permit.  The writer further took them to witness that it
did not proceed from want of respect for the appointments and established
forms of religion that he had himself adopted the resolution of attending
the Bell Rock works on the Sunday; but, as he hoped, from a conviction
that it was his bounden duty, on the strictest principles of morality.
At the same time it was intimated that, if any were of a different
opinion, they should be perfectly at liberty to hold their sentiments
without the imputation of contumacy or disobedience; the only difference
would be in regard to the pay.

Upon stating this much, he stepped into his boat, requesting all who were
so disposed to follow him.  The sailors, from their habits, found no
scruple on this subject, and all of the artificers, though a little
tardy, also embarked, excepting four of the masons, who, from the
beginning, mentioned that they would decline working on Sundays.  It may
here be noticed that throughout the whole of the operations it was
observable that the men wrought, if possible, with more keenness upon the
Sundays than at other times from an impression that they were engaged in
a work of imperious necessity, which required every possible exertion.
On returning to the floating light, after finishing the tide’s work, the
boats were received by the part of the ship’s crew left on board with the
usual attention of handing ropes to the boats and helping the artificers
on board; but the four masons who had absented themselves from the work
did not appear upon deck.

                                                       [Monday, 24th Aug.]

The boats left the floating light at a quarter-past nine o’clock this
morning, and the work began at three-quarters past nine; but as the
neap-tides were approaching the working time at the rock became gradually
shorter, and it was now with difficulty that two and a half hours’ work
could be got.  But so keenly had the workmen entered into the spirit of
the beacon-house operations, that they continued to bore the holes in the
rock till some of them were knee-deep in water.

The operations at this time were entirely directed to the erection of the
beacon, in which every man felt an equal interest, as at this critical
period the slightest casualty to any of the boats at the rock might have
been fatal to himself individually, while it was perhaps peculiar to the
writer more immediately to feel for the safety of the whole.  Each log or
upright beam of the beacon was to be fixed to the rock by two strong and
massive bats or stanchions of iron.  These bats, for the fixture of the
principal and diagonal beams and bracing chains, required fifty-four
holes, each measuring two inches in diameter and eighteen inches in
depth.  There had already been so considerable a progress made in boring
and excavating the holes that the writer’s hopes of getting the beacon
erected this year began to be more and more confirmed, although it was
now advancing towards what was considered the latter end of the proper
working season at the Bell Rock.  The foreman joiner, Mr. Francis Watt,
was accordingly appointed to attend at the rock to-day, when the
necessary levels were taken for the step or seat of each particular beam
of the beacon, that they might be cut to their respective lengths, to
suit the inequalities of the rock; several of the stanchions were also
tried into their places, and other necessary observations made, to
prevent mistakes on the application of the apparatus, and to facilitate
the operations when the beams came to be set up, which would require to
be done in the course of a single tide.

                                                      [Tuesday, 25th Aug.]

We had now experienced an almost unvaried tract of light airs of easterly
wind, with clear weather in the fore-part of the day and fog in the
evenings.  To-day, however, it sensibly changed; when the wind came to
the south-west, and blew a fresh breeze.  At nine a.m. the bell rung, and
the boats were hoisted out, and though the artificers were now pretty
well accustomed to tripping up and down the sides of the floating light,
yet it required more seamanship this morning than usual.  It therefore
afforded some merriment to those who had got fairly seated in their
respective boats to see the difficulties which attended their companions,
and the hesitating manner in which they quitted hold of the man-ropes in
leaving the ship.  The passage to the rock was tedious, and the boats did
not reach it till half-past ten.

It being now the period of neap-tides, the water only partially left the
rock, and some of the men who were boring on the lower ledges of the site
of the beacon stood knee-deep in water.  The situation of the smith
to-day was particularly disagreeable, but his services were at all times
indispensable.  As the tide did not leave the site of the forge, he stood
in the water, and as there was some roughness on the surface it was with
considerable difficulty that, with the assistance of the sailors, he was
enabled to preserve alive his fire; and, while his feet were immersed in
water, his face was not only scorched but continually exposed to volumes
of smoke, accompanied with sparks from the fire, which were occasionally
set up owing to the strength and direction of the wind.

                                                    [Wednesday, 26th Aug.]

The wind had shifted this morning to N.N.W., with rain, and was blowing
what sailors call a fresh breeze.  To speak, perhaps, somewhat more
intelligibly to the general reader, the wind was such that a fishing-boat
could just carry full sail.  But as it was of importance, specially in
the outset of the business, to keep up the spirit of enterprise for
landing on all practicable occasions, the writer, after consulting with
the landing-master, ordered the bell to be rung for embarking, and at
half-past eleven the boats reached the rock, and left it again at a
quarter-past twelve, without, however, being able to do much work, as the
smith could not be set to work from the smallness of the ebb and the
strong breach of sea, which lashed with great force among the bars of the

Just as we were about to leave the rock the wind shifted to the S.W.,
and, from a fresh gale, it became what seamen term a hard gale, or such
as would have required the fisherman to take in two or three reefs in his
sail.  It is a curious fact that the respective tides of ebb and flood
are apparent upon the shore about an hour and a half sooner than at the
distance of three or four miles in the offing.  But what seems chiefly
interesting here is that the tides around this small sunken rock should
follow exactly the same laws as on the extensive shores of the mainland.
When the boats left the Bell Rock to-day it was overflowed by the
flood-tide, but the floating light did not swing round to the flood-tide
for more than an hour afterwards.  Under this disadvantage the boats had
to struggle with the ebb-tide and a hard gale of wind, so that it was
with the greatest difficulty that they reached the floating light.  Had
this gale happened in spring-tides when the current was strong we must
have been driven to sea in a very helpless condition.

The boat which the writer steered was considerably behind the other, one
of the masons having unluckily broken his oar.  Our prospect of getting
on board, of course, became doubtful, and our situation was rather
perilous, as the boat shipped so much sea that it occupied two of the
artificers to bale and clear her of water.  When the oar gave way we were
about half a mile from the ship, but, being fortunately to windward, we
got into the wake of the floating light, at about 250 fathoms astern,
just as the landing-master’s boat reached the vessel.  He immediately
streamed or floated a life-buoy astern, with a line which was always in
readiness, and by means of this useful implement the boat was towed
alongside of the floating light, where, from her rolling motion, it
required no small management to get safely on board, as the men were much
worn out with their exertions in pulling from the rock.  On the present
occasion the crews of both boats were completely drenched with spray, and
those who sat upon the bottom of the boats to bale them were sometimes
pretty deep in the water before it could be cleared out.  After getting
on board, all hands were allowed an extra dram, and, having shifted and
got a warm and comfortable dinner, the affair, it is believed, was little
more thought of.

                                                     [Thursday, 27th Aug.]

The tides were now in that state which sailors term the dead of the neap,
and it was not expected that any part of the rock would be seen above
water to-day; at any rate, it was obvious, from the experience of
yesterday, that no work could be done upon it, and therefore the
artificers were not required to land.  The wind was at west, with light
breezes, and fine clear weather; and as it was an object with the writer
to know the actual state of the Bell Rock at neap-tides, he got one of
the boats manned, and, being accompanied by the landing-master, went to
it at a quarter-past twelve.  The parts of the rock that appeared above
water being very trifling, were covered by every wave, so that no landing
was made.  Upon trying the depth of water with a boathook, particularly
on the sites of the lighthouse and beacon, on the former, at low water,
the depth was found to be three feet, and on the central parts of the
latter it was ascertained to be two feet eight inches.  Having made these
remarks, the boat returned to the ship at two p.m., and the weather being
good, the artificers were found amusing themselves with fishing.  The
_Smeaton_ came from Arbroath this afternoon, and made fast to her
moorings, having brought letters and newspapers, with parcels of clean
linen, etc., for the workmen, who were also made happy by the arrival of
three of their comrades from the workyard ashore.  From these men they
not only received all the news of the workyard, but seemed themselves to
enjoy great pleasure in communicating whatever they considered to be
interesting with regard to the rock.  Some also got letters from their
friends at a distance, the postage of which for the men afloat was always
free, so that they corresponded the more readily.

The site of the building having already been carefully traced out with
the pick-axe, the artificers this day commenced the excavation of the
rock for the foundation or first course of the lighthouse.  Four men only
were employed at this work, while twelve continued at the site of the
beacon-house, at which every possible opportunity was embraced, till this
essential art of the operations should be completed.

                                                    [Wednesday, 2nd Sept.]

The floating light’s bell rung this morning at half-past four o’clock, as
a signal for the boats to be got ready, and the landing took place at
half-past five.  In passing the _Smeaton_ at her moorings near the rock,
her boat followed with eight additional artificers who had come from
Arbroath with her at last trip, but there being no room for them in the
floating light’s boats, they had continued on board.  The weather did not
look very promising in the morning, the wind blowing pretty fresh from
W.S.W.: and had it not been that the writer calculated upon having a
vessel so much at command, in all probability he would not have ventured
to land.  The _Smeaton_ rode at what sailors call a _salvagee_, with a
cross-head made fast to the floating buoy.  This kind of attachment was
found to be more convenient than the mode of passing the hawser through
the ring of the buoy when the vessel was to be made fast.  She had then
only to be steered very close to the buoy, when the salvagee was laid
hold of with a boat-hook, and the _bite_ of the hawser thrown over the
cross-head.  But the salvagee, by this method, was always left at the
buoy, and was, of course, more liable to chafe and wear than a hawser
passed through the ring, which could be wattled with canvas, and shifted
at pleasure.  The salvagee and cross method is, however, much practised;
but the experience of this morning showed it to be very unsuitable for
vessels riding in an exposed situation for any length of time.

Soon after the artificers landed they commenced work; but the wind coming
to blow hard, the _Smeaton’s_ boat and crew, who had brought their
complement of eight men to the rock, went off to examine her riding
ropes, and see that they were in proper order.  The boat had no sooner
reached the vessel than she went adrift, carrying the boat along with
her.  By the time that she was got round to make a tack towards the rock,
she had drifted at least three miles to leeward, with the praam-boat
astern; and, having both the wind and a tide against her, the writer
perceived, with no little anxiety, that she could not possibly return to
the rock till long after its being overflowed; for, owing to the anomaly
of the tides formerly noticed, the Bell Rock is completely under water
when the ebb abates to the offing.

In this perilous predicament, indeed, he found himself placed between
hope and despair—but certainly the latter was by much the most
predominant feeling of his mind—situate upon a sunken rock in the middle
of the ocean, which, in the progress of the flood-tide, was to be laid
under water to the depth of at least twelve feet in a stormy sea.  There
were this morning thirty-two persons in all upon the rock, with only two
boats, whose complement, even in good weather, did not exceed twenty-four
sitters; but to row to the floating light with so much wind, and in so
heavy a sea, a complement of eight men for each boat was as much as
could, with propriety, be attempted, so that, in this way, about one-half
of our number was unprovided for.  Under these circumstances, had the
writer ventured to despatch one of the boats in expectation of either
working the _Smeaton_ sooner up towards the rock, or in hopes of getting
her boat brought to our assistance, this must have given an immediate
alarm to the artificers, each of whom would have insisted upon taking to
his own boat, and leaving the eight artificers belonging to the _Smeaton_
to their chance.  Of course a scuffle might have ensued, and it is hard
to say, in the ardour of men contending for life, where it might have
ended.  It has even been hinted to the writer that a party of the
_pickmen_ were determined to keep exclusively to their own boat against
all hazards.

The unfortunate circumstance of the _Smeaton_ and her boat having drifted
was, for a considerable time, only known to the writer and to the
landing-master, who removed to the farther point of the rock, where he
kept his eye steadily upon the progress of the vessel.  While the
artificers were at work, chiefly in sitting or kneeling postures,
excavating the rock, or boring with the jumpers, and while their numerous
hammers, with the sound of the smith’s anvil, continued, the situation of
things did not appear so awful.  In this state of suspense, with almost
certain destruction at hand, the water began to rise upon those who were
at work on the lower parts of the sites of the beacon and lighthouse.
From the run of sea upon the rock, the forge fire was also sooner
extinguished this morning than usual, and the volumes of smoke having
ceased, objects in every direction became visible from all parts of the
rock.  After having had about three ‘hours’ work, the men began, pretty
generally, to make towards their respective boats for their jackets and
stockings, when, to their astonishment, instead of three, they found only
two boats, the third being adrift with the _Smeaton_.  Not a word was
uttered by any one, but all appeared to be silently calculating their
numbers, and looking to each other with evident marks of perplexity
depicted in their countenances.  The landing-master, conceiving that
blame might be attached to him for allowing the boat to leave the rock,
still kept at a distance.  At this critical moment the author was
standing upon an elevated part of Smith’s Ledge, where he endeavoured to
mark the progress of the _Smeaton_, not a little surprised that her crew
did not cut the praam adrift, which greatly retarded her way, and amazed
that some effort was not making to bring at least the boat, and attempt
our relief.  The workmen looked steadfastly upon the writer, and turned
occasionally towards the vessel, still far to leeward. {122a}  All this
passed in the most perfect silence, and the melancholy solemnity of the
group made an impression never to be effaced from his mind.

The writer had all along been considering of various schemes—providing
the men could be kept under command—which might be put in practice for
the general safety, in hopes that the _Smeaton_ might be able to pick up
the boats to leeward, when they were obliged to leave the rock.  He was,
accordingly, about to address the artificers on the perilous nature of
their circumstances, and to propose that all hands should unstrip their
upper clothing when the higher parts of the rock were laid under water;
that the seamen should remove every unnecessary weight and encumbrance
from the boats; that a specified number of men should go into each boat,
and that the remainder should hang by the gunwales, while the boats were
to be rowed gently towards the _Smeaton_, as the course to the _Pharos_,
or floating light, lay rather to windward of the rock.  But when he
attempted to speak his mouth was so parched that his tongue refused
utterance, and he now learned by experience that the saliva is as
necessary as the tongue itself for speech.  He turned to one of the pools
on the rock and lapped a little water, which produced immediate relief.
But what was his happiness, when on rising from this unpleasant beverage,
some one called out, ‘A boat! a boat!’ and, on looking around, at no
great distance, a large boat was seen through the haze making towards the
rock.  This at once enlivened and rejoiced every heart.  The timeous
visitor proved to be James Spink, the Bell Rock pilot, who had come
express from Arbroath with letters.  Spink had for some time seen the
_Smeaton_, and had even supposed, from the state of the weather, that all
hands were on board of her till he approached more nearly and observed
people upon the rock; but not supposing that the assistance of his boat
was necessary to carry the artificers off the rock, he anchored on the
lee-side and began to fish, waiting, as usual, till the letters were sent
for, as the pilot-boat was too large and unwieldy for approaching the
rock when there was any roughness or run of the sea at the entrance of
the landing creeks.

Upon this fortunate change of circumstances, sixteen of the artificers
were sent, at two trips, in one of the boats, with instructions for Spink
to proceed with them to the floating light.  This being accomplished, the
remaining sixteen followed in the two boats belonging to the service of
the rock.  Every one felt the most perfect happiness at leaving the Bell
Rock this morning, though a very hard and even dangerous passage to the
floating light still awaited us, as the wind by this time had increased
to a pretty hard gale, accompanied with a considerable swell of sea.
Every one was as completely drenched in water as if he had been dragged
astern of the boats.  The writer, in particular, being at the helm,
found, on getting on board, that his face and ears were completely coated
with a thin film of salt from the sea spray, which broke constantly over
the bows of the boat.  After much baling of water and severe work at the
oars, the three boats reached the floating light, where some new
difficulties occurred in getting on board in safety, owing partly to the
exhausted state of the men, and partly to the violent rolling of the

As the tide flowed, it was expected that the _Smeaton_ would have got to
windward; but, seeing that all was safe, after tacking for several hours
and making little progress, she bore away for Arbroath, with the
praam-boat.  As there was now too much wind for the pilot-boat to return
to Arbroath, she was made fast astern of the floating light, and the crew
remained on board till next day, when the weather moderated.  There can
be very little doubt that the appearance of James Spink with his boat on
this critical occasion was the means of preventing the loss of lives at
the rock this morning.  When these circumstances, some years afterwards,
came to the knowledge of the Board, a small pension was ordered to our
faithful pilot, then in his seventieth year; and he still continues to
wear the uniform clothes and badge of the Lighthouse service.  Spink is a
remarkably strong man, whose _tout ensemble_ is highly characteristic of
a North-country fisherman.  He usually dresses in a _pé-jacket_, cut
after a particular fashion, and wears a large, flat, blue bonnet.  A
striking likeness of Spink in his pilot-dress, with the badge or insignia
on his left arm which is characteristic of the boatmen in the service of
the Northern Lights, has been taken by Howe, and is in the writer’s

                                                     [Thursday, 3rd Sept.]

The bell rung this morning at five o’clock, but the writer must
acknowledge, from the circumstances of yesterday, that its sound was
extremely unwelcome.  This appears also to have been the feelings of the
artificers, for when they came to be mustered, out of twenty-six, only
eight, besides the foreman and seamen, appeared upon deck to accompany
the writer to the rock.  Such are the baneful effects of anything like
misfortune or accident connected with a work of this description.  The
use of argument to persuade the men to embark in cases of this kind would
have been out of place, as it is not only discomfort, or even the risk of
the loss of a limb, but life itself that becomes the question.  The
boats, notwithstanding the thinness of our ranks, left the vessel at
half-past five.  The rough weather of yesterday having proved but a
summer’s gale, the wind came to-day in gentle breezes; yet, the
atmosphere being cloudy, it a not a very favourable appearance.  The
boats reached the rock at six a.m., and the eight artificers who landed
were employed in clearing out the bat-holes for the beacon-house, and had
a very prosperous tide of four hours’ work, being the longest yet
experienced by half an hour.

The boats left the rock again at ten o’clock, and the weather having
cleared up as we drew near the vessel, the eighteen artificers who had
remained on board were observed upon deck, but as the boats approached
they sought their way below, being quite ashamed of their conduct.  This
was the only instance of refusal to go to the rock which occurred during
the whole progress of the work, excepting that of the four men who
declined working upon Sunday, a case which the writer did not conceive to
be at all analogous to the present.  It may here be mentioned, much to
the credit of these four men, that they stood foremost in embarking for
the rock this morning.

                                                     [Saturday, 5th Sept.]

It was fortunate that a landing was not attempted this evening, for at
eight o’clock the wind shifted to E.S.E., and at ten it had become a hard
gale, when fifty fathoms of the floating light’s hempen cable were veered
out.  The gale still increasing, the ship rolled and laboured
excessively, and at midnight eighty fathoms of cable were veered out;
while the sea continued to strike the vessel with a degree of force which
had not before been experienced.

                                                       [Sunday, 6th Sept.]

During the last night there was little rest on board of the _Pharos_, and
daylight, though anxiously wished for, brought no relief, as the gale
continued with unabated violence.  The sea struck so hard upon the
vessel’s bows that it rose in great quantities, or in ‘green seas,’ as
the sailors termed it, which were carried by the wind as far aft as the
quarter-deck, and not infrequently over the stern of the ship altogether.
It fell occasionally so heavily on the skylight of the writer’s cabin,
though so far aft as to be within five feet of the helm, that the glass
was broken to pieces before the dead-light could be got into its place,
so that the water poured down in great quantities.  In shutting out the
water, the admission of light was prevented, and in the morning all
continued in the most comfortless state of darkness.  About ten o’clock
a.m. the wind shifted to N.E., and blew, if possible, harder than before,
and it was accompanied by a much heavier swell of sea.  In the course of
the gale, the part of the cable in the hause-hole had been so often
shifted that nearly the whole length of one of her hempen cables, of 120
fathoms, had been veered out, besides the chain-moorings.  The cable, for
its preservation, was also carefully served or wattled with pieces of
canvas round the windlass, and with leather well greased in the
hause-hole.  In this state things remained during the whole day, every
sea which struck the vessel—and the seas followed each other in close
succession—causing her to shake, and all on board occasionally to
tremble.  At each of these strokes of the sea the rolling and pitching of
the vessel ceased for a time, and her motion was felt as if she had
either broke adrift before the wind or were in the act of sinking; but,
when another sea came, she ranged up against it with great force, and
this became the regular intimation of our being still riding at anchor.

