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Full text of "Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin : records of a family of engineers"



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University of California • Berkeley 

From the Collection of 
Joseph Z. Todd 

Gift of 
Hatherly B. Todd 



ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 

Vol. XVIII 

MEMOIR OF FLEEMING 
JENKIN SE Sg RECORDS OF 
A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 



LETTERS and MISCEL- 
LANIES OF ROBERT 
LOUIS STEVENSON 



MEMOIR Of 
ING JENKs * 

CQtaaaSatiRAft<ifiAMILY 
OF ENGINEERS fc * fc 



CH 

sons at t 



LETTERS and MISCEL- 
LANIES OF ROBERT 
LOUIS STEVENSON 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM- 
ING JENKIN * % 
RECORDS OF A FAMILY 
OF ENGINEERS % SB IE 



fc PUBLISHED IN 
NEW YORK BY 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S 
SONS * SB 1907 * 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN i 

RECORDS OF A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS . .191 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 



Chapter I. 

PAGE 

The Jenkins of Stowting — Fleeming's Grandfather — Mrs. Buck- 
ner's Fortune — Fleeming's Father; Goes to Sea; at St. 
Helena ; Meets King Tom ; Service in the West Indies ; 
End of his Career — The Campbell-Jacksons — Fleeming's 
Mother— Fleeming's Uncle John I 



Chapter II. 1833- 1851 

Birth and Childhood — Edinburgh — Frankfort-on-the-Main — 
Paris — The Revolution of 1848 — The Insurrection — Flight 
to Italy — Sympathy with Italy — The Insurrection in Genoa 
—A Student in Genoa — The Lad and his Mother ... 24 



Chapter III. 1851-1858 

Return to England — Fleeming at Fairbairn's — Experience in a 
Strike — Dr. Bell and Greek Architecture — The Gaskells — 
Fleeming at Greenwich — The Austins — Fleeming and the 
Austins — His Engagement— Fleeming and Sir W. Thomson . 49 

Chapter IV. 1859-1868 

Fleeming's Marriage — His Married Life — Professional Diffi- 
culties — Life at Claygate — Illness of Mrs. F. Jenkin; and of 
Fleeming — Appointment to the Chair at Edinburgh ... 60 

vii 



CONTENTS 

Chapter V. PAGB 

Notes of Telegraph Voyages, 1858 to 1873 84 

Chapter VI. 1869- 1885 

Edinburgh — Colleagues — Farrago Vitaz — I. The Family Cir- 
cle — Fleeming and his Sons — Highland Life — The Cruise of 
the Steam Launch — Summer in Styria — Rustic Manners — 
II. The Drama— Private Theatricals — III. Sanitary Asso- 
ciations — The Phonograph — IV. Fleeming's Acquaintance 
with a Student — His late Maturity of Mind — Religion and 
Morality — His Love of Heroism —Taste in Literature — V. 
His Talk — His Late Popularity — Letter from M. Trelat . 136 

Chapter VII. 1875- 1885 

Mrs. Jenkin's Illness — Captain Jenkin — The Golden Wedding — 
Death of Uncle John — Death of Mr. and Mrs. Austin — Ill- 
ness and Death of the Captain — Death of Mrs. Jenkin — Effect 
on Fleeming — Telpherage — The End 177 



RECORDS OF A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 



INTRODUCTION 195 

I. DOMESTIC ANNALS 205 

II. THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS ... 232 

III. THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 267 



viii 



PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION 

On the death of Fleeming Jenkin, his family and friends determined 
to publish a selection of his various papers; by way of introduction, 
the following pages were drawn up; and the whole, forming two 
considerable volumes, has been issued in England. In the States, it 
has not been thought advisable to reproduce the whole; and the 
memoir appearing alone, shorn of that other matter which was at 
once its occasion and its justification, so large an account of a man 
so little known may seem to a stranger out of all proportion. But 
Jenkin was a man much more remarkable than the mere bulk or merit 
of his work approves him. It was in the world, in the commerce of 
friendship, by his brave attitude towards life, by his high moral 
value and unwearied intellectual effort, that he struck the minds of 
his contemporaries. His was an individual figure, such as authors 
delight to draw, and all men to read of, in the pages of a novel. 
His was a face worth painting for its own sake. If the sitter shall 
not seem to have justified the portrait, if Jenkin, after his death, shall 
not continue to make new friends, the fault will be altogether mine. 

R. L. S. 
Saranac, Oct., 1887. 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 



CHAPTER I 

The Jenkins of Stowting — Fleeming's grandfather — Mrs. Buckner's 
fortune — Fleeming's father; goes to sea; at St. Helena; meets 
King Tom; service in the West Indies; end of his career — The 
Campbell-Jackson s — Fleeming's mother — Fleeming's uncle John. 

IN the reign of Henry VIII., a family of the name of 
Jenkin, claiming to come from York, and bearing 
the arms of Jenkin ap Philip of St. Melans, are found 
reputably settled in the county of Kent. Persons of 
strong genealogical pinion pass from William Jenkin, 
Mayor of Folkestone in 1555, to his contemporary "John 
Jenkin, of the Citie of York, Receiver General of the 
County," and thence, by way of Jenkin ap Philip, to the 
proper summit of any Cambrian pedigree — a prince; 
"Guaith Voeth, Lord of Cardigan," the name and style 
of him. It may suffice, however, for the present, that 
these Kentish Jenkins must have undoubtedly derived 
from Wales, and being a stock of some efficiency, they 
struck root and grew to wealth and consequence in their 
new home. 

Of their consequence we have proof enough in the 
fact that not only was William Jenkin (as already men- 
tioned) Mayor of Folkestone in 1555, but no less than 
twenty-three times in the succeeding century and a 
half, a Jenkin (William, Thomas, Henry, or Robert) sat 
in the same place of humble honour. Of their wealth 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

we know that in the reign of Charles I., Thomas Jenkin 
of Eythorne was more than once in the market buying 
land, and notably, in 1633, acquired the manor of Stow- 
ting Court. This was an estate of some 320 acres, six 
miles from Hythe, in the Bailiwick and Hundred of 
Stowting, and the Lathe of Shipway, held of the Crown 
in capite by the service of six men and a constable to 
defend the passage of the sea at Sandgate, It had a 
chequered history before it fell into the hands of Thomas 
of Eythorne, having been sold and given from one to 
another — to the Archbishop, to Heringods, to the 
Burghershes, to Pavelys, Trivets, Cliffords, Wenlocks, 
Beauchamps, Nevilles, Kempes, and Clarkes: a piece 
of Kentish ground condemned to see new faces and to be 
no man's home. But from 1633 onward it became the 
anchor of the Jenkin family in Kent; and though passed 
on from brother to brother, held in shares between 
uncle and nephew, burthened by debts and jointures, 
and at least once sold and bought in again, it remains 
to this day in the hands of the direct line. It is not my 
design, nor have I the necessary knowledge, to give a 
history of this obscure family. But this is an age when 
genealogy has taken a new lease of life, and become for 
the first time a human science; so that we no longer 
study it in quest of the Guaith Voeths, but to trace out 
some of the secrets of descent and destiny; and as we 
study, we think less of Sir Bernard Burke and more of 
Mr. Galton. Not only do our character and talents lie 
upon the anvil and receive their temper during genera- 
tions ; but the very plot of our life's story unfolds itself 
on a scale of centuries, and the biography of the man 
is only an episode in the epic of the family. From this 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

point of view I ask the reader's leave to begin this no- 
tice of a remarkable man who was my friend, with the 
accession of his great-grandfather, John Jenkin. 

This John Jenkin, a grandson of Damaris Kingsley, 
of the family of "Westward Ho!" was born in 1727, 
and married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Frewen, of 
Church House, Northiam. The Jenkins had now been 
long enough intermarrying with their Kentish neigh- 
bours to be Kentish folk themselves in all but name; 
and with the Frewens in particular their connection 
is singularly involved. John and his wife were each 
descended in the third degree from another Thomas 
Frewen, Vicar of Northiam, and brother to Accepted 
Frewen, Archbishop of York. John's mother had mar- 
ried a Frewen for a second husband. And the last 
complication was to be added by the Bishop of Chiches- 
ter's brother, Charles Buckner, Vice-Admiral of the 
White, who was twice married, first to a paternal 
cousin of Squire John, and second to Anne, only sister 
of the Squire's wife, and already the widow of another 
Frewen. The reader must bear Mrs. Buckner in mind ; 
it was by means of that lady that Fleeming Jenkin began 
life as a poor man. Meanwhile, the relationship of any 
Frewen to any Jenkin at the end of these evolutions 
presents a problem almost insoluble; and we need not 
wonder if Mrs. John, thus exercised in her immediate 
circle, was in her old age "a great genealogist of all 
Sussex families, and much consulted." The names 
Frewen and Jenkin may almost seem to have been in- 
terchangeable at will ; and yet Fate proceeds with such 
particularity that it was perhaps on the point of name 
that the family was ruined. 

3 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

The John Jenkins had a family of one daughter and 
five extravagant and unpractical sons. The eldest, 
Stephen, entered the Church and held the living of Sale- 
hurst, where he offered, we may hope, an extreme ex- 
ample of the clergy of the age. He was a handsome 
figure of a man; jovial and jocular; fond of his garden, 
which produced under his care the finest fruits of the 
neighbourhood ; and like all the family, very choice in 
horses. He drove tandem; like Jehu, furiously. His 
saddle horse, Captain (for the names of horses are pi- 
ously preserved in the family chronicle which I follow), 
was trained to break into a gallop as soon as the vicar's 
foot was thrown across its back; nor would the rein be 
drawn in the nine miles between Northiam and the 
Vicarage door. Debt was the man's proper element; 
he used to skulk from arrest in the chancel of his 
church ; and the speed of Captain may have come some- 
times handy. At an early age this unconventional par- 
son married his cook, and by her he had two daughters 
and one son. One of the daughters died unmarried ; 
the other imitated her father, and married "imprudent- 
ly." The son, still more gallantly continuing the tra- 
dition, entered the army, loaded himself with debt, was 
forced to sell out, took refuge in the Marines, and was 
lost on the Dogger Bank in the war-ship Minotaur. If 
he did not marry below him, like his father, his sister, 
and a certain great-uncle William, it was perhaps be- 
cause he never married at all. 

The second brother, Thomas, who was employed in 
the General Post-Office, followed in all material points 
the example of Stephen, married "not very creditably," 
and spent all the money he could lay his hands on. He 

4 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

died without issue; as did the fourth brother, John, 
who was of weak intellect and feeble health, and the 
fifth brother, William, whose brief career as one of Mrs. 
Buckner's satellites will fall to be considered later on. 
So soon, then, as the Minotaur had struck upon the 
Dogger Bank, Stowting and the line of the Jenkin family 
fell on the shoulders of the third brother, Charles. 

Facility and self-indulgence are the family marks; fa- 
cility (to judge by these imprudent marriages) being at 
once their quality and their defect; but in the case of 
Charles, a man of exceptional beauty and sweetness 
both of face and disposition, the family fault had quite 
grown to be a virtue, and we find him in consequence 
the drudge and milk-cow of his relatives. Born in 1766, 
Charles served at sea in his youth, and smelt both salt 
water and powder. The Jenkins had inclined hitherto, 
as far as I can make out, to the land service. Stephen's 
son had been a soldier; William (fourth of Stowting) 
had been an officer of the unhappy Braddock's in Amer- 
ica, where, by the way, he owned and afterwards sold 
an estate on the James River, called after the parental 
seat; of which I should like well to hear if it still bears 
the name. It was probably by the influence of Captain 
Buckner, already connected with the family by his first 
marriage, that Charles Jenkin turned his mind in the 
direction of the navy; and it was in Buckner's own 
ship, the Prothee, 64, that the lad made his only cam- 
paign. It was in the days of Rodney's war, when the 
Prothie, we read, captured two large privateers to wind- 
ward of Barbadoes, and was "materially and distin- 
guishedly engaged" in both the actions with De Grasse. 
While at sea Charles kept a journal, and made strange 

5 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

archaic pilot-book sketches, part plan, part elevation, 
some of which survive for the amusement of posterity. 
He did a good deal of surveying, so that here we may 
perhaps lay our finger on the beginning of Fleeming's 
education as an engineer. What is still more strange, 
among the relics of the handsome midshipman and his 
stay in the gun-room of the Protbee, I find a code of 
signals graphically represented, for all the world as it 
would have been done by his grandson. 

On the declaration of peace, Charles, because he had 
suffered from scurvy, received his mother's orders to re- 
tire; and he was not the man to refuse a request, far less 
to disobey a command. Thereupon he turned farmer, 
a trade he was to practice on a large scale; and we find 
him married to a Miss Schirr, a woman of some fortune, 
the daughter of a London merchant. Stephen, the not 
very reverend, was still alive, galloping about the coun- 
try or skulking in his chancel. It does not appear 
whether he let or sold the paternal manor to Charles; 
one or other, it must have been ; and the sailor-farmer 
settled at Stowting, with his wife, his mother, his un- 
married sister, and his sick brother John. Out of the 
six people of whom his nearest family consisted, three 
were in his own house, and two others (the horse- 
leeches, Stephen and Thomas) he appears to have con- 
tinued to assist with more amiability than wisdom. 
He hunted, belonged to the Yeomanry, owned famous 
horses, Maggie and Lucy, the latter coveted by royalty 
itself. "Lord Rokeby, his neighbour, called him kins- 
man," writes my artless chronicler, "and altogether life 
was very cheery." At Stowting his three sons, John, 
Charles, and Thomas Frewen, and his younger daugh- 

6 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

ter, Anna, were all born to him ; and the reader should 
here be told that it is through the report of this second 
Charles (born 1 80 1) that he has been looking on at these 
confused passages of family history. 

In the year 1805 the ruin of the Jenkins was begun. 
It was the work of a fallacious lady already mentioned, 
Aunt Anne Frewen, a sister of Mrs. John. Twice mar- 
ried, first to her cousin Charles Frewen, clerk to the 
Court of Chancery, Brunswick Herald, and Usher of 
the Black Rod, and secondly to Admiral Buckner, she 
was denied issue in both beds, and being very rich — 
she died worth about 60,000/., mostly in land — she 
was in perpetual quest of an heir. The mirage of this 
fortune hung before successive members of the Jen- 
kin family until her death in 1825, when it dissolved 
and left the latest Alnaschar face to face with bankruptcy. 
The grandniece, Stephen's daughter, the one who had 
not " married imprudently," appears to have been the 
first; for she was taken abroad by the golden aunt, and 
died in her care at Ghent in 1792. Next she adopted 
William, the youngest of the five nephews; took him 
abroad with her — it seems as if that were in the for- 
mula; was shut up with him in Paris by the Revolution; 
brought him back to Windsor, and got him a place in 
the King's Body-Guard, where he attracted the notice 
of George III. by his proficiency in German. In 1797, 
being on guard at St. James's Palace, William took a cold 
which carried him off; and Aunt Anne was once more 
left heirless. Lastly, in 1805, perhaps moved by the 
Admiral, who had a kindness for his old midshipman, 
perhaps pleased by the good looks and the good nature 
of the man himself, Mrs. Buckner turned her eyes upon 

7 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Charles Jenkin. He was not only to be the heir, how- 
ever, he was to be the chief hand in a somewhat wild 
scheme of family farming. Mrs. Jenkin, the mother, 
contributed 164 acres of land; Mrs. Buckner, 570, some 
at Northiam, some farther off; Charles let one-half of 
Stowting to a tenant, and threw the other and various 
scattered parcels into the common enterprise; so that 
the whole farm amounted to near upon a thousand 
acres, and was scattered over thirty miles of country. 
The ex-seaman of thirty-nine, on whose wisdom and 
ubiquity the scheme depended, was to live in the mean- 
while without care or fear. He was to check himself in 
nothing; his two extravagances, valuable horses and 
worthless brothers, were to be indulged in comfort; and 
whether the year quite paid itself or not, whether suc- 
cessive years left accumulated savings or only a grow- 
ing deficit, the fortune of the golden aunt should in the 
end repair all. 

On this understanding Charles Jenkin transported 
his family to Church House, Northiam: Charles the 
second, then a child of three among the number. 
Through the eyes of the boy we have glimpses of the life 
that followed: of Admiral and Mrs. Buckner driving up 
from Windsor in a coach and six, two post-horses and 
their own four; of the house full of visitors, the great 
roasts at the fire, the tables in the servants' hall laid for 
thirty or forty for a month together; of the daily press 
of neighbours, many of whom, Frewens, Lords, Bishops, 
Batchellors, and Dynes, were also kinsfolk; and the 
parties " under the great spreading chestnuts of the old 
fore court," where the young people danced and made 
merry to the music of the village band. Or perhaps, in 

8 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

the depth of winter, the father would bid young Charles 
saddle his pony; they would ride the thirty miles from 
Northiam to Stowting, with the snow to the pony's 
saddle girths, and be received by the tenants like 
princes. 

This life of delights, with the continual visible com- 
ings and goings of the golden aunt, was well qualified 
to relax the fiber of the lads. John, the heir, a yeoman 
and a fox-hunter, "loud and notorious with his whip 
and spurs," settled down into a kind of Tony Lumpkin, 
waiting for the shoes of his father and his aunt. Thomas 
Frewen, the youngest, is briefly dismissed as "a hand- 
some beau "; but he had the merit or the good fortune 
to become a doctor of medicine, so that when the crash 
came he was not empty-handed for the war of life. 
Charles, at the day-school of Northiam, grew so well 
acquainted with the rod, that his floggings became mat- 
ter of pleasantry and reached the ears of Admiral Buck- 
ner. Hereupon that tall, rough-voiced formidable uncle 
entered with the lad into a covenant: every time that 
Charles was thrashed he was to pay the Admiral a 
penny; every day that he escaped, the process was to 
be reversed. M I recollect," writes Charles, "going cry- 
ing to my mother to be taken to the Admiral to pay my 
debt." It would seem by these terms the speculation 
was a losing one; yet it is probable it paid indirectly by 
bringing the boy under remark. The Admiral was no 
enemy to dunces; he loved courage, and Charles, while 
yet little more than a baby, would ride the great horse 
into the pond. Presently it was decided that here was 
the stuff of a fine sailor; and at an early period the 
name of Charles Jenkin was entered on a ship's books. 