About eleven o’clock, the writer with some difficulty got out of bed,
but, in attempting to dress, he was thrown twice upon the floor at the
opposite end of the cabin.  In an undressed state he made shift to get
about half-way up the companion-stairs, with an intention to observe the
state of the sea and of the ship upon deck; but he no sooner looked over
the companion than a heavy sea struck the vessel, which fell on the
quarter-deck, and rushed downstairs in the officers’ cabin in so
considerable a quantity that it was found necessary to lift one of the
scuttles in the floor, to let the water into the limbers of the ship, as
it dashed from side to side in such a manner as to run into the lower
tier of beds.  Having been foiled in this attempt, and being completely
wetted, he again got below and went to bed.  In this state of the weather
the seamen had to move about the necessary or indispensable duties of the
ship with the most cautious use both of hands and feet, while it required
all the art of the landsman to keep within the precincts of his bed.  The
writer even found himself so much tossed about that it became necessary,
in some measure, to shut himself in bed, in order to avoid being thrown
upon the floor.  Indeed, such was the motion of the ship that it seemed
wholly impracticable to remain in any other than a lying posture.  On
deck the most stormy aspect presented itself, while below all was wet and

 About two o’clock p.m. a great alarm was given throughout the ship from
the effects of a very heavy sea which struck her, and almost filled the
waist, pouring down into the berths below, through every chink and
crevice of the hatches and skylights.  From the motion of the vessel
being thus suddenly deadened or checked, and from the flowing in of the
water above, it is believed there was not an individual on board who did
not think, at the moment, that the vessel had foundered, and was in the
act of sinking.  The writer could withstand this no longer, and as soon
as she again began to range to the sea he determined to make another
effort to get upon deck.  In the first instance, however, he groped his
way in darkness from his own cabin through the berths of the officers,
where all was quietness.  He next entered the galley and other
compartments occupied by the artificers.  Here also all was shut up in
darkness, the fire having been drowned out in the early part of the gale.
Several of the artificers were employed in prayer, repeating psalms and
other devotional exercises in a full tone of voice; others protesting
that, if they should fortunately get once more on shore, no one should
ever see them afloat again.  With the assistance of the landing-master,
the writer made his way, holding on step by step, among the numerous
impediments which lay in the way.  Such was the creaking noise of the
bulk-heads or partitions, the dashing of the water, and the whistling
noise of the winds, that it was hardly possible to break in upon such a
confusion of sounds.  In one or two instances, anxious and repeated
inquiries were made by the artificers as to the state of things upon
deck, to which the captain made the usual answer, that it could not blow
long in this way, and that we must soon have better weather.  The next
berth in succession, moving forward in the ship, was that allotted for
the seamen.  Here the scene was considerably different.  Having reached
the middle of this darksome berth without its inmates being aware of any
intrusion, the writer had the consolation of remarking that, although
they talked of bad weather and the cross accidents of the sea, yet the
conversation was carried on in that sort of tone and manner which bespoke
an ease and composure of mind highly creditable to them and pleasing to
him.  The writer immediately accosted the seamen about the state of the
ship.  To these inquiries they replied that the vessel being light, and
having but little hold of the water, no top-rigging, with excellent
ground-tackle, and everything being fresh and new, they felt perfect
confidence in their situation.

It being impossible to open any of the hatches in the fore part of the
ship in communicating with the deck, the watch was changed by passing
through the several berths to the companion-stair leading to the
quarter-deck.  The writer, therefore, made the best of his way aft, and,
on a second attempt to look out, he succeeded, and saw indeed an
astonishing sight.  The sea or waves appeared to be ten or fifteen feet
in height of unbroken water, and every approaching billow seemed as if it
would overwhelm our vessel, but she continued to rise upon the waves and
to fall between the seas in a very wonderful manner.  It seemed to be
only those seas which caught her in the act of rising which struck her
with so much violence and threw such quantities of water aft.  On deck
there was only one solitary individual looking out, to give the alarm in
the event of the ship breaking from her moorings.  The seaman on watch
continued only two hours; he who kept watch at this time was a tall,
slender man of a black complexion; he had no greatcoat nor over-all of
any kind, but was simply dressed in his ordinary jacket and trousers; his
hat was tied under his chin with a napkin, and he stood aft the foremast,
to which he had lashed himself with a gasket or small rope round his
waist, to prevent his falling upon deck or being washed overboard.  When
the writer looked up, he appeared to smile, which afforded a further
symptom of the confidence of the crew in their ship.  This person on
watch was as completely wetted as if he had been drawn through the sea,
which was given as a reason for his not putting on a greatcoat, that he
might wet as few of his clothes as possible, and have a dry shift when he
went below.  Upon deck everything that was movable was out of sight,
having either been stowed below, previous to the gale, or been washed
overboard.  Some trifling parts of the quarter boards were damaged by the
breach of the sea; and one of the boats upon deck was about one-third
full of water, the oyle-hole or drain having been accidently stopped up,
and part of her gunwale had received considerable injury.  These
observations were hastily made, and not without occasionally shutting the
companion, to avoid being wetted by the successive seas which broke over
the bows and fell upon different parts of the deck according to the
impetus with which the waves struck the vessel.  By this time it was
about three o’clock in the afternoon, and the gale, which had now
continued with unabated force for twenty-seven hours, had not the least
appearance of going off.

In the dismal prospect of undergoing another night like the last, and
being in imminent hazard of parting from our cable, the writer thought it
necessary to advise with the master and officers of the ship as to the
probable event of the vessel’s drifting from her moorings.  They
severally gave it as their opinion that we had now every chance of riding
out the gale, which, in all probability, could not continue with the same
fury many hours longer; and that even if she should part from her anchor,
the storm-sails had been laid to hand, and could be bent in a very short
time.  They further stated that from the direction of the wind being
N.E., she would sail up the Firth of Forth to Leith Roads.  But if this
should appear doubtful, after passing the Island and Light of May, it
might be advisable at once to steer for Tyningham Sands, on the western
side of Dunbar, and there run the vessel ashore.  If this should happen
at the time of high-water, or during the ebbing of the tide, they were of
opinion, from the flatness and strength of the floating light, that no
danger would attend her taking the ground, even with a very heavy sea.
The writer, seeing the confidence which these gentlemen possessed with
regard to the situation of things, found himself as much relieved with
this conversation as he had previously been with the seeming indifference
of the forecastle men, and the smile of the watch upon deck, though
literally lashed to the foremast.  From this time he felt himself almost
perfectly at ease; at any rate, he was entirely resigned to the ultimate

About six o’clock in the evening the ship’s company was heard moving upon
deck, which on the present occasion was rather the cause of alarm.  The
writer accordingly rang his bell to know what was the matter, when he was
informed by the steward that the weather looked considerably better, and
that the men upon deck were endeavouring to ship the smoke-funnel of the
galley that the people might get some meat.  This was a more favourable
account than had been anticipated.  During the last twenty-one hours he
himself had not only had nothing to eat, but he had almost never passed a
thought on the subject.  Upon the mention of a change of weather, he sent
the steward to learn how the artificers felt, and on his return he stated
that they now seemed to be all very happy, since the cook had begun to
light the galley-fire and make preparations for the suet-pudding of
Sunday, which was the only dish to be attempted for the mess, from the
ease with which it could both be cooked and served up.

The principal change felt upon the ship as the wind abated was her
increased rolling motion, but the pitching was much diminished, and now
hardly any sea came farther aft than the foremast: but she rolled so
extremely hard as frequently to dip and take in water over the gunwales
and rails in the waist.  By nine o’clock all hands had been refreshed by
the exertions of the cook and steward, and were happy in the prospect of
the worst of the gale being over.  The usual complement of men was also
now set on watch, and more quietness was experienced throughout the ship.
Although the previous night had been a very restless one, it had not the
effect of inducing repose in the writer’s berth on the succeeding night;
for having been so much tossed about in bed during the last thirty hours,
he found no easy spot to turn to, and his body was all sore to the touch,
which ill accorded with the unyielding materials with which his bed-place
was surrounded.

                                                       [Monday, 7th Sept.]

This morning, about eight o’clock, the writer was agreeably surprised to
see the scuttle of his cabin sky-light removed, and the bright rays of
the sun admitted.  Although the ship continued to roll excessively, and
the sea was still running very high, yet the ordinary business on board
seemed to be going forward on deck.  It was impossible to steady a
telescope, so as to look minutely at the progress of the waves and trace
their breach upon the Bell Rock; but the height to which the
cross-running waves rose in sprays when they met each other was truly
grand, and the continued roar and noise of the sea was very perceptible
to the ear.  To estimate the height of the sprays at forty or fifty feet
would surely be within the mark.  Those of the workmen who were not much
afflicted with sea-sickness, came upon deck, and the wetness below being
dried up, the cabins were again brought into a habitable state.  Every
one seemed to meet as if after a long absence, congratulating his
neighbour upon the return of good weather.  Little could be said as to
the comfort of the vessel, but after riding out such a gale, no one felt
the least doubt or hesitation as to the safety and good condition of her
moorings.  The master and mate were extremely anxious, however, to heave
in the hempen cable, and see the state of the clinch or iron ring of the
chain-cable.  But the vessel rolled at such a rate that the seamen could
not possibly keep their feet at the windlass nor work the hand-spikes,
though it had been several times attempted since the gale took off.

About twelve noon, however, the vessel’s motion was observed to be
considerably less, and the sailors were enabled to walk upon deck with
some degree of freedom.  But, to the astonishment of every one, it was
soon discovered that the floating light was adrift!  The windlass was
instantly manned, and the men soon gave out that there was no strain upon
the cable.  The mizzen sail, which was bent for the occasional purpose of
making the vessel ride more easily to the tide, was immediately set, and
the other sails were also hoisted in a short time, when, in no small
consternation, we bore away about one mile to the south-westward of the
former station, and there let go the best bower anchor and cable in
twenty fathoms water, to ride until the swell of the sea should fall,
when it might be practicable to grapple for the moorings, and find a
better anchorage for the ship.

                                                     [Tuesday, 15th Sept.]

This morning, at five a.m., the bell rung as a signal for landing upon
the rock, a sound which, after a lapse of ten days, it is believed was
welcomed by every one on board.  There being a heavy breach of sea at the
eastern creek, we landed, though not without difficulty, on the western
side, every one seeming more eager than another to get upon the rock; and
never did hungry men sit down to a hearty meal with more appetite than
the artificers began to pick the dulse from the rocks.  This marine plant
had the effect of reviving the sickly, and seemed to be no less relished
by those who were more hardy.

While the water was ebbing, and the men were roaming in quest of their
favourite morsel, the writer was examining the effects of the storm upon
the forge and loose apparatus left upon the rock.  Six large blocks of
granite which had been landed, by way of experiment, on the 1st instant,
were now removed from their places and, by the force of the sea, thrown
over a rising ledge into a hole at the distance of twelve or fifteen
paces from the place on which they had been landed.  This was a pretty
good evidence both of the violence of the storm and the agitation of the
sea upon the rock.  The safety of the smith’s forge was always an object
of essential regard.  The ash-pan of the hearth or fireplace, with its
weighty cast-iron back, had been washed from their places of supposed
security; the chains of attachment had been broken, and these ponderous
articles were found at a very considerable distance in a hole on the
western side of the rock; while the tools and picks of the Aberdeen
masons were scattered about in every direction.  It is, however,
remarkable that not a single article was ultimately lost.

This being the night on which the floating light was advertised to be
lighted, it was accordingly exhibited, to the great joy of every one.

                                                   [Wednesday, 16th Sept.]

The writer was made happy to-day by the return of the Lighthouse yacht
from a voyage to the Northern Lighthouses.  Having immediately removed on
board of this fine vessel of eighty-one tons register, the artificers
gladly followed; for, though they found themselves more pinched for
accommodation on board of the yacht, and still more so in the _Smeaton_,
yet they greatly preferred either of these to the _Pharos_, or floating
light, on account of her rolling motion, though in all respects fitted up
for their conveniency.

The writer called them to the quarter-deck and informed them that, having
been one mouth afloat, in terms of their agreement they were now at
liberty to return to the workyard at Arbroath if they preferred this to
continuing at the Bell Rock.  But they replied that, in the prospect of
soon getting the beacon erected upon the rock, and having made a change
from the floating light, they were now perfectly reconciled to their
situation, and would remain afloat till the end of the working season.

                                                    [Thursday, 17th Sept.]

The wind was at N.E. this morning, and though they were only light airs,
yet there was a pretty heavy swell coming ashore upon the rock.  The
boats landed at half-past seven o’clock a.m., at the creek on the
southern side of the rock, marked Port Hamilton.  But as one of the boats
was in the act of entering this creek, the seaman at the bow-oar, who had
just entered the service, having inadvertently expressed some fear from a
heavy sea which came rolling towards the boat, and one of the artificers
having at the same time looked round and missed a stroke with his oar,
such a preponderance was thus given to the rowers upon the opposite side
that when the wave struck the boat it threw her upon a ledge of shelving
rocks, where the water left her, and she having _kanted_ to seaward, the
next wave completely filled her with water.  After making considerable
efforts the boat was again got afloat in the proper track of the creek,
so that we landed without any other accident than a complete ducking.
There being no possibility of getting a shift of clothes, the artificers
began with all speed to work, so as to bring themselves into heat, while
the writer and his assistants kept as much as possible in motion.  Having
remained more than an hour upon the rock, the boats left it at half-past
nine; and, after getting on board, the writer recommended to the
artificers, as the best mode of getting into a state of comfort, to strip
off their wet clothes and go to bed for an hour or two.  No further
inconveniency was felt, and no one seemed to complain of the affection
called ‘catching cold.’

                                                      [Friday, 18th Sept.]

An important occurrence connected with the operations of this season was
the arrival of the _Smeaton_ at four p.m., having in tow the six
principal beams of the beacon-house, together with all the stanchions and
other work on board for fixing it on the rock.  The mooring of the
floating light was a great point gained, but in the erection of the
beacon at this late period of the season new difficulties presented
themselves.  The success of such an undertaking at any season was
precarious, because a single day of bad weather occurring before the
necessary fixtures could be made might sweep the whole apparatus from the
rock.  Notwithstanding these difficulties, the writer had determined to
make the trial, although he could almost have wished, upon looking at the
state of the clouds and the direction of the wind, that the apparatus for
the beacon had been still in the workyard.

                                                    [Saturday, 19th Sept.]

The main beams of the beacon were made up in two separate rafts, fixed
with bars and bolts of iron.  One of these rafts, not being immediately
wanted, was left astern of the floating light, and the other was kept in
tow by the _Smeaton_, at the buoy nearest to the rock.  The Lighthouse
yacht rode at another buoy with all hands on board that could possibly be
spared out of the floating light.  The party of artificers and seamen
which landed on the rock counted altogether forty in number.  At
half-past eight o’clock a derrick, or mast of thirty feet in height, was
erected and properly supported with guy-ropes, for suspending the block
for raising the first principal beam of the beacon; and a winch machine
was also bolted down to the rock for working the purchase-tackle.

Upon raising the derrick, all hands on the rock spontaneously gave three
hearty cheers, as a favourable omen of our future exertions in pointing
out more permanently the position of the rock.  Even to this single spar
of timber, could it be preserved, a drowning man might lay hold.  When
the _Smeaton_ drifted on the 2nd of this month such a spar would have
been sufficient to save us till she could have come to our relief.

                                                      [Sunday, 20th Sept.]

The wind this morning was variable, but the weather continued extremely
favourable for the operations throughout the whole day.  At six a.m. the
boats were in motion, and the raft, consisting of four of the six
principal beams of the beacon-house, each measuring about sixteen inches
square, and fifty feet in length, was towed to the rock, where it was
anchored, that it might ground upon it as the water ebbed.  The sailors
and artificers, including all hands, to-day counted no fewer than
fifty-two, being perhaps the greatest number of persons ever collected
upon the Bell Rock.  It was early in the tide when the boats reached the
rock, and the men worked a considerable time up to their middle in water,
every one being more eager than his neighbour to be useful.  Even the
four artificers who had hitherto declined working on Sunday were to-day
most zealous in their exertions.  They had indeed become so convinced of
the precarious nature and necessity of the work that they never
afterwards absented themselves from the rock on Sunday when a landing was

Having made fast a piece of very good new line, at about two-thirds from
the lower end of one of the beams, the purchase-tackle of the derrick was
hooked into the turns of the line, and it was speedily raised by the
number of men on the rock and the power of the winch tackle.  When this
log was lifted to a sufficient height, its foot, or lower end, was
_stepped_ into the spot which had been previously prepared for it.  Two
of the great iron stanchions were then set in their respective holes on
each side of the beam, when a rope was passed round them and the beam, to
prevent it from slipping till it could be more permanently fixed.  The
derrick, or upright spar used for carrying the tackle to raise the first
beam, was placed in such a position as to become useful for supporting
the upper end of it, which now became, in its turn, the prop of the
tackle for raising the second beam.  The whole difficulty of this
operation was in the raising and propping of the first beam, which became
a convenient derrick for raising the second, these again a pair of shears
for lifting the third, and the shears a triangle for raising the fourth.
Having thus got four of the six principal beams set on end, it required a
considerable degree of trouble to get their upper ends to fit.  Here they
formed the apex of a cone, and were all together mortised into a large
piece of beechwood, and secured, for the present, with ropes, in a
temporary manner.  During the short period of one tide all that could
further be done for their security was to put a single screw-bolt through
the great kneed bats or stanchions on each side of the beams, and screw
the nut home.

In this manner these four principal beams were erected, and left in a
pretty secure state.  The men had commenced while there was about two or
three feet of water upon the side of the beacon, and as the sea was
smooth they continued the work equally long during flood-tide.  Two of
the boats being left at the rock to take off the joiners, who were busily
employed on the upper parts till two o’clock p.m., this tide’s work may
be said to have continued for about seven hours, which was the longest
that had hitherto been got upon the rock by at least three hours.

When the first boats left the rock with the artificers employed on the
lower part of the work during the flood-tide, the beacon had quite a
novel appearance.  The beams erected formed a common base of about
thirty-three feet, meeting at the top, which was about forty-five feet
above the rock, and here half a dozen of the artificers were still at
work.  After clearing the rock the boats made a stop, when three hearty
cheers were given, which were returned with equal goodwill by those upon
the beacon, from the personal interest which every one felt in the
prosperity of this work, so intimately connected with his safety.

All hands having returned to their respective ships, they got a shift of
dry clothes and some refreshment.  Being Sunday, they were afterwards
convened by signal on board of the Lighthouse yacht, when prayers were
read; for every heart upon this occasion felt gladness, and every mind
was disposed to be thankful for the happy and successful termination of
the operations of this day.

                                                      [Monday, 21st Sept.]

The remaining two principal beams were erected in the course of this
tide, which, with the assistance of those set up yesterday, was found to
be a very simple operation.

The six principal beams of the beacon were thus secured, at least in a
temporary manner, in the course of two tides, or in the short space of
about eleven hours and a half.  Such is the progress that may be made
when active hands and willing minds set properly to work in operations of
this kind.

                                                     [Tuesday 22nd, Sept.]

Having now got the weighty part of this work over, and being thereby
relieved of the difficulty both of landing and victualling such a number
of men, the _Smeaton_ could now be spared, and she was accordingly
despatched to Arbroath for a supply of water and provisions, and carried
with her six of the artificers who could best be spared.

                                                   [Wednesday, 23rd Sept.]

In going out of the eastern harbour, the boat which the writer steered
shipped a sea, that filled her about one-third with water.  She had also
been hid for a short time, by the waves breaking upon the rock, from the
sight of the crew of the preceding boat, who were much alarmed for our
safety, imagining for a time that she had gone down.

The _Smeaton_ returned from Arbroath this afternoon, but there was so
much sea that she could not be made fast to her moorings, and the vessel
was obliged to return to Arbroath without being able either to deliver
the provisions or take the artificers on board.  The Lighthouse yacht was
also soon obliged to follow her example, as the sea was breaking heavily
over her bows.  After getting two reefs in the mainsail, and the third or
storm-jib set, the wind being S.W., she bent to windward, though blowing
a hard gale, and got into St. Andrews Bay, where we passed the night
under the lee of Fifeness.

                                                    [Thursday, 24th Sept.]

At two o’clock this morning we were in St. Andrews Bay, standing off and
on shore, with strong gales of wind at S.W.; at seven we were off the
entrance of the Tay; at eight stood towards the rock, and at ten passed
to leeward of it, but could not attempt a landing.  The beacon, however,
appeared to remain in good order, and by six p.m. the vessel had again
beaten up to St. Andrews Bay, and got into somewhat smoother water for
the night.

                                                      [Friday, 25th Sept.]

At seven o’clock bore away for the Bell Rock, but finding a heavy sea
running on it were unable to land.  The writer, however, had the
satisfaction to observe, with his telescope, that everything about the
beacon appeared entire: and although the sea had a most frightful
appearance, yet it was the opinion of every one that, since the erection
of the beacon, the Bell Rock was divested of many of its terrors, and had
it been possible to have got the boats hoisted out and manned, it might
have even been found practicable to land.  At six it blew so hard that it
was found necessary to strike the topmast and take in a third reef of the
mainsail, and under this low canvas we soon reached St. Andrews Bay, and
got again under the lee of the land for the night.  The artificers, being
sea-hardy, were quite reconciled to their quarters on board of the
Lighthouse yacht; but it is believed that hardly any consideration would
have induced them again to take up their abode in the floating light.

                                                    [Saturday, 26th Sept.]

At daylight the yacht steered towards the Bell Rock, and at eight a.m.
made fast to her moorings; at ten, all hands, to the amount of thirty,
landed, when the writer had the happiness to find that the beacon had
withstood the violence of the gale and the heavy breach of sea,
everything being found in the same state in which it had been left on the
21st.  The artificers were now enabled to work upon the rock throughout
the whole day, both at low and high water, but it required the strictest
attention to the state of the weather, in case of their being overtaken
with a gale, which might prevent the possibility of getting them off the

Two somewhat memorable circumstances in the annals of the Bell Rock
attended the operations of this day: one was the removal of Mr. James
Dove, the foreman smith, with his apparatus, from the rock to the upper
part of the beacon, where the forge was now erected on a temporary
platform, laid on the cross beams or upper framing.  The other was the
artificers having dined for the first time upon the rock, their dinner
being cooked on board of the yacht, and sent to them by one of the boats.
But what afforded the greatest happiness and relief was the removal of
the large bellows, which had all along been a source of much trouble and
perplexity, by their hampering and incommoding the boat which carried the
smiths and their apparatus.

                                                      [Saturday, 3rd Oct.]

The wind being west to-day, the weather was very favourable for
operations at the rock, and during the morning and evening tides, with
the aid of torchlight, the masons had seven hours’ work upon the site of
the building.  The smiths and joiners, who landed at half-past six a.m.,
did not leave the rock till a quarter-past eleven p.m., having been at
work, with little intermission, for sixteen hours and three-quarters.
When the water left the rock, they were employed at the lower parts of
the beacon, and as the tide rose or fell, they shifted the place of their
operations.  From these exertions, the fixing and securing of the beacon
made rapid advancement, as the men were now landed in the morning and
remained throughout the day.  But, as a sudden change of weather might
have prevented their being taken off at the proper time of tide, a
quantity of bread and water was always kept on the beacon.

During this period of working at the beacon all the day, and often a
great part of the night, the writer was much on board of the tender; but,
while the masons could work on the rock, and frequently also while it was
covered by the tide, he remained on the beacon; especially during the
night, as he made a point of being on the rock to the latest hour, and
was generally the last person who stepped into the boat.  He had laid
this down as part of his plan of procedure; and in this way had acquired,
in the course of the first season, a pretty complete knowledge and
experience of what could actually be done at the Bell Rock, under all
circumstances of the weather.  By this means also his assistants, and the
artificers and mariners, got into a systematic habit of proceeding at the
commencement of the work, which, it is believed, continued throughout the
whole of the operations.

                                                        [Sunday, 4th Oct.]

The external part of the beacon was now finished, with its supports and
bracing-chains, and whatever else was considered necessary for its
stability in so far as the season would permit; and although much was
still wanting to complete this fabric, yet it was in such a state that it
could be left without much fear of the consequences of a storm.  The
painting of the upper part was nearly finished this afternoon; and the
_Smeaton_ had brought off a quantity of brushwood and other articles, for
the purpose of heating or charring the lower part of the principal beams,
before being laid over with successive coats of boiling pitch, to the
height of from eight to twelve feet, or as high as the rise of
spring-tides.  A small flagstaff having also been erected to-day, a flag
was displayed for the first time from the beacon, by which its
perspective effect was greatly improved.  On this, as on all like
occasions at the Bell Rock, three hearty cheers were given; and the
steward served out a dram of rum to all hands, while the Lighthouse
yacht, _Smeaton_, and floating light, hoisted their colours in compliment
to the erection.

                                                        [Monday, 5th Oct.]

In the afternoon, and just as the tide’s work was over, Mr. John Rennie,
engineer, accompanied by his son Mr. George, on their way to the harbour
works of Fraserburgh, in Aberdeenshire, paid a visit to the Bell Rock, in
a boat from Arbroath.  It being then too late in the tide for landing,
they remained on board of the Lighthouse yacht all night, when the
writer, who had now been secluded from society for several weeks, enjoyed
much of Mr. Rennie’s interesting conversation, both on general topics,
and professionally upon the progress of the Bell Rock works, on which he
was consulted as chief engineer.

                                                       [Tuesday, 6th Oct.]

The artificers landed this morning at nine, after which one of the boats
returned to the ship for the writer and Messrs. Rennie, who, upon
landing, were saluted with a display of the colours from the beacon and
by three cheers from the workmen.  Everything was now in a prepared state
for leaving the rock, and giving up the works afloat for this season,
excepting some small articles, which would still occupy the smiths and
joiners for a few days longer.  They accordingly shifted on board of the
_Smeaton_, while the yacht left the rock for Arbroath, with Messrs.
Rennie, the writer, and the remainder of the artificers.  But, before
taking leave, the steward served out a farewell glass, when three hearty
cheers were given, and an earnest wish expressed that everything, in the
spring of 1808, might be found in the same state of good order as it was
now about to be left.


                                                       [Monday, 29th Feb.]

The writer sailed from Arbroath at one a.m. in the Lighthouse yacht.  At
seven the floating light was hailed, and all on board found to be well.
The crew were observed to have a very healthy-like appearance, and looked
better than at the close of the works upon the rock.  They seemed only to
regret one thing, which was the secession of their cook, Thomas
Elliot—not on account of his professional skill, but for his facetious
and curious manner.  Elliot had something peculiar in his history, and
was reported by his comrades to have seen better days.  He was, however,
happy with his situation on board of the floating light, and, having a
taste for music, dancing, and acting plays, he contributed much to the
amusement of the ship’s company in their dreary abode during the winter
months.  He had also recommended himself to their notice as a good
shipkeeper, for as it did not answer Elliot to go often ashore, he had
always given up his turn of leave to his neighbours.  At his own desire
he was at length paid off, when he had a considerable balance of wages to
receive, which he said would be sufficient to carry him to the West
Indies, and he accordingly took leave of the Lighthouse service.

                                                      [Tuesday, 1st March]

At daybreak the Lighthouse yacht, attended by a boat from the floating
light, again stood towards the Bell Rock.  The weather felt extremely
cold this morning, the thermometer being at 34 degrees, with the wind at
east, accompanied by occasional showers of snow, and the marine barometer
indicated 29.80.  At half-past seven the sea ran with such force upon the
rock that it seemed doubtful if a landing could be effected.  At
half-past eight, when it was fairly above water, the writer took his
place in the floating light’s boat with the artificers, while the yacht’s
boat followed, according to the general rule of having two boats afloat
in landing expeditions of this kind, that, in case of accident to one
boat, the other might assist.  In several unsuccessful attempts the boats
were beat back by the breach of the sea upon the rock.  On the eastern
side it separated into two distinct waves, which came with a sweep round
to the western side, where they met; and at the instance of their
confluence the water rose in spray to a considerable height.  Watching
what the sailors term a _smooth_, we caught a favourable opportunity, and
in a very dexterous manner the boats were rowed between the two seas, and
made a favourable landing at the western creek.

At the latter end of last season, as was formerly noticed, the beacon was
painted white, and from the bleaching of the weather and the sprays of
the sea the upper parts were kept clean; but within the range of the tide
the principal beams were observed to be thickly coated with a green
stuff, the _conferva_ of botanists.  Notwithstanding the intrusion of
these works, which had formerly banished the numerous seals that played
about the rock, they were now seen in great numbers, having been in an
almost undisturbed state for six months.  It had now also, for the first
time, got some inhabitants of the feathered tribe: in particular the
scarth or cormorant, and the large herring-gull, had made the beacon a
resting-place, from its vicinity to their fishing-grounds.  About a dozen
of these birds had rested upon the cross-beams, which, in some places,
were coated with their dung; and their flight, as the boats approached,
was a very unlooked-for indication of life and habitation on the Bell
Rock, conveying the momentary idea of the conversion of this fatal rock,
from being a terror to the mariner, into a residence of man and a
safeguard to shipping.

Upon narrowly examining the great iron stanchions with which the beams
were fixed to the rock, the writer had the satisfaction of finding that
there was not the least appearance of working or shifting at any of the
joints or places of connection; and, excepting the loosening of the
bracing-chains, everything was found in the same entire state in which it
had been left in the month of October.  This, in the estimation of the
writer, was a matter of no small importance to the future success of the
work.  He from that moment saw the practicability and propriety of
fitting up the beacon, not only as a place of refuge in case of accident
to the boats in landing, but as a residence for the artificers during the
working months.

While upon the top of the beacon the writer was reminded by the
landing-master that the sea was running high, and that it would be
necessary to set off while the rock afforded anything like shelter to the
boats, which by this time had been made fast by a long line to the
beacon, and rode with much agitation, each requiring two men with
boat-hooks to keep them from striking each other, or from ranging up
against the beacon.  But even under these circumstances the greatest
confidence was felt by every one, from the security afforded by this
temporary erection.  For, supposing the wind had suddenly increased to a
gale, and that it had been found unadvisable to go into the boats; or,
supposing they had drifted or sprung a leak from striking upon the rocks;
in any of these possible and not at all improbable cases, those who might
thus have been left upon the rock had now something to lay hold of, and,
though occupying this dreary habitation of the sea-gull and the
cormorant, affording only bread and water, yet _life_, would be
preserved, and the mind would still be supported by the hope of being
ultimately relieved.

                                                     [Wednesday, 25th May]

On the 25th of May the writer embarked at Arbroath, on board of the _Sir
Joseph Banks_, for the Bell Rock, accompanied by Mr. Logan senior,
foreman builder, with twelve masons and two smiths, together with
thirteen seamen, including the master, mate, and steward.

                                                      [Thursday, 26th May]

Mr. James Wilson, now commander of the _Pharos_, floating light, and
landing-master, in the room of Mr. Sinclair, who had left the service,
came into the writer’s cabin this morning at six o’clock, and intimated
that there was a good appearance of landing on the rock.  Everything
being arranged, both boats proceeded in company, and at eight a.m. they
reached the rock.  The lighthouse colours were immediately hoisted upon
the flagstaff of the beacon, a compliment which was duly returned by the
tender and floating light, when three hearty cheers were given, and a
glass of rum was served out to all hands to drink success to the
operations of 1808.

                                                        [Friday, 27th May]

This morning the wind was at east, blowing a fresh gale, the weather
being hazy, with a considerable breach of sea setting in upon the rock.
The morning bell was therefore rung, in some doubt as to the
practicability of making a landing.  After allowing the rock to get fully
up, or to be sufficiently left by the tide, that the boats might have
some shelter from the range of the sea, they proceeded at 8 a.m., and
upon the whole made a pretty good landing; and after two hours and
three-quarters’ work returned to the ship in safety.

In the afternoon the wind considerably increased, and, as a pretty heavy
sea was still running, the tender rode very hard, when Mr. Taylor, the
commander, found it necessary to take in the bowsprit, and strike the
fore and main topmasts, that she might ride more easily.  After
consulting about the state of the weather, it was resolved to leave the
artificers on board this evening, and carry only the smiths to the rock,
as the sharpening of the irons was rather behind, from their being so
much broken and blunted by the hard and tough nature of the rock, which
became much more compact and hard as the depth of excavation was
increased.  Besides avoiding the risk of encumbering the boats with a
number of men who had not yet got the full command of the oar in a breach
of sea, the writer had another motive for leaving them behind.  He wanted
to examine the site of the building without interruption, and to take the
comparative levels of the different inequalities of its area; and as it
would have been painful to have seen men standing idle upon the Bell
Rock, where all moved with activity, it was judged better to leave them
on board.  The boats landed at half-past seven p.m., and the
landing-master, with the seamen, was employed during this tide in cutting
the seaweeds from the several paths leading to the landing-places, to
render walking more safe, for, from the slippery state of the surface of
the rock, many severe tumbles had taken place.  In the meantime the
writer took the necessary levels, and having carefully examined the site
of the building and considered all its parts, it still appeared to be
necessary to excavate to the average depth of fourteen inches over the
whole area of the foundation.

                                                      [Saturday, 28th May]

The wind still continued from the eastward with a heavy swell; and to-day
it was accompanied with foggy weather and occasional showers of rain.
Notwithstanding this, such was the confidence which the erection of the
beacon had inspired that the boats landed the artificers on the rock
under very unpromising circumstances, at half-past eight, and they
continued at work till half-past eleven, being a period of three hours,
which was considered a great tide’s work in the present low state of the
foundation.  Three of the masons on board were so afflicted with
sea-sickness that they had not been able to take any food for almost
three days, and they were literally assisted into the boats this morning
by their companions.  It was, however, not a little surprising to see how
speedily these men revived upon landing on the rock and eating a little
dulse.  Two of them afterwards assisted the sailors in collecting the
chips of stone and carrying them out of the way of the pickmen; but the
third complained of a pain in his head, and was still unable to do
anything.  Instead of returning to the tender with the boats, these three
men remained on the beacon all day, and had their victuals sent to them
along with the smiths’.  From Mr. Dove, the foreman smith, they had much
sympathy, for he preferred remaining on the beacon at all hazards, to be
himself relieved from the malady of sea-sickness.  The wind continuing
high, with a heavy sea, and the tide falling late, it was not judged
proper to land the artificers this evening, but in the twilight the boats
were sent to fetch the people on board who had been left on the rock.

                                                        [Sunday, 29th May]

The wind was from the S.W. to-day, and the signal-bell rung, as usual,
about an hour before the period for landing on the rock.  The writer was
rather surprised, however, to hear the landing-master repeatedly call,
‘All hands for the rock!’ and, coming on deck, he was disappointed to
find the seamen only in the boats.  Upon inquiry, it appeared that some
misunderstanding had taken place about the wages of the artificers for
Sundays.  They had preferred wages for seven days statedly to the former
mode of allowing a day for each tide’s work on Sunday, as they did not
like the appearance of working for double or even treble wages on Sunday,
and would rather have it understood that their work on that day arose
more from the urgency of the case than with a view to emolument.  This
having been judged creditable to their religious feelings, and readily
adjusted to their wish, the boats proceeded to the rock, and the work
commenced at nine a.m.

                                                        [Monday, 30th May]

Mr. Francis Watt commenced, with five joiners, to fit up a temporary
platform upon the beacon, about twenty-five feet above the highest part
of the rock.  This platform was to be used as the site of the smith’s
forge, after the beacon should be fitted up as a barrack; and here also
the mortar was to be mixed and prepared for the building, and it was
accordingly termed the Mortar Gallery.

The landing-master’s crew completed the discharging from the _Smeaton_ of
her cargo of the cast-iron rails and timber.  It must not here be omitted
to notice that the _Smeaton_ took in ballast from the Bell Rock,
consisting of the shivers or chips of stone produced by the workmen in
preparing the site of the building, which were now accumulating in great
quantities on the rock.  These the boats loaded, after discharging the
iron.  The object in carrying off these chips, besides ballasting the
vessel, was to get them permanently out of the way, as they were apt to
shift about from place to place with every gale of wind; and it often
required a considerable time to clear the foundation a second time of
this rubbish.  The circumstance of ballasting a ship at the Bell Rock
afforded great entertainment, especially to the sailors; and it was
perhaps with truth remarked that the _Smeaton_ was the first vessel that
had ever taken on board ballast at the Bell Rock.  Mr. Pool, the
commander of this vessel, afterwards acquainted the writer that, when the
ballast was landed upon the quay at Leith, many persons carried away
specimens of it, as part of a cargo from the Bell Rock; when he added,
that such was the interest excited, from the number of specimens carried
away, that some of his friends suggested that he should have sent the
whole to the Cross of Edinburgh, where each piece might have sold for a

                                                       [Tuesday, 31st May]

In the evening the boats went to the rock, and brought the joiners and
smiths, and their sickly companions, on board of the tender.  These also
brought with them two baskets full of fish, which they had caught at
high-water from the beacon, reporting, at the same time, to their
comrades, that the fish were swimming in such numbers over the rock at
high-water that it was completely hid from their sight, and nothing seen
but the movement of thousands of fish.  They were almost exclusively of
the species called the podlie, or young coal-fish.  This discovery, made
for the first time to-day by the workmen, was considered fortunate, as an
additional circumstance likely to produce an inclination among the
artificers to take up their residence in the beacon, when it came to be
fitted up as a barrack.

                                                       [Tuesday, 7th June]

At three o’clock in the morning the ship’s bell was rung as the signal
for landing at the rock.  When the landing was to be made before
breakfast, it was customary to give each of the artificers and seamen a
dram and a biscuit, and coffee was prepared by the steward for the
cabins.  Exactly at four o’clock the whole party landed from three boats,
including one of those belonging to the floating light, with a part of
that ship’s crew, which always attended the works in moderate weather.
The landing-master’s boat, called the _Seaman_, but more commonly called
the _Lifeboat_, took the lead.  The next boat, called the _Mason_, was
generally steered by the writer; while the floating light’s boat,
_Pharos_, was under the management of the boatswain of that ship.

Having now so considerable a party of workmen and sailors on the rock, it
may be proper here to notice how their labours were directed.
Preparations having been made last month for the erection of a second
forge upon the beacon, the smiths commenced their operations both upon
the lower and higher platforms.  They were employed in sharpening the
picks and irons for the masons, and in making bats and other apparatus of
various descriptions connected with the fitting of the railways.  The
landing-master’s crew were occupied in assisting the millwrights in
laying the railways to hand.  Sailors, of all other descriptions of men,
are the most accommodating in the use of their hands.  They worked freely
with the boring-irons, and assisted in all the operations of the
railways, acting by turns as boatmen, seamen, and artificers.  We had no
such character on the Bell Rock as the common labourer.  All the
operations of this department were cheerfully undertaken by the seamen,
who, both on the rock and on shipboard, were the inseparable companions
of every work connected with the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.
It will naturally be supposed that about twenty-five masons, occupied
with their picks in executing and preparing the foundation of the
lighthouse, in the course of a tide of about three hours, would make a
considerable impression upon an area even of forty-two feet in diameter.
But in proportion as the foundation was deepened, the rock was found to
be much more hard and difficult to work, while the baling and pumping of
water became much more troublesome.  A joiner was kept almost constantly
employed in fitting the picks to their handles, which, as well as the
points to the irons, were very frequently broken.

The Bell Rock this morning presented by far the most busy and active
appearance it had exhibited since the erection of the principal beams of
the beacon.  The surface of the rock was crowded with men, the two forges
flaming, the one above the other, upon the beacon, while the anvils
thundered with the rebounding noise of their wooden supports, and formed
a curious contrast with the occasional clamour of the surges.  The wind
was westerly, and the weather being extremely agreeable, as soon after
breakfast as the tide had sufficiently overflowed the rock to float the
boats over it, the smiths, with a number of the artificers, returned to
the beacon, carrying their fishing-tackle along with them.  In the course
of the forenoon, the beacon exhibited a still more extraordinary
appearance than the rock had done in the morning.  The sea being smooth,
it seemed to be afloat upon the water, with a number of men supporting
themselves in all the variety of attitude and position: while, from the
upper part of this wooden house, the volumes of smoke which ascended from
the forges gave the whole a very curious and fanciful appearance.

In the course of this tide it was observed that a heavy swell was setting
in from the eastward, and the appearance of the sky indicated a change of
weather, while the wind was shifting about.  The barometer also had
fallen from 30 in. to 29.6.  It was, therefore, judged prudent to shift
the vessel to the S.W. or more distant buoy.  Her bowsprit was also soon
afterwards taken in, the topmasts struck, and everything made _snug_, as
seamen term it, for a gale.  During the course of the night the wind
increased and shifted to the eastward, when the vessel rolled very hard,
and the sea often broke over her bows with great force.

                                                     [Wednesday, 8th June]

Although the motion of the tender was much less than that of the floating
light—at least, in regard to the rolling motion—yet she _sended_, or
pitched, much.  Being also of a very handsome build, and what seamen term
very _clean aft_, the sea often struck the counter with such force that
the writer, who possessed the aftermost cabin, being unaccustomed to this
new vessel, could not divest himself of uneasiness; for when her stern
fell into the sea, it struck with so much violence as to be more like the
resistance of a rock than the sea.  The water, at the same time, often
rushed with great force up the rudder-case, and, forcing up the valve of
the water-closet, the floor of his cabin was at times laid under water.
The gale continued to increase, and the vessel rolled and pitched in such
a manner that the hawser by which the tender was made fast to the buoy
snapped, and she went adrift.  In the act of swinging round to the wind
she shipped a very heavy sea, which greatly alarmed the artificers, who
imagined that we had got upon the rock; but this, from the direction of
the wind, was impossible.  The writer, however, sprung upon deck, where
he found the sailors busily employed in rigging out the bowsprit and in
setting sail.  From the easterly direction of the wind, it was considered
most advisable to steer for the Firth of Forth, and there wait a change
of weather.  At two p.m. we accordingly passed the Isle of May, at six
anchored in Leith Roads, and at eight the writer landed, when he came in
upon his friends, who were not a little surprised at his unexpected
appearance, which gave an instantaneous alarm for the safety of things at
the Bell Rock.

                                                      [Thursday, 9th June]

The wind still continued to blow very hard at E. by N., and the _Sir
Joseph Banks_ rode heavily, and even drifted with both anchors ahead, in
Leith Roads.  The artificers did not attempt to leave the ship last
night; but there being upwards of fifty people on board, and the decks
greatly lumbered with the two large boats, they were in a very crowded
and impatient state on board.  But to-day they got ashore, and amused
themselves by walking about the streets of Edinburgh, some in very humble
apparel, from having only the worst of their jackets with them, which,
though quite suitable for their work, were hardly fit for public
inspection, being not only tattered, but greatly stained with the red
colour of the rock.

                                                       [Friday, 10th June]

To-day the wind was at S.E., with light breezes and foggy weather.  At
six a.m. the writer again embarked for the Bell Rock, when the vessel
immediately sailed.  At eleven p.m., there being no wind, the
kedge-anchor was _let go_ off Anstruther, one of the numerous towns on
the coast of Fife, where we waited the return of the tide.

                                                     [Saturday, 11th June]

At six a.m. the _Sir Joseph_ got under weigh, and at eleven was again
made fast to the southern buoy at the Bell Rock.  Though it was now late
in the tide, the writer, being anxious to ascertain the state of things
after the gale, landed with the artificers to the number of forty-four.
Everything was found in an entire state; but, as the tide was nearly
gone, only half an hour’s work had been got when the site of the building
was overflowed.  In the evening the boats again landed at nine, and after
a good tide’s work of three hours with torchlight, the work was left off
at midnight.  To the distant shipping the appearance of things under
night on the Bell Rock, when the work was going forward, must have been
very remarkable, especially to those who were strangers to the
operations.  Mr. John Reid, principal lightkeeper, who also acted as
master of the floating light during the working months at the rock,
described the appearance of numerous lights situated so low in the water,
when seen at the distance of two or three miles, as putting him in mind
of Milton’s description of the fiends in the lower regions, adding, ‘for
it seems greatly to surpass Will-o’-the-Wisp, or any of those earthly
spectres of which we have so often heard.’

                                                       [Monday, 13th June]

From the difficulties attending the landing on the rock, owing to the
breach of sea which had for days past been around it, the artificers
showed some backwardness at getting into the boats this morning; but
after a little explanation this was got over.  It was always observable
that for some time after anything like danger had occurred at the rock,
the workmen became much more cautious, and on some occasions their
timidity was rather troublesome.  It fortunately happened, however, that
along with the writer’s assistants and the sailors there were also some
of the artificers themselves who felt no such scruples, and in this way
these difficulties were the more easily surmounted.  In matters where
life is in danger it becomes necessary to treat even unfounded prejudices
with tenderness, as an accident, under certain circumstances, would not
only have been particularly painful to those giving directions, but have
proved highly detrimental to the work, especially in the early stages of
its advancement.