9 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

From Northiam he was sent to another school at 
Boonshill, near Rye, where the master took "infinite 
delight" in strapping him. "It keeps me warm and 
makes you grow," he used to say. And the stripes 
were not altogether wasted, for the dunce, though still 
very "raw," made progress with his studies. It was 
known, moreover, that he was going to sea, always a 
ground of pre-eminence with schoolboys; and in his 
case the glory was not altogether future, it wore a pres- 
ent form when he came driving to Rye behind four 
horses in the same carriage with an Admiral. "I was 
not a little proud, you may believe," says he. 

In 1 8 14, when he was thirteen years of age, he was 
carried by his father to Chichester to the Bishop's Pal- 
ace. The Bishop had heard from his brother the Ad- 
miral that Charles was likely to do well, and had an 
order from Lord Melville for the lad's admission to the 
Royal Naval College at Portsmouth. Both the Bishop 
and the Admiral patted him on the head and said, 
"Charles will restore the old family"; by which I 
gather with some surprise that, even in these days of 
open house at Northiam and golden hope of my aunt's 
fortune, the family was supposed to stand in need of 
restoration. But the past is apt to look brighter than 
nature, above all to those enamoured of their geneal- 
ogy ; and the ravages of Stephen and Thomas must have 
always given matter of alarm. 

What with the flattery of bishops and admirals, the 
fine company in which he found himself at Portsmouth, 
his visits home, with their gaiety and greatness of life, 
his visits to Mrs. Buckner (soon a widow) at Windsor, 
where he had a pony kept for him, and visited at Lord 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Melville's and Lord Harcourt's and the Leveson-Gowers, 
he began to have "bumptious notions," and his head 
was "somewhat turned with fine people'*; as to some 
extent it remained throughout his innocent and hon- 
ourable life. 

In this frame of mind the boy was appointed to the 
Conqueror, Captain Davie, humorously known as Gen- 
tle Johnnie. The captain had earned this name by his 
style of discipline, which would have figured well in 
the pages of Marryat: " Put the prisoner's head in a bag 
and give him another dozen!" survives as a specimen 
of his commands; and the men were often punished 
twice or thrice in a week. On board the ship of this 
disciplinarian, Charles and his father were carried in a 
billy-boat from Sheerness in December, 1816: Charles 
with an outfit suitable to his pretensions, a twenty- 
guinea sextant and 120 dollars in silver, which were 
ordered into the care of the gunner. "The old clerks 
and mates," he writes, "used to laugh and jeer me for 
joining the ship in a billy-boat, and when they found I 
was from Kent, vowed I was an old Kentish smuggler. 
This to my pride, you will believe, was not a little 
offensive." 

The Conqueror carried the flag of Vice- Admiral Plam- 
pin, commanding at the Cape and St. Helena; and at 
that all-important islet, in July, 18 17, she relieved the 
flagship of Sir Pulteney Malcolm. Thus it befel that 
Charles Jenkin, coming too late for the epic of the 
French wars, played a small part in the dreary and dis- 
graceful afterpiece of St. Helena. Life on the guard- 
ship was onerous and irksome. The anchor was never 
lifted, sail never made, the great guns were silent; none 

11 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

was allowed on shore except on duty ; all day the move- 
ments of the imperial captive were signalled to and fro; 
all night the boats rowed guard around the accessible 
portions of the coast. This prolonged stagnation and 
petty watchfulness in what Napoleon himself called that 
"unchristian " climate, told cruelly on the health of the 
ship's company. In eighteen months, according to 
O'Meara, the Conqueror had lost one hundred and ten 
men and invalided home one hundred and seven, "be- 
ing more than a third of her complement." It does not 
seem that our young midshipman so much as once set 
eyes on Bonaparte; and yet in other ways Jenkin was 
more fortunate than some of his comrades. He drew 
in water-colour; not so badly as his father, yet ill 
enough ; and this art was so rare aboard the Conqueror 
that even his humble proficiency marked him out and 
procured him some alleviations. Admiral Plampin had 
succeeded Napoleon at the Briars; and here he had 
young Jenkin staying with him to make sketches of the 
historic house. One of these is before me as I write, 
and gives a strange notion of the arts in our old English 
Navy. Yet it was again as an artist that the lad was 
taken for a run to Rio, and apparently for a second out- 
ing in a ten-gun brig. These, and a cruise of six weeks 
to windward of the island undertaken by the Conqueror 
herself in quest of health, were the only breaks in three 
years of murderous inaction; and at the end of that pe- 
riod Jenkin was invalided home, having "lost his 
health entirely." 

As he left the deck of the guardship the historic part 
of his career came to an end. For forty-two years he 
continued to serve his country obscurely on the seas, 

12 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

sometimes thanked for inconspicuous and honourable 
services, but denied any opportunity of serious distinc- 
tion. He was first two years in the Lame, Captain 
Tait, hunting pirates and keeping a watch on the Turk- 
ish and Greek squadrons in the Archipelago. Captain 
Tait was a favourite with Sir Thomas Maitland, High 
Commissioner of the Ionian Islands — King Tom as he 
was called — who frequently took passage in the Lame. 
King Tom knew every inch of the Mediterranean, and 
was a terror to the officers of the watch. He would 
come on deck at night; and with his broad Scotch ac- 
cent, "Well, sir," he would say, "what depth of water 
have ye? Well now, sound; and ye'll just find so or 
so many fathoms," as the case might be; and the ob- 
noxious passenger was generally right. On one occa- 
sion, as the ship was going into Corfu, Sir Thomas 
came up the hatchway and cast his eyes towards the 
gallows. " Bangham" — Charles Jenkin heard him say 
to his aide-de-camp, Lord Bangham — " where the devil 
is that other chap? I left four fellows hanging there; 
now I can only see three. Mind there is another there 
to-morrow." And sure enough there was another 
Greek dangling the next day. "Captain Hamilton, of 
the Cambrian, kept the Greeks in order afloat," writes 
my author, "and King Tom ashore." 

From 1823 onward, the chief scene of Charles Jenkin's 
activities was in the West Indies, where he was en- 
gaged off and on till 1844, now as a subaltern, now in a 
vessel of his own, hunting out pirates, "then very no- 
torious" in the Leeward Islands, cruising after slavers, 
or carrying dollars and provisions for the Government. 
While yet a midshipman, he accompanied Mr. Cock- 

»3 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

burn to Caraccas and had a sight of Bolivar. In the 
brigantine Griffon, which he commanded in his last 
years in the West Indies, he carried aid to Guadeloupe 
after the earthquake, and twice earned the thanks of 
Government: once for an expedition to Nicaragua to 
extort, under threat of a blockade, proper apologies and 
a sum of money due to certain British merchants; and 
once during an insurrection in San Domingo, for the 
rescue of certain others from a perilous imprisonment 
and the recovery of a "chest of money " of which they 
had been robbed. Once, on the other hand, he earned 
his share of public censure. This was in 1837, when 
he commanded the Romney, lying in the inner harbour 
of Havannah. The Romney was in no proper sense a 
man-of-war; she was a slave-hulk, the bonded ware- 
house of the Mixed Slave Commission; where negroes, 
captured out of slavers under Spanish colours, were de- 
tained provisionally, till the Commission should decide 
upon their case and either set them free or bind them to 
apprenticeship. To this ship, already an eyesore to the 
authorities, a Cuban slave made his escape. The posi- 
tion was invidious; on one side were the tradition of 
the British flag and the state of public sentiment at 
home; on the other, the certainty that if the slave were 
kept, the Romney would be ordered at once out of the 
harbour, and the object of the Mixed Commission com- 
promised. Without consultation with any other officer, 
Captain Jenkin (then lieutenant) returned the man to 
shore and took the Captain-General's receipt. Lord 
Palmerston approved his course; but the zealots of the 
anti-slave trade movement (never to be named without 
respect) were much dissatisfied; and thirty-nine years 

'4 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

later, the matter was again canvassed in Parliament, 
and Lord Palmerston and Captain Jenkin defended by 
Admiral Erskine in a letter to the Times (March 13, 1876). 

In 1845, while still lieutenant, Charles Jenkin acted as 
Admiral Pigot's flag captain in the Cove of Cork, 
where there were some thirty pennants; and about the 
same time, closed his career by an act of personal brav- 
ery. He had proceeded with his boats to the help of a 
merchant vessel, whose cargo of combustibles had taken 
fire and was smouldering under hatches; his sailors 
were in the hold, where the fumes were already heavy, 
and Jenkin was on deck directing operations, when he 
found his orders were no longer answered from below : 
he jumped down without hesitation and slung up sev- 
eral insensible men with his own hand. For this act, 
he received a letter from the Lords of the Admiralty ex- 
pressing a sense of his gallantry ; and pretty soon after 
was promoted Commander, superseded, and could 
never again obtain employment. 

In 1828 or 1829, Charles Jenkin was in the same 
watch with another midshipman, Robert Colin Camp- 
bell Jackson, who introduced him to his family in Ja- 
maica. The, father, the Honourable Robert Jackson, 
Custos Rotulorum of Kingston, came of a Yorkshire 
family, said to be originally Scotch ; and on the mother's 
side, counted kinship with some of the Forbeses. The 
mother was Susan Campbell, one of the Campbells of 
Auchenbreck. Her father Colin, a merchant in Green- 
ock, is said to have been the heir to both the estate and 
the baronetcy; he claimed neither, which casts a doubt 
upon the fact; but he had pride enough himself, and 
taught enough pride to his family, for any station or 

15 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

descent in Christendom. He had four daughters. One 
married an Edinburgh writer, as I have it on a first ac- 
count — a minister, according to another — a man at 
least of reasonable station, but not good enough for the 
Campbells of Auchenbreck; and the erring one was in- 
stantly discarded. Another married an actor of the 
name of Adcock, whom (as I receive the tale) she had 
seen acting in a barn; but the phrase should perhaps 
be regarded rather as a measure of the family annoy- 
ance, than a mirror of the facts. The marriage was not 
in itself unhappy; Adcock was a gentleman by birth 
and made a good husband ; the family reasonably pros- 
pered, and one of the daughters married no less a man 
than Clarkson Stanfield. But by the father, and the two 
remaining Miss Campbells, people of fierce passions and 
a truly Highland pride, the derogation was bitterly re- 
sented. For long the sisters lived estranged, then Mrs. 
Jackson and Mrs. Adcock were reconciled for a mo- 
ment, only to quarrel the more fiercely; the name of 
Mrs. Adcock was proscribed, nor did it again pass her 
sister's lips, until the morning when she announced: 
"Mary Adcock is dead; I saw her in her shroud last 
night." Second sight was hereditary in the house; and 
sure enough, as I have it reported, on that very night 
Mrs. Adcock had passed away. Thus, of the four 
daughters, two had, according to the idiotic notions of 
their friends, disgraced themselves in marriage; the 
others supported the honour of the family with a better 
grace, and married West Indian magnates of whom, I 
believe, the world has never heard and would not care 
to hear: So strange a thing is this hereditary pride. Of 
Mr. Jackson, beyond the fact that he was Fleeming's 

16 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

grandfather, I know naught. His wife, as I have said, 
was a woman of fierce passions ; she would tie her 
house slaves to the bed and lash them with her own 
hand; and her conduct to her wild and down-going 
sons, was a mixture of almost insane self-sacrifice and 
wliolly insane violence of temper. She had three sons 
and one daughter. Two of the sons went utterly to 
ruin, and reduced their mother to poverty. The third 
went to India, a slim, delicate lad, and passed so wholly 
from the knowledge of his relatives that he was thought 
to be long dead. Years later, when his sister was liv- 
ing in Genoa, a red-bearded man of great strength and 
stature, tanned by years in India, and his hands covered 
with barbaric gems, entered the room unannounced, as 
she was playing the piano, lifted her from her seat, and 
kissed her. It was her brother, suddenly returned 
out of a past that was never very clearly understood, 
with the rank of general, many strange gems, many 
cloudy stories of adventure, and next his heart, the 
daguerreotype of an Indian prince with whom he had 
mixed blood. 

The last of this wild family, the daughter, Henrietta 
Camilla, became the wife of the midshipman Charles, 
and the mother of the subject of this notice, Fleeming 
Jenkin. She was a woman of parts and courage. Not 
beautiful, she had a far higher gift, the art of seeming 
so ; played the part of a belle in society, while far lovelier 
women were left unattended; and up to old age, had 
much of both the exigency and the charm that mark 
that character. She drew naturally, for she had no 
training, with unusual skill ; and it was from her, and 
not from the two naval artists, that Fleeming inherited 

■7 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

his eye and hand. She played on the harp and sang 
with something beyond the talent of an amateur. At 
the age of seventeen, she heard Pasta in Paris; flew up 
in a fire of youthful enthusiasm ; and the next morning, 
all alone and without introduction, found her way into 
the presence of the prima donna and begged for lessons. 
Pasta made her sing, kissed her when she had done, and 
though she refused to be her mistress, placed her in the 
hands of a friend. Nor was this all; for when Pasta re- 
turned to Paris, she sent for the girl (once at least) to 
test her progress. But Mrs. Jenkin's talents were not 
so remarkable as her fortitude and strength of will ; and 
it was in an art for which she had no natural taste (the 
art of literature) that she appeared before the public. 
Her novels, though they attained and merited a certain 
popularity both in France and England, are a measure 
only of her courage. They were a task, not a beloved 
task; they were written for money in days of poverty, 
and they served their end. In the least thing as well as 
in the greatest, in every province of life as well as in her 
novels, she displayed the same capacity of taking infinite 
pains, which descended to her son. When she was 
about forty (as near as her age was known) she lost 
her voice; set herself at once to learn the piano, work- 
ing eight hours a day ; and attained to such proficiency 
that her collaboration in chamber music was courted by 
professionals. And more than twenty years later, the 
old lady might have been seen dauntlessly beginning the 
study of Hebrew. This is the more ethereal part of cour- 
age; nor was she wanting in the more material. Once 
when a neighbouring groom, a married man, had se- 
duced her maid, Mrs. Jenkin mounted her horse, rode 

18 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

over to the stable entrance and horsewhipped the man 
with her own hand. 

How a match came about between this talented and 
spirited girl and the young midshipman, is not very easy 
to conceive. Charles Jenkin was one of the finest creatures 
breathing; loyalty, devotion, simple natural piety, boyish 
cheerfulness, tender and manly sentiment in the old 
sailor fashion, were in him inherent and inextinguishable 
either by age, suffering, or injustice. He looked, as he 
was, every inch a gentleman ; he must have been every- 
where notable, even among handsome men, both for 
his face and his gallant bearing; not so much that of a 
sailor, you would have said, as like one of those gentle 
and graceful soldiers that, to this day, are the most 
pleasant of Englishmen to see. But though he was in 
these ways noble, the dunce scholar of Northiam was 
to the end no genius. Upon all points that a man must 
understand to be a gentleman, to be upright, gallant, 
affectionate and dead to self, Captain Jenkin was more 
knowing than one among a thousand; outside of that, 
his mind was very largely blank. He had indeed a 
simplicity that came near to vacancy; and in the first 
forty years of his married life, this want grew more ac- 
centuated. In both families imprudent marriages had 
been the rule; but neither Jenkin nor Campbell had ever 
entered into a more unequal union. It was the captain's 
good looks, we may suppose, that gained for him this 
elevation; and in some ways and for many years of his 
life, he had to pay the penalty. His wife, impatient of 
his incapacity and surrounded by brilliant friends, used 
him with a certain contempt. She was the managing 
partner; the life was hers, not his; after his retirement 

»9 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKiN 

they lived much abroad, where the poor captain, who 
could never learn any language but his own, sat in the 
corner mumchance; and even his son, carried away by 
his bright mother, did not recognize for long the treas- 
ures of simple chivalry that lay buried in the heart of 
his father. Yet it would be an error to regard this mar- 
riage as unfortunate. It not only lasted long enough to 
justify itself in a beautiful and touching epilogue, but it 
gave to the world the scientific work and what (while 
time was) were of far greater value, the delightful quali- 
ties of Fleeming Jenkin. The Kentish-Welsh family, 
facile, extravagant, generous to a fault and far from 
brilliant, had given the father, an extreme example of 
its humble virtues. On the other side, the wild, cruel, 
proud, and somewhat blackguard stock of the Scotch 
Campbell-Jacksons, had put forth, in the person of the 
mother, all its force and courage. 

The marriage fell in evil days. In 1823, the bubble 
of the Golden Aunt's inheritance had burst. She died 
holding the hand of the nephew she had so wantonly 
deceived; at the last she drew him down and seemed 
to bless him, surely with some remorseful feeling; for 
when the will was opened, there was not found so 
much as the mention of his name. He was deeply in 
debt; in debt even to the estate of his deceiver, so that 
he had to sell a piece of land to clear himself. "My 
dear boy," he said to Charles, "there will be nothing 
left for you. I am a ruined man." And here follows 
for me the strangest part of this story. From the death 
of the treacherous aunt, Charles Jenkin, senior, had still 
some nine years to live; it was perhaps too late for him 
to turn to saving, and perhaps his affairs were past 

20 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

restoration. But his family at least had all this while 
to prepare; they were still young men, and knew what 
they had to look for at their father's death; and yet 
when that happened in September, 1831, the heir was 
still apathetically waiting. Poor John, the days of his 
whips and spurs, and Yeomanry dinners, were quite 
over; and with that incredible softness of the Jenkin 
nature, he settled down for the rest of a long life, into 
something not far removed above a peasant. The mill 
farm at Stowting had been saved out of the wreck; and 
here he built himself a house on the Mexican model, 
and made the two ends meet with rustic thrift, gather- 
ing dung with his own hands upon the road and not at 
all abashed at his employment. In dress, voice, and 
manner, he fell into mere country plainness; lived with- 
out the least care for appearances, the least regret for 
the past or discontent with the present; and when he 
came to die, died with Stoic cheerfulness, announcing 
that he had had a comfortable time and was yet well 
pleased to go. One would think there was little active 
virtue to be inherited from such a race; and yet in this 
same voluntary peasant, the special gift of Fleeming 
Jenkin was already half developed. The old man to 
the end was perpetually inventing; his strange, ill- 
spelled, unpunctuated correspondence is full (when he 
does not drop into cookery receipts) of pumps, road 
engines, steam-diggers, steam-ploughs, and steam- 
threshing machines; and I have it on Fleeming's word 
that what he did was full of ingenuity — only, as if by 
some cross destiny, useless. These disappointments 
he not only took with imperturbable good humor, but 
rejoiced with a particular relish over his nephew's suc- 

21 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

cess in the same field. "I glory in the professor," he 
wrote to his brother; and to Fleeming himself, with a 
touch of simple drollery, "I was much pleased with 
your lecture, but why did you hit me so hard with 
Conisure's " (connoisseur's, quasi amateur's) "engineer- 
ing? Oh, what presumption! — either of you or my- 
self ! " A quaint, pathetic figure, this of uncle John, 
with his dung cart and his inventions; and the roman- 
tic fancy of his Mexican house; and his craze about the 
Lost Tribes, which seemed to the worthy man the key 
of all perplexities; and his quiet conscience, looking 
back on a life not altogether vain, for he was a good 
son to his father while his father lived, and when evil 
days approached, he had proved himself a cheerful 
Stoic. 