At four o’clock fifty-eight persons landed; but the tides being extremely
languid, the water only left the higher parts of the rock, and no work
could be done at the site of the building.  A third forge was, however,
put in operation during a short time, for the greater conveniency of
sharpening the picks and irons, and for purposes connected with the
preparations for fixing the railways on the rock.  The weather towards
the evening became thick and foggy, and there was hardly a breath of wind
to ruffle the surface of the water.  Had it not, therefore, been for the
noise from the anvils of the smiths who had been left on the beacon
throughout the day, which afforded a guide for the boats, a landing could
not have been attempted this evening, especially with such a company of
artificers.  This circumstance confirmed the writer’s opinion with regard
to the propriety of connecting large bells to be rung with machinery in
the lighthouse, to be tolled day and night during the continuance of
foggy weather.

                                                     [Thursday, 23rd June]

The boats landed this evening, when the artificers had again two hours’
work.  The weather still continuing very thick and foggy, more difficulty
was experienced in getting on board of the vessels to-night than had
occurred on any previous occasion, owing to a light breeze of wind which
carried the sound of the bell, and the other signals made on board of the
vessels, away from the rock.  Having fortunately made out the position of
the sloop _Smeaton_ at the N.E. buoy—to which we were much assisted by
the barking of the ship’s dog,—we parted with the _Smeaton’s_ boat, when
the boats of the tender took a fresh departure for that vessel, which lay
about half a mile to the south-westward.  Yet such is the very deceiving
state of the tides, that, although there was a small binnacle and compass
in the landing-master’s boat, we had, nevertheless, passed the _Sir
Joseph_ a good way, when, fortunately, one of the sailors catched the
sound of a blowing-horn.  The only fire-arms on board were a pair of
swivels of one-inch calibre; but it is quite surprising how much the
sound is lost in foggy weather, as the report was heard but at a very
short distance.  The sound from the explosion of gunpowder is so
instantaneous that the effect of the small guns was not so good as either
the blowing of a horn or the tolling of a bell, which afforded a more
constant and steady direction for the pilot.

                                                     [Wednesday, 6th July]

Landed on the rock with the three boats belonging to the tender at five
p.m., and began immediately to bale the water out of the foundation-pit
with a number of buckets, while the pumps were also kept in action with
relays of artificers and seamen.  The work commenced upon the higher
parts of the foundation as the water left them, but it was now pretty
generally reduced to a level.  About twenty men could be conveniently
employed at each pump, and it is quite astonishing in how short a time so
great a body of water could be drawn off.  The water in the
foundation-pit at this time measured about two feet in depth, on an area
of forty-two feet in diameter, and yet it was drawn off in the course of
about half an hour.  After this the artificers commenced with their picks
and continued at work for two hours and a half, some of the sailors being
at the same time busily employed in clearing the foundation of chips and
in conveying the irons to and from the smiths on the beacon, where they
were sharped.  At eight o’clock the sea broke in upon us and overflowed
the foundation-pit, when the boats returned to the tender.

                                                      [Thursday, 7th July]

The landing-master’s bell rung this morning about four o’clock, and at
half-past five, the foundation being cleared, the work commenced on the
site of the building.  But from the moment of landing, the squad of
joiners and millwrights was at work upon the higher parts of the rock in
laying the railways, while the anvils of the smith resounded on the
beacon, and such columns of smoke ascended from the forges that they were
often mistaken by strangers at a distance for a ship on fire.  After
continuing three hours at work the foundation of the building was again
overflowed, and the boats returned to the ship at half-past eight
o’clock. the masons and pickmen had, at this period, a pretty long day on
board of the tender, but the smiths and joiners were kept constantly at
work upon the beacon, the stability and great conveniency of which had
now been so fully shown that no doubt remained as to the propriety of
fitting it up as a barrack.  The workmen were accordingly employed,
during the period of high-water, in making preparations for this purpose.

The foundation-pit now assumed the appearance of a great platform, and
the late tides had been so favourable that it became apparent that the
first course, consisting of a few irregular and detached stones for
making up certain inequalities in the interior parts of the site of the
building, might be laid in the course of the present spring-tides.
Having been enabled to-day to get the dimensions of the foundation, or
first stone, accurately taken, a mould was made of its figure, when the
writer left the rock, after the tide’s work of this morning, in a fast
rowing-boat for Arbroath; and, upon landing, two men were immediately set
to work upon one of the blocks from Mylnefield quarry, which was prepared
in the course of the following day, as the stone-cutters relieved each
other, and worked both night and day, so that it was sent off in one of
the stone-lighters without delay.

                                                      [Saturday, 9th July]

The site of the foundation-stone was very difficult to work, from its
depth in the rock; but being now nearly prepared, it formed a very
agreeable kind of pastime at high-water for all hands to land the stone
itself upon the rock.  The landing-master’s crew and artificers
accordingly entered with great spirit into this operation.  The stone was
placed upon the deck of the _Hedderwick_ praam-boat, which had just been
brought from Leith, and was decorated with colours for the occasion.
Flags were also displayed from the shipping in the offing, and upon the
beacon.  Here the writer took his station with the greater part of the
artificers, who supported themselves in every possible position while the
boats towed the praam from her moorings and brought her immediately over
the site of the building, where her grappling anchors were let go.  The
stone was then lifted off the deck by a tackle hooked into a Lewis bat
inserted into it, when it was gently lowered into the water and grounded
on the site of the building, amidst the cheering acclamations of about
sixty persons.

                                                       [Sunday, 10th July]

At eleven o’clock the foundation-stone was laid to hand.  It was of a
square form, containing about twenty cubic feet, and had the figures, or
date, of 1808 simply cut upon it with a chisel.  A derrick, or spar of
timber, having been erected at the edge of the hole and guyed with ropes,
the stone was then hooked to the tackle and lowered into its place, when
the writer, attended by his assistants—Mr. Peter Logan, Mr. Francis Watt,
and Mr. James Wilson,—applied the square, the level, and the mallet, and
pronounced the following benediction: ‘May the great Architect of the
Universe complete and bless this building,’ on which three hearty cheers
were given, and success to the future operations was drunk with the
greatest enthusiasm.

                                                      [Tuesday, 26th July]

The wind being at S.E. this evening, we had a pretty heavy swell of sea
upon the rock, and some difficulty attended our getting off in safety, as
the boats got aground in the creek and were in danger of being upset.
Upon extinguishing the torchlights, about twelve in number, the darkness
of the night seemed quite horrible; the water being also much charged
with the phosphorescent appearance which is familiar to every one on
shipboard, the waves, as they dashed upon the rock, were in some degree
like so much liquid flame.  The scene, upon the whole, was truly awful!

                                                    [Wednesday, 27th July]

In leaving the rock this evening everything, after the torches were
extinguished, had the same dismal appearance as last night, but so
perfectly acquainted were the landing-master and his crew with the
position of things at the rock, that comparatively little inconveniency
was experienced on these occasions when the weather was moderate; such is
the effect of habit, even in the most unpleasant situations.  If, for
example, it had been proposed to a person accustomed to a city life, at
once to take up his quarters off a sunken reef and land upon it in boats
at all hours of the night, the proposition must have appeared quite
impracticable and extravagant; but this practice coming progressively
upon the artificers, it was ultimately undertaken with the greatest
alacrity.  Notwithstanding this, however, it must be acknowledged that it
was not till after much labour and peril, and many an anxious hour, that
the writer is enabled to state that the site of the Bell Rock Lighthouse
is fully prepared for the first entire course of the building.

                                                       [Friday, 12th Aug.]

The artificers landed this morning at half-past ten, and after an hour
and a half’s work eight stones were laid, which completed the first
entire course of the building, consisting of 123 blocks, the last of
which was laid with three hearty cheers.

                                                    [Saturday, 10th Sept.]

Landed at nine a.m., and by a quarter-past twelve noon twenty-three
stones had been laid.  The works being now somewhat elevated by the lower
courses, we got quit of the very serious inconvenience of pumping water
to clear the foundation-pit.  This gave much facility to the operations,
and was noticed with expressions of as much happiness by the artificers
as the seamen had shown when relieved of the continual trouble of
carrying the smith’s bellows off the rock prior to the erection of the

                                                   [Wednesday, 21st Sept.]

Mr. Thomas Macurich, mate of the _Smeaton_, and James Scott, one of the
crew, a young man about eighteen years of age, immediately went into
their boat to make fast a hawser to the ring in the top of the floating
buoy of the moorings, and were forthwith to proceed to land their cargo,
so much wanted, at the rock.  The tides at this period were very strong,
and the mooring-chain, when sweeping the ground, had caught hold of a
rock or piece of wreck by which the chain was so shortened that when the
tide flowed the buoy got almost under water, and little more than the
ring appeared at the surface.  When Macurich and Scott were in the act of
making the hawser fast to the ring, the chain got suddenly disentangled
at the bottom, and this large buoy, measuring about seven feet in height
and three feet in diameter at the middle, tapering to both ends, being
what seamen term a _Nun-buoy_, vaulted or sprung up with such force that
it upset the boat, which instantly filled with water.  Mr. Macurich, with
much exertion, succeeded in getting hold of the boat’s gunwale, still
above the surface of the water, and by this means was saved; but the
young man Scott was unfortunately drowned.  He had in all probability
been struck about the head by the ring of the buoy, for although
surrounded with the oars and the thwarts of the boat which floated near
him, yet he seemed entirely to want the power of availing himself of such
assistance, and appeared to be quite insensible, while Pool, the master
of the _Smeaton_, called loudly to him; and before assistance could be
got from the tender, he was carried away by the strength of the current
and disappeared.

The young man Scott was a great favourite in the service, having had
something uncommonly mild and complaisant in his manner; and his loss was
therefore universally regretted.  The circumstances of his case were also
peculiarly distressing to his mother, as her husband, who was a seaman,
had for three years past been confined to a French prison, and the
deceased was the chief support of the family.  In order in some measure
to make up the loss to the poor woman for the monthly aliment regularly
allowed her by her late son, it was suggested that a younger boy, a
brother of the deceased, might be taken into the service.  This appeared
to be rather a delicate proposition, but it was left to the
landing-master to arrange according to circumstances; such was the
resignation, and at the same time the spirit, of the poor woman, that she
readily accepted the proposal, and in a few days the younger Scott was
actually afloat in the place of his brother.  On representing this
distressing case to the Board, the Commissioners were pleased to grant an
annuity of £5 to Scott’s mother.

The _Smeaton_, not having been made fast to the buoy, had, with the
ebb-tide, drifted to leeward a considerable way eastward of the rock, and
could not, till the return of the flood-tide, be worked up to her
moorings, so that the present tide was lost, notwithstanding all
exertions which had been made both ashore and afloat with this cargo.
The artificers landed at six a.m.; but, as no materials could be got upon
the rock this morning, they were employed in boring trenail holes and in
various other operations, and after four hours’ work they returned on
board the tender.  When the _Smeaton_ got up to her moorings, the
landing-master’s crew immediately began to unload her.  There being too
much wind for towing the praams in the usual way, they were warped to the
rock in the most laborious manner by their windlasses, with successive
grapplings and hawsers laid out for this purpose.  At six p.m. the
artificers landed, and continued at work till half-past ten, when the
remaining seventeen stones were laid which completed the third entire
course, or fourth of the lighthouse, with which the building operations
were closed for the season.


                                                     [Wednesday, 24th May]

The last night was the first that the writer, had passed in his old
quarters on board of the floating light for about twelve months, when the
weather was so fine and the sea so smooth that even here he felt but
little or no motion, excepting at the turn of the tide, when the vessel
gets into what the seamen term the _trough of the sea_.  At six a.m. Mr.
Watt, who conducted the operations of the railways and beacon-house, had
landed with nine artificers.  At half-past one p.m. Mr. Peter Logan had
also landed with fifteen masons, and immediately proceeded to set up the
crane.  The sheer-crane or apparatus for lifting the stones out of the
praam-boats at the eastern creek had been already erected, and the
railways now formed about two-thirds of an entire circle round the
building: some progress had likewise been made with the reach towards the
western landing-place.  The floors being laid, the beacon now assumed the
appearance of a habitation.  The _Smeaton_ was at her moorings, with the
_Fernie_ praam-boat astern, for which she was laying down moorings, and
the tender being also at her station, the Bell Rock had again put on its
former busy aspect.

                                                     [Wednesday, 31st May]

The landing-master’s bell, often no very favourite sound, rung at six
this morning; but on this occasion, it is believed, it was gladly
received by all on board, as the welcome signal of the return of better
weather.  The masons laid thirteen stones to-day, which the seamen had
landed, together with other building materials.  During these twenty-four
hours the wind was from the south, blowing fresh breezes, accompanied
with showers of snow.  In the morning the snow showers were so thick that
it was with difficulty the landing-master, who always steered the leading
boat, could make his way to the rock through the drift.  But at the Bell
Rock neither snow nor rain, nor fog nor wind, retarded the progress of
the work, if unaccompanied by a heavy swell or breach of the sea.

The weather during the months of April and May had been uncommonly
boisterous, and so cold that the thermometer seldom exceeded 40°, while
the barometer was generally about 29.50.  We had not only hail and sleet,
but the snow on the last day of May lay on the decks and rigging of the
ship to the depth of about three inches; and, although now entering upon
the month of June, the length of the day was the chief indication of
summer.  Yet such is the effect of habit, and such was the expertness of
the landing-master’s crew, that, even in this description of weather,
seldom a tide’s work was lost.  Such was the ardour and zeal of the heads
of the several departments at the rock, including Mr. Peter Logan,
foreman builder, Mr. Francis Watt, foreman millwright, and Captain
Wilson, landing-master, that it was on no occasion necessary to address
them, excepting in the way of precaution or restraint.  Under these
circumstances, however, the writer not unfrequently felt considerable
anxiety, of which this day’s experience will afford an example.

                                                      [Thursday, 1st June]

This morning, at a quarter-past eight, the artificers were landed as
usual, and, after three hours and three-quarters’ work, five stones were
laid, the greater part of this tide having been taken up in completing
the boring and trenailing of the stones formerly laid.  At noon the
writer, with the seamen and artificers, proceeded to the tender, leaving
on the beacon the joiners, and several of those who were troubled with
sea-sickness—among whom was Mr. Logan, who remained with Mr.
Watt—counting altogether eleven persons.  During the first and middle
parts of these twenty-four hours the wind was from the east, blowing what
the seamen term ‘fresh breezes’; but in the afternoon it shifted to
E.N.E., accompanied with so heavy a swell of sea that the _Smeaton_ and
tender struck their topmasts, launched in their bolt-sprits, and ‘made
all snug’ for a gale.  At four p.m. the _Smeaton_ was obliged to slip her
moorings, and passed the tender, drifting before the wind, with only the
foresail set.  In passing, Mr. Pool hailed that he must run for the Firth
of Forth to prevent the vessel from ‘riding under.’

On board of the tender the writer’s chief concern was about the eleven
men left upon the beacon.  Directions were accordingly given that
everything about the vessel should be put in the best possible state, to
present as little resistance to the wind as possible, that she might have
the better chance of riding out the gale.  Among these preparations the
best bower cable was bent, so as to have a second anchor in readiness in
case the mooring-hawser should give way, that every means might be used
for keeping the vessel within sight of the prisoners on the beacon, and
thereby keep them in as good spirits as possible.  From the same motive
the boats were kept afloat that they might be less in fear of the vessel
leaving her station.  The landing-master had, however, repeatedly
expressed his anxiety for the safety of the boats, and wished much to
have them hoisted on board.  At seven p.m. one of the boats, as he
feared, was unluckily filled with sea from a wave breaking into her, and
it was with great difficulty that she could be baled out and got on
board, with the loss of her oars, rudder, and loose thwarts.  Such was
the motion of the ship that in taking this boat on board her gunwale was
stove in, and she otherwise received considerable damage.  Night
approached, but it was still found quite impossible to go near the rock.
Consulting, therefore, the safety of the second boat, she also was
hoisted on board of the tender.

At this time the cabins of the beacon were only partially covered, and
had neither been provided with bedding nor a proper fireplace, while the
stock of provisions was but slender.  In these uncomfortable
circumstances the people on the beacon were left for the night, nor was
the situation of those on board of the tender much better.  The rolling
and pitching motion of the ship was excessive; and, excepting to those
who had been accustomed to a residence in the floating light, it seemed
quite intolerable.  Nothing was heard but the hissing of the winds and
the creaking of the bulkheads or partitions of the ship; the night was,
therefore, spent in the most unpleasant reflections upon the condition of
the people on the beacon, especially in the prospect of the tender being
driven from her moorings.  But, even in such a case, it afforded some
consolation that the stability of the fabric was never doubted, and that
the boats of the floating light were at no great distance, and ready to
render the people on the rock the earliest assistance which the weather
would permit.  The writer’s cabin being in the sternmost part of the
ship, which had what sailors term a good entry, or was sharp built, the
sea, as before noticed, struck her counter with so much violence that the
water, with a rushing noise, continually forced its way up the
rudder-case, lifted the valve of the water-closet, and overran the cabin
floor.  In these circumstances daylight was eagerly looked for, and
hailed with delight, as well by those afloat as by the artificers upon
the rock.

                                                        [Friday, 2nd June]

In the course of the night the writer held repeated conversations with
the officer on watch, who reported that the weather continued much in the
same state, and that the barometer still indicated 29.20 inches.  At six
a.m. the landing-master considered the weather to have somewhat
moderated; and, from certain appearances of the sky, he was of opinion
that a change for the better would soon take place.  He accordingly
proposed to attempt a landing at low-water, and either get the people off
the rock, or at least ascertain what state they were in.  At nine a.m. he
left the vessel with a boat well manned, carrying with him a supply of
cooked provisions and a tea-kettle full of mulled port wine for the
people on the beacon, who had not had any regular diet for about thirty
hours, while they were exposed during that period, in a great measure,
both to the winds and the sprays of the sea.  The boat having succeeded
in landing, she returned at eleven a.m. with the artificers, who had got
off with considerable difficulty, and who were heartily welcomed by all
on board.

Upon inquiry it appeared that three of the stones last laid upon the
building had been partially lifted from their beds by the force of the
sea, and were now held only by the trenails, and that the cast-iron
sheer-crane had again been thrown down and completely broken.  With
regard to the beacon, the sea at high-water had lifted part of the mortar
gallery or lowest floor, and washed away all the lime-casks and other
movable articles from it; but the principal parts of this fabric had
sustained no damage.  On pressing Messrs. Logan and Watt on the situation
of things in the course of the night, Mr. Logan emphatically said: ‘That
the beacon had an _ill-faured_ {171a} _twist_ when the sea broke upon it
at high-water, but that they were not very apprehensive of danger.’  On
inquiring as to how they spent the night, it appeared that they had made
shift to keep a small fire burning, and by means of some old sails
defended themselves pretty well from the sea sprays.

It was particularly mentioned that by the exertions of James Glen, one of
the joiners, a number of articles were saved from being washed off the
mortar gallery.  Glen was also very useful in keeping up the spirits of
the forlorn party.  In the early part of life he had undergone many
curious adventures at sea, which he now recounted somewhat after the
manner of the tales of the _Arabian Nights_.  When one observed that the
beacon was a most comfortless lodging, Glen would presently introduce
some of his exploits and hardships, in comparison with which the state of
things at the beacon bore an aspect of comfort and happiness.  Looking to
their slender stock of provisions, and their perilous and uncertain
chance of speedy relief, he would launch out into an account of one of
his expeditions in the North Sea, when the vessel, being much disabled in
a storm, was driven before the wind with the loss of almost all their
provisions; and the ship being much infested with rats, the crew hunted
these vermin with great eagerness to help their scanty allowance.  By
such means Glen had the address to make his companions, in some measure,
satisfied, or at least passive, with regard to their miserable prospects
upon this half-tide rock in the middle of the ocean.  This incident is
noticed, more particularly, to show the effects of such a happy turn of
mind, even under the most distressing and ill-fated circumstances.

                                                     [Saturday, 17th June]

At eight a.m. the artificers and sailors, forty-five in number, landed on
the rock, and after four hours’ work seven stones were laid.  The
remainder of this tide, from the threatening appearance of the weather,
was occupied in trenailing and making all things as secure as possible.
At twelve noon the rock and building were again overflowed, when the
masons and seamen went on board of the tender, but Mr. Watt, with his
squad of ten men, remained on the beacon throughout the day.  As it blew
fresh from the N.W. in the evening, it was found impracticable either to
land the building artificers or to take the artificers off the beacon,
and they were accordingly left there all night, but in circumstances very
different from those of the 1st of this month.  The house, being now in a
more complete state, was provided with bedding, and they spent the night
pretty well, though they complained of having been much disturbed at the
time of high-water by the shaking and tremulous motion of their house and
by the plashing noise of the sea upon mortar gallery.  Here James Glen’s
versatile powers were again at work in cheering up those who seemed to be
alarmed, and in securing everything as far as possible.  On this occasion
he had only to recall to the recollections of some of them the former
night which they had spent on the beacon, the wind and sea being then
much higher, and their habitation in a far less comfortable state.

The wind still continuing to blow fresh from the N.W., at five p.m. the
writer caused a signal to be made from the tender for the _Smeaton and
Patriot_ to slip their moorings, when they ran for Lunan Bay, an
anchorage on the east side of the Redhead.  Those on board of the tender
spent but a very rough night, and perhaps slept less soundly than their
companions on the beacon, especially as the wind was at N.W., which
caused the vessel to ride with her stern towards the Bell Rock; so that,
in the event of anything giving way, she could hardly have escaped being
stranded upon it.

                                                       [Sunday, 18th June]

The weather having moderated to-day, the wind shifted to the westward.
At a quarter-past nine a.m. the artificers landed from the tender and had
the pleasure to find their friends who had been left on the rock quite
hearty, alleging that the beacon was the preferable quarters of the two.

                                                     [Saturday, 24th June]

Mr. Peter Logan, the foreman builder, and his squad, twenty-one in
number, landed this morning at three o’clock, and continued at work four
hours and a quarter, and after laying seventeen stones returned to the
tender.  At six a.m. Mr. Francis Watt and his squad of twelve men landed,
and proceeded with their respective operations at the beacon and
railways, and were left on the rock during the whole day without the
necessity of having any communication with the tender, the kitchen of the
beacon-house being now fitted up.  It was to-day, also, that Peter
Fortune—a most obliging and well-known character in the Lighthouse
service—was removed from the tender to the beacon as cook and steward,
with a stock of provisions as ample as his limited store-room would

When as many stones were built as comprised this day’s work, the demand
for mortar was proportionally increased, and the task of the
mortar-makers on these occasions was both laborious and severe.  This
operation was chiefly performed by John Watt—a strong, active quarrier by
profession,—who was a perfect character in his way, and extremely zealous
in his department.  While the operations of the mortar-makers continued,
the forge upon the gallery was not generally in use; but, as the working
hours of the builders extended with the height of the building, the forge
could not be so long wanted, and then a sad confusion often ensued upon
the circumscribed floor of the mortar gallery, as the operations of Watt
and his assistants trenched greatly upon those of the smiths.  Under
these circumstances the boundary of the smiths was much circumscribed,
and they were personally annoyed, especially in blowy weather, with the
dust of the lime in its powdered state.  The mortar-makers, on the other
hand, were often not a little distressed with the heat of the fire and
the sparks elicited on the anvil, and not unaptly complained that they
were placed between the ‘devil and the deep sea.’

                                                       [Sunday, 25th June]

The work being now about ten feet in height, admitted of a rope-ladder
being distended {174a} between the beacon and the building.  By this
‘Jacob’s Ladder,’ as the seamen termed it, a communication was kept up
with the beacon while the rock was considerably under water.  One end of
it being furnished with tackle-blocks, was fixed to the beams of the
beacon, at the level of the mortar gallery, while the further end was
connected with the upper course of the building by means of two Lewis
bats which were lifted from course to course as the work advanced.  In
the same manner a rope furnished with a travelling pulley was distended
for the purpose of transporting the mortar-buckets, and other light
articles between the beacon and the building, which also proved a great
conveniency to the work.  At this period the rope-ladder and tackle for
the mortar had a descent from the beacon to the building; by and by they
were on a level, and towards the end of the season, when the solid part
had attained its full height, the ascent was from the mortar gallery to
the building.

                                                       [Friday, 30th June]

The artificers landed on the rock this morning at a quarter-past six, and
remained at work five hours.  The cooking apparatus being now in full
operation, all hands had breakfast on the beacon at the usual hour, and
remained there throughout the day.  The crane upon the building had to be
raised to-day from the eighth to the ninth course, an operation which now
required all the strength that could be mustered for working the
guy-tackles; for as the top of the crane was at this time about
thirty-five feet above the rock, it became much more unmanageable.  While
the beam was in the act of swinging round from one guy to another, a
great strain was suddenly brought upon the opposite tackle, with the end
of which the artificers had very improperly neglected to take a turn
round some stationary object, which would have given them the complete
command of the tackle.  Owing to this simple omission, the crane got a
preponderancy to one side, and fell upon the building with a terrible
crash.  The surrounding artificers immediately flew in every direction to
get out of its way; but Michael Wishart, the principal builder, having
unluckily stumbled upon one of the uncut trenails, fell upon his back.
His body fortunately got between the movable beam and the upright shaft
of the crane, and was thus saved; but his feet got entangled with the
wheels of the crane and were severely injured.  Wishart, being a robust
young man, endured his misfortune with wonderful firmness; he was laid
upon one of the narrow framed beds of the beacon and despatched in a boat
to the tender, where the writer was when this accident happened, not a
little alarmed on missing the crane from the top of the building, and at
the same time seeing a boat rowing towards the vessel with great speed.
When the boat came alongside with poor Wishart, stretched upon a bed
covered with blankets, a moment of great anxiety followed, which was,
however, much relieved when, on stepping into the boat, he was accosted
by Wishart, though in a feeble voice, and with an aspect pale as death
from excessive bleeding.  Directions having been immediately given to the
coxswain to apply to Mr. Kennedy at the workyard to procure the best
surgical aid, the boat was sent off without delay to Arbroath.  The
writer then landed at the rock, when the crane was in a very short time
got into its place and again put in a working state.

                                                        [Monday, 3rd July]

The writer having come to Arbroath with the yacht, had an opportunity of
visiting Michael Wishart, the artificer who had met with so severe an
accident at the rock on the 30th ult., and had the pleasure to find him
in a state of recovery.  From Dr. Stevenson’s account, under whose charge
he had been placed, hopes were entertained that amputation would not be
necessary, as his patient still kept free of fever or any appearance of
mortification; and Wishart expressed a hope that he might, at least, be
ultimately capable of keeping the light at the Bell Rock, as it was not
now likely that he would assist further in building the house.

                                                      [Saturday, 8th July]

It was remarked to-day, with no small demonstration of joy, that the
tide, being neap, did not, for the first time, overflow the building at
high-water.  Flags were accordingly hoisted on the beacon-house, and
crane on the top of the building, which were repeated from the floating
light, Lighthouse yacht, tender, _Smeaton_, _Patriot_, and the two
praams.  A salute of three guns was also fired from the yacht at
high-water, when, all the artificers being collected on the top of the
building, three cheers were given in testimony of this important
circumstance.  A glass of rum was then served out to all hands on the
rock and on board of the respective ships.

                                                       [Sunday, 16th July]

Besides laying, boring, trenailing, wedging, and grouting thirty-two
stones, several other operations were proceeded with on the rock at
low-water, when some of the artificers were employed at the railways, and
at high-water at the beacon-house.  The seamen having prepared a quantity
of tarpaulin, or cloth laid over with successive coats of hot tar, the
joiners had just completed the covering of the roof with it.  This sort
of covering was lighter and more easily managed than sheet-lead in such a
situation.  As a further defence against the weather the whole exterior
of this temporary residence was painted with three coats of white-lead
paint.  Between the timber framing of the habitable part of the beacon
the interstices were to be stuffed with moss, as a light substance that
would resist dampness and check sifting winds; the whole interior was
then to be lined with green baize cloth, so that both without and within
the cabins were to have a very comfortable appearance.

Although the building artificers generally remained on the rock
throughout the day, and the millwrights, joiners, and smiths, while their
number was considerable, remained also during the night, yet the tender
had hitherto been considered as their night quarters.  But the wind
having in the course of the day shifted to the N.W., and as the passage
to the tender, in the boats, was likely to be attended with difficulty,
the whole of the artificers, with Mr. Logan, the foreman, preferred
remaining all night on the beacon, which had of late become the solitary
abode of George-Forsyth, a jobbing upholsterer, who had been employed in
lining the beacon-house with cloth and in fitting up the bedding.
Forsyth was a tall, thin, and rather loose-made man, who had an utter
aversion at climbing upon the trap-ladders of the beacon, but especially
at the process of boating, and the motion of the ship, which he said ‘was
death itself.’  He therefore pertinaciously insisted with the
landing-master in being left upon the beacon, with a small black dog as
his only companion.  The writer, however, felt some delicacy in leaving a
single individual upon the rock, who must have been so very helpless in
case of accident.  This fabric had, from the beginning, been rather
intended by the writer to guard against accident from the loss or damage
of a boat, and as a place for making mortar, a smith’s shop, and a store
for tools during the working months, than as permanent quarters; nor was
it at all meant to be possessed until tile joiner-work was completely
finished, and his own cabin, and that for the foreman, in readiness, when
it was still to be left to the choice of the artificers to occupy the
tender or the beacon.  He, however, considered Forsyth’s partiality and
confidence in the latter as rather a fortunate occurrence.

                                                    [Wednesday, 19th July]

The whole of the artificers, twenty-three in number, now removed of their
own accord from the tender, to lodge in the beacon, together with Peter
Fortune, a person singularly adapted for a residence of this kind, both
from the urbanity of his manners and the versatility of his talents.
Fortune, in his person, was of small stature, and rather corpulent.
Besides being a good Scots cook, he had acted both as groom and
house-servant; he had been a soldier, a sutler, a writer’s clerk, and an
apothecary, from which he possessed the art of writing and suggesting
recipes, and had hence, also, perhaps, acquired a turn for making
collections in natural history.  But in his practice in surgery on the
Bell Rock, for which he received an annual fee of three guineas, he is
supposed to have been rather partial to the use of the lancet.  In short,
Peter was the _factotum_ of the beacon-house, where he ostensibly acted
in the several capacities of cook, steward, surgeon, and barber, and kept
a statement of the rations or expenditure of the provisions with the
strictest integrity.

In the present important state of the building, when it had just attained
the height of sixteen feet, and the upper courses, and especially the
imperfect one, were in the wash of the heaviest seas, an express boat
arrived at the rock with a letter from Mr. Kennedy, of the workyard,
stating that in consequence of the intended expedition to Walcheren, an
embargo had been laid on shipping at all the ports of Great Britain: that
both the _Smeaton_ and _Patriot_ were detained at Arbroath, and that but
for the proper view which Mr. Ramsey, the port officer, had taken of his
orders, neither the express boat nor one which had been sent with
provisions and necessaries for the floating light would have been
permitted to leave the harbour.  The writer set off without delay for
Arbroath, and on landing used every possible means with the official
people, but their orders were deemed so peremptory that even boats were
not permitted to sail from any port upon the coast.  In the meantime, the
collector of the Customs at Montrose applied to the Board at Edinburgh,
but could, of himself, grant no relief to the Bell Rock shipping.

At this critical period Mr. Adam Duff, then Sheriff of Forfarshire, now
of the county of Edinburgh, and _ex officio_ one of the Commissioners of
the Northern Lighthouses, happened to be at Arbroath.  Mr. Duff took an
immediate interest in representing the circumstances of the case to the
Board of Customs at Edinburgh.  But such were the doubts entertained on
the subject that, on having previously received the appeal from the
collector at Montrose, the case had been submitted to the consideration
of the Lords of the Treasury, whose decision was now waited for.

In this state of things the writer felt particularly desirous to get the
thirteenth course finished, that the building might be in a more secure
state in the event of bad weather.  An opportunity was therefore embraced
on the 25th, in sailing with provisions for the floating light, to carry
the necessary stones to the rock for this purpose, which were landed and
built on the 26th and 27th.  But so closely was the watch kept up that a
Custom-house officer was always placed on board of the _Smeaton_ and
_Patriot_ while they were afloat, till the embargo was especially removed
from the lighthouse vessels.  The artificers at the Bell Rock had been
reduced to fifteen, who were regularly supplied with provisions, along
with the crew of the floating light, mainly through the port officer’s
liberal interpretation of his orders.

                                                       [Tuesday, 1st Aug.]

There being a considerable swell and breach of sea upon the rock
yesterday, the stones could not be got landed till the day following,
when the wind shifted to the southward and the weather improved.  But
to-day no less than seventy-eight blocks of stone were landed, of which
forty were built, which completed the fourteenth and part of the
fifteenth courses.  The number of workmen now resident in the
beacon-house was augmented to twenty-four, including the landing-master’s
crew from the tender and the boat’s crew from the floating light, who
assisted at landing the stones.  Those daily at work upon the rock at
this period amounted to forty-six.  A cabin had been laid out for the
writer on the beacon, but his apartment had been the last which was
finished, and he had not yet taken possession of it; for though he
generally spent the greater part of the day, at this time, upon the rock,
yet he always slept on board of the tender.

                                                       [Friday, 11th Aug.]

The wind was at S. E. on the 11th, and there was so very heavy a swell of
sea upon the rock that no boat could approach it.

                                                     [Saturday, 12th Aug.]

The gale still continuing from the S.E., the sea broke with great
violence both upon the building and the beacon.  The former being
twenty-three feet in height, the upper part of the crane erected on it
having been lifted from course to course as the building advanced, was
now about thirty-six feet above the rock.  From observations made on the
rise of the sea by this crane, the artificers were enabled to estimate
its height to be about fifty feet above the rock, while the sprays fell
with a most alarming noise upon their cabins.  At low-water, in the
evening, a signal was made from the beacon, at the earnest desire of some
of the artificers, for the boats to come to the rock; and although this
could not be effected without considerable hazard, it was, however,
accomplished, when twelve of their number, being much afraid, applied to
the foreman to be relieved, and went on board of the tender.  But the
remaining fourteen continued on the rock, with Mr. Peter Logan, the
foreman builder.  Although this rule of allowing an option to every man
either to remain on the rock or return to the tender was strictly adhered
to, yet, as it would have been extremely inconvenient to have the men
parcelled out in this manner, it became necessary to embrace the first
opportunity of sending those who had left the beacon to the workyard,
with as little appearance of intention as possible, lest it should hurt
their feelings, or prevent others from acting according to their wishes,
either in landing on the rock or remaining on the beacon.

                                                      [Tuesday, 15th Aug.]

The wind had fortunately shifted to the S.W. this morning, and though a
considerable breach was still upon the rock, yet the landing-master’s
crew were enabled to get one praam-boat, lightly loaded with five stones,
brought in safety to the western creek; these stones were immediately
laid by the artificers, who gladly embraced the return of good weather to
proceed with their operations.  The writer had this day taken possession
of his cabin in the beacon-house.  It was small, but commodious, and was
found particularly convenient in coarse and blowing weather, instead of
being obliged to make a passage to the tender in an open boat at all
times, both during the day and the night, which was often attended with
much difficulty and danger.

                                                     [Saturday, 19th Aug.]

For some days past the weather had been occasionally so thick and foggy
that no small difficulty was experienced in going even between the rock
and the tender, though quite at hand.  But the floating light’s boat lost
her way so far in returning on board that the first land she made, after
rowing all night, was Fifeness, a distance of about fourteen miles.  The
weather having cleared in the morning, the crew stood off again for the
floating light, and got on board in a half-famished and much exhausted
state, having been constantly rowing for about sixteen hours.

                                                       [Sunday, 20th Aug.]

The weather being very favourable to-day, fifty-three stones were landed,
and the builders were not a little gratified in having built the
twenty-second course, consisting of fifty-one stones, being the first
course which had been completed in one day.  This, as a matter of course,
produced three hearty cheers.  At twelve noon prayers were read for the
first time on the Bell Rock; those present, counting thirty, were crowded
into the upper apartment of the beacon, where the writer took a central
position, while two of the artificers, joining hands, supported the

                                                       [Friday, 25th Aug.]

To-day the artificers laid forty-five stones, which completed the
twenty-fourth course, reckoning above the first entire one, and the
twenty-sixth above the rock.  This finished the solid part of the
building, and terminated the height of the outward casing of granite,
which is thirty-one feet six inches above the rock or site of the
foundation-stone, and about seventeen feet above high-water of
spring-tides.  Being a particular crisis in the progress of the
lighthouse, the landing and laying of the last stone for the season was
observed with the usual ceremonies.

From observations often made by the writer, in so far as such can be
ascertained, it appears that no wave in the open seas, in an unbroken
state, rises more than from seven to nine feet above the general surface
of the ocean.  The Bell Rock Lighthouse may therefore now be considered
at from eight to ten feet above the height of the waves; and, although
the sprays and heavy seas have often been observed, in the present state
of the building, to rise to the height of fifty feet, and fall with a
tremendous noise on the beacon-house, yet such seas were not likely to
make any impression on a mass of solid masonry, containing about 1400

                                                    [Wednesday, 30th Aug.]

The whole of the artificers left the rock at mid-day, when the tender
made sail for Arbroath, which she reached about six p.m.  The vessel
being decorated with colours, and having fired a salute of three guns on
approaching the harbour, the workyard artificers, with a multitude of
people, assembled at the harbour, when mutual cheering and
congratulations took place between those afloat and those on the quays.
The tender had now, with little exception, been six months on the station
at the Bell Rock, and during the last four months few of the squad of
builders had been ashore.  In particular, Mr. Peter Logan, the foreman,
and Mr. Robert Selkirk, principal builder, had never once left the rock.
The artificers, having made good wages during their stay, like seamen
upon a return voyage, were extremely happy, and spent the evening with
much innocent mirth and jollity.

In reflecting upon the state of the matters at the Bell Rock during the
working months, when the writer was much with the artificers, nothing can
equal the happy manner in which these excellent workmen spent their time.
They always went from Arbroath to their arduous task cheering and they
generally returned in the same hearty state.  While at the rock, between
the tides, they amused themselves in reading, fishing, music, playing
cards, draughts, etc., or in sporting with one another.  In the workyard
at Arbroath the young men were almost, without exception, employed in the
evening at school, in writing and arithmetic, and not a few were learning
architectural drawing, for which they had every convenience and facility,
and were, in a very obliging manner, assisted in their studies by Mr.
David Logan, clerk of the works.  It therefore affords the most pleasing
reflections to look back upon the pursuits of about sixty individuals who
for years conducted themselves, on all occasions, in a sober and rational


                                                      [Thursday, 10th May]

The wind had shifted to-day to W.N.W., when the writer, with considerable
difficulty, was enabled to land upon the rock for the first time this
season, at ten a.m.  Upon examining the state of the building, and
apparatus in general, he had the satisfaction to find everything in good
order.  The mortar in all the joints was perfectly entire.  The building,
now thirty feet in height, was thickly coated with _fuci_ to the height
of about fifteen feet, calculating from the rock: on the eastern side,
indeed, the growth of seaweed was observable to the full height of thirty
feet, and even on the top or upper bed of the last-laid course,
especially towards the eastern side, it had germinated, so as to render
walking upon it somewhat difficult.

The beacon-house was in a perfectly sound state, and apparently just as
it had been left in the month of November.  But the tides being neap, the
lower parts, particularly where the beams rested on the rock, could not
now be seen.  The floor of the mortar gallery having been already laid
down by Mr. Watt and his men on a former visit, was merely soaked with
the sprays; but the joisting-beams which supported it had, in the course
of the winter, been covered with a fine downy conferva produced by the
range of the sea.  They were also a good deal whitened with the mute of
the cormorant and other sea-fowls, which had roosted upon the beacon in
winter.  Upon ascending to the apartments, it was found that the motion
of the sea had thrown open the door of the cook-house: this was only shut
with a single latch, that in case of shipwreck at the Bell Rock the
mariner might find ready access to the shelter of this forlorn
habitation, where a supply of provisions was kept; and being within two
miles and a half of the floating light, a signal could readily be
observed, when a boat might be sent to his relief as the weather
permitted.  An arrangement for this purpose formed one of the
instructions on board of the floating light, but happily no instance
occurred for putting it in practice.  The hearth or fireplace of the
cook-house was built of brick in as secure a manner as possible, to
prevent accident from fire; but some of the plaster-work had shaken
loose, from its damp state and the tremulous motion of the beacon in
stormy weather.  The writer next ascended to the floor which was occupied
by the cabins of himself and his assistants, which were in tolerably good
order, having only a damp and musty smell.  The barrack for the
artificers, over all, was next visited; it had now a very dreary and
deserted appearance when its former thronged state was recollected.  In
some parts the water had come through the boarding, and had discoloured
the lining of green cloth, but it was, nevertheless, in a good habitable
condition.  While the seamen were employed in landing a stock of
provisions, a few of the artificers set to work with great eagerness to
sweep and clean the several apartments.  The exterior of the beacon was,
in the meantime, examined, and found in perfect order.  The painting,
though it had a somewhat blanched appearance, adhered firmly both on the
sides and roof, and only two or three panes of glass were broken in the
cupola, which had either been blown out by the force of the wind, or
perhaps broken by sea-fowl.

Having on this occasion continued upon the building and beacon a
considerable time after the tide had begun to flow, the artificers were
occupied in removing the forge from the top of the building, to which the
gangway or wooden bridge gave great facility; and, although it stretched
or had a span of forty-two feet, its construction was extremely simple,
while the road-way was perfectly firm and steady.  In returning from this
visit to the rock every one was pretty well soused in spray before
reaching the tender at two o’clock p.m., where things awaited the landing
party in as comfortable a way as such a situation would admit.

                                                        [Friday, 11th May]

The wind was still easterly, accompanied with rather a heavy swell of sea
for the operations in hand.  A landing was, however, made this morning,
when the artificers were immediately employed in scraping the seaweed off
the upper course of the building, in order to apply the moulds of the
first course of the staircase, that the joggle-holes might be marked off
in the upper course of the solid.  This was also necessary previously to
the writer’s fixing the position of the entrance door, which was
regulated chiefly by the appearance of the growth of the seaweed on the
building, indicating the direction of the heaviest seas, on the opposite
side of which the door was placed.  The landing-master’s crew succeeded
in towing into the creek on the western side of the rock the praam-boat
with the balance-crane, which had now been on board of the praam for five
days.  The several pieces of this machine, having been conveyed along the
railways upon the waggons to a position immediately under the bridge,
were elevated to its level, or thirty feet above the rock, in the
following manner.  A chain-tackle was suspended over a pulley from the
cross-beam connecting the tops of the kingposts of the bridge, which was
worked by a winch-machine with wheel, pinion, and barrel, round which
last the chain was wound.  This apparatus was placed on the beacon side
of the bridge, at the distance of about twelve feet from the cross-beam
and pulley in the middle of the bridge.  Immediately under the cross-beam
a hatch was formed in the roadway of the bridge, measuring seven feet in
length and five feet in breadth, made to shut with folding boards like a
double door, through which stones and other articles were raised; the
folding doors were then let down, and the stone or load was gently
lowered upon a waggon which was wheeled on railway trucks towards the
lighthouse.  In this manner the several castings of the balance-crane
were got up to the top of the solid of the building.