It followed from John's inertia, that the duty of wind- 
ing up the estate fell into the hands of Charles. He 
managed it with no more skill than might be expected 
of a sailor ashore, saved a bare livelihood for John and 
nothing for the rest. Eight months later, he married 
Miss Jackson; and with her money, bought in some 
two-thirds of Stowting. In the beginning of the little 
family history which I have been following to so great 
an extent, the Captain mentions, with a delightful pride: 
"A Court Baron and Court Leet are regularly held by 
the Lady of the Manor, Mrs. Henrietta Camilla Jenkin"; 
and indeed the pleasure of so describing his wife, was 
the most solid benefit of the investment; for the pur- 
chase was heavily encumbered and paid them nothing 
till some years before their death. In the meanwhile, 
the Jackson family also, what with wild sons, an indul- 
gent mother and the impending emancipation of the 

22 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENK1N 

slaves, was moving nearer and nearer to beggary; and 
thus of two doomed and declining houses, the subject 
of this memoir was born, heir to an estate and to no 
money, yet with inherited qualities that were to make 
him known and loved. 



23 



CHAPTER II 
1833- 1851 

Birth and Childhood — Edinburgh — Frankfort-on-the-Main — Paris — 
The Revolution of 1848 — The Insurrection — Flight to Italy — 
Sympathy with Italy — The Insurrection in Genoa — A Student in 
Genoa — The Lad and his Mother. 

Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin (Fleeming, pro- 
nounced Flemming, to his friends and family) was born 
in a Government building on the coast of Kent, near 
Dungeness, where his father was serving at the time in 
the Coastguard, on March 25, 1833, and named after 
Admiral Fleeming, one of his father's protectors in 
the navy. 

His childhood was vagrant like his life. Once he 
was left in the care of his grandmother Jackson, while 
Mrs. Jenkin sailed in her husband's ship and stayed a 
year at the Havannah. The tragic woman was besides 
from time to time a member of the family ; she was in 
distress of mind and reduced in fortune by the miscon- 
duct of her sons ; her destitution and solitude made it a 
recurring duty to receive her, her violence continually 
enforced fresh separations. In her passion of a disap- 
pointed mother, she was a fit object of pity ; but her 
grandson, who heard her load his own mother with 
cruel insults and reproaches, conceived for her an in- 
dignant and impatient hatred, for which he blamed him- 
self in later life. It is strange from this point of view to 

24 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

see his childish letters to Mrs. Jackson; and to think 
that a man, distinguished above all by stubborn truth- 
fulness, should have been brought up to such dissimu- 
lation. But this is of course unavoidable in life; it did 
no harm to Jenkin; and whether he got harm or benefit 
from a so early acquaintance with violent and hateful 
scenes, is more than I can guess. The experience, at 
least, was formative; and in judging his character it 
should not be forgotten. But Mrs. Jackson was not the 
only stranger in their gates; the Captain's sister, Aunt 
Anna Jenkin, lived with them until her death; she had 
all the Jenkin beauty of countenance, though she was 
unhappily deformed in body and of frail health; and she 
even excelled her gentle and ineffectual family in all 
amiable qualities. So that each of the two races from 
which Fleeming sprang, had an outpost by his very 
cradle; the one he instinctively loved, the other hated; 
and the life-long war in his members had begun thus 
early by a victory for what was best. 

We can trace the family from one country place to 
another in the South of Scotland; where the child 
learned his taste for sport by riding home the pony from 
the moors. Before he was nine he could write such a 
passage as this about a Hallowe'en observance: "I 
pulled a middling-sized cabbage-runt with a pretty sum 
of gold about it. No witches would run after me when 
I was sowing my hempseed this year; my nuts blazed 
away together very comfortably to the end of their lives, 
and when mamma put hers in which were meant foi 
herself and papa they blazed away in the like manner." 
Before he was ten he could write, with a really irritat- 
ing precocity, that he had been " making some pictures 

25 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

from a book called "Les Francais peints par eux- 
memes." . . . It is full of pictures of all classes, with a 
description of each in French. The pictures are a little 
caricatured, but not much." Doubtless this was only 
an echo from his mother, but it shows the atmosphere 
in which he breathed. It must have been a good 
change for this art critic to be the playmate of Mary 
Macdonald, their gardener's daughter at Barjarg, and to 
sup with her family on potatoes and milk; and Fleem- 
ing himself attached some value to this early and friend- 
ly experience of another class. 

His education, in the formal sense, began at Jedburgh. 
Thence he went to the Edinburgh Academy, where he 
was the classmate of Tait and Clerk Maxwell, bore 
away many prizes, and was once unjustly flogged by 
Rector Williams. He used to insist that all his bad 
schoolfellows had died early, a belief amusingly char- 
acteristic of the man's consistent optimism. In 1846 
the mother and son proceeded to Frankfort-on-the- 
Main, where they were soon joined by the father, now 
reduced to inaction and to play something like third 
fiddle in his narrow household. The emancipation of 
the slaves had deprived them of their last resource be- 
yond the half-pay of a captain; and life abroad was not 
only desirable for the sake of Fleeming's education, it 
was almost enforced by reasons of economy. But it 
was, no doubt, somewhat hard upon the captain. Cer- 
tainly that perennial boy found a companion in his son; 
they were both active and eager, both willing to be 
amused, both young, if not in years, then in character. 
They went out together on excursions and sketched old 
castles, sitting side by side; they had an angry rivalry 

26 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

in walking, doubtless equally sincere upon both sides; 
and indeed we may say that Fleeming was exception- 
ally favoured, and that no boy had ever a companion 
more innocent, engaging, gay, and airy. But although 
in this case it would be easy to exaggerate its import, 
yet, in the Jenkin family also, the tragedy of the gener- 
ations was proceeding, and the child was growing out 
of his father's knowledge. His artistic aptitude was 
of a different order. Already he had his quick sight of 
many sides of life; he already overflowed with distinc- 
tions and generalizations, contrasting the dramatic art 
and national character of England, Germany, Italy, and 
France. If he were dull, he would write stories and 
poems. " I have written," he says at thirteen, "a very 
long story in heroic measure, 300 lines, and another 
Scotch story and innumerable bits of poetry " ; and at 
the same age he had not only a keen feeling for scenery, 
but could do something with his pen to call it up. I 
feel I do always less than justice to the delightful mem- 
ory of Captain Jenkin; but with a lad of this character, 
cutting the teeth of his intelligence, he was sure to fall 
into the background. 

The family removed in 1847 to Paris, where Fleem- 
ing was put to school under one Deluc. There he 
learned French, and (if the captain is right) first began to 
show a taste for mathematics. But a far more impor- 
tant teacher than Deluc was at hand; the year 1848, so 
momentous for Europe, was momentous also for Fleem- 
ing's character. The family politics were Liberal; Mrs. 
Jenkin, generous before all things, was sure to be upon 
the side of exiles; and in the house of a Paris friend of 
hers, Mrs. Turner — already known to fame as Shelley's 

27 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Cornelia de Boinville — Fleeming saw and heard such 
men as Manin, Gioberti, and the Ruffinis. He was thus 
prepared to sympathize with revolution; and when the 
hour came, and he found himself in the midst of stirring 
and influential events, the lad's whole character was 
moved. He corresponded at that time with a young 
Edinburgh friend, one Frank Scott; and lam here going 
to draw somewhat largely on this boyish correspond- 
ence. It gives us at once a picture of the Revolution 
and a portrait of Jenkin at fifteen ; not so different (his 
friends will think) from the Jenkin of the end — boyish, 
simple, opinionated, delighting in action, delighting be- 
fore all things in any generous sentiment. 

"February 23, 1848. 
"When at 7 o'clock to-day I went out, I met a large 
band going round the streets, calling on the inhabitants 
to illuminate their houses, and bearing torches. This 
was all very good fun, and everybody was delighted; 
but as they stopped rather long and were rather turbu- 
lent in the Place de la Madeleine, near where we live " 
[in the Rue CaumartinJ "a squadron of dragoons came 
up, formed, and charged at a hand-gallop. This was 
a very pretty sight; the crowd was not too thick, so 
they easily got away ; and the dragoons only gave blows 
with the back of the sword, which hurt but did not 
wound. I was as close to them as I am now to the 
other side of the table; it was rather impressive, how- 
ever. At the second charge they rode on the pave- 
ment and knocked the torches out of the fellows' hands ; 
rather a shame, too — would n't be stood in Eng- 
land. . . . 

28 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

[At] " ten minutes to ten ... I went a long way 
along the Boulevards, passing by the office of Foreign 
Affairs, where Guizot lives, and where to-night there 
were about a thousand troops protecting him from the 
fury of the populace. After this was passed, the num- 
ber of the people thickened, till about half a mile further 
on, I met a troop of vagabonds, the wildest vagabonds 
in the world — Paris vagabonds, well armed, having 
probably broken into gunsmiths' shops and taken the 
guns and swords. They were about a hundred. These 
were followed by about a thousand (I am rather dimin- 
ishing than exaggerating numbers all through), indif- 
ferently armed with rusty sabres, sticks, etc. An un- 
countable troop of gentlemen, workmen, shopkeepers' 
wives (Paris women dare anything), ladies' maids, 
common women — in fact, a crowd of all classes, 
though by far the greater number were of the better 
dressed class — followed. Indeed, it was a splendid 
sight: the mob in front chanting the * Marseillaise / 
the national war hymn, grave and powerful, sweetened 
by the night air — though night in these splendid streets 
was turned into day, every window was filled with 
lamps, dim torches were tossing in the crowd ... for 
Guizot has late this night given in his resignation, and 
this was an improvised illumination. 

" I and my father had turned with the crowd, and 
were close behind the second troop of vagabonds. Joy 
was on every face. I remarked to papa that ' I would 
not have missed the scene for anything, I might never 
see such a splendid one,' when plong went one shot — 
every face went pale — r-r-r-r-r went the whole de- 
tachment, [andj the whole crowd of gentlemen and 

29 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

ladies turned and cut. Such a scene! — ladies, gentle- 
men, and vagabonds went sprawling in the mud, not 
shot but tripped up; and those that went down could 
not rise, they were trampled over. ... I ran a short 
time straight on and did not fall, then turned down a 
side street, ran fifty yards and felt tolerably safe ; looked 
for papa, did not see him ; so walked on quickly, giv- 
ing the news as I went." [It appears, from another let- 
ter, the boy was the first to carry word of the firing to 
the Rue St. Honore; and that his news wherever he 
brought it was received with hurrahs. It was an odd 
entrance upon life for a little English lad, thus to play the 
part of rumour in such a crisis of the history of France.] 

" But now a new fear came over me. I had little 
doubt but my papa was safe, but my fear was that he 
should arrive at home before me and tell the story; in 
that case I knew my mamma would go half mad with 
fright, so on I went as quick as possible. I heard no 
more discharges. When I got halfway home, I found 
my way blocked up by troops. That way or the 
Boulevards I must pass. In the Boulevards they were 
fighting, and I was afraid all other passages might be 
blocked up . . . and I should have to sleep in a hotel 
in that case, and then my mamma — however, after a 
long dktour, I found a passage and ran home, and in our 
street joined papa. 

"... I'll tell you to-morrow the other facts gath- 
ered from newspapers and papa. . . . To-night I have 
given you what I have seen with my own eyes an hour 
ago, and began trembling with excitement and fear. If 
I have been too long on this one subject, it is because 
it is yet before my eyes." 

30 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

" Monday, 24th. 

" It was that fire raised the people. There was 
fighting all through the night in the Rue Notre Dame 
de Lorette on the Boulevards where they had been shot 
at, and at the Porte St. Denis. At ten o'clock, they re- 
signed the house of the Minister of Foreign Affairs 
(where the disastrous volley was fired) to the people, 
who immediately took possession of it. I went to 
school, but [wasj hardly there when the row in that 
quarter commenced. Barricades began to be fixed. 
Everyone was very grave now; the externes went 
away, but no one came to fetch me, so I had to stay. 
No lessons could go on. A troop of armed men took 
possession of the barricades, so it was supposed I should 
have to sleep there. The revolters came and asked for 
arms, but Deluc (head-master) is a National Guard, and 
he said he had only his own and he wanted them ; but 
he said he would not fire on them. Then they asked 
for wine, which he gave them. They took good care 
not to get drunk, knowing they would not be able to 
fight. They were very polite and behaved extremely 
well. 

"About \2 o'clock a servant came for a boy who 
lived near me, [and] Deluc thought it best to send me 
with him. We heard a good deal of firing near, but 
did not come across any of the parties. As we ap- 
proached the railway, the barricades were no longer 
formed of palings, planks, or stones; but they had got 
all the omnibuses as they passed, sent the horses and 
passengers about their business, and turned them over. 
A double row of overturned coaches made a capital bar- 
ricade, with a few paving stones. 

3» 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

" When I got home I found to my astonishment that 
in our fighting quarter it was much quieter. Mamma 
had just been out seeing the troops in the Place de la 
Concorde, when suddenly the Municipal Guard, now 
fairly exasperated, prevented the National Guard from 
proceeding, and fired at them ; the National Guard had 
come with their muskets not loaded, but at length re- 
turned the fire. Mamma saw the National Guard fire. 
The Municipal Guard were round the corner. She was 
delighted, for she saw no person killed, though many 
of the Municipals were. . . . 

"I immediately went out with my papa (mamma 
had just come back with him) and went to the Place 
de la Concorde. There was an enormous quantity of 
troops in the Place. Suddenly the gates of the gardens 
of the Tuileries opened ; we rushed forward, out gal- 
loped an enormous number of cuirassiers, in the middle 
of which were a couple of low carriages, said first to 
contain the Count de Paris and the Duchess of Orleans, 
but afterwards they said it was the King and Queen ; 
and then I heard he had abdicated. I returned and 
gave the news. 

"Went out again up the Boulevards. The house of 
the Minister of Foreign Affairs was filled with people 
and ' Hotel du Peuple ' written on it ; the Boulevards 
were barricaded with fine old trees that were cut down 
and stretched all across the road. We went through a 
great many little streets, all strongly barricaded, and 
sentinels of the people at the principal of them. The 
streets were very unquiet, filled with armed men and 
women, for the troops had followed the ex-King to 
Neuilly and left Paris in the power of the people. We 

32 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

met the captain of the Third Legion of the National 
Guard (who had principally protected the people), badly 
wounded by a Municipal Guard, stretched on a litter. 
He was in possession of his senses. He was sur- 
rounded by a troop of men crying ' Our brave captain 
— we have him yet — he's not dead! Vive la Re- 
forme!' This cry was responded to by all, and every 
one saluted him as he passed. I do not know if he was 
mortally wounded. That Third Legion has behaved 
splendidly. 

"I then returned, and shortly afterwards went out 
again to the garden of the Tuileries. They were given 
up to the people and the palace was being sacked. 
The people were firing blank cartridges to testify their 
joy, and they had a cannon on the top of the palace. 
It was a sight to see a palace sacked and armed vaga- 
bonds firing out of the windows, and throwing shirts, 
papers, and dresses of all kinds out of the windows. 
They are not rogues, these French ; they are not steal- 
ing, burning, or doing much harm. In the Tuileries they 
have dressed up some of the statues, broken some, and 
stolen nothing but queer dresses. I say, Frank, you 
must not hate the French; hate the Germans if you 
like. The French laugh at us a little, and call out God- 
dam in the streets ; but to-day, in civil war, when they 
might have put a bullet through our heads, I never was 
insulted once. 

" At present we have a provisional Government, con- 
sisting of Odion [sic] Barrot, Lamartine, Marast, and 
some others; among them a common workman, but 
very intelligent. This is a triumph of liberty — rather! 

"Now then, Frank, what do you think of it? I in a 
33 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

revolution and out all day. Just think, what fun ! So 
it was at first, till I was fired at yesterday; but to-day 
I was not frightened, but it turned me sick at heart, I 
don't know why. There has been no great bloodshed, 
[though] I certainly have seen men's blood several 
times. But there's something shocking to see a whole 
armed populace, though not furious, for not one single 
shop has been broken open, except the gunsmiths' shops, 
and most of the arms will probably be taken back again. 
For the French have no cupidity in their nature; they 
don't like to steal — it is not in their nature. I shall 
send this letter in a day or two, when I am sure the 
post will go again. I know I have been a long time 
writing, but I hope you will find the matter of this let- 
ter interesting, as coming from a person resident on the 
spot; though probably you don't take much interest in 
the French, but I can think, write, and speak on no 
other subject. 

"«. 25. 

"There is no more fighting, the people have con- 
quered; but the barricades are still kept up, and the 
people are in arms, more than ever fearing some new 
act of treachery on the part of the ex-King. The fight 
where I was was the principal cause of the Revolution. 
I was in little danger from the shot, for there was an 
immense crowd in front of me, though quite within 
gun-shot. [By another letter, a hundred yards from the 
troops.] I wished I had stopped there. 

"The Paris streets are filled with the most extraor- 
dinary crowds of men, women and children, ladies and 
gentlemen. Every person joyful. The bands of armed 
men are perfectly polite. Mamma and aunt to-day 

34 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

walked through armed crowds alone, that were firing 
blank cartridges in all directions. Every person made 
way with the greatest politeness, and one common 
man with a blouse, coming by accident against her, im- 
mediately stopped to beg her pardon in the politest 
manner. There are few drunken men. The Tuileries 
is still being run over by the people; they only broke 
two things, a bust of Louis Philippe and one of Marshal 
Bugeaud, who fired on the people. . . . 