The several apartments of the beacon-house having been cleaned out and
supplied with bedding, a sufficient stock of provisions was put into the
store, when Peter Fortune, formerly noticed, lighted his fire in the
beacon for the first time this season.  Sixteen artificers at the same
time mounted to their barrack-room, and all the foremen of the works also
took possession of their cabin, all heartily rejoiced at getting rid of
the trouble of boating and the sickly motion of the tender.

                                                      [Saturday, 12th May]

The wind was at E.N.E., blowing so fresh, and accompanied with so much
sea, that no stones could be landed to-day.  The people on the rock,
however, were busily employed in screwing together the balance-crane,
cutting out the joggle-holes in the upper course, and preparing all
things for commencing the building operations.

                                                        [Sunday, 13th May]

The weather still continues boisterous, although the barometer has all
the while stood at about 30 inches.  Towards evening the wind blew so
fresh at E. by S. that the boats both of the _Smeaton_ and tender were
obliged to be hoisted in, and it was feared that the _Smeaton_ would have
to slip her moorings.  The people on the rock were seen busily employed,
and had the balance-crane apparently ready for use, but no communication
could be had with them to-day.

                                                        [Monday, 14th May]

The wind continued to blow so fresh, and the _Smeaton_ rode so heavily
with her cargo, that at noon a signal was made for her getting under
weigh, when she stood towards Arbroath; and on board of the tender we are
still without any communication with the people on the rock, where the
sea was seen breaking over the top of the building in great sprays, and
raging with much agitation among the beams of the beacon.

                                                      [Thursday, 17th May]

The wind, in the course of the day, had shifted from north to west; the
sea being also considerably less, a boat landed on the rock at six p.m.,
for the first time since the 11th, with the provisions and water brought
off by the _Patriot_.  The inhabitants of the beacon were all well, but
tired above measure for want of employment, as the balance-crane and
apparatus was all in readiness.  Under these circumstances they felt no
less desirous of the return of good weather than those afloat, who were
continually tossed with the agitation of the sea.  The writer, in
particular, felt himself almost as much fatigued and worn-out as he had
been at any period since the commencement of the work.  The very backward
state of the weather at so advanced a period of the season unavoidably
created some alarm, lest he should be overtaken with bad weather at a
late period of the season, with the building operations in an unfinished
state.  These apprehensions were, no doubt, rather increased by the
inconveniences of his situation afloat, as the tender rolled and pitched
excessively at times.  This being also his first off-set for the season,
every bone of his body felt sore with preserving a sitting posture while
he endeavoured to pass away the time in reading; as for writing, it was
wholly impracticable.  He had several times entertained thoughts of
leaving the station for a few days and going into Arbroath with the
tender till the weather should improve; but as the artificers had been
landed on the rock he was averse to this at the commencement of the
season, knowing also that he would be equally uneasy in every situation
till the first cargo was landed: and he therefore resolved to continue at
his post until this should be effected.

                                                        [Friday, 18th May]

The wind being now N.W., the sea was considerably run down, and this
morning at five o’clock the landing-master’s crew, thirteen in number,
left the tender; and having now no detention with the landing of
artificers, they proceeded to unmoor the _Hedderwick_ praam-boat, and
towed her alongside of the _Smeaton_: and in the course of the day
twenty-three blocks of stone, three casks of pozzolano, three of sand,
three of lime, and one of Roman cement, together with three bundles of
trenails and three of wedges, were all landed on the rock and raised the
top of the building by means of the tackle suspended from the cross-beam
on the middle of the bridge.  The stones were then moved along the bridge
on the waggon to the building within reach of the balance-crane, with
which they were laid in their respective places on the building.  The
masons immediately thereafter proceeded to bore the trenail-holes into
the course below, and otherwise to complete the one in hand.  When the
first stone was to be suspended by the balance-crane, the bell on the
beacon was rung, and all the artificers and seamen were collected on the
building.  Three hearty cheers were given while it was lowered into its
place, and the steward served round a glass of rum, when success was
drunk to the further progress of the building.

                                                        [Sunday, 20th May]

The wind was southerly to-day, but there was much less sea than
yesterday, and the landing-master’s crew were enabled to discharge and
land twenty-three pieces of stone and other articles for the work.  The
artificers had completed the laying of the twenty-seventh or first course
of the staircase this morning, and in the evening they finished the
boring, trenailing, wedging, and grouting it with mortar.  At twelve
o’clock noon the beacon-house bell was rung, and all hands were collected
on the top of the building, where prayers were read for the first time on
the lighthouse, which forcibly struck every one, and had, upon the whole,
a very impressive effect.

From the hazardous situation of the beacon-house with regard to fire,
being composed wholly of timber, there was no small risk from accident:
and on this account one of the most steady of the artificers was
appointed to see that the fire of the cooking-house, and the lights in
general, were carefully extinguished at stated hours.

                                                        [Monday, 4th June]

This being the birthday of our much-revered Sovereign King George III,
now in the fiftieth year of his reign, the shipping of the Lighthouse
service were this morning decorated with colours according to the taste
of their respective captains.  Flags were also hoisted upon the
beacon-house and balance-crane on the top of the building.  At twelve
noon a salute was fired from the tender, when the King’s health was
drunk, with all the honours, both on the rock and on board of the

                                                       [Tuesday, 5th June]

As the lighthouse advanced in height, the cubical contents of the stones
were less, but they had to be raised to a greater height; and the walls,
being thinner, were less commodious for the necessary machinery and the
artificers employed, which considerably retarded the work.  Inconvenience
was also occasionally experienced from the men dropping their coats,
hats, mallets, and other tools, at high-water, which were carried away by
the tide; and the danger to the people themselves was now greatly
increased.  Had any of them fallen from the beacon or building at
high-water, while the landing-master’s crew were generally engaged with
the craft at a distance, it must have rendered the accident doubly
painful to those on the rock, who at this time had no boat, and
consequently no means of rendering immediate and prompt assistance.  In
such cases it would have been too late to have got a boat by signal from
the tender.  A small boat, which could be lowered at pleasure, was
therefore suspended by a pair of davits projected from the cook-house,
the keel being about thirty feet from the rock.  This boat, with its
tackle was put under the charge of James Glen, of whose exertions on the
beacon mention has already been made, and who, having in early life been
a seaman, was also very expert in the management of a boat.  A life-buoy
was likewise suspended from the bridge, to which a coil of line two
hundred fathoms in length was attached, which could be let out to a
person falling into the water, or to the people in the boat, should they
not be able to work her with the oars.

                                                       [Tuesday, 7th June]

To-day twelve stones were landed on the rock, being the remainder of the
_Patriot’s_ cargo; and the artificers built the thirty-ninth course,
consisting of fourteen stones.  The Bell Rock works had now a very busy
appearance, as the lighthouse was daily getting more into form.  Besides
the artificers and their cook, the writer and his servant were also
lodged on the beacon, counting in all twenty-nine; and at low-water the
landing-master’s crew, consisting of from twelve to fifteen seamen, were
employed in transporting the building materials, working the landing
apparatus on the rock, and dragging the stone waggons along the railways.

                                                        [Friday, 8th June]

In the course of this day the weather varied much.  In the morning it was
calm, in the middle part of the day there were light airs of wind from
the south, and in the evening fresh breezes from the east.  The barometer
in the writer’s cabin in the beacon-house oscillated from 30 inches to
30.42, and the weather was extremely pleasant.  This, in any situation,
forms one of the chief comforts of life; but, as may easily be conceived,
it was doubly so to people stuck, as it were, upon a pinnacle in the
middle of the ocean.

                                                       [Sunday, 10th June]

One of the praam-boats had been brought to the rock with eleven stones,
notwithstanding the perplexity which attended the getting of those
formerly landed taken up to the building.  Mr. Peter Logan, the foreman
builder, interposed, and prevented this cargo from being delivered; but
the landing-master’s crew were exceedingly averse to this arrangement,
from an idea that “ill luck” would in future attend the praam, her cargo,
and those who navigated her, from thus reversing her voyage.  It may be
noticed that this was the first instance of a praam-boat having been sent
from the Bell Rock with any part of her cargo on board, and was
considered so uncommon an occurrence that it became a topic of
conversation among the seamen and artificers.

                                                      [Tuesday, 12th June]

To-day the stones formerly sent from the rock were safely landed,
notwithstanding the augury of the seamen in consequence of their being
sent away two days before.

                                                     [Thursday, 14th June]

To-day twenty-seven stones and eleven joggle-pieces were landed, part of
which consisted of the forty-seventh course, forming the storeroom floor.
The builders were at work this morning by four o’clock, in the hopes of
being able to accomplish the laying of the eighteen stones of this
course.  But at eight o’clock in the evening they had still two to lay,
and as the stones of this course were very unwieldy, being six feet in
length, they required much precaution and care both in lifting and laying
them.  It was only on the writer’s suggestion to Mr. Logan that the
artificers were induced to leave off, as they had intended to complete
this floor before going to bed.  The two remaining stones were, however,
laid in their places without mortar when the bell on the beacon was rung,
and, all hands being collected on the top of the building, three hearty
cheers were given on covering the first apartment.  The steward then
served out a dram to each, when the whole retired to their barrack much
fatigued, but with the anticipation of the most perfect repose even in
the “hurricane-house,” amidst the dashing seas on the Bell Rock.

While the workmen were at breakfast and dinner it was the writer’s usual
practice to spend his time on the walls of the building, which,
notwithstanding the narrowness of the track, nevertheless formed his
principal walk when the rock was under water.  But this afternoon he had
his writing-desk set upon the storeroom floor, when he wrote to Mrs.
Stevenson—certainly the first letter dated from the Bell Rock
_Lighthouse_—giving a detail of the fortunate progress of the work with
an assurance that the lighthouse would soon be completed at the rate at
which it now proceeded; and, the _Patriot_ having sailed for Arbroath in
the evening, he felt no small degree of pleasure in despatching this
communication to his family.

The weather still continuing favourable for the operations at the rock,
the work proceeded with much energy, through the exertions both of the
seamen and artificers.  For the more speedy and effectual working of the
several tackles in raising the materials as the building advanced in
height, and there being a great extent of railway to attend to, which
required constant repairs, two additional millwrights were added to the
complement on the rock, which, including the writer, now counted
thirty-one in all.  So crowded was the men’s barrack that the beds were
ranged five tier in height, allowing only about one foot eight inches for
each bed.  The artificers commenced this morning at five o’clock, and, in
the course of the day, they laid the forty-eighth and forty-ninth
courses, consisting each of sixteen blocks.  From the favourable state of
the weather, and the regular manner in which the work now proceeded, the
artificers had generally from four to seven extra hours’ work, which,
including their stated wages of 3s. 4d., yielded them from 5s. 4d. to
about 6s. 10d. per day besides their board; even the postage of their
letters was paid while they were at the Bell Rock.  In these advantages
the foremen also shared, having about double the pay and amount of
premiums of the artificers.  The seamen being less out of their element
in the Bell Rock operations than the landsmen, their premiums consisted
in a slump sum payable at the end of the season, which extended from
three to ten guineas.

As the laying of the floors was somewhat tedious, the landing-master and
his crew had got considerably beforehand with the building artificers in
bringing materials faster to the rock than they could be built.  The
seamen having, therefore, some spare time, were occasionally employed
during fine weather in dredging or grappling for the several mushroom
anchors and mooring-chains which had been lost in the vicinity of the
Bell Rock during the progress of the work by the breaking loose and
drifting of the floating buoys.  To encourage their exertions in this
search, five guineas were offered as a premium for each set they should
find; and, after much patient application, they succeeded to-day in
hooking one of these lost anchors with its chain.

It was a general remark at the Bell Rock, as before noticed, that fish
were never plenty in its neighbourhood excepting in good weather.
Indeed, the seamen used to speculate about the state of the weather from
their success in fishing.  When the fish disappeared at the rock, it was
considered a sure indication that a gale was not far off, as the fish
seemed to seek shelter in deeper water from the roughness of the sea
during these changes in the weather.  At this time the rock, at
high-water, was completely covered with podlies, or the fry of the
coal-fish, about six or eight inches in length.  The artificers sometimes
occupied half an hour after breakfast and dinner in catching these little
fishes, but were more frequently supplied from the boats of the tender.

                                                     [Saturday, 16th June]

The landing-master having this day discharged the _Smeaton_ and loaded
the _Hedderwick and Dickie_ praam-boats with nineteen stones, they were
towed to their respective moorings, when Captain Wilson, in consequence
of the heavy swell of sea, came in his boat to the beacon-house to
consult with the writer as to the propriety of venturing the loaded
praam-boats with their cargoes to the rock while so much sea was running.
After some dubiety expressed on the subject, in which the ardent mind of
the landing-master suggested many arguments in favour of his being able
to convey the praams in perfect safety, it was acceded to.  In bad
weather, and especially on occasions of difficulty like the present, Mr.
Wilson, who was an extremely active seaman, measuring about five feet
three inches in height, of a robust habit, generally dressed himself in
what he called a _monkey jacket_, made of thick duffle cloth, with a pair
of Dutchman’s petticoat trousers, reaching only to his knees, where they
were met with a pair of long water-tight boots; with this dress, his
glazed hat, and his small brass speaking trumpet in his hand, he bade
defiance to the weather.  When he made his appearance in this most
suitable attire for the service his crew seemed to possess additional
life, never failing to use their utmost exertions when the captain put on
his _storm rigging_.  They had this morning commenced loading the
praam-boats at four o’clock, and proceeded to tow them into the eastern
landing-place, which was accomplished with much dexterity, though not
without the risk of being thrown, by the force of the sea, on certain
projecting ledges of the rock.  In such a case the loss even of a single
stone would have greatly retarded the work.  For the greater safety in
entering the creek it was necessary to put out several warps and
guy-ropes to guide the boats into its narrow and intricate entrance; and
it frequently happened that the sea made a clean breach over the praams,
which not only washed their decks, but completely drenched the crew in

                                                       [Sunday, 17th June]

It was fortunate, in the present state of the weather, that the fiftieth
course was in a sheltered spot, within the reach of the tackle of the
winch-machine upon the bridge; a few stones were stowed upon the bridge
itself, and the remainder upon the building, which kept the artificers at
work.  The stowing of the materials upon the rock was the department of
Alexander Brebner, mason, who spared no pains in attending to the safety
of the stones, and who, in the present state of the work, when the stones
were landed faster than could be built, generally worked till the water
rose to his middle.  At one o’clock to-day the bell rung for prayers, and
all hands were collected into the upper barrack-room of the beacon-house,
when the usual service was performed.

The wind blew very hard in the course of last night from N.E., and to-day
the sea ran so high that no boat could approach the rock.  During the
dinner-hour, when the writer was going to the top of the building as
usual, but just as he had entered the door and was about to ascend the
ladder, a great noise was heard overhead, and in an instant he was soused
in water from a sea which had most unexpectedly come over the walls,
though now about fifty-eight feet in height.  On making his retreat he
found himself completely whitened by the lime, which had mixed with the
water while dashing down through the different floors; and, as nearly as
he could guess, a quantity equal to about a hogshead had come over the
walls, and now streamed out at the door.  After having shifted himself,
he again sat down in his cabin, the sea continuing to run so high that
the builders did not resume their operations on the walls this afternoon.
The incident just noticed did not create more surprise in the mind of the
writer than the sublime appearance of the waves as they rolled
majestically over the rock.  This scene he greatly enjoyed while sitting
at his cabin window; each wave approached the beacon like a vast scroll
unfolding; and in passing discharged a quantity of air, which he not only
distinctly felt, but was even sufficient to lift the leaves of a book
which lay before him.  These waves might be ten or twelve feet in height,
and about 250 feet in length, their smaller end being towards the north,
where the water was deep, and they were opened or cut through by the
interposition of the building and beacon.  The gradual manner in which
the sea, upon these occasions, is observed to become calm or to subside,
is a very remarkable feature of this phenomenon.  For example, when a
gale is succeeded by a calm, every third or fourth wave forms one of
these great seas, which occur in spaces of from three to five minutes, as
noted by the writer’s watch; but in the course of the next tide they
become less frequent, and take off so as to occur only in ten or fifteen
minutes; and, singular enough, at the third tide after such gales, the
writer has remarked that only one or two of these great waves appear in
the course of the whole tide.

                                                      [Tuesday, 19th June]

The 19th was a very unpleasant and disagreeable day, both for the seamen
and artificers, as it rained throughout with little intermission from
four a.m. till eleven p.m., accompanied with thunder and lightning,
during which period the work nevertheless continued unremittingly, and
the builders laid the fifty-first and fifty-second courses.  This state
of weather was no less severe upon the mortar-makers, who required to
temper or prepare the mortar of a thicker or thinner consistency, in some
measure, according to the state of the weather.  From the elevated
position of the building, the mortar gallery on the beacon was now much
lower, and the lime-buckets were made to traverse upon a rope distended
between it and the building.  On occasions like the present, however,
there was often a difference of opinion between the builders and the
mortar-makers.  John Watt, who had the principal charge of the mortar,
was a most active worker, but, being somewhat of an irascible temper, the
builders occasionally amused themselves at his expense; for while he was
eagerly at work with his large iron-shod pestle in the mortar-tub, they
often sent down contradictory orders, some crying, ‘Make it a little
stiffer, or thicker, John,’ while others called out to make it ‘thinner,’
to which he generally returned very speedy and sharp replies, so that
these conversations at times were rather amusing.

During wet weather the situation of the artificers on the top of the
building was extremely disagreeable; for although their work did not
require great exertion, yet, as each man had his particular part to
perform, either in working the crane or in laying the stones, it required
the closest application and attention, not only on the part of Mr. Peter
Logan, the foreman, who was constantly on the walls, but also of the
chief workmen.  Robert Selkirk, the principal builder, for example, had
every stone to lay in its place.  David Cumming, a mason, had the charge
of working the tackle of the balance-weight, and James Scott, also a
mason, took charge of the purchase with which the stones were laid; while
the pointing the joints of the walls with cement was intrusted to William
Reid and William Kennedy, who stood upon a scaffold suspended over the
walls in rather a frightful manner.  The least act of carelessness or
inattention on the part of any of these men might have been fatal, not
only to themselves, but also to the surrounding workmen, especially if
any accident had happened to the crane itself, while the material damage
or loss of a single stone would have put an entire stop to the operations
until another could have been brought from Arbroath.  The artificers,
having wrought seven and a half hours of extra time to-day, had 3s. 9d.
of extra pay, while the foremen had 7s. 6d. over and above their stated
pay and board.  Although, therefore, the work was both hazardous and
fatiguing, yet, the encouragement being considerable, they were always
very cheerful, and perfectly reconciled to the confinement and other
disadvantages of the place.

During fine weather, and while the nights were short, the duty on board
of the floating light was literally nothing but a waiting on, and
therefore one of her boats, with a crew of five men, daily attended the
rock, but always returned to the vessel at night.  The carpenter,
however, was one of those who was left on board of the ship, as he also
acted in the capacity of assistant lightkeeper, being, besides, a person
who was apt to feel discontent and to be averse to changing his quarters,
especially to work with the millwrights and joiners at the rock, who
often, for hours together, wrought knee-deep, and not unfrequently up to
the middle, in water.  Mr. Watt having about this time made a requisition
for another hand, the carpenter was ordered to attend the rock in the
floating light’s boat.  This he did with great reluctance, and found so
much fault that he soon got into discredit with his messmates.  On this
occasion he left the Lighthouse service, and went as a sailor in a vessel
bound for America—a step which, it is believed, he soon regretted, as, in
the course of things, he would, in all probability, have accompanied Mr.
John Reid, the principal lightkeeper of the floating light, to the Bell
Rock Lighthouse as his principal assistant.  The writer had a wish to be
of service to this man, as he was one of those who came off to the
floating light in the month of September 1807, while she was riding at
single anchor after the severe gale of the 7th, at a time when it was
hardly possible to make up this vessel’s crew; but the crossness of his
manner prevented his reaping the benefit of such intentions.

                                                       [Friday, 22nd June]

The building operations had for some time proceeded more slowly, from the
higher parts of the lighthouse requiring much longer time than an equal
tonnage of the lower courses.  The duty of the landing-master’s crew had,
upon the whole, been easy of late; for though the work was occasionally
irregular, yet the stones being lighter, they were more speedily lifted
from the hold of the stone vessel to the deck of the praam-boat, and
again to the waggons on the railway, after which they came properly under
the charge of the foreman builder.  It is, however, a strange, though not
an uncommon, feature in the human character, that, when people have least
to complain of, they are most apt to become dissatisfied, as was now the
case with the seamen employed in the Bell Rock service about their
rations of beer.  Indeed, ever since the carpenter of the floating light,
formerly noticed, had been brought to the rock, expressions of discontent
had been manifested upon various occasions.  This being represented to
the writer, he sent for Captain Wilson, the landing-master, and Mr.
Taylor, commander of the tender, with whom he talked over the subject.
They stated that they considered the daily allowance of the seamen in
every respect ample, and that, the work being now much lighter than
formerly, they had no just ground for complaint; Mr. Taylor adding that,
if those who now complained ‘were even to be fed upon soft bread and
turkeys, they would not think themselves right.’  At twelve noon the work
of the landing-master’s crew was completed for the day; but at four
o’clock, while the rock was under water, those on the beacon were
surprised by the arrival of a boat from the tender without any signal
having been made from the beacon.  It brought the following note to the
writer from the landing-master’s crew:—

                                               ‘_Sir Joseph Banks Tender_.