" I have been out all day again to-day, and precious 
tired I am. The Republican party seem the strongest, 
and are going about with red ribbons in their button- 
holes. . . . 

11 The title of ' Mister ' is abandoned ; they say nothing 
but 'Citizen/ and the people are shaking hands amaz- 
ingly. They have got to the top of the public monu- 
ments, and, mingling with bronze or stone statues, five 
or six make a sort of tableau vivant, the top man hold- 
ing up the red flag of the Republic; and right well they 
do it, and very picturesque they look. I think I shall 
put this letter in the post to-morrow, as we got a letter 
to-night. 

(On Envelope.) 

"M. Lamartine has now by his eloquence conquered 
the whole armed crowd of citizens threatening to kill 
him if he did not immediately proclaim the Republic 
and red flag. He said he could not yield to the citizens 
of Paris alone, that the whole country must be con- 
sulted, that he chose the tricolour, for it had followed 
and accompanied the triumphs of France all over the 
world, and that the red flag had only been dipped in 
the blood of the citizens. For sixty hours he has been 

35 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

quieting the people: he is at the head of everything. 
Don't be prejudiced, Frank, by what you see in the pa- 
pers. The French have acted nobly, splendidly; there 
has been no brutality, plundering, or stealing. ... I 
did not like the French before ; but in this respect they 
are the finest people in the world. 1 am so glad to have 
been here." 

And there one could wish to stop with this apotheosis 
of liberty and order read with the generous enthusiasm 
of a boy; but as the reader knows, it was but the first 
act of the piece. The letters, vivid as they are, writ- 
ten as they were by a hand trembling with fear and ex- 
citement, yet do injustice, in their boyishness of tone, 
to the profound effect produced. At the sound of these 
songs and shot of cannon, the boy's mind awoke. He 
dated his own appreciation of the art of acting from the 
day when he saw and heard Rachel recite the "Marseil- 
laise " at the Francais, the tricolour in her arms. What is 
still more strange, he had been up to then invincibly indif- 
ferent to music, insomuch that he could not distinguish 
"God save the Queen" from " Bonnie Dundee"; and 
now, to the chanting of the mob, he amazed his family 
by learning and singing " Mourir pour la Patrie. ' ' But 
the letters, though they prepare the mind for no such 
revolution in the boy's tastes and feelings, are yet full 
of entertaining traits. Let the reader note Fleeming's 
eagerness to influence his friend Frank, an incipient 
Tory (no less) as further history displayed; his uncon- 
scious indifference to his father and devotion to his 
mother, betrayed in so many significant expressions and 
omissions; the sense of dignity of this diminutive M per- 

36 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

son resident on the spot," who was so happy as to es- 
cape insult; and the strange picture of the household — 
father, mother, son, and even poor Aunt Anna — all 
day in the streets in the thick of this rough business, 
and the boy packed off alone to school in a distant quar- 
ter on the very morrow of the massacre. 

They had all the gift of enjoying life's texture as it 
comes; they were all born optimists. The name of 
liberty was honoured in that family, its spirit also, but 
within stringent limits; and some of the foreign friends 
of Mrs. Jenkin were, as I have said, men distinguished 
on the Liberal side. Like Wordsworth, they beheld 

France standing on the top of golden hours 
And human nature seeming born again. 

At once, by temper and belief, they were formed to find 
their element in such a decent and whiggish convul- 
sion, spectacular in its course, moderate in its purpose. 
For them, 

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, 
But to be young was very heaven. 

And I cannot but smile when 1 think that (again like 
Wordsworth) they should have so specially disliked the 
consequence. 

It came upon them by surprise. Liberal friends of 
the precise right shade of colour had assured them, in 
Mrs. Turner's drawing-room, that all was for the best; 
and they rose on January 2} without fear. About the 
middle of the day they heard the sound of musketry, 
and the next morning they were awakened by the can- 
nonade. The French, who had behaved so ' ' splendidly, " 

51 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

pausing, at the voice of Lamartine, just where judicious 
Liberals could have desired — the French, who had "no 
cupidity in their nature," were now about to play a va- 
riation on the theme rebellion. The Jenkins took refuge 
in the house of Mrs. Turner, the house of the false pro- 
phets, "Anna going with Mrs. Turner, that she might 
be prevented speaking English, Fleeming, Miss H. and 
I (it is the mother who writes) walking together. As 
we reached the Rue de Clichy, the report of the cannon 
sounded close to our ears and made our hearts sick, I 
assure you. The fighting was at the barrier Roche- 
chouart, a few streets off. All Saturday and Sunday 
we were a prey to great alarm, there came so many re- 
ports that the insurgents were getting the upper hand. 
One could tell the state of affairs from the extreme quiet 
or the sudden hum in the street. When the news was 
bad, all the houses closed and the people disappeared; 
when better, the doors half opened and you heard the 
sound of men again. From the upper windows we 
could see each discharge from the Bastille — I mean the 
smoke rising — and also the flames and smoke from the 
Boulevard la Chapelle. We were four ladies, and only 
Fleeming by way of a man, and difficulty enough we 
had to keep him from joining the National Guards — his 
pride and spirit were both fired. You cannot picture to 
yourself the multitudes of soldiers, guards, and armed 
men of all sorts we watched — not close to the window, 
however, for such havoc had been made among them 
by the firing from the windows, that as the battalions 
marched by, they cried, " Fermez vos fenetres! " and it 
was very painful to watch their looks of anxiety and 
suspicion as they marched by." 

38 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

"The Revolution," writes Fleeming to Frank Scott, 
" was quite delightful: getting popped at and run at by 
horses, and giving sous for the wounded into little boxes 
guarded by the raggedest, picturesquest, delightfullest, 
sentinels; but the insurrection! ugh, I shudder to think 
at [sic] it." He found it " not a bit of fun sitting boxed 
up in the house four days almost .... I was the only 
gentleman to four ladies, and didn't they keep me in 
order! I did not dare to show my face at a window, 
for fear of catching a stray ball or being forced to enter 
the National Guard; [for] they would have it I was a 
man full-grown, French, and every way fit to fight. 
And my mamma was as bad as any of them; she that 
told me I was a coward last time if I stayed in the house 
a quarter of an hour! But I drew, examined the pistols, 
of which I found lots with caps, powder, and ball, 
while sometimes murderous intentions of killing a dozen 
insurgents and dying violently overpowered by num- 
bers. ..." We may drop this sentence here: under 
the conduct of its boyish writer, it was to reach no le- 
gitimate end. 

Four days of such a discipline had cured the family 
of Paris ; the same year Fleeming was to write, in an- 
swer apparently to a question of Frank Scott's, " I could 
find no national game in France but revolutions"; and 
the witticism was justified in their experience. On the 
first possible day, they applied for passports, and were 
advised to take the road to Geneva. It appears it was 
scarce safe to leave Paris for England. Charles Reade, 
with keen dramatic gusto, had just smuggled himself 
out of that city in the bottom of a cab. English gold 
had been found on the insurgents, the name of England 

39 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

was in evil odour; and it was thus — for strategic rea- 
sons, so to speak — that Fleeming found himself on the 
way to that Italy where he was to complete his educa- 
tion, and for which he cherished to the end a special 
kindness. 

It was in Genoa they settled ; partly for the sake of 
the captain, who might there find naval comrades; 
partly because of the Ruffinis, who had been friends of 
Mrs. Jenkin in their time of exile and were now consid- 
erable men at home; partly, in fine, with hopes that 
Fleeming might attend the University; in preparation 
for which he was put at once to school. It was the 
year of Novara; Mazzini was in Rome; the dry bones 
of Italy were moving; and for people of alert and lib- 
eral sympathies the time was inspiriting. What with 
exiles turned Ministers of State, universities thrown 
open to Protestants, Fleeming himself the first Protest- 
ant student in Genoa, and thus, as his mother writes, 
"a living instance of the progress of liberal ideas" — it 
was little wonder if the enthusiastic young woman and 
the clever boy were heart and soul upon the side of 
Italy. It should not be forgotten that they were both 
on their first visit to that country; the mother still 
"child enough" to be delighted when she saw "real 
monks"; and both mother and son thrilling with the 
first sight of snowy Alps, the blue Mediterranean, and 
the crowded port and the palaces of Genoa. Nor was 
their zeal without knowledge. Ruffini, deputy for 
Genoa and soon to be head of the University, was at 
their side; and by means of him the family appear to 
have had access to much Italian society. To the end, 
Fleeming professed his admiration of the Piedmontese 

40 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

and his unalterable confidence in the future of Italy 
under their conduct; for Victor Emanuel, Cavour, the 
first La Marmora and Garibaldi, he had varying degrees 
of sympathy and praise: perhaps highest for the King, 
whose good sense and temper filled him with respect 
— perhaps least for Garibaldi, whom he loved but yet 
mistrusted. 

But this is to look forward : these were the days not 
of Victor Emanuel but of Charles Albert; and it was on 
Charles Albert that mother and son had now fixed their 
eyes as on the sword-bearer of Italy. On Fleeming's 
sixteenth birthday, they were, the mother writes, "in 
great anxiety for news from the army. You can have 
no idea what it is to live in a country where such a 
struggle is going on. The interest is one that absorbs 
all others. We eat, drink, and sleep to the noise of 
drums and musketry. You would enjoy and almost 
admire Fleeming's enthusiasm and earnestness — and 
courage, I may say — for we are among the small min- 
ority of English who side with the Italians. The other 
day, at dinner at the Consul's, boy as he is, and in spite 
of my admonitions, Fleeming defended the Italian cause, 
and so well that he " tripped up the heels of his adver- 
sary " simply from being well-informed on the subject 
and honest. He is as true as steel, and for no one will 
he bend right or left. ... Do not fancy him a Boba- 
dil," she adds, "he is only a very true candid boy. I 
am so glad he remains in all respects but information a 
great child." 

If this letter is correctly dated, the cause was already 
lost and the King had already abdicated when these 
lines were written. No sooner did the news reach 

41 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

Genoa, than there began "tumultuous movements"; 
and the Jenkins received hints it would be wise to leave 
the city. But they had friends and interests; even the 
captain had English officers to keep him company, for 
Lord Hardwicke's ship, the Vengeance, lay in port; and 
supposing the danger to be real, I cannot but suspect the 
whole family of a divided purpose, prudence being pos- 
sibly weaker than curiosity. Stay, at least, they did, 
and thus rounded their experience of the revolutionary 
year. On Sunday, April i, Fleeming and the captain 
went for a ramble beyond the walls, leaving Aunt Anna 
and Mrs. Jenkin to walk on the bastions with some 
friends. On the way back, this party turned aside to 
rest in the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie. " We 
had remarked," writes Mrs. Jenkin, M the entire absence 
of sentinels on the ramparts, and how the cannons were 
left in solitary state; and I had just remarked "How 
quiet everything is!" when suddenly we heard the 
drums begin to beat and distant shouts. Accustomed 
as we are to revolutions, we never thought of being 
frightened." For all that, they resumed their return 
home. On the way they saw men running and vocif- 
erating, but nothing to indicate a general disturbance, 
until, near the Duke's palace, they came upon and 
passed a shouting mob dragging along with it three 
cannons. It had scarcely passed before they heard "a 
rushing sound " ; one of the gentlemen thrust back the 
party of ladies under a shed, and the mob passed again. 
A fine-looking young man was in their hands; and Mrs. 
Jenkin saw him with his mouth open as if he sought 
to speak, saw him tossed from one to another like a 
ball, and then saw him no more. M He was dead a few 

42 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

instants after, but the crowd hid that terror from us. 
My knees shook under me and my sight left me." With 
this street tragedy, the curtain rose upon their second 
revolution. 

The attack on Spirito Santo, and the capitulation and 
departure of the troops speedily followed. Genoa was 
in the hands of the Republicans, and now came a time 
when the English residents were in a position to pay 
some return for hospitality received. Nor were they 
backward. Our Consul (the same who had the benefit 
of correction from Fleeming) carried the Intendente on 
board the Vengeance, escorting him through the streets, 
getting along with him on board a shore boat, and 
when the insurgents levelled their muskets, standing up 
and naming himself, "Console Inglese." A friend of 
the Jenkins', Captain Glynne, had a more painful, if a 
less dramatic part. One Colonel Nosozzo had been 
killed (I read) while trying to prevent his own artillery 
from firing on the mob; but in that hell's cauldron of a 
distracted city, there were no distinctions made, and 
the colonel's widow was hunted for her life. In her 
grief and peril, the Glynnes received and hid her; Cap- 
tain Glynne sought and found her husband's body 
among the slain, saved it for two days, brought the 
widow a lock of the dead man's hair; but at last, the 
mob still strictly searching, seems to have abandoned 
the body, and conveyed his guest on board the Ven- 
geance. The Jenkins also had their refugees, the family 
of an employ t threatened by a decree. "You should 
have seen me making a Union Jack to nail over our 
door," writes Mrs. Jenkin. "1 never worked so fast in 
my life. Monday and Tuesday," she continues, "were 

43 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

tolerably quiet, our hearts beating fast in the hope of 
La Marmora's approach, the streets barricaded, and none 
but foreigners and women allowed to leave the city." 
On Wednesday, La Marmora came indeed, but in the 
ugly form of a bombardment; and that evening the 
Jenkins sat without lights about their drawing-room 
window, "watching the huge red flashes of the can- 
non" from the Brigato and La Specula forts, and heark- 
ening, not without some awful pleasure, to the thunder 
of the cannonade. 

Lord Hardwicke intervened between the rebels and 
La Marmora; and there followed a troubled armistice, 
filled with the voice of panic. Now the Vengeance was 
known to be cleared for action ; now it was rumoured 
that the galley slaves were to be let loose upon the 
town, and now that the troops would enter it by storm. 
Crowds, trusting in the Union Jack over the Jenkins' 
door, came to beg them to receive their linen and other 
valuables; nor could their instances be refused; and in 
the midst of all this bustle and alarm, piles of goods 
must be examined and long inventories made. At last 
the captain decided things had gone too far. He him- 
self apparently remained to watch over the linen ; but 
at five o'clock on the Sunday morning, Aunt Anna, 
Fleeming, and his mother were rowed in a pour of rain 
on board an English merchantman, to suffer " nine mor- 
tal hours of agonising suspense." With the end of that 
time, peace was restored. On Tuesday morning offi- 
cers with white flags appeared on the bastions; then, 
regiment by regiment, the troops marched in, two hun- 
dred men sleeping on the ground floor of the Jenkins' 
house, thirty thousand in all entering the city, but with- 

44 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

out disturbance, old La Marmora being a commander of 
a Roman sternness. 

With the return of quiet, and the reopening of the 
universities, we behold a new character, Signor Flami- 
nio: the professors, it appears, made no attempt upon 
the Jenkin; and thus readily italianised the Fleeming. 
He came well recommended; for their friend Rufrini 
was then, or soon after, raised to be the head of the 
University; and the professors were very kind and at- 
tentive, possibly to Ruffini's protege, perhaps also to the 
first Protestant student. It was no joke for Signor Fla- 
minio at first; certificates had to be got from Paris and 
from Rector Williams; the classics must be furbished 
up at home that he might follow Latin lectures; exam- 
inations bristled in the path, the entrance examination 
with Latin and English essay, and oral trials (much 
softened for the foreigner) in Horace, Tacitus, and Ci- 
cero, and the first University examination only three 
months later, in Italian eloquence, no less, and other 
wider subjects. On one point the first Protestant stu- 
dent was moved to thank his stars: that there was no 
Greek required for the degree. Little did he think, as 
he set down his gratitude, how much, in later life and 
among cribs and dictionaries, he was to lament this cir- 
cumstance; nor how much of that later life he was to 
spend acquiring, with infinite toil, a shadow of what 
he might then have got with ease and fully. But if his 
Genoese education was in this particular imperfect, he 
was fortunate in the branches that more immediately 
touched on his career. The physical laboratory was the 
best mounted in Italy. Bancalari, the professor of nat- 
ural philosophy, was famous in his day; by what 

45 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

seems even an odd coincidence, he went deeply into 
electro-magnetism ; and it was principally in that sub- 
ject that Signor Flaminio, questioned in Latin and an- 
swering in Italian, passed his Master of Arts degree with 
first-class honours. That he had secured the notice of 
his teachers, one circumstance sufficiently proves. A 
philosophical society was started under the presidency 
of Mamiani, "one of the examiners and one of the 
leaders of the Moderate party " ; and out of five promis- 
ing students brought forward by the professors to at- 
tend the sittings and present essays, Signor Flaminio 
was one. I cannot find that he ever read an essay; and 
indeed I think his hands were otherwise too full. He 
found his fellow-students "not such a bad set of 
chaps," and preferred the Piedmontese before the Gen- 
oese ; but I suspect he mixed not very freely with either. 
Not only were his days filled with university work, but 
his spare hours were fully dedicated to the arts under 
the eye of a beloved task-mistress. He worked hard 
and well in the art school, where he obtained a silver 
medal "for a couple of legs the size of life drawn from 
one of Raphael's cartoons." His holidays were spent 
in sketching; his evenings, when they were free, at the 
theatre. Here at the opera he discovered besides a 
taste for a new art, the art of music; and it was, he 
wrote, "as if he had found out a heaven on earth." 
" I am so anxious that whatever he professes to know, 
he should really perfectly possess," his mother wrote, 
"that I spare no pains"; neither to him nor to myself, 
she might have added. And so when he begged to be 
allowed to learn the piano, she started him with char- 
acteristic barbarity on the scales; and heard in conse- 

46 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

quence "heart-rending groans" and saw "anguished 
claspings of hands " as he lost his way among their arid 
intricacies. 

In this picture of the lad at the piano, there is some- 
thing, for the period, girlish. He was indeed his 
mother's boy; and it was fortunate his mother was not 
altogether feminine. She gave her son a womanly 
delicacy in morals, to a man's taste — to his own taste 
in later life — too finely spun, and perhaps more elegant 
than healthful. She encouraged him besides in draw- 
ing-room interests. But in other points her influence 
was manlike. Filled with the spirit of thoroughness, 
she taught him to make of the least of these accom- 
plishments a virile task; and the teaching lasted him 
through life. Immersed as she was in the day's move- 
ments and buzzed about by leading Liberals, she handed 
on to him her creed in politics: an enduring kindness 
for Italy, and a loyalty, like that of many clever women, 
to the Liberal party with but small regard to men or 
measures. This attitude of mind used often to disap- 
point me in a man so fond of logic; but I see now how 
it was learned from the bright eyes of his mother and 
to the sound of the cannonades of 1848. To some of 
her defects, besides, she made him heir. Kind as was 
the bond that united her to her son, kind and even 
pretty, she was scarce a woman to adorn a home; lov- 
ing as she did to shine; careless as she was of domes- 
tic, studious of public graces. She probably rejoiced to 
see the boy grow up in somewhat of the image of her- 
self, generous, excessive, enthusiastic, external; catch- 
ing at ideas, brandishing them when caught; fiery for 
the right, but always fiery ; ready at fifteen to correct a 

47 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

consul, ready at fifty to explain to any artist his own 
art. 

The defects and advantages of such a training were 
obvious in Fleeming throughout life. His thorough- 
ness was not that of the patient scholar, but of an un- 
trained woman with fits of passionate study; he had 
learned too much from dogma, given indeed by cher- 
ished lips; and precocious as he was in the use of the 
tools of the mind, he was truly backward in knowledge 
of life and of himself. Such as it was at least, his home 
and school training was now complete; and you are to 
conceive the lad as being formed in a household of 
meagre revenue, among foreign surroundings, and un- 
der the influence of an imperious drawing-room queen; 
from whom he learned a great refinement of morals, a 
strong sense of duty, much forwardness of bearing, all 
manner of studious and artistic interests, and many 
ready-made opinions which he embraced with a son's 
and a disciple's loyalty. 



48 



CHAPTER III 
1851 — 1858 

Return to England — Fleeming at Fairbairn's — Experience in a Strike 
— Dr. Bell and Greek Architecture — The Gaskells — Fleeming at 
Greenwich — The Austins — Fleeming and the Austins — His En- 
gagement — Fleeming and Sir W. Thomson. 

In 185 1, the year of Aunt Anna's death, the family 
left Genoa and came to Manchester, where Fleeming 
was entered in Fairbairn's works as an apprentice. 
From the palaces and Alps, the Mole, the blue Mediter- 
ranean, the humming lanes and the bright theatres of 
Genoa, he fell — and he was sharply conscious of the 
fall — to the dim skies and the foul ways of Manchester. 
England he found on his return "a horrid place," and 
there is no doubt the family found it a dear one. The 
story of the Jenkin finances is not easy to follow. The 
family, I am told, did not practice frugality, only lamented 
that it should be needful; and Mrs. Jenkin, who was 
always complaining of " those dreadful bills," was" al- 
ways a good deal dressed." But at this time of the re- 
turn to England, things must have gone further. A 
holiday tour of a fortnight, Fleeming feared would be 
beyond what he could afford, and he only projected it 
"to have a castle in the air." And there were actual 
pinches. Fresh from a warmer sun, he was obliged to 

49 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

go without a greatcoat, and learned on railway journeys 
to supply the place of one with wrappings of old news- 
paper. 

From half-past eight till six, he must "file and chip 
vigorously in a moleskin suit and infernally dirty." The 
work was not new to him, for he had already passed 
some time in a Genoese shop; and to Fleeming no work 
was without interest. Whatever a man can do or 
know, he longed to know and do also. " I never learned 
anything," he wrote, " not even standing on my head, 
but I found a use for it." In the spare hours of his first 
telegraph voyage, to give an instance of his greed of 
knowledge, he meant " to learn the whole art of naviga- 
tion, every rope in the ship and how to handle her on 
any occasion "; and once when he was shown a young 
lady's holiday collection of seaweeds, he must cry out, 
11 It showed me my eyes had been idle." Nor was his 
the case of the mere literary smatterer, content if he but 
learn the names of things. In him, to do and to do 
well, was even a dearer ambition than to know. Any- 
thing done well, any craft, despatch, or finish, delighted 
and inspired him. I remember him with a twopenny 
Japanese box of three drawers, so exactly fitted that, 
when one was driven home, the others started from 
their places; the whole spirit of Japan, he told me, was 
pictured in that box; that plain piece of carpentry was 
as much inspired by the spirit of perfection as the hap- 
piest drawing or the finest bronze; and he who could 
not enjoy it in xhe one was not fully able to enjoy it in 
the others. Thus, too, he found in Leonardo's engi- 
neering and anatomical drawings a perpetual feast; and 
of the former he spoke even with emotion. Nothing 

50 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

indeed annoyed Fleeming more than the attempt to sep- 
arate the fine arts from the arts of handicraft ; any defi- 
nition or theory that failed to bring these two together, 
according to him, had missed the point; and the essence 
of the pleasure received lay in seeing things well done. 
Other qualities must be added; he was the last to deny 
that; but this, of perfect craft, was at the bottom of all. 
And on the other hand, a nail ill-driven, a joint ill-fitted, 
a tracing clumsily done, anything to which a man had 
set his hand and not set it aptly, moved him to shame 
and anger. With such a character, he would feel but 
little drudgery at Fairbairn's. There would be some- 
thing daily to be done, slovenliness to be avoided, and 
a higher mark of skill to be attained ; he would chip and 
file, as he had practiced scales, impatient of his own im- 
perfection, but resolute to learn. 

And there was another spring of delight. For he 
was now moving daily among those strange creations 
of man's brain, to some so abhorrent, to him of an in- 
terest so inexhaustible : in which iron, water, and fire 
are made to serve as slaves, now with a tread more 
powerful than an elephant's, and now with a touch 
more precise and dainty than a pianist's. The taste for 
machinery was one that I could never share with him, 
and he had a certain bitter pity for my weakness. Once 
when I had proved, for the hundredth time, the depth 
of this defect, he looked at me askance: " And the best 
of the joke," said he, M is that he thinks himself quite a 
poet." For to him the struggle of the engineer against 
brute forces and with inert allies, was nobly poetic. 
Habit never dulled in him the sense of the greatness of 
the aims and obstacles of his profession. Habit only 

5« 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

sharpened his inventor's gusto in contrivance, in tri- 
umphant artifice, in the Odyssean subtleties, by which 
wires are taught to speak, and iron hands to weave, 
and the slender ship to brave and to outstrip the tem- 
pest. To the ignorant the great results alone are admi- 
rable; to the knowing, and to Fleeming in particular, 
rather the infinite device and sleight of hand that made 
them possible. 

A notion was current at the time that, in such a shop 
as Fairbairn's, a pupil would never be popular unless he 
drank with the workmen and imitated them in speech 
and manner. Fleeming, who would do none of these 
things, they accepted as a friend and companion; and 
this was the subject of remark in Manchester, where 
some memory of it lingers till to-day. He thought it 
one of the advantages of his profession to be brought 
into a close relation with the working classes ; and for 
the skilled artisan he had a great esteem, liking his 
company, his virtues, and his taste in some of the arts. 
But he knew the classes too well to regard them, like a 
platform speaker, in a lump. He drew, on the other 
hand, broad distinctions; and it was his profound sense 
of the difference between one working man and another 
that led him to devote so much time, in later days, to 
the furtherance of technical education. In 1852 he had 
occasion to see both men and masters at their worst, in 
the excitement of a strike; and very foolishly (after their 
custom) both would seem to have behaved. Beginning 
with a fair show of justice on either side, the masters 
stultified their cause by obstinate impolicy, and the men 
disgraced their order by acts of outrage. ' ' On Wednes- 
day last," writes Fleeming, "about three thousand 

52 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

banded round Fairbairn's door at 6 o'clock: men, 
women, and children, factory boys and girls, the lowest 
of the low in a very low place. Orders came that no 
one was to leave the works; but the men inside (Knob- 
sticks as they are called) were precious hungry and 
thought they would venture. Two of my companions 
and myself went out with the very first, and had the 
full benefit of every possible groan and bad language." 
But the police cleared a lane through the crowd, the 
pupils were suffered to escape unhurt, and only the 
Knobsticks followed home and kicked with clogs ; so 
that Fleeming enjoyed, as we may say, for nothing, 
that fine thrill of expectant valour with which he had 
sallied forth into the mob. " I never before felt myself 
so decidedly somebody, instead of nobody," he wrote. 
Outside as inside the works, he was " pretty merry 
and well to do," zealous in study, welcome to many 
friends, unwearied in loving-kindness to his mother. 
For some time he spent three nights a week with Dr. 
Bell, "working away at certain geometrical methods 
of getting the Greek architectural proportions " : a 
business after Fleeming's heart, for he was never so 
pleased as when he could marry his two devotions, art 
and science. This was besides, in all likelihood, the 
beginning of that love and intimate appreciation of 
things Greek, from the least to the greatest, from the 
Agamemnon (perhaps his favourite tragedy) down to 
the details of Grecian tailoring, which he used to 
express in his familiar phrase: "The Greeks were the 
boys." Dr. Bell — the son of George Joseph, the nephew 
of Sir Charles, and though he made less use of it than 
some, a sharer in the distinguished talents of his race — 

53 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

had hit upon the singular fact that certain geometrical 
intersections gave the proportions of the Doric order. 
Fleeming, under Dr. Bell's direction, applied the same 
method to the other orders, and again found the pro- 
portions accurately given. Numbers of diagrams were 
prepared; but the discovery was never given to the 
world, perhaps because of the dissensions that arose be- 
tween the authors. For Dr. Bell believed that "these 
intersections were in some way connected with, or 
symbolical of, the antagonistic forces at work"; but his 
pupil and helper, with characteristic trenchancy, brushed 
aside this mysticism, and interpreted the discovery as 
"a geometrical method of dividing the spaces or (as 
might be said) of setting out the work, purely empirical 
and in no way connected with any laws of either force 
or beauty." "Many a hard and pleasant fight we had 
over it" wrote Jenkin, in later years; " and impertinent 
as it may seem, the pupil is still unconvinced by the ar- 
guments of the master." I do not know about the an- 
tagonistic forces in the Doric order; in Fleeming they 
were plain enough ; and the Bobadil of these affairs with 
Dr. Bell was still, like the corrector of Italian consuls, 
" a great child in everything but information." At the 
house of Colonel Cleather, he might be seen with a 
family of children ; and with these, there was no word 
of the Greek orders; with these Fleeming was only art 
uproarious boy and an entertaining draughtsman; so 
that his coming was the signal for the young people to 
troop into the playroom, where sometimes the roof rang 
with romping, and sometimes they gathered quietly 
about him as he amused them with his pencil. 

In another Manchester family, whose name will be 

54 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

familiar to my readers — that of the Gaskells, Fleeming 
was a frequent visitor. To Mrs. Gaskell, he would often 
bring his new ideas, a process that many of his later 
friends will understand and, in their own cases, remem- 
ber. With the girls, he had ' ' constant fierce wrangles, " 
forcing them to reason out their thoughts and to explain 
their prepossessions; and I hear from Miss Gaskell that 
they used to wonder how he could throw all the ardour 
of his character into the smallest matters, and to admire 
his unselfish devotion to his parents. Of one of these 
wrangles, I have found a record most characteristic of 
the man. Fleeming had been laying down his doctrine 
that the end justifies the means, and that it is quite right 
" to boast of your six men-servants to a burglar or to 
steal a knife to prevent a murder " ; and the Miss Gas- 
kells, with girlish loyalty to what is current, had rejected 
the heresy with indignation. From such passages-at- 
arms, many retire mortified and ruffled; but Fleeming 
had no sooner left the house than he fell into delighted 
admiration of the spirit of his adversaries. From that 
it was but a step to ask himself " what truth was stick- 
ing in their heads " ; for even the falsest form of words 
(in Fleeming's life-long opinion) reposed upon some 
truth, just as he could " not even allow that people ad- 
mire ugly things, they admire what is pretty in the ugly 
thing." And before he sat down to write his letter, he 
thought he had hit upon the explanation. " I fancy the 
true idea," he wrote, " is that you must never do your- 
self or any one else a moral injury — make any man a 
thief or a liar — for any end " ; quite a different thing, as 
he would have loved to point out, from never stealing 
or lying. But this perfervid disputant was not always 

55 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

out of key with his audience. One whom he met in 
the same house announced that she would never again 
be happy. " What does that signify ? " cried Fleeming. 
" We are not here to be happy, but to be good." And 
the words (as his hearer writes to me) became to her a 
sort of motto during life. 

From Fairbairn's and Manchester, Fleeming passed to 
a railway survey in Switzerland, and thence again to 
Mr. Penn's at Greenwich, where he was engaged as 
draughtsman. There in 1856, we find him in "a ter- 
ribly busy state, finishing up engines for innumerable 
gun-boats and steam frigates for the ensuing cam- 
paign." From half-past eight in the morning till nine 
or ten at night, he worked in a crowded office among 
uncongenial comrades, "saluted by chaff, generally 
low personal and not witty," pelted with oranges and 
apples, regaled with dirty stories, and seeking to suit 
himself with his surroundings or (as he writes) trying 
to be as little like himself as possible. His lodgings 
were hard by, "across a dirty green and through some 
half-built streets of two-storied houses ; " he had Carlyle 
and the poets, engineering and mathematics, to study 
by himself in such spare time as remained to him; and 
there were several ladies, young and not so young, 
with whom he liked to correspond. But not all of these 
could compensate for the absence of that mother, who 
had made herself so large a figure in his life, for sorry 
surroundings, unsuitable society, and work that leaned 
to the mechanical. "Sunday," says he, "I generally 
visit some friends in town and seem to swim in clearer 
water, but the dirty green seems all the dirtier when I 
get back. Luckily I am fond of my profession, or I 

56 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

could not stand this life." It is a question in my mind, 
if he could have long continued to stand it without loss. 
"We are not here to be happy, but to be good," quoth 
the young philosopher; but no man had a keener appe- 
tite for happiness than Fleeming Jenkin. There is a 
time of life besides when, apart from circumstances, 
few men are agreeable to their neighbours and still 
fewer to themselves; and it was at this stage that 
Fleeming had arrived, later than common and even 
worse provided. The letter from which I have quoted 
is the last of his correspondence with Frank Scott, and 
his last confidential letter to one of his own sex. " If 
you consider it rightly," he wrote long after, "you will 
find the want of correspondence no such strange want 
in men's friendships. There is, believe me, something 
noble in the metal which does not rust though not 
burnished by daily use." It is well said; but the last 
letter to Frank Scott is scarcely of a noble metal. It is 
plain the writer has outgrown his old self, yet not made 
acquaintance with the new. This letter from a busy 
youth of three and twenty, breathes of seventeen : the 
sickening alternations of conceit and shame, the expense 
of hope in vacuo, the lack of friends, the longing after 
love; the whole world of egoism under which youth 
stands groaning, a voluntary Atlas. 

With Fleeming this disease was never seemingly 
severe. The very day before this (to me) distasteful 
letter, he had written to Miss Bell of Manchester in a 
sweeter strain; I do not quote the one, I quote the 
other; fair things are the best. "I keep my own little 
lodgings," he writes, "but come up every night to see 
mamma" (who was then on a visit to London) "if not 

57 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

kept too late at the works; and have singing lessons 
once more, and sing • Donne I' amor e e scaltro par go- 
letto'; and think and talk about you; and listen to 
mamma's projects de Stowting. Everything turns to 
gold at her touch, she 's a fairy and no mistake. We 
go on talking till I have a picture in my head, and can 
hardly believe at the end that the original is Stowting. 
Even you don't know half how good mamma is; in 
other things too, which I must not mention. She 
teaches me how it is not necessary to be very rich to 
do much good. I begin to understand that mamma 
would find useful occupation and create beauty at the 
bottom of a volcano. She has little weaknesses, but is 
a real generous-hearted woman, which I suppose is the 
finest thing in the world." Though neither mother 
nor son could be called beautiful, they make a pretty 
picture; the ugly, generous, ardent woman weaving 
rainbow illusions; the ugly, clear-sighted, loving son 
sitting at her side in one of his rare hours of pleasure, 
half-beguiled, half-amused, wholly admiring, as he lis- 
tens. But as he goes home, and the fancy pictures 
fade, and Stowting is once more burthened with debt, 
and the noisy companions and the long hours of 
drudgery once more approach, no wonder if the dirty 
green seems all the dirtier or if Atlas must resume his 
load. 

But in healthy natures, this time of moral teething 
passes quickly of itself, and is easily alleviated by fresh 
interests; and already, in the letter to Frank Scott, there 
are two words of hope : his friends in London, his love 
for his profession. The last might have saved him ; for 
he was ere long to pass into a new sphere, where all his 

5* 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

faculties were to be tried and exercised, and his life to 
be filled with interest and effort. But it was not left to 
engineering: another and more influential aim was to be 
set before him. He must, in any case, have fallen in love ; 
in any case, his love would have ruled his life ; and the 
question of choice was, for the descendant of two such 
families, a thing of paramount importance. Innocent 
of the world, fiery, generous, devoted as he was, the 
son of the wild Jacksons and the facile Jenkins might 
have been led far astray. By one of those partialities 
that fill men at once with gratitude and wonder, his 
choosing was directed well. Or are we to say that by 
a man's choice in marriage, as by a crucial merit, he 
deserves his fortune ? One thing at least reason may 
discern : that a man but partly chooses, he also partly 
forms, his helpmate; and he must in part deserve her, or 
the treasure is but won for a moment to be lost. Fleem- 
ing chanced if you will (and indeed all these opportuni- 
ties are as "random as blind man's buff") upon a wife 
who was worthy of him; but he had the wit to know 
it, the courage to wait and labour for his prize, and the 
tenderness and chivalry that are required to keep such 
prizes precious. Upon this point he has himself written 
well, as usual with fervent optimism, but as usual (in his 
own phrase) with a truth sticking in his head. 