    ‘SIR,—We are informed by our masters that our allowance is to be as
    before, and it is not sufficient to serve us, for we have been at
    work since four o’clock this morning, and we have come on board to
    dinner, and there is no beer for us before to-morrow morning, to
    which a sufficient answer is required before we go from the beacon;
    and we are, Sir, your most obedient servants.’

On reading this, the writer returned a verbal message, intimating that an
answer would be sent on board of the tender, at the same time ordering
the boat instantly to quit the beacon.  He then addressed the following
note to the landing-master:—

                                      ‘_Beacon-house_, 22_nd_ _June_ 1810,
                                                       _Five o’clock p.m_.

    ‘SIR,—I have just now received a letter purporting to be from the
    landing-master’s crew and seamen on board of the _Sir Joseph Banks_,
    though without either date or signature; in answer to which I enclose
    a statement of the daily allowance of provisions for the seamen in
    this service, which you will post up in the ship’s galley, and at
    seven o’clock this evening I will come on board to inquire into this
    unexpected and most unnecessary demand for an additional allowance of
    beer.  In the enclosed you will not find any alteration from the
    original statement, fixed in the galley at the beginning of the
    season.  I have, however, judged this mode of giving your people an
    answer preferable to that of conversing with them on the beacon. —I
    am, Sir, your most obedient servant,

                                                         ROBERT STEVENSON.


    ‘_Beacon House_, 22_nd_ _June_ 1810.—Schedule of the daily allowance
    of provisions to be served out on board of the _Sir Joseph Banks_
    tender: “1½ lb. beef; 1 lb. bread; 8 oz. oatmeal; 2 oz. barley; 2 oz.
    butter; 3 quarts beer; vegetables and salt no stated allowance.  When
    the seamen are employed in unloading the _Smeaton_ and _Patriot_, a
    draught of beer is, as formerly, to be allowed from the stock of
    these vessels.  Further, in wet and stormy weather, or when the work
    commences very early in the morning, or continues till a late hour at
    night, a glass of spirits will also be served out to the crew as
    heretofore, on the requisition of the landing-master.”

                                                        ROBERT STEVENSON.’

On writing this letter and schedule, a signal was made on the beacon for
the landing-master’s boat, which immediately came to the rock, and the
schedule was afterwards stuck up in the tender’s galley.  When sufficient
time had been allowed to the crew to consider of their conduct, a second
signal was made for a boat, and at seven o’clock the writer left the Bell
Rock, after a residence of four successive weeks in the beacon-house.
The first thing which occupied his attention on board of the tender was
to look round upon the lighthouse, which he saw, with some degree of
emotion and surprise, now vying in height with the beacon-house; for
although he had often viewed it from the extremity of the western railway
on the rock, yet the scene, upon the whole, seemed far more interesting
from the tender’s moorings at the distance of about half a mile.

The _Smeaton_ having just arrived at her moorings with a cargo, a signal
was made for Captain Pool to come on board of the tender, that he might
be at hand to remove from the service any of those who might persist in
their discontented conduct.  One of the two principal leaders in this
affair, the master of one of the praam-boats, who had also steered the
boat which brought the letter to the beacon, was first called upon deck,
and asked if he had read the statement fixed up in the galley this
afternoon, and whether he was satisfied with it.  He replied that he had
read the paper, but was not satisfied, as it held out no alteration in
the allowance, on which he was immediately ordered into the _Smeaton’s_
boat.  The next man called had but lately entered the service, and, being
also interrogated as to his resolution, he declared himself to be of the
same mind with the praam-master, and was also forthwith ordered into the
boat.  The writer, without calling any more of the seamen, went forward
to the gangway, where they were collected and listening to what was
passing upon deck.  He addressed them at the hatchway, and stated that
two of their companions had just been dismissed the service and sent on
board of the _Smeaton_ to be conveyed to Arbroath.  He therefore wished
each man to consider for himself how far it would be proper, by any
unreasonableness of conduct, to place themselves in a similar situation,
especially as they were aware that it was optional in him either to
dismiss them or send them on board a man-of-war.  It might appear that
much inconveniency would be felt at the rock by a change of hands at this
critical period, by checking for a time the progress of a building so
intimately connected with the best interests of navigation; yet this
would be but of a temporary nature, while the injury to themselves might
be irreparable.  It was now therefore, required of any man who, in this
disgraceful manner, chose to leave the service, that he should instantly
make his appearance on deck while the _Smeaton’s_ boat was alongside.
But those below having expressed themselves satisfied with their
situation-viz., William Brown, George Gibb, Alexander Scott, John Dick,
Robert Couper, Alexander Shephard, James Grieve, David Carey, William
Pearson, Stuart Eaton, Alexander Lawrence, and John Spink—were
accordingly considered as having returned to their duty.  This
disposition to mutiny, which had so strongly manifested itself, being now
happily suppressed, Captain Pool got orders to proceed for Arbroath Bay,
and land the two men he had on board, and to deliver the following letter
at the office of the workyard:—

                              ‘_On board of the Tender off the Bell Rock_,
                                  22_nd_ _June_ 1810, _eight o’clock p.m._

    ‘DEAR SIR,—A discontented and mutinous spirit having manifested
    itself of late among the landing-master’s crew, they struck work
    to-day and demanded an additional allowance of beer, and I have found
    it necessary to dismiss D---d and M---e, who are now sent on shore
    with the _Smeaton_.  You will therefore be so good as to pay them
    their wages, including this day only.  Nothing can be more
    unreasonable than the conduct of the seamen on this occasion, as the
    landing-master’s crew not only had their allowance on board of the
    tender, but, in the course of this day, they had drawn no fewer than
    twenty-four quart pots of beer from the stock of the _Patriot_ while
    unloading her. —I remain, yours truly,

                                                         ROBERT STEVENSON.

          Bell Rock Office, Arbroath.’

On despatching this letter to Mr. Kennedy, the writer returned to the
beacon about nine o’clock, where this afternoon’s business had produced
many conjectures, especially when the _Smeaton_ got under weigh, instead
of proceeding to land her cargo.  The bell on the beacon being rung, the
artificers were assembled on the bridge, when the affair was explained to
them.  He, at the same time, congratulated them upon the first appearance
of mutiny being happily set at rest by the dismissal of its two principal

                                                       [Sunday, 24th June]

At the rock the landing of the materials and the building operations of
the light-room store went on successfully, and in a way similar to those
of the provision store.  To-day it blew fresh breezes; but the seamen
nevertheless landed twenty-eight stones, and the artificers built the
fifty-eighth and fifty-ninth courses.  The works were visited by Mr.
Murdoch, junior, from Messrs. Boulton and Watt’s works of Soho.  He
landed just as the bell rung for prayers, after which the writer enjoyed
much pleasure from his very intelligent conversation; and, having been
almost the only stranger he had seen for some weeks, he parted with him,
after a short interview, with much regret.

                                                     [Thursday, 28th June]

Last night the wind had shifted to north-east, and, blowing fresh, was
accompanied with a heavy surf upon the rock.  Towards high-water it had a
very grand and wonderful appearance.  Waves of considerable magnitude
rose as high as the solid or level of the entrance-door, which, being
open to the south-west, was fortunately to the leeward; but on the
windward side the sprays flew like lightning up the sloping sides of the
building; and although the walls were now elevated sixty-four feet above
the rock, and about fifty-two feet from high-water mark, yet the
artificers were nevertheless wetted, and occasionally interrupted, in
their operations on the top of the walls.  These appearances were, in a
great measure, new at the Bell Rock, there having till of late been no
building to conduct the seas, or object to compare with them.  Although,
from the description of the Eddystone Lighthouse, the mind was prepared
for such effects, yet they were not expected to the present extent in the
summer season; the sea being most awful to-day, whether observed from the
beacon or the building.  To windward, the sprays fell from the height
above noticed in the most wonderful cascades, and streamed down the walls
of the building in froth as white as snow.  To leeward of the lighthouse
the collision or meeting of the waves produced a pure white kind of
_drift_; it rose about thirty feet in height, like a fine downy mist,
which, in its fall, fell upon the face and hands more like a dry powder
than a liquid substance.  The effect of these seas, as they raged among
the beams and dashed upon the higher parts of the beacon, produced a
temporary tremulous motion throughout the whole fabric, which to a
stranger must have been frightful.

                                                        [Sunday, 1st July]

The writer had now been at the Bell Rock since the latter end of May, or
about six weeks, during four of which he had been a constant inhabitant
of the beacon without having been once off the rock.  After witnessing
the laying of the sixty-seventh or second course of the bedroom
apartment, he left the rock with the tender and went ashore, as some
arrangements were to be made for the future conduct of the works at
Arbroath, which were soon to be brought to a close; the landing-master’s
crew having, in the meantime, shifted on board of the _Patriot_.  In
leaving the rock, the writer kept his eyes fixed upon the lighthouse,
which had recently got into the form of a house, having several tiers or
stories of windows.  Nor was he unmindful of his habitation in the
beacon—now far overtopped by the masonry,—where he had spent several
weeks in a kind of active retirement, making practical experiment of the
fewness of the positive wants of man.  His cabin measured not more than
four feet three inches in breadth on the floor; and though, from the
oblique direction of the beams of the beacon, it widened towards the top,
yet it did not admit of the full extension of his arms when he stood on
the floor; while its length was little more than sufficient for
suspending a cot-bed during the night, calculated for being triced up to
the roof through the day, which left free room for the admission of
occasional visitants.  His folding table was attached with hinges,
immediately under the small window of the apartment, and his books,
barometer, thermometer, portmanteau, and two or three camp-stools, formed
the bulk of his movables.  His diet being plain, the paraphernalia of the
table were proportionally simple; though everything had the appearance of
comfort, and even of neatness, the walls being covered with green cloth
formed into panels with red tape, and his bed festooned with curtains of
yellow cotton-stuff.  If, in speculating upon the abstract wants of man
in such a state of exclusion, one were reduced to a single book, the
Sacred Volume—whether considered for the striking diversity of its story,
the morality of its doctrine, or the important truths of its gospel—would
have proved by far the greatest treasure.

                                                        [Monday, 2nd July]

In walking over the workyard at Arbroath this morning, the writer found
that the stones of the course immediately under the cornice were all in
hand, and that a week’s work would now finish the whole, while the
intermediate courses lay ready numbered and marked for shipping to the
rock.  Among other subjects which had occupied his attention to-day was a
visit from some of the relations of George Dall, a young man who had been
impressed near Dundee in the month of February last; a dispute had arisen
between the magistrates of that burgh and the Regulating Officer as to
his right of impressing Dall, who was _bonâ fide_ one of the protected
seamen in the Bell Rock service.  In the meantime, the poor lad was
detained, and ultimately committed to the prison of Dundee, to remain
until the question should be tried before the Court of Session.  His
friends were naturally very desirous to have him relieved upon bail.
But, as this was only to be done by the judgment of the Court, all that
could be said was that his pay and allowances should be continued in the
same manner as if he had been upon the sick-list.  The circumstances of
Dall’s case were briefly these:—He had gone to see some of his friends in
the neighbourhood of Dundee, in winter, while the works were suspended,
having got leave of absence from Mr. Taylor, who commanded the Bell Rock
tender, and had in his possession one of the Protection Medals.
Unfortunately, however, for Dall, the Regulating Officer thought proper
to disregard these documents, as, according to the strict and literal
interpretation of the Admiralty regulations, a seaman does not stand
protected unless he is actually on board of his ship, or in a boat
belonging to her, or has the Admiralty protection in his possession.
This order of the Board, however, cannot be rigidly followed in practice;
and therefore, when the matter is satisfactorily stated to the Regulating
Officer, the impressed man is generally liberated.  But in Dall’s case
this was peremptorily refused, and he was retained at the instance of the
magistrates.  The writer having brought the matter under the
consideration of the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses, they
authorised it to be tried on the part of the Lighthouse Board, as one of
extreme hardship.  The Court, upon the first hearing, ordered Dall to be
liberated from prison; and the proceedings never went further.

                                                     [Wednesday, 4th July]

Being now within twelve courses of being ready for building the cornice,
measures were taken for getting the stones of it and the parapet-wall of
the light-room brought from Edinburgh, where, as before noticed, they had
been prepared and were in readiness for shipping.  The honour of
conveying the upper part of the lighthouse, and of landing the last stone
of the building on the rock, was considered to belong to Captain Pool of
the _Smeaton_, who had been longer in the service than the master of the
_Patriot_.  The _Smeaton_ was, therefore, now partly loaded with old
iron, consisting of broken railways and other lumber which had been lying
about the rock.  After landing these at Arbroath, she took on board James
Craw, with his horse and cart, which could now be spared at the workyard,
to be employed in carting the stones from Edinburgh to Leith.  Alexander
Davidson and William Kennedy, two careful masons, were also sent to take
charge of the loading of the stones at Greenside, and stowing them on
board of the vessel at Leith.  The writer also went on board, with a view
to call at the Bell Rock and to take his passage up the Firth of Forth.
The wind, however, coming to blow very fresh from the eastward, with
thick and foggy weather, it became necessary to reef the mainsail and set
the second jib.  When in the act of making a tack towards the tender, the
sailors who worked the head-sheets were, all of a sudden, alarmed with
the sound of the smith’s hammer and anvil on the beacon, and had just
time to put the ship about to save her from running ashore on the
northwestern point of the rock, marked ‘James Craw’s Horse.’  On looking
towards the direction from whence the sound came, the building and
beacon-house were seen, with consternation, while the ship was hailed by
those on the rock, who were no less confounded at seeing the near
approach of the _Smeaton_; and, just as the vessel cleared the danger,
the smith and those in the mortar gallery made signs in token of their
happiness at our fortunate escape.  From this occurrence the writer had
an experimental proof of the utility of the large bells which were in
preparation to be rung by the machinery of the revolving light; for, had
it not been the sound of the smith’s anvil, the _Smeaton_, in all
probability, would have been wrecked upon the rock.  In case the vessel
had struck, those on board might have been safe, having now the
beacon-house, as a place of refuge; but the vessel, which was going at a
great velocity, must have suffered severely, and it was more than
probable that the horse would have been drowned, there being no means of
getting him out of the vessel.  Of this valuable animal and his master we
shall take an opportunity of saying more in another place.

                                                      [Thursday, 5th July]

The weather cleared up in the course of the night, but the wind shifted
to the N.E. and blew very fresh.  From the force of the wind, being now
the period of spring-tides, a very heavy swell was experienced at the
rock.  At two o’clock on the following morning the people on the beacon
were in a state of great alarm about their safety, as the sea had broke
up part of the floor of the mortar gallery!, which was thus cleared of
the lime-casks and other buoyant articles; and, the alarm-bell being
rung, all hands were called to render what assistance was in their power
for the safety of themselves and the materials.  At this time some would
willingly have left the beacon and gone into the building: the sea,
however, ran so high that there was no passage along the bridge of
communication, and, when the interior of the lighthouse came to be
examined in the morning, it appeared that great quantities of water had
come over the walls—now eighty feet in height—and had run down through
the several apartments and out at the entrance door.

The upper course of the lighthouse at the workyard of Arbroath was
completed on the 6th, and the whole of the stones were, therefore, now
ready for being shipped to the rock.  From the present state of the works
it was impossible that the two squads of artificers at Arbroath and the
Bell Rock could meet together at this period; and as in public works of
this kind, which had continued for a series of years, it is not customary
to allow the men to separate without what is termed a “finishing-pint,”
five guineas were for this purpose placed at the disposal of Mr. David
Logan, clerk of works.  With this sum the stone-cutters at Arbroath had a
merry meeting in their barrack, collected their sweethearts and friends,
and concluded their labours with a dance.  It was remarked, however, that
their happiness on this occasion was not without alloy.  The
consideration of parting and leaving a steady and regular employment, to
go in quest of work and mix with other society, after having been
harmoniously lodged for years together in one large “guildhall or
barrack,” was rather painful.

                                                        [Friday, 6th July]

While the writer was at Edinburgh he was fortunate enough to meet with
Mrs. Dickson, only daughter of the late celebrated Mr. Smeaton, whose
works at the Eddystone Lighthouse had been of such essential consequence
to the operations at the Bell Rock.  Even her own elegant accomplishments
are identified with her father’s work, she having herself made the
drawing of the vignette on the title-page of the _Narrative of the
Eddystone Lighthouse_.  Every admirer of the works of that singularly
eminent man must also feel an obligation to her for the very
comprehensive and distinct account given of his life, which is attached
to his reports, published, in three volumes quarto, by the Society of
Civil Engineers.  Mrs. Dickson, being at this time returning from a tour
to the Hebrides and Western Highlands of Scotland, had heard of the Bell
Rock works, and from their similarity to those of the Eddystone was
strongly impressed with a desire of visiting the spot.  But on inquiring
for the writer at Edinburgh, and finding from him that the upper part of
the lighthouse, consisting of nine courses, might be seen in the
immediate vicinity, and also that one of the vessels which, in compliment
to her father’s memory, had been named the _Smeaton_, might also now be
seen in Leith, she considered herself extremely fortunate; and having
first visited the works at Greenside, she afterwards went to Leith to see
the _Smeaton_, then loading for the Bell Rock.  On stepping on board,
Mrs. Dickson seemed to be quite overcome with so many concurrent
circumstances, tending in a peculiar manner to revive and enliven the
memory of her departed father, and, on leaving the vessel, she would not
be restrained from presenting the crew with a piece of money.  The
_Smeaton_ had been named spontaneously, from a sense of the obligation
which a public work of the description of the Bell Rock owed to the
labours and abilities of Mr. Smeaton.  The writer certainly never could
have anticipated the satisfaction which he this day felt in witnessing
the pleasure it afforded to the only representative of this great man’s

                                                       [Friday, 20th July]

The gale from the N.E. still continued so strong, accompanied with a
heavy sea, that the _Patriot_ could not approach her moorings; and
although the tender still kept her station, no landing was made to-day at
the rock.  At high-water it was remarked that the spray rose to the
height of about sixty feet upon the building.  The _Smeaton_ now lay in
Leith loaded, but, the wind and weather being so unfavourable for her
getting down the Firth, she did not sail till this afternoon.  It may be
here proper to notice that the loading of the centre of the light-room
floor, or last principal stone of the building, did not fail, when put on
board, to excite an interest among those connected with the work.  When
the stone was laid upon the cart to be conveyed to Leith, the seamen
fixed an ensign-staff and flag into the circular hole in the centre of
the stone, and decorated their own hats, and that of James Craw, the Bell
Rock carter, with ribbons; even his faithful and trusty horse Brassey was
ornamented with bows and streamers of various colours.  The masons also
provided themselves with new aprons, and in this manner the cart was
attended in its progress to the ship.  When the cart came opposite the
Trinity House of Leith, the officer of that corporation made his
appearance dressed in his uniform, with his staff of office; and when it
reached the harbour, the shipping in the different tiers where the
_Smeaton_ lay hoisted their colours, manifesting by these trifling
ceremonies the interest with which the progress of this work was regarded
by the public, as ultimately tending to afford safety and protection to
the mariner.  The wind had fortunately shifted to the S.W., and about
five o’clock this afternoon the _Smeaton_ reached the Bell Rock.

                                                       [Friday, 27th July]

The artificers had finished the laying of the balcony course, excepting
the centre-stone of the light-room floor, which, like the centres of the
other floors, could not be laid in its place till after the removal of
the foot and shaft of the balance-crane.  During the dinner-hour, when
the men were off work the writer generally took some exercise by walking
round the walls when the rock was under water; but to-day his boundary
was greatly enlarged, for, instead of the narrow wall as a path, he felt
no small degree of pleasure in walking round the balcony and passing out
and in at the space allotted for the light-room door.  In the labours of
this day both the artificers and seamen felt their work to be extremely
easy compared with what it had been for some days past.

                                                       [Sunday, 29th July]

Captain Wilson and his crew had made preparations for landing the last
stone, and, as may well be supposed, this was a day of great interest at
the Bell Rock.  ‘That it might lose none of its honours,’ as he expressed
himself, the _Hedderwick_ praam-boat, with which the first stone of the
building had been landed, was appointed also to carry the last.  At seven
o’clock this evening the seamen hoisted three flags upon the
_Hedderwick_, when the colours of the _Dickie_ praam-boat, tender,
_Smeaton_, floating light, beacon-house, and lighthouse were also
displayed; and, the weather being remarkably fine, the whole presented a
very gay appearance, and, in connection with the associations excited,
the effect was very pleasing.  The praam which carried the stone was
towed by the seamen in gallant style to the rock, and, on its arrival,
cheers were given as a finale to the landing department.

                                                       [Monday, 30th July]

The ninetieth or last course of the building having been laid to-day,
which brought the masonry to the height of one hundred and two feet six
inches, the lintel of the light-room door, being the finishing-stone of
the exterior walls, was laid with due formality by the writer, who, at
the same time, pronounced the following benediction: “May the Great
Architect of the Universe, under whose blessing this perilous work has
prospered, preserve it as a guide to the mariner.”

                                                        [Friday, 3rd Aug.]

At three p.m., the necessary preparations having been made, the
artificers commenced the completing of the floors of the several
apartments, and at seven o’clock the centre-stone of the light-room floor
was laid, which may be held as finishing the masonry of this important
national edifice.  After going through the usual ceremonies observed by
the brotherhood on occasions of this kind, the writer, addressing himself
to the artificers and seamen who were present, briefly alluded to the
utility of the undertaking as a monument of the wealth of British
commerce, erected through the spirited measures of the Commissioners of
the Northern Lighthouses by means of the able assistance of those who now
surrounded him.  He then took an opportunity of stating that toward those
connected with this arduous work he would ever retain the most heartfelt
regard in all their interests.

                                                      [Saturday, 4th Aug.]