M Love," he wrote, 'Ms not an intuition of the person 
most suitable to us, most required by us; of the person 
with whom life flowers and bears fruit. If this were 
so, the chances of our meeting that person would be 
small indeed; our intuition would often fail; the blind- 
ness of love would then be fatal as it is proverbial. No, 
love works differently, and in its blindness lies its 

59 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

strength. Man and woman, each strongly desires to be 
loved, each opens to the other that heart of ideal aspi- 
rations which they have often hid till then ; each, thus 
knowing the ideal of the other, tries to fulfil that ideal, 
each partially succeeds. The greater the love, the 
greater the success; the nobler the ideal of each, the 
more durable, the more beautiful the effect. Meanwhile 
the blindness of each to the other's defects enables the 
transformation to proceed [unobserved], so that when 
the veil is withdrawn (if it ever is, and this I do not 
know) neither knows that any change has occurred in 
the person whom they loved. Do not fear, therefore. 
I do not tell you that your friend will not change, but 
as I am sure that her choice cannot be that of a man 
with a base ideal, so I am sure the change will be a 
safe and a good one. Do not fear that anything you 
love will vanish, he must love it too." 

Among other introductions in London, Fleeming had 
presented a letter from Mrs. Gaskell to the Alfred Aus- 
tins. This was a family certain to interest a thoughtful 
young man. Alfred, the youngest and least known of 
the Austins, had been a beautiful golden-haired child, 
petted and kept out of the way of both sport and study 
by a partial mother. Bred an attorney, he had (like 
both his brothers) changed his way of life, and was 
called to the bar when past thirty. A Commission of 
Enquiry into the state of the poor in Dorsetshire gave 
him an opportunity of proving his true talents; and he 
was appointed a Poor Law Inspector, first at Worcester, 
next at Manchester, where he had to deal with the po- 
tato famine and the Irish immigration of the 'forties, 
and finally in London, where he again distinguished 

60 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

himself during an epidemic of cholera. He was then 
advanced to the Permanent Secretaryship of Her Ma- 
jesty's Office of Works and Public Buildings; a position 
which he filled with perfect competence, but with an 
extreme of modesty; and on his retirement, in 1868, he 
was made a Companion of the Bath. While apprentice 
to a Norwich attorney, Alfred Austin was a frequent 
visitor in the house of Mr. Barron, a rallying place in 
those days of intellectual society. Edward Barron, the 
son of a rich saddler or leather merchant in the Bor- 
ough, was a man typical of the time. When he was a 
child, he had once been patted on the head in his 
father's shop by no less a man than Samuel Johnson, as 
the Doctor went round the Borough canvassing for Mr. 
Thrale ; and the child was true to this early consecration. 
11 A life of lettered ease spent in provincial retirement," 
it is thus that the biographer of that remarkable man, Wil- 
liam Taylor, announces his subject; and the phrase is 
equally descriptive of the life of Edward Barron. The 
pair were close friends: " W. T. and a pipe render 
everything agreeable," writes Barron in his diary in 
1828; and in 1833, after Barron had moved to London 
and Taylor had tasted the first public failure of his 
powers, the latter wrote: "To my ever dearest Mr. 
Barron say, if you please, that I miss him more than I 
regret him — that I acquiesce in his retirement from 
Norwich, because I could ill brook his observation of 
my increasing debility of mind." This chosen com- 
panion of William Taylor must himself have been no 
ordinary man ; and he was the friend besides of Borrow, 
whom I find him helping in his Latin. But he had no 
desire for popular distinction, lived privately, married a 

61 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

daughter of Dr. Enfield of Enfield's Speaker, and de- 
voted his time to the education of his family, in a delib- 
erate and scholarly fashion, and with certain traits of 
stoicism, that would surprise a modern. From these 
children we must single out his youngest daughter, 
Eliza, who learned under his care to be a sound Latin, 
an elegant Grecian, and to suppress emotion without 
outward sign after the manner of the Godwin school. 
This was the more notable, as the girl really derived 
from the Enfields; whose high-flown romantic temper 
I wish I could find space to illustrate. She was but 
seven years old, when Alfred Austin remarked and fell 
in love with her; and the union thus early prepared was 
singularly full. Where the husband and wife differed, 
and they did so on momentous subjects, they differed 
with perfect temper and content; and in the conduct of 
life, and in depth and durability of love, they were at 
one. Each full of high spirits, each practised something 
of the same repression : no sharp word was uttered in 
their house. The same point of honour ruled them; a 
guest was sacred and stood within the pale from criti- 
cism. It was a house, besides, of unusual intellectual 
tension. Mrs. Austin remembered, in the early days of 
the marriage, the three brothers, John, Charles, and Al- 
fred, marching to and fro, each with his hands behind 
his back, and "reasoning high " till morning; and how, 
like Dr. Johnson, they would cheer their speculations 
with as many as fifteen cups of tea. And though, be- 
fore the date of Fleeming's visit, the brothers were sep- 
arated, Charles long ago retired from the world at 
Brandeston, and John already near his end in the 
"rambling old house" at Wey bridge, Alfred Austin 

62 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

and his wife were still a centre of much intellectual so- 
ciety, and still, as indeed they remained until the last, 
youthfully alert in mind. There was but one child of 
the marriage, Anne, and she was herself something new 
for the eyes of the young visitor; brought up, as she had 
been, like her mother before her, to the standard of a 
man's acquirements. Only one art had she been de- 
nied, she must not learn the violin — the thought was 
too monstrous -even for the Austins; and indeed it 
would seem as if that tide of reform which we may date 
from the days of Mary Wollstonecraft had in some de- 
gree even receded ; for though Miss Austin was suffered 
to learn Greek, the accomplishment was kept secret like 
a piece of guilt. But whether this stealth was caused 
by a backward movement in public thought since the 
time of Edward Barron, or by the change from enlight- 
ened Norwich to barbarian London, I have no means 
of judging. 

When Fleeming presented his letter, he fell in love at 
first sight with Mrs. Austin and the life and atmosphere 
of the house. There was in the society of the Austins, 
outward, stoical conformers to the world, something 
gravely suggestive of essential eccentricity, something 
unpretentiously breathing of intellectual effort, that could 
not fail to hit the fancy of this hot-brained boy. The 
unbroken enamel of courtesy, the self-restraint, the dig- 
nified kindness of these married folk, had besides a par- 
ticular attraction for their visitor. He could not but 
compare what he saw, with what he knew of his 
mother and himself. Whatever virtues Fleeming pos- 
sessed, he could never count on being civil; whatever 
brave, true-hearted qualities he was able to admire in 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Mrs. Jenkin, mildness of demeanour was not one of 
them. And here he found persons who were the equals 
of his mother and himself in intellect and width of in- 
terest, and the equals of his father in mild urbanity of 
disposition. Show Fleeming an active virtue, and he 
always loved it. He went away from that house struck 
through with admiration, and vowing to himself that 
his own married life should be upon that pattern, his 
wife (whoever she might be) like Eliza Barron, himself 
such another husband as Alfred Austin. What is more 
strange, he not only brought away, but left behind him, 
golden opinions. He must have been — he was, I am 
told — a trying lad; but there shone out of him such a 
light of innocent candour, enthusiasm, intelligence, and 
appreciation, that to persons already some way forward 
in years, and thus able to enjoy indulgently the peren- 
nial comedy of youth, the sight of him was delightful. 
By a pleasant coincidence, there was one person in the 
house whom he did not appreciate and who did not 
appreciate him: Anne Austin, his future wife. His 
boyish vanity ruffled her; his appearance, never im- 
pressive, was then, by reason of obtrusive boyishness, 
still less so ; she found occasion to put him in the wrong 
by correcting a false quantity; and when Mr. Austin, 
after doing his visitor the almost unheard-of honour of 
accompanying him to the door, announced " That was 
what young men were like in my time " — she could 
only reply, looking on her handsome father, "I thought 
they had been better looking." 

This first visit to the Austins took place in 1855; and 
it seems it was some time before Fleeming began to 
know his mind ; and yet longer ere he ventured to show 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

it. The corrected quantity, to those who knew him 
well, will seem to have played its part; he was the 
man always to reflect over a correction and to admire 
the castigator. And fall in love he did ; not hurriedly 
but step by step, not blindly but with critical discrim- 
ination; not in the fashion of Romeo, but before he 
was done, with all Romeo's ardour and more than 
Romeo's faith. The high favour to which he presently 
rose in the esteem of Alfred Austin and his wife, might 
well give him ambitious notions; but the poverty of the 
present and the obscurity of the future were there to give 
him pause; and when his aspirations began to settle 
round Miss Austin, he tasted, perhaps for the only time 
in his life, the pangs of diffidence. There was indeed 
opening before him a wide door of hope. He had 
changed into the service of Messrs. Liddell & Gordon ; 
these gentlemen had begun to dabble in the new field 
of marine telegraphy; and Fleeming was already face 
to face with his life's work. That impotent sense of 
his own value, as of a ship aground, which makes one 
of the agonies of youth, began to fall from him. New 
problems which he was endowed to solve, vistas of 
new enquiry which he was fitted to explore, opened 
before him continually. His gifts had found their 
avenue and goal. And with this pleasure of effective 
exercise, there must have sprung up at once the hope 
of what is called by the world success. But from these 
low beginnings, it was a far look upward to Miss Aus- 
tin : the favour of the loved one seems always more 
than problematical to any lover; the consent of parents 
must be always more than doubtful to a young man 
with a small salary and no capital except capacity and 

65 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

hope. But Fleeming was not the lad to lose any good 
thing for the lack of trial; and at length, in the autumn 
of 1857, this boyish-sized, boyish-mannered, and super- 
latively ill-dressed young engineer entered the house 
of the Austins, with such sinkings as we may fancy, 
and asked leave to pay his addresses to the daughter. 
Mrs. Austin already loved him like a son, she was but 
too glad to give him her consent; Mr. Austin reserved 
the right to inquire into his character; from neither was 
there a word about his prospects, by neither was his 
income mentioned. "Are these people," he wrote, 
struck with wonder at this dignified disinterestedness, 
"are these people the same as other people ?" It was 
not till he was armed with this permission, that Miss 
Austin even suspected the nature of his hopes: so 
strong, in this unmannerly boy, was the principle of 
true courtesy; so powerful, in this impetuous nature, 
the springs of self-repression. And yet a boy he was ; 
a boy in heart and mind ; and it was with a boy's chiv- 
alry and frankness that he won his wife. His conduct 
was a model of honour, hardly of tact; to conceal love 
from the loved one, to court her parents, to be silent 
and discreet till these are won, and then without pre- 
paration to approach the lady — these are not arts that 
I would recommend for imitation. They lead to final 
refusal. Nothing saved Fleeming from that fate, but 
one circumstance that cannot be counted upon — the 
hearty favour of the mother, and one gift that is inimi- 
table and that never failed him throughout life, the gift 
of a nature essentially noble and outspoken. A happy 
and high-minded anger flashed through his despair: it 
won for him his wife. 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Nearly two years passed before it was possible to 
marry : two years of activity, now in London ; now at 
Birkenhead, fitting out ships, inventing new machinery 
for new purposes, and dipping into electrical experi- 
ment ; now in the Elba on his first telegraph cruise be- 
tween Sardinia and Algiers: a busy and delightful period 
of bounding ardour, incessant toil, growing hope and 
fresh interests, with behind and through all, the image 
of his beloved. A few extracts from his correspondence 
with his betrothed will give the note of these truly 
joyous years. " My profession gives me all the excite- 
ment and interest I ever hope for, but the sorry jade is 
obviously jealous of you." — "'Poor Fleeming,' in 
spite of wet, cold and wind, clambering over moist, 
tarry slips, wandering among pools of slush in waste 
places inhabited by wandering locomotives, grows visi- 
bly stronger, has dismissed his office cough and cured 
his toothache." — " The whole of the paying out and lift- 
ing machinery must be designed and ordered in two or 
three days, and I am half crazy with work. I like it 
though : it's like a good ball, the excitement carries you 
through." — "I was running to and from the ships and 
warehouse through fierce gusts of rain and wind till near 
eleven, and you cannot think what a pleasure it was to be 
blown about and think of you in your pretty dress." — 
*' I am at the works till ten and sometimes till eleven. 
But I have a nice office to sit in, with a fire to myself, 
and bright brass scientific instruments all around me, 
and books to read, and experiments to make, and enjoy 
myself amazingly. I find the study of electricity so en- 
tertaining that I am apt to neglect my other work." 
And for a last taste, — " Yesterday I had some charming 

67 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

electrical experiments. What shall I compare them to 
— a new song ? a Greek play ? " 

It was at this time besides that he made the acquain- 
tance of Professor, now Sir William, Thomson. To 
describe the part played by these two in each other's 
lives would lie out of my way. They worked together 
on the Committee on Electrical Standards ; they served 
together at the laying down or the repair of many 
deep-sea cables; and Sir William was regarded by 
Fleeming, not only with the " worship " (the word is his 
own) due to great scientific gifts, but with an ardour 
of personal friendship not frequently excelled. To their 
association, Fleeming brought the valuable element of a 
practical understanding; but he never thought or spoke 
of himself where Sir William was in question ; and I 
recall, quite in his last days, a singular instance of this 
modest loyalty to one whom he admired and loved. 
He drew up a paper, in a quite personal interest, of his 
own services; yet even here he must step out of his 
way, he must add, where it had no claim to be added, 
his opinion that, in their joint work, the contributions 
of Sir William had been always greatly the most valu- 
able. Again, I shall not readily forget with what emo- 
tion he once told me an incident of their associated 
travels. On one of the mountain ledges of Madeira, 
Fleeming's pony bolted between Sir William and the 
precipice above ; by strange good fortune and thanks to 
the steadiness of Sir William's horse, no harm was 
done; but for the moment, Fleeming saw his friend 
hurled into the sea, and almost by his own act: it was 
a memory that haunted him. 



CHAPTER IV 
1859— 1868 

Fleeming's Marriage — His Married Life — Professional Difficulties — 
Life at Claygate — Illness of Mrs. F. Jenkin; and of Fleeming — Ap- 
pointment to the Chair at Edinburgh. 

On Saturday, Feb. 26, 1859, profiting by a holiday of 
four days, Fleeming was married to Miss Austin at 
Northiam: a place connected not only with his own 
family but with that of his bride as well. By Tuesday 
morning, he was at work again, fitting out cableships 
at Birkenhead. Of the walk from his lodgings to the 
works, I find a graphic sketch in one of his letters: 
" Out over the railway bridge, along a wide road raised 
to the level of a ground floor above the land, which, not 
being built upon, harbours puddles, ponds, pigs, and 
Irish hovels; — so to the dock warehouses, four huge 
piles of building with no windows, surrounded by a 
wall about twelve feet high; — in through the large 
gates, round which hang twenty or thirty rusty Irish, 
playing pitch and toss and waiting for employment; — 
on along the railway, which came in at the same gates 
and which branches down between each vast block — 
past a pilot-engine butting refractory trucks into their 
places — on to the last block, [and] down the branch, 
sniffing the guano-scented air and detecting the old 

69 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

bones. The hartshorn flavour of the guano becomes 
very strong, as I near the docks where, across the Elba's 
decks, a huge vessel is discharging her cargo of the 
brown dust, and where huge vessels have been dis- 
charging that same cargo for the last five months." 
This was the walk he took his young wife on the mor- 
row of his return. She had been used to the society of 
lawyers and civil servants, moving in that circle which 
seems to itself the pivot of the nation and is in truth 
only a clique like another; and Fleeming was to her the 
nameless assistant of a nameless firm of engineers, doing 
his inglorious business, as she now saw for herself, 
among unsavoury surroundings. But when their walk 
brought them within view of the river, she beheld a 
sight to her of the most novel beauty : four great, sea- 
going ships dressed out with flags. "How lovely!" 
she cried. ' ' What is it for ? " — ' ■ For you, " said Fleem- 
ing. Her surprise was only equalled by her pleasure. But 
perhaps, for what we may call private fame, there is no 
life like that of the engineer; who is a great man in out- 
of-the-way places, by the dockside or on the desert 
island or in populous ships, and remains quite unheard 
of in the coteries of London. And Fleeming had already 
made his mark among the few who had an opportunity 
of knowing him. 

His marriage was the one decisive incident of his 
career; from that moment until the day of his death, he 
had one thought to which all the rest were tributary, 
the thought of his wife. No one could know him even 
slightly, and not remark the absorbing greatness of that 
sentiment; nor can any picture of the man be drawn 
that does not in proportion dwell upon it. This is a 

70 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

delicate task; but if we are to leave behind us (as we 
wish) some presentment of the friend we have lost, it is 
a task that must be undertaken. 

For all his play of mind and fancy, for all his indul- 
gence — and, as time went on, he grew indulgent — 
Fleeming had views of duty that were even stern. He 
was too shrewd a student of his fellow-men to remain 
long content with rigid formulae of conduct. Iron- 
bound, impersonal ethics, the procrustean bed of rules, 
he soon saw at their true value as the deification of 
averages. "As to Miss (I declare I forget her name) 
being bad," I find him writing, " people only mean that 
she has broken the Decalogue — which is not at all the 
same thing. People who have kept in the high-road 
of Life really have less opportunity for taking a compre- 
hensive view of it than those who have leaped over the 
hedges and strayed up the hills; not but what the 
hedges are very necessary, and our stray travellers often 
have a weary time of it. So, you may say, have those 
in the dusty roads." Yet he was himself a very stern 
respecter of the hedgerows; sought safety and found 
dignity in the obvious path of conduct; and would 
palter with no simple and recognised duty of his epoch. 
Of marriage in particular, of the bond so formed, of the 
obligations incurred, of the debt men owe to their chil- 
dren, he conceived in a truly antique spirit: not to 
blame others, but to constrain himself. It was not to 
blame, I repeat, that he held these views; for others, 
he could make a large allowance; and yet he tacitly 
expected of his friends and his wife a high standard 
of behaviour. Nor was it always easy to wear the 
armour of that ideal. 

7« 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Acting upon these beliefs; conceiving that he had in- 
deed "given himself" (in the full meaning of these 
words) for better, for worse ; painfully alive to his de- 
fects of temper and deficiency in charm; resolute to 
make up for these; thinking last of himself : Fleeming 
was in some ways the very man to have made a noble, 
uphill fight of an unfortunate marriage. In other ways, 
it is true, he was one of the most unfit for such a trial. 
And it was his beautiful destiny to remain to the last 
hour the same absolute and romantic lover, who had 
shown to his new bride the flag-draped vessels in the 
Mersey. No fate is altogether easy; but trials are our 
touchstone, trials overcome our reward ; and it was 
given to Fleeming to conquer. It was given to him to 
live for another, not as a task, but till the end as an en- 
chanting pleasure. "People may write novels," he 
wrote in 1869, "and other people may write poems, 
but not a man or woman among them can write to say 
how happy a man may be, who is desperately in love 
with his wife after ten years of marriage." And again 
in 1885, after more than twenty-six years of marriage, 
and within but five weeks of his death : ' ' Your first letter 
from Bournemouth," he wrote, "gives me heavenly 
pleasure — for which I thank Heaven and you too — 
who are my heaven on earth." The mind hesitates 
whether to say that such a man has been more good 
or more fortunate. 