When the bell was rung as usual on the beacon this morning, every one
seemed as if he were at a loss what to make of himself.  At this period
the artificers at the rock consisted of eighteen masons, two joiners, one
millwright, one smith, and one mortar-maker, besides Messrs. Peter Logan
and Francis Watt, foremen, counting in all twenty-five; and matters were
arranged for proceeding to Arbroath this afternoon with all hands.  The
_Sir Joseph Banks_ tender had by this time been afloat, with little
intermission, for six months, during greater part of which the artificers
had been almost constantly off at the rock, and were now much in want of
necessaries of almost every description.  Not a few had lost different
articles of clothing, which had dropped into the sea from the beacon and
building.  Some wanted jackets; others, from want of hats, wore
nightcaps; each was, in fact, more or less curtailed in his wardrobe, and
it must be confessed that at best the party were but in a very tattered
condition.  This morning was occupied in removing the artificers and
their bedding on board of the tender; and although their personal luggage
was easily shifted, the boats had, nevertheless, many articles to remove
from the beacon-house, and were consequently employed in this service
till eleven a.m.  All hands being collected and just ready to embark, as
the water had nearly overflowed the rock, the writer, in taking leave,
after alluding to the harmony which had ever marked the conduct of those
employed on the Bell Rock, took occasion to compliment the great zeal,
attention, and abilities of Mr. Peter Logan and Mr. Francis Watt,
foremen; Captain James Wilson, landing-master; and Captain David Taylor,
commander of the tender, who, in their several departments, had so
faithfully discharged the duties assigned to them, often under
circumstances the most difficult and trying.  The health of these
gentlemen was drunk with much warmth of feeling by the artificers and
seamen, who severally expressed the satisfaction they had experienced in
acting under them; after which the whole party left the rock.

In sailing past the floating light mutual compliments were made by a
display of flags between that vessel and the tender; and at five p.m. the
latter vessel entered the harbour of Arbroath, where the party were
heartily welcomed by a numerous company of spectators, who had collected
to see the artificers arrive after so long an absence from the port.  In
the evening the writer invited the foremen and captains of the service,
together with Mr. David Logan, clerk of works at Arbroath, and Mr.
Lachlan Kennedy, engineer’s clerk and book-keeper, and some of their
friends, to the principal inn, where the evening was spent very happily;
and after ‘His Majesty’s Health’ and ‘The Commissioners of the Northern
Lighthouses’ had been given, ‘Stability to the Bell Rock Lighthouse’ was
hailed as a standing toast in the Lighthouse service.

                                                        [Sunday, 5th Aug.]

The author has formerly noticed the uniformly decent and orderly
deportment of the artificers who were employed at the Bell Rock
Lighthouse, and to-day, it is believed, they very generally attended
church, no doubt with grateful hearts for the narrow escapes from
personal danger which all of them had more or less experienced during
their residence at the rock.

                                                      [Tuesday, 14th Aug.]

The _Smeaton_ sailed to-day at one p.m., having on board sixteen
artificers, with Mr. Peter Logan, together with a supply of provisions
and necessaries, who left the harbour pleased and happy to find
themselves once more afloat in the Bell Rock service.  At seven o’clock
the tender was made fast to her moorings, when the artificers landed on
the rock and took possession of their old quarters in the beacon-house,
with feelings very different from those of 1807, when the works

The barometer for some days past had been falling from 29.90, and to-day
it was 29.50, with the wind at N.E., which, in the course of this day,
increased to a strong gale accompanied with a sea which broke with great
violence upon the rock.  At twelve noon the tender rode very heavily at
her moorings, when her chain broke at about ten fathoms from the ships
bows. The kedge-anchor was immediately let go, to hold her till the
floating buoy and broken chain should be got on board.  But while this
was in operation the hawser of the kedge was chafed through on the rocky
bottom and parted, when the vessel was again adrift.  Most fortunately,
however, she cast off with her head from the rock, and narrowly cleared
it, when she sailed up the Firth of Forth to wait the return of better
weather.  The artificers were thus left upon the rock with so heavy a sea
running that it was ascertained to have risen to a height of eighty feet
on the building.  Under such perilous circumstances it would be difficult
to describe the feelings of those who, at this time, were cooped up in
the beacon in so forlorn a situation, with the sea not only raging under
them, but occasionally falling from a great height upon the roof of their
temporary lodging, without even the attending vessel in view to afford
the least gleam of hope in the event of any accident.  It is true that
they now had the masonry of the lighthouse to resort to, which, no doubt,
lessened the actual danger of their situation; but the building was still
without a roof, and the deadlights, or storm-shutters, not being yet
fitted, the windows of the lower story were stove in and broken, and at
high-water the sea ran in considerable quantities out at the entrance

                                                     [Thursday, 16th Aug.]

The gale continues with unabated violence to-day, and the sprays rise to
a still greater height, having been carried over the masonry of the
building, or about ninety feet above the level of the sea.  At four
o’clock this morning it was breaking into the cook’s berth, when he rang
the alarm-bell, and all hands turned out to attend to their personal
safety.  The floor of the smith’s, or mortar gallery, was now completely
burst up by the force of the sea, when the whole of the deals and the
remaining articles upon the floor were swept away, such as the cast-iron
mortar-tubs, the iron hearth of the forge, the smith’s bellows, and even
his anvil were thrown down upon the rock.  Before the tide rose to its
full height to-day some of the artificers passed along the bridge into
the lighthouse, to observe the effects of the sea upon it, and they
reported that they had felt a slight tremulous motion in the building
when great seas struck it in a certain direction, about high-water mark.
On this occasion the sprays were again observed to wet the balcony, and
even to come over the parapet wall into the interior of the light-room.

                                                     [Thursday, 23rd Aug.]

The wind being at W.S.W., and the weather more moderate, both the tender
and the _Smeaton_ got to their moorings on the 23rd, when all hands were
employed in transporting the sash-frames from on board of the _Smeaton_
to the rock.  In the act of setting up one of these frames upon the
bridge, it was unguardedly suffered to lose its balance, and in saving it
from damage Captain Wilson met with a severe bruise in the groin, on the
seat of a gun-shot wound received in the early part of his life.  This
accident laid him aside for several days.

                                                       [Monday, 27th Aug.]

The sash-frames of the light-room, eight in number, and weighing each 254
pounds, having been got safely up to the top of the building, were ranged
on the balcony in the order in which they were numbered for their places
on the top of the parapet-wall; and the balance-crane, that useful
machine having now lifted all the heavier articles, was unscrewed and
lowered, to use the landing-master’s phrase, ‘in mournful silence.’

                                                       [Sunday, 2nd Sept.]

The steps of the stair being landed, and all the weightier articles of
the light-room got up to the balcony, the wooden bridge was now to be
removed, as it had a very powerful effect upon the beacon when a heavy
sea struck it, and could not possibly have withstood the storms of a
winter.  Everything having been cleared from the bridge, and nothing left
but the two principal beams with their horizontal braces, James Glen, at
high-water, proceeded with a saw to cut through the beams at the end next
the beacon, which likewise disengaged their opposite extremity, inserted
a few inches into the building.  The frame was then gently lowered into
the water, and floated off to the _Smeaton_ to be towed to Arbroath, to
be applied as part of the materials in the erection of the lightkeepers’
houses.  After the removal of the bridge, the aspect of things at the
rock was much altered.  The beacon-house and building had both a naked
look to those accustomed to their former appearance; a curious optical
deception was also remarked, by which the lighthouse seemed to incline
from the perpendicular towards the beacon.  The horizontal rope-ladder
before noticed was again stretched to preserve the communication, and the
artificers were once more obliged to practise the awkward and straddling
manner of their passage between them during 1809.

At twelve noon the bell rung for prayers, after which the artificers went
to dinner, when the writer passed along the rope-ladder to the
lighthouse, and went through the several apartments, which were now
cleared of lumber.  In the afternoon all hands were summoned to the
interior of the house, when he had the satisfaction of laying the upper
step of the stair, or last stone of the building.  This ceremony
concluded with three cheers, the sound of which had a very loud and
strange effect within the walls of the lighthouse.  At six o’clock Mr.
Peter Logan and eleven of the artificers embarked with the writer for
Arbroath, leaving Mr. James Glen with the special charge of the beacon
and railways, Mr. Robert Selkirk with the building, with a few artificers
to fit the temporary windows to render the house habitable.

                                                       [Sunday, 14th Oct.]

On returning from his voyage to the Northern Lighthouses, the writer
landed at the Bell Rock on Sunday, the 14th of October, and had the
pleasure to find, from the very favourable state of the weather, that the
artificers had been enabled to make great progress with the fitting-up of
the light-room.

                                                       [Friday, 19th Oct.]

The light-room work had proceeded, as usual, to-day under the direction
of Mr. Dove, assisted in the plumber-work by Mr. John Gibson, and in the
brazier-work by Mr. Joseph Fraser; while Mr. James Slight, with the
joiners, were fitting up the storm-shuttters of the windows.  In these
several departments the artificers were at work till seven o’clock p.m.,
and it being then dark, Mr. Dove gave orders to drop work in the
light-room; and all hands proceeded from thence to the beacon-house, when
Charles Henderson, smith, and Henry Dickson, brazier, left the work
together.  Being both young men, who had been for several weeks upon the
rock, they had become familiar, and even playful, on the most difficult
parts about the beacon and building.  This evening they were trying to
outrun each other in descending from the light-room, when Henderson led
the way; but they were in conversation with each other till they came to
the rope-ladder distended between the entrance-door of the lighthouse and
the beacon.  Dickson, on reaching the cook-room, was surprised at not
seeing his companion, and inquired hastily for Henderson.  Upon which the
cook replied, ‘Was he before you upon the rope-ladder?’  Dickson
answered, ‘Yes; and I thought I heard something fall.’  Upon this the
alarm was given, and links were immediately lighted, with which the
artificers descended on the legs of the beacon, as near the surface of
the water as possible, it being then about full tide, and the sea
breaking to a considerable height upon the building, with the wind at
S.S.E.  But, after watching till low-water, and searching in every
direction upon the rock, it appeared that poor Henderson must have
unfortunately fallen through the rope-ladder, and been washed into the
deep water.

The deceased had passed along this rope-ladder many hundred times, both
by day and night, and the operations in which he was employed being
nearly finished, he was about to leave the rock when this melancholy
catastrophe took place.  The unfortunate loss of Henderson cast a deep
gloom upon the minds of all who were at the rock, and it required some
management on the part of those who had charge to induce the people to
remain patiently at their work; as the weather now became more
boisterous, and the nights long, they found their habitation extremely
cheerless, while the winds were howling about their ears, and the waves
lashing with fury against the beams of their insulated habitation.

                                                      [Tuesday, 23rd Oct.]

The wind had shifted in the night to N.W., and blew a fresh gale, while
the sea broke with violence upon the rock.  It was found impossible to
land, but the writer, from the boat, hailed Mr. Dove, and directed the
ball to be immediately fixed.  The necessary preparations were
accordingly made, while the vessel made short tacks on the southern side
of the rock, in comparatively smooth water.  At noon Mr. Dove, assisted
by Mr. James Slight, Mr. Robert Selkirk, Mr. James Glen, and Mr. John
Gibson, plumber, with considerable difficulty, from the boisterous state
of the weather, got the gilded ball screwed on, measuring two feet in
diameter, and forming the principal ventilator at the upper extremity of
the cupola of the light-room.  At Mr. Hamilton’s desire, a salute of
seven guns was fired on this occasion, and, all hands being called to the
quarter-deck, ‘Stability to the Bell Rock Lighthouse’ was not forgotten.

                                                      [Tuesday, 30th Oct.]

On reaching the rock it was found that a very heavy sea still ran upon
it; but the writer having been disappointed on two former occasions, and,
as the erection of the house might now be considered complete, there
being nothing wanted externally, excepting some of the storm-shutters for
the defence of the windows, he was the more anxious at this time to
inspect it.  Two well-manned boats were therefore ordered to be in
attendance; and, after some difficulty, the wind being at N.N.E., they
got safely into the western creek, though not without encountering
plentiful sprays.  It would have been impossible to have attempted a
landing to-day, under any other circumstances than with boats perfectly
adapted to the purpose, and with seamen who knew every ledge of the rock,
and even the length of the sea-weeds at each particular spot, so as to
dip their oars into the water accordingly, and thereby prevent them from
getting entangled.  But what was of no less consequence to the safety of
the party, Captain Wilson, who always steered the boat, had a perfect
knowledge of the set of the different waves, while the crew never shifted
their eyes from observing his motions, and the strictest silence was
preserved by every individual except himself.

On entering the house, the writer had the pleasure to find it in a
somewhat habitable condition, the lower apartments being closed in with
temporary windows, and fitted with proper storm-shutters.  The lowest
apartment at the head of the staircase was occupied with water, fuel, and
provisions, put up in a temporary way until the house could be furnished
with proper utensils.  The second, or light-room store, was at present
much encumbered with various tools and apparatus for the use of the
workmen.  The kitchen immediately over this had, as yet, been supplied
only with a common ship’s caboose and plate-iron funnel, while the
necessary cooking utensils had been taken from the beacon.  The bedroom
was for the present used as the joiners’ workshop, and the strangers’
room, immediately under the light-room, was occupied by the artificers,
the beds being ranged in tiers, as was done in the barrack of the beacon.
The light-room, though unprovided with its machinery, being now covered
over with the cupola, glazed and painted, had a very complete and cleanly
appearance.  The balcony was only as yet fitted with a temporary rail,
consisting of a few iron stanchions, connected with ropes; and in this
state it was necessary to leave it during the winter.

Having gone over the whole of the low-water works on the rock, the
beacon, and lighthouse, and being satisfied that only the most untoward
accident in the landing of the machinery could prevent the exhibition of
the light in the course of the winter, Mr. John Reid, formerly of the
floating light, was now put in charge of the lighthouse as principal
keeper; Mr. James Slight had charge of the operations of the artificers,
while Mr. James Dove and the smiths, having finished the frame of the
light-room, left the rock for the present.  With these arrangements the
writer bade adieu to the works for the season.  At eleven a.m. the tide
was far advanced; and there being now little or no shelter for the boats
at the rock, they had to be pulled through the breach of sea, which came
on board in great quantities, and it was with extreme difficulty that
they could be kept in the proper direction of the landing-creek.  On this
occasion he may be permitted to look back with gratitude on the many
escapes made in the course of this arduous undertaking, now brought so
near to a successful conclusion.

                                                        [Monday, 5th Nov.]

On Monday, the 5th, the yacht again visited the rock, when Mr. Slight and
the artificers returned with her to the workyard, where a number of
things were still to prepare connected with the temporary fitting up of
the accommodation for the lightkeepers.  Mr. John Reid and Peter Fortune
were now the only inmates of the house.  This was the smallest number of
persons hitherto left in the lighthouse.  As four lightkeepers were to be
the complement, it was intended that three should always be at the rock.
Its present inmates, however, could hardly have been better selected for
such a situation; Mr. Reid being a person possessed of the strictest
notions of duty and habits of regularity from long service on board of a
man-of-war, while Mr. Fortune had one of the most happy and contented
dispositions imaginable.

                                                      [Tuesday, 13th Nov.]

From Saturday the 10th till Tuesday the 13th, the wind had been from N.E.
blowing a heavy gale; but to-day, the weather having greatly moderated,
Captain Taylor, who now commanded the _Smeaton_, sailed at two o’clock
a.m. for the Bell Rock.  At five the floating light was hailed and found
to be all well.  Being a fine moonlight morning, the seamen were changed
from the one ship to the other.  At eight, the _Smeaton_ being off the
rock, the boats were manned, and taking a supply of water, fuel, and
other necessaries, landed at the western side, when Mr. Reid and Mr.
Fortune were found in good health and spirits.

Mr. Reid stated that during the late gales, particularly on Friday, the
30th, the wind veering from S.E. to N.E., both he and Mr. Fortune
sensibly felt the house tremble when particular seas struck, about the
time of high-water; the former observing that it was a tremor of that
sort which rather tended to convince him that everything about the
building was sound, and reminded him of the effect produced when a good
log of timber is struck sharply with a mallet; but, with every confidence
in the stability of the building, he nevertheless confessed that, in so
forlorn a situation, they were not insensible to those emotions which, he
emphatically observed, ‘made a man look back upon his former life.’

                                                   [1881 Friday, 1st Feb.]

The day, long wished for, on which the mariner was to see a light
exhibited on the Bell Rock at length arrived.  Captain Wilson, as usual,
hoisted the float’s lanterns to the topmast on the evening of the 1st of
February; but the moment that the light appeared on the rock, the crew,
giving three cheers, lowered them, and finally extinguished the lights.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

         Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
                    at the Edinburgh University Press.


{2a}  An error: Stevensons owned at this date the barony of Dolphingston
in Haddingtonshire, Montgrennan in Ayrshire, and several other lesser

{3a}  Pitcairn’s _Criminal Trials_, at large.—[R. L. S.]

{4a}  Fountainhall’s _Decisions_, vol. i. pp. 56, 132, 186, 204, 368.—[R.
L. S.]

{4b}  _Ibid._ pp. 158, 299.—[R. L. S.]

{4c}  Working farmer:  Fr. _laboureur_.

{7a}  This John Stevenson was not the only ‘witness’ of the name; other
Stevensons were actually killed during the persecutions, in the Glen of
Trool, on Pentland, etc.; and it is very possible that the author’s own
ancestor was one of the mounted party embodied by Muir of Caldwell, only
a day too late for Pentland.

{7b}  Wodrow Society’s _Select Biographies_, vol. ii.—[R. L. S.]

{9a}  Though the districts here named are those in which the name of
Stevenson is most common, it is in point of fact far more wide-spread
than the text indicates, and occurs from Dumfries and Berwickshire to
Aberdeen and Orkney.

{12a}  Mr. J. H. Stevenson is satisfied that these speculations as to a
possible Norse, Highland, or French origin are vain.  All we know about
the engineer family is that it was sprung from a stock of Westland Whigs
settled in the latter part of the seventeenth century in the parish of
Neilston, as mentioned at the beginning of the next chapter.  It may be
noted that the Ayrshire parish of Stevenston, the lands of which are said
to have received the name in the twelfth century, lies within thirteen
miles south-west of this place.  The lands of Stevenson in Lanarkshire
first mentioned in the next century, in the Ragman Roll, lie within
twenty miles east.

{54a}  This is only a probable hypothesis; I have tried to identify my
father’s anecdote in my grandfather’s diary, and may very well have been
deceived.—[R. L. S.]

{91a}  This is, of course, the tradition commemorated by Southey in his
ballad of ‘The Inchcape Bell.’  Whether true or not, it points to the
fact that from the infancy of Scottish navigation, the seafaring mind had
been fully alive to the perils of this reef.  Repeated attempts had been
made to mark the place with beacons, but all efforts were unavailing (one
such beacon having been carried away within eight days of its erection)
until Robert Stevenson conceived and carried out the idea of the stone
tower.  But the number of vessels actually lost upon the reef was as
nothing to those that were cast away in fruitless efforts to avoid it.
Placed right in the fairway of two navigations, and one of these the
entrance to the only harbour of refuge between the Downs and the Moray
Firth, it breathed abroad along the whole coast an atmosphere of terror
and perplexity; and no ship sailed that part of the North Sea at night,
but what the ears of those on board would be strained to catch the
roaring of the seas on the Bell Rock.

{92a}  The particular event which concentrated Mr. Stevenson’s attention
on the problem of the Bell Rock was the memorable gale of December 1799,
when, among many other vessels, H.M.S. _York_, a seventy-four-gun ship,
went down with all hands on board.  Shortly after this disaster Mr.
Stevenson made a careful survey, and prepared his models for a stone
tower, the idea of which was at first received with pretty general
scepticism, Smeaton’s Eddystone tower could not be cited as affording a
parallel, for there the rock is not submerged even at high-water, while
the problem of the Bell Rock was to build a tower of masonry on a sunken
reef far distant from land, covered at every tide to a depth of twelve
feet or more, and having thirty-two fathoms’ depth of water within a mile
of its eastern edge.

{94a}  The grounds for the rejection of the Bill by the House of Lords in
1802–3 had been that the extent of coast over which dues were proposed to
be levied would be too great.  Before going to Parliament again, the
Board of Northern Lights, desiring to obtain support and corroboration
for Mr. Stevenson’s views, consulted first Telford, who was unable to
give the matter his attention, and then (on Stevenson’s suggestion)
Rennie, who concurred in affirming the practicability of a stone tower,
and supported the Bill when it came again before Parliament in 1806.
Rennie was afterwards appointed by the Commissioners as advising
engineer, whom Stevenson might consult in cases of emergency.  It seems
certain that the title of chief engineer had in this instance no more
meaning than the above.  Rennie, in point of fact, proposed certain
modifications in Stevenson’s plans, which the latter did not accept;
nevertheless Rennie continued to take a kindly interest in the work, and
the two engineers remained in friendly correspondence during its
progress.  The official view taken by the Board as to the quarter in
which lay both the merit and the responsibility of the work may be
gathered from a minute of the Commissioners at their first meeting held
after Stevenson died; in which they record their regret ‘at the death of
this zealous, faithful, and able officer, _to whom is due the honour of
conceiving and executing the Bell Rock Lighthouse_.’  The matter is
briefly summed up in the _Life_ of Robert Stevenson by his son David
Stevenson (A. & C. Black, 1878), and fully discussed, on the basis of
official facts and figures, by the same writer in a letter to the _Civil
Engineers’ and Architects’ Journal_, 1862.

{122a}  ‘Nothing was said, but I was _looked out of countenance_,’ he
says in a letter.

{171a}  Ill-formed—ugly.—[R. L. S.]

{174a}  This is an incurable illusion of my grandfather’s; he always
writes ‘distended’ for ‘extended.’—[R. L. S.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Records of a Family of Engineers" ***

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