Any woman (it is the defect of her sex) comes sooner 
to the stable mind of maturity than any man ; and Jenkin 
was to the end of a most deliberate growth. In the 
next chapter, when I come to deal with his telegraphic 
voyages and give some taste of his correspondence, the 

72 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

reader will still find him at twenty-five an arrant school- 
boy. His wife besides was more thoroughly educated 
than he. In many ways she was able to teach him, 
and he proud to be taught; in many ways she outshone 
him, and he delighted to be outshone. All these superi- 
orities, and others that, after the manner of lovers, he 
no doubt forged for himself, added as time went on to 
the humility of his original love. Only once, in all I 
know of his career, did he show a touch of smallness. 
He could not learn to sing correctly ; his wife told him 
so and desisted from her lessons; and the mortification 
was so sharply felt that for years he could not be in- 
duced to go to a concert, instanced himself as a typical 
man without an ear, and never sang again. I tell it; 
for the fact that this stood singular in his behaviour, and 
really amazed all who knew him, is the happiest way I 
can imagine to commend the tenor of his simplicity; 
and because it illustrates his feeling for his wife. Others 
were always welcome to laugh at him ; if it amused 
them, or if it amused him, he would proceed undis- 
turbed with his occupation, his vanity invulnerable. 
With his wife it was different: his wife had laughed at 
his singing; and for twenty years the fibre ached. 
Nothing, again, was more notable than the formal 
chivalry of this unmannered man to the person on earth 
with whom he was the most familiar. He was conscious 
of his own innate and often rasping vivacity and rough- 
ness; and he was never forgetful of his first visit to the 
Austins and the vow he had registered on his return. 
There was thus an artificial element in his punctilio that at 
times might almost raise a smile. But it stood on noble 
grounds ; for this was how he sought to shelter from his 

73 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

own petulance the woman who was to him the symbol 
of the household and to the end the beloved of his youth. 
I wish in this chapter to chronicle small beer; taking 
a hasty glance at some ten years of married life and of 
professional struggle; and reserving till the next all the 
more interesting matter of his cruises. Of his achieve- 
ments and their worth, it is not for me to speak : his 
friend and partner, Sir William Thomson, has con- 
tributed a note on the subject, which will be found in 
the Appendix, and to which I must refer the reader. 
He is to conceive in the meanwhile for himself Flem- 
ing's manifold engagements: his service on the Com- 
mittee on Electrical Standards, his lectures on electricity 
at Chatham, his chair at the London University, his 
partnership with Sir William Thomson and Mr. Varley 
in many ingenious patents, his growing credit with en- 
gineers and men of science; and he is to bear in mind 
that of all this activity and acquist of reputation, the 
immediate profit was scanty. Soon after his marriage, 
Fleeming had left the service of Messrs. Liddell & Gor- 
don, and entered into a general engineering partnership 
with Mr. Forde, a gentleman in a good way of busi- 
ness. It was a fortunate partnership in this, that the 
parties retained their mutual respect unlessened and 
separated with regret; but men's affairs, like men, have 
their times of sickness, and by one of these unaccount- 
able variations, for hard upon ten years the business 
was disappointing and the profits meagre. " Inditing 
drafts of German railways which will never get made ": 
it is thus I find Fleeming, not without a touch of bitter- 
ness, describe his occupation. Even the patents hung 
fire at first. There was no salary to rely on ; children 

74 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

were coming and growing up ; the prospect was often 
anxious. In the days of his courtship, Fleeming had 
written to Miss Austin a dissuasive picture of the trials 
of poverty, assuring her these were no figments but 
truly bitter to support : he told her this, he wrote, be- 
forehand, so that when the pinch came and she suffered, 
she should not be disappointed in herself nor tempted 
to doubt her own magnanimity: a letter of admirable 
wisdom and solicitude. But now that the trouble came, 
he bore it very lightly. It was his principle, as he once 
prettily expressed it, " to enjoy each day's happiness, as 
it arises, like birds or children. " His optimism, if driven 
out at the door, would come in again by the window; 
if it found nothing but blackness in the present, would 
hit upon some ground of consolation in the future or the 
past. And his courage and energy were indefatigable. 
In the year 1863, soon after the birth of their first son, 
they moved into a cottage at Claygate near Esher; and 
about this time, under manifold troubles both of money 
and health, I find him writing from abroad : "The coun- 
try will give us, please God, health and strength. I 
will love and cherish you more than ever, you shall go 
where you wish, you shall receive whom you wish — 
and as for money you shall have that too. I cannot be 
mistaken. I have now measured myself with many 
men. I do not feel weak, I do not feel that I shall fail. 
In many things I have succeeded, and I will in this. 
And meanwhile the time of waiting, which, please 
Heaven, shall not be long, shall also not be so bitter. 
Well, well, I promise much, and do not know at this 
moment how you and the dear child are. If he is but 
better, courage, my girl, for I see light." 

75 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

This cottage at Claygate stood just without the vil- 
lage, well surrounded with trees and commanding a 
pleasant view. A piece of the garden was turfed over 
to form a croquet green, and Fleeming became ( I need 
scarce say) a very ardent player. He grew ardent, too, 
in gardening. This he took up at first to please his 
wife, having no natural inclination; but he had no 
sooner set his hand to it, than, like everything else he 
touched, it became with him a passion. He budded 
roses, he potted cuttings in the coach-house; if there 
came a change of weather at night, he would rise out 
of bed to protect his favourites ; when he was thrown 
with a dull companion, it was enough for him to dis- 
cover in the man a fellow gardener; on his travels, he 
would go out of his way to visit nurseries and gather 
hints; and to the end of his life, after other occupations 
prevented him putting his own hand to the spade, he 
drew up a yearly programme for his gardener, in which 
all details were regulated. He had begun by this time 
to write. His paper on Darwin, which had the merit 
of convincing on one point the philosopher himself, had 
indeed been written before this in London lodgings; 
but his pen was not idle at Claygate; and it was here 
he wrote (among other things) that review of " Fecun- 
dity, Fertility, Sterility, and Allied Topics,'* which 
Dr. Matthews Duncan prefixed by way of introduction 
to the second edition of the work. The mere act of 
writing seems to cheer the vanity of the most incom- 
petent; but a correction accepted by Darwin, and a 
whole review borrowed and reprinted by Matthews 
Duncan, are compliments of a rare strain, and to a man 
still unsuccessful must have been precious indeed. 

76 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

There was yet a third of the same kind in store for him; 
and when Munro himself owned that he had found in- 
struction in the paper on Lucretius, we may say that 
Fleeming had been crowned in the capitol of reviewing. 

Croquet, charades, Christmas magic lanterns for the 
village children, an amateur concert or a review article 
in the evening; plenty of hard work by day; regular 
visits to meetings of the British Association, from one 
of which I find him characteristically writing: "I can- 
not say that I have had any amusement yet, but I am 
enjoying the dulness and dry bustle of the whole 
thing:" occasional visits abroad on business, when he 
would find the time to glean (as I have said) gardening 
hints for himself, and old folk-songs or new fashions 
of dress for his wife; and the continual study and care 
of his children: these were the chief elements of his 
life. Nor were friends wanting. Captain and Mrs. 
Jenkin, Mr. and Mrs. Austin, Clerk Maxwell, Miss Bell 
of Manchester, and others came to them on visits. Mr. 
Hertslet of the Foreign Office, his wife and his daughter, 
were neighbours and proved kind friends; in 1867 the 
Howitts came to Claygate and sought the society of 
'* the two bright, clever young people ; " ! and in a house 
close by, Mr. Frederick Ricketts came to live with his 
family. Mr. Ricketts was a valued friend during his 
short life; and when he was lost with every circum- 
stance of heroism in the La Plata, Fleeming mourned 
him sincerely. 

I think I shall give the best idea of Fleeming in this 
time of his early married life, by a few sustained ex- 

1 Reminiscences of My Later Life, by Mary Howitt. Good IVords, 
May, 1886. 

77 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

tracts from his letters to his wife, while she was absent 
on a visit in 1864. 

"Nov. 11.— Sunday was too wet to walk to Isle- 
worth, for which I was sorry, so I staid and went to 
Church and thought of you at Ardwick all through the 
Commandments, and heard Dr. expound in a re- 
markable way a prophecy of St. Paul's about Roman 
Catholics, which mutatis mutandis would do very well 
for Protestants in some parts. Then I made a little 
nursery of Borecole and Enfield market cabbage, grub- 
bing in wet earth with leggings and gray coat on. 
Then I tidied up the coach-house to my own and Chris- 
tine's admiration. Then encouraged by bouts-rimts I 
wrote you a copy of verses; high time I think; I shall 
just save my tenth year of knowing my lady-love with- 
out inditing poetry or rhymes to her. 

"Then I rummaged over the box with my father's 
letters and found interesting notes from myself. One I 
should say my first letter, which little Austin I should 
say would rejoice to see and shall see — with a drawing 
of a cottage and a spirited 'cob.' What was more to 
the purpose, I found with it a paste-cutter which Mary 
begged humbly for Christine and I generously gave this 
morning. 

" Then I read some of Congreve. There are admi- 
rable scenes in the manner of Sheridan; all wit and no 
character, or rather one character in a great variety of 
situations and scenes. I could show you some scenes, 
but others are too coarse even for my stomach hardened 
by a course of French novels. 

" All things look so happy for the rain. 

"Nov. 16. — Verbenas looking well. ... I am but 

78 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

a poor creature without you; I have naturally no spirit 
or fun or enterprise in me. Only a kind of mechanical 
capacity for ascertaining whether two really is half four, 
etc. ; but when you are near me I can fancy that I too 
shine, and vainly suppose it to be my proper light; 
whereas by my extreme darkness when you are not by, 
it clearly can only be by a reflected brilliance that I seem 
aught but dull. Then for the moral part of me: if it 
were not for you and little Odden, I should feel by no 
means sure that I had any affection power in me. . . . 
Even the muscular me suffers a sad deterioration in your 
absence. I don't get up when I ought to, I have snoozed 
in my chair after dinner; I do not go in at the garden 
with my wonted vigour, and feel ten times as tired as 
usual with a walk in your absence; so you see, when 
you are not by, I am a person without ability, affections 
or vigour, but droop dull, selfish, and spiritless; can 
you wonder that I love you ? 

" Nov. 17. — . . . I am very glad we married young. 
I would not have missed these five years, no, not for 
any hopes; they are my own. 

" Nov. 30. — I got through my Chatham lecture very 
fairly though almost all my apparatus went astray. I 
dined at the mess, and got home to Isleworth the same 
evening; your father very kindly sitting up for me. 

"Dec. 1. — Back at dear Claygate. Many cuttings 
flourish, especially those which do honour to your hand. 
Your Californian annuals are up and about. Badger is 
fat, the grass green. . . . 

" Dec. 3. — Odden will not talk of you, while you are 
away, having inherited, as I suspect, his father's way of 
declining to consider a subject which is painful, as your 

19 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

absence is. ... I certainly should like to learn Greek 
and I think it would be a capital pastime for the long 
winter evenings. . . . How things are misrated! I de- 
clare croquet is a noble occupation compared to the pur- 
suits of business men. As for so-called idleness — that 
is, one form of it — I vow it is the noblest aim of man. 
When idle, one can love, one can be good, feel kindly to 
all, devote oneself to others, be thankful for existence, 
educate one's mind, one's heart, one's body. When 
busy, as I am busy now or have been busy to-day, one 
feels just as you sometimes felt when you were too 
busy, owing to want of servants. 

"Dec. 5. — On Sunday I was at Isleworth, chiefly 
engaged in playing with Odden. We had the most en- 
chanting walk together through the brickfields. It was 
very muddy, and, as he remarked, not fit for Nanna, 
but fit for us men. The dreary waste of bared earth, 
thatched sheds and standing water, was a paradise to 
him; and when we walked up planks to deserted mix- 
ing and crushing mills, and actually saw where the clay 
was stirred with long iron prongs, and chalk or lime 
ground with 'a tind of a mill,' his expression of con- 
tentment and triumphant heroism knew no limit to its 
beauty. Of course on returning I found Mrs. Austin 
looking out at the door in an anxious manner, and 
thinking we had been out quite long enough. ... I 
am reading Don Quixote chiefly and am his fervent ad- 
mirer, but I am so sorry he did not place his affections 
on a Dulcinea of somewhat worthier stamp. In fact I 
think there must be a mistake about it. Don Quixote 
might and would serve his lady in most preposterous 
fashion, but I am sure he would have chosen a lady of 

80 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

merit. He imagined her to be such no doubt, and drew 
a charming picture of her occupations by the banks of 
the river; but in his other imaginations there was some 
kind of peg on which to hang the false costumes he 
created; windmills are big, and wave their arms like 
giants ; sheep in the distance are somewhat like an army ; 
a little boat on the river-side must look much the same 
whether enchanted or belonging to millers; but except 
that Dulcinea is a woman, she bears no resemblance at 
all to the damsel of his imagination." 

At the time of these letters, the oldest son only was 
born to them. In September of the next year, with the 
birth of the second, Charles Frewen, there befell Fleem- 
ing a terrible alarm and what proved to be a lifelong 
misfortune. Mrs. Jenkin was taken suddenly and alarm- 
ingly ill ; Fleeming ran a matter of two miles to fetch 
the doctor, and drenched with sweat as he was, re- 
turned with him at once in an open gig. On their ar- 
rival at the house, Mrs. Jenkin half unconsciously took 
and kept hold of her husband's hand. By the doctor's 
orders, windows and doors were set open to create a 
thorough draught, and the patient was on no account to 
be disturbed. Thus, then, did Fleeming pass the whole 
of that night, crouching on the floor in the draught, and 
not daring to move lest he should wake the sleeper. 
He had never been strong; energy had stood him in- 
stead of vigour; and the result of that night's exposure 
was flying rheumatism varied by settled sciatica. 
Sometimes it quite disabled him, sometimes it was less 
acute ; but he was rarely free from it until his death. I 
knew him for many years; for more than ten we were 
closely intimate ; I have lived with him for weeks ; and 

81 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

during all this time, he only once referred to his in- 
firmity and then perforce as an excuse for some trouble 
he put me to, and so slightly worded that I paid no 
heed. This is a good measure of his courage under 
sufferings of which none but the untried will think 
lightly. And I think it worth noting how this optimist 
was acquainted with pain. It will seem strange only 
to the superficial. The disease of pessimism springs 
never from real troubles, which it braces men to bear, 
which it delights men to bear well. Nor does it readily 
spring at all, in minds that have conceived of life as a 
field of ordered duties, not as a chase in which to hunt 
for gratifications. " We are not here to be happy, but 
to be good "; I wish he had mended the phrase: M We 
are not here to be happy, but to try to be good," comes 
nearer the modesty of truth. With such old-fashioned 
morality, it is possible to get through life, and see the 
worst of it, and feel some of the worst of it, and still 
acquiesce piously and even gladly in man's fate. Feel 
some of the worst of it, I say ; for some of the rest of 
the worst is, by this simple faith, excluded. 

It was in the year 1868, that the clouds finally rose. 
The business in partnership with Mr. Forde began sud- 
denly to pay well; about the same time the patents 
showed themselves a valuable property ; and but a little 
after, Fleeming was appointed to the new chair of en- 
gineering in the University of Edinburgh. Thus, almost 
at once, pecuniary embarrassments passed for ever out 
of his life. Here is his own epilogue to the time at 
Claygate, and his anticipations of the future in Edin- 
burgh. 

" . . . . The dear old house at Claygate is not let 
82 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

and the pretty garden a mass of weeds. I feel rather as 
if we had behaved unkindly to them. We were very 
happy there, but now that it is over I am conscious of 
the weight of anxiety as to money which I bore all the 
time. With you in the garden, with Austin in the 
coach-house, with pretty songs in the little, low white 
room, with the moonlight in the dear room up-stairs, 
ah, it was perfect; but the long walk, wondering, 
pondering, fearing, scheming, and the dusty jolting rail- 
way, and the horrid fusty office with its endless disap- 
pointments, they are well gone. It is well enough to 
fight and scheme and bustle about in the eager crowd 
here [in London] for a while now and then, but not for 
a lifetime. What I have now is just perfect. Study for 
winter, action for summer, lovely country for recrea- 
tion, a pleasant town for talk " 



8* 



CHAPTER V 

1858— 1873 

Notes of Telegraph Voyages. 

But it is now time to see Jenkin at his life's work. I 
have before me certain imperfect series of letters written, 
as he says, "at hazard, for one does not know at the 
time what is important and what is not": the earlier 
addressed to Miss Austin, after the betrothal ; the later 
to Mrs. Jenkin the young wife. I should premise that I 
have allowed myself certain editorial freedoms, leaving 
out and splicing together much as he himself did with 
the Bona cable: thus edited the letters speak for them- 
selves, and will fail to interest none who love adventure 
or activity. Addressed as they were to her whom he 
called his " dear engineering pupil," they give a picture 
of his work so clear that a child may understand, and 
so attractive that I am half afraid their publication may 
prove harmful, and still further crowd the ranks of a 
profession already overcrowded. But their most en- 
gaging quality is the picture of the writer; with his in- 
domitable self-confidence and courage, his readiness in 
every pinch of circumstance or change of plan, and his 
ever fresh enjoyment of the whole web of human expe- 
rience, nature, adventure, science, toil and rest, society 
and solitude. It should be borne in mind that the 
writer of these buoyant pages was, even while he wrote, 

Ha. 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

harassed by responsibility, stinted in sleep, and often 
struggling with the prostration of sea-sickness. To 
this last enemy, which he never overcame, I have omit- 
ted, in my search after condensation, a good many ref- 
erences ; if they were all left, such was the man's tem- 
per, they would not represent one hundreth part of 
what he suffered, for he was never given to complaint. 
But indeed he had met this ugly trifle, as he met every 
thwart circumstance of life, with a certain pleasure of 
pugnacity; and suffered it not to check him, whe- 
ther in the exercise of his profession or the pursuit of 
amusement. 

I 

"Birkenhead: April 18, 1858. 

M Well, you should know, Mr. , having a contract 

to lay down a submarine telegraph from Sardinia to 
Africa, failed three times in the attempt. The distance 
from land to land is about 140 miles. On the first oc- 
casion, after proceeding some 70 miles, he had to cut 
the cable — the cause I forget: he tried again, same re- 
sult; then picked up about 20 miles of the lost cable, 
spliced on a new piece, and very nearly got across that 
time, but ran short of cable, and when but a few miles 
off Galita in very deep water, had to telegraph to Lon- 
don for more cable to be manufactured and sent out 
whilst he tried to stick to the end: for five days, I 
think, he lay there sending and receiving messages, but 

heavy weather coming on the cable parted and Mr. 

went home in despair — at least I should think so. 

" He then applied to those eminent engineers, R. S. 
Newall & Co., who made and laid down a cable for him 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

last autumn — Fleeming Jenkin (at the time in consid- 
erable mental agitation) having the honour of fitting 
out the Elba for that purpose." [On this occasion, the 
Elba has no cable to lay; but] " is going out in the be- 
ginning of May to endeavour to fish up the cables Mr. 

lost. There are two ends at or near the shore : the third 
will probably not be found within 20 miles from land. 
One of these ends will be passed over a very big pulley 
or sheave at the bows, passed six times round a big 
barrel or drum ; which will be turned round by a steam 
engine on deck, and thus wind up the cable, while the 
Elba slowly steams ahead. The cable is not wound 
round and round the drum as your silk is wound on its 
reel, but on the contrary never goes round more than 
six times, going off at one side as it comes on at the 
other, and going down into the hold of the Elba to be 
coiled along in a big coil or skein. 

" I went down to Gateshead to discuss with Mr. 
Newall the form which this tolerably simple idea should 
take, and have been busy since I came here drawing, 
ordering, and putting up the machinery — uninterfered 
with, thank goodness, by any one. I own I like re- 
sponsibility; it flatters one, and then, your father might 
say, I have more to gain than to lose. Moreover I do 
like this bloodless, painless combat with wood and iron, 
forcing the stubborn rascals to do my will, licking the 
clumsy cubs into an active shape, seeing the child of to- 
day's thought working to-morrow in full vigour at his 
appointed task. 

"May 12. 

" By dint of bribing, bullying, cajoling, and going 
day by day to see the state of things ordered, all my 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

work is very nearly ready now; but those who have 
neglected these precautions are of course disappointed. 

Five hundred fathoms of chain [were] ordered by 

some three weeks since, to be ready by the ioth with- 
out fail; he sends for it to-day — 150 fathoms all they 
can let us have by the 15th — and how the rest is to be 
got, who knows ? He ordered a boat a month since 
and yesterday we could see nothing of her but the keel 
and about two planks. I could multiply instances 
without end. At first one goes nearly mad with vexa- 
tion at these things; but one finds so soon that they 
are the rule, that then it becomes necessary to feign a 
rage one does not feel. I look upon it as the natural 
order of things, that if I order a thing, it will not be 
done — if by accident it gets done, it will certainly be 
done wrong: the only remedy being to watch the per- 
formance at every stage. 

" To-day was a grand field-day. I had steam up 
and tried the engine against pressure or resistance. 
One part of the machinery is driven by a belt or strap 
of leather. I always had my doubts this might slip; 
and so it did, wildly. I had made provision for doub- 
ling it, putting on two belts instead of one. No use — 
off they went, slipping round and off the pulleys instead 
of driving the machinery. Tighten them — no use. 
More strength there — down with the lever — smash 
something, tear the belts, but get them tight — now 
then, stand clear, on with the steam; — and the belts 
slip away as if nothing held them. Men begin to look 
queer; the circle of quidnuncs make sage remarks. 
Once more — no use. I begin to know I ought to feel 
sheepish and beat, but somehow I feel cocky instead. 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

I laugh and say, 'Well, I am bound to break some- 
thing down' — and suddenly see. 'Oho, there's the 
place; get weight on there, and the belt won't slip.' 
With much labour, on go the belts again. • Now then, 
a spar thro' there and six men's weight on; mind 
you're not carried away.' — 'Ay, ay, sir.' But evi- 
dently no one believes in the plan. ' Hurrah, round 
she goes — stick to your spar. All right, shut off 
steam.' And the difficulty is vanquished. 

"This or such as this (not always quite so bad) oc- 
curs hour after hour, while five hundred tons of coal 
are rattling down into the holds and bunkers, riveters 
are making their infernal row all round, and riggers 
bend the sails and fit the rigging: — a sort of Pandemo- 
nium, it appeared to young Mrs. Newall, who was here 
on Monday and half-choked with guano; but it suits 
the likes o' me. 

" S. S. Elba, River Mersey : May 1 7. 

"We are delayed in the river by some of the ship's 
papers not being ready. Such a scene at the dock 
gates. Not a sailor will join till the last moment; and 
then, just as the ship forges ahead through the narrow 
pass, beds and baggage fly on board, the men half tipsy 
clutch at the rigging, the captain swears, the women 
scream and sob, the crowd cheer and laugh, while one 
or two pretty little girls stand still and cry outright, re- 
gardless of all eyes. 

"These two days of comparative peace have quite 
set me on my legs again. I was getting worn and 
weary with anxiety and work. As usual I have been 
delighted with my shipwrights. I gave them some 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

beer on Saturday, making a short oration. To-day 
when they went ashore and I came on board, they gave 
three cheers, whether for me or the ship I hardly know, 
but I had just bid them good-bye, and the ship was 
out of hail ; but I was startled and hardly liked to claim 
the compliment by acknowledging it. 

"S.S. Elba: May 25. 

"My first intentions of a long journal have been 
fairly frustrated by sea-sickness. On Tuesday last 
about noon we started from the Mersey in very dirty 
weather, and were hardly out of the river when we 
met a gale from the southwest and a heavy sea, both 
right in our teeth ; and the poor Elba had a sad shaking. 
Had I not been very sea-sick, the sight would have 
been exciting enough, as I sat wrapped in my oilskins 
on the bridge ; [but] in spite of all my efforts to talk, to 
eat, and to grin, I soon collapsed into imbecility; and I 
was heartily thankful towards evening to find myself 
in bed. 

"Next morning, I fancied it grew quieter and, as I 
listened, heard, 'Let go the anchor,' whereon I con- 
cluded we had run into Holyhead Harbour, as was in- 
deed the case. All that day we lay in Holyhead, but I 
could neither read nor write nor draw. The captain of 
another steamer which had put in came on board, and 
we all went for a walk on the hill; and in the evening 
there was an exchange of presents. We gave some 
tobacco I think, and received a cat, two pounds of fresh 
butter, a Cumberland ham, Westward Ho! and Thack- 
eray's English Humorists. I was astonished at receiving 
two such fair books from the captain of a little coasting 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

screw. Our captain said he [the captain of the screw] 
had plenty of money, five or six hundred a year at 
least. — ■ What in the world makes him go rolling 
about in such a craft, then ? ' — ■ Why, I fancy he's 
reckless; he's desperate in love with that girl I men- 
tioned, and she won't look at him.' Our honest, fat, 
old captain says this very grimly in his thick, broad 
voice. 

" My head won't stand much writing yet, so I will 
run up and take a look at the blue night sky off the 
coast of Portugal. 

" May 26. 

"A nice lad of some two and twenty, A by 

name, goes out in a nondescript capacity as part purser, 

part telegraph clerk, part generally useful person. A 

was a great comfort during the miseries [of the gale] ; 
for when with a dead head wind and a heavy sea, plates, 
books, papers, stomachs were being rolled about in sad 
confusion, we generally managed to lie on our backs, 
and grin, and try discordant staves of the Flowers of the 
Forest and the Low-backed Car. We could sing and 

laugh, when we could do nothing else; though A 

was ready to swear after each fit was past, that that 
was the first time he had felt anything, and at this mo- 
ment would declare in broad Scotch that he'd never 
been sick at all, qualifying the oath with ' except for a 
minute now and then.' He brought a cornet-a-piston 
to practise on, having had three weeks' instruction on 
that melodious instrument; and if you could hear the 
horrid sounds that come! especially at heavy rolls. 
When I hint he is not improving, there comes a con- 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

fession : ' I don't feel quite right yet, you see! ' But he 
blows away manfully, and in self-defence I try to roar 
the tune louder. 



1 1 : 30 p. m. 

"Long past Cape St. Vincent now. We went 
within about 400 yards of the cliffs and lighthouse in a 
calm moonlight, with porpoises springing from the sea, 
the men crooning long ballads as they lay idle on the 
forecastle, and the sails flapping uncertain on the yards. 
As we passed, there came a sudden breeze from land, 
hot and heavy scented; and now as I write its warm 
rich flavour contrasts strongly with the salt air we have 
been breathing. 

"I paced the deck with H , the second mate, 

and in the quiet night drew a confession that he was 
engaged to be married, and gave him a world of good 
advice. He is a very nice, active, little fellow, with a 
broad Scotch tongue and ■ dirty, little rascal ' appear- 
ance. He had a sad disappointment at starting. Hav- 
ing been second mate on the last voyage, when the first 
mate was discharged, he took charge of the Elba all the 
time she was in port, and of course looked forward to 
being chief mate this trip. Liddell promised him the 
post. He had not authority to do this; and when 
Newall heard of it, he appointed another man. Fancy 

poor H having told all the men and most of all, his 

sweetheart! But more remains behind; for when it 

came to signing articles, it turned out that O , the 

new first mate, had not a certificate which allowed him 
to have a second mate. Then came rather an affecting 

scene. For H proposed to sign as chief (he having 

9« 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

the necessary higher certificate) but to act as second for 

the lower wages. At first O would not give in, 

but offered to go as second. But our brave little H 

said, no : * The owners wished Mr. O to be chief 

mate, and chief mate he should be.' So he carried the 
day, signed as chief and acts as second. Shakespeare 
and Byron are his favourite books. I walked into Byron 
a little, but can well understand his stirring up a rough, 
young sailor's romance. I lent him Westward Ho! from 
the cabin; but to my astonishment he did not care 
much for it; he said it smelt of the shilling railway 
library; perhaps I had praised it too highly. Scott is 
his standard for novels. I am very happy to find good 

taste by no means confined to gentlemen, H having 

no pretensions to that title. He is a man after my own 
heart. 

"Then I came down to the cabin and heard young 

A 's schemes for the future. His highest picture is 

a commission in the Prince of Vizianagram's irregular 
horse. His eldest brother is tutor to his Highness's 
children, and grand vizier, and magistrate, and on his 
Highness's household staff, and seems to be one of those 
Scotch adventurers one meets with and hears of in 
queer berths — raising cavalry, building palaces, and 
using some petty Eastern king's long purse with their 
long Scotch heads. 

"Off Bona: /mm* 4. 
" I read your letter catefully, leaning back in a Mal- 
tese boat to present the smallest surface of my body to 
a grilling sun, and sailing from the Elba to Cape Ham- 
rah, about three miles distant. How we fried and 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

sighed ! At last, we reached land under Fort Genova, 
and I was carried ashore pick-a-back, and plucked the 
first flower I saw for Annie. It was a strange scene, 
far more novel than I had imagined: the high, steep 
banks covered with rich, spicy vegetation of which I 
hardly knew one plant. The dwarf palm with fan-like 
leaves, growing about two feet high, formed the staple 
of the verdure. As we brushed through them, the 
gummy leaves of a cistus stuck to the clothes ; and with 
its small white flower and yellow heart, stood for our 
English dog-rose. In place of heather, we had myrtle 
and lentisque with leaves somewhat similar. That large 
bulb with long flat leaves ? Do not touch it if your 
hands are cut; the Arabs use it as blisters for their 
horses. Is that the same sort? No, take that one up; 
it is the bulb of a dwarf palm, each layer of the onion 
peels off, brown and netted, like the outside of a cocoa- 
nut. It is a clever plant that; from the leaves we get a 
vegetable horsehair: — and eat the bottom of the centre 
spike. All the leaves you pull have the same aromatic 
scent. But here a little patch of cleared ground shows 
old friends, who seem to cling by abused civilization : — 
fine, hardy thistles, one of them bright yellow, though ; 
— honest, Scotch-looking, large daisies or go wans; — 
potatoes here and there, looking but sickly; and dark 
sturdy fig-trees looking cool and at their ease in the 
burning sun. 

"Here we are at Fort Genova, crowning the little 
point, a small old building, due to my old Genoese ac- 
quaintance who fought and traded bravely once upon a 
time. A broken cannon of theirs forms the threshold: 
and through a dark, low arch, we enter upon broad 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

terraces sloping to the centre, from which rain water 
may collect and run into that well. Large-breeched 
French troopers lounge about and are most civil; and 
the whole party sit down to breakfast in a little white- 
washed room, from the door of which the long moun- 
tain coastline and the sparkling sea show of an impos- 
sible blue through the openings of a white-washed 
rampart. I try a sea-egg, one of those prickly fellows 

— sea-urchins they are called sometimes; the shell is of 
a lovely purple, and when opened, there are rays of 
yellow adhering to the inside; these I eat, but they are 
very fishy. 

" We are silent and shy of one another, and soon go 
out to watch while turbaned, blue-breeched, barelegged 
Arabs dig holes for the land telegraph posts on the fol- 
lowing principle: one man takes a pick and bangs lazily 
at the hard earth; when a little is loosened, his mate 
with a small spade lifts it on one side ; and da capo. 
They have regular features and look quite in place 
among the palms. Our English workmen screw the 
earthenware insulators on the posts, strain the wire, 
and order Arabs about by the generic term of Johnny. I 

find W has nothing for me to do, and that in fact no 

one has anything to do. Some instruments for testing 
have stuck at Lyons, some at Cagliari; and nothing can 
be done — or at any rate, is done. I wander about, 
thinking of you and staring at big, green grasshoppers 

— locusts, some people call them — and smelling the 
rich brushwood. There was nothing for a pencil to 
sketch, and I soon got tired of this work, though I 
have paid willingly much money for far less strange 
and lovely sights. 

94 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

" Off Cape Spartivento: June 8. 
M At two this morning, we left Cagliari; at five cast 
anchor here. I got up and began preparing for the 
final trial; and shortly afterwards every one else of note 
on board went ashore to make experiments on the state 
of the cable, leaving me with the prospect of beginning 
to lift at 12 o'clock. I was not ready by that time; but 
the experiments were not concluded and moreover the 
cable was found to be imbedded some four or five feet 
in sand, so that the boat could not bring off the end. 
At three, Messrs. Liddell, &c, came on board in good 
spirits, having found two wires good or in such a state 
as permitted messages to be transmitted freely. The 
boat now went to grapple for the cable some way from 
shore while the Elba towed a small lateen craft which 
was to take back the consul to Cagliari some distance on 
its way. On our return we found the boat had been 
unsuccessful; she was allowed to drop astern, while we 
grappled for the cable in the Elba [without more suc- 
cess]. The coast is a low mountain range covered with 
brushwood or heather — pools of water and a sandy 
beach at their feet. I have not yet been ashore, my 
hands having been very full all day. 

"June 9. 

"Grappling for the cable outside the bank had been 
voted too uncertain ; [and the day was spent inj efforts 
to pull the cable off through the sand which has accu- 
mulated over it. By getting the cable tight on to the 
boat, and letting the swell pitch her about till it got 
slack, and then tightening again with blocks and pul- 
leys, we managed to get out from the beach towards 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

the ship at the rate of about twenty yards an hour. 
When they had got about ioo yards from shore, we 
ran round in the Elba to try and help them, letting go 
the anchor in the shallowest possible water; this was 
about sunset. Suddenly some one calls out he sees the 
cable at the bottom ; there it was sure enough, appar- 
ently wriggling about as the waves rippled. Great ex- 
citement; still greater when we find our own anchor is 
foul of it and has been the means of bringing it to light. 
We let go a grapnel, get the cable clear of the anchor 
on to the grapnel — the captain in an agony lest we 
should drift ashore meanwhile — hand the grappling 
line into the big boat, steam out far enough, and an- 
chor again. A little more work and one end of the 
cable is up over the bows round my drum. I go to my 
engine and we start hauling in. All goes pretty well, 
but it is quite dark. Lamps are got at last, and men 
arranged. We go on for a quarter of a mile or so from 
shore and then stop at about half-past nine with orders 
to be up at three. Grand work at last! A number of 
the Saturday Review here ; it reads so hot and feverish, 
so tomblike and unhealthy, in the midst of dear Na- 
ture's hills and sea, with good wholesome work to do. 
Pray that all go well to-morrow. 

"June \o. 

"Thank heaven for a most fortunate day. At three 
o'clock this morning in a damp, chill mist all hands 
were roused to work. With a small delay, for one or 
two improvements I had seen to be necessary last night, 
the engine started and since that time I do not think 
there has been half an hour's stoppage. A rope to 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

splice, a block to change, a wheel to oil, an old rusted 
anchor to disengage from the cable which brought it 
up, these have been our only obstructions. Sixty, 
seventy, eighty, a hundred, a hundred and twenty 
revolutions at last, my little engine tears away. The 
even black rope comes straight out of the blue heaving 
water; passes slowly round an open-hearted, good- 
\empered looking pulley, five feet diameter; aft past a 
vicious nipper, to bring all up should anything go 
wrong; through a gentle guide; on to a huge bluff 
drum, who wraps him round his body and says ' Come 
you must,' as plain as drum can speak: the chattering 
pawls say 'I 've got him, I 've got him, he can't get 
back;' whilst black cable, much slacker and easier in 
mind and body, is taken by a slim V-pulley and passed 
down into the huge hold, where half a dozen men put 
him comfortably to bed after his exertion in rising from 
his long bath. In good sooth, it is one of the strangest 
sights I know to see that black fellow rising up so 
steadily in the midst of the blue sea. We are more 
than half way to the place where we expect the fault; 
and already the one wire, supposed previously to be 
quite bad near the African coast, can be spoken through. 
I am very glad I am here, for my machines are my own 
children and I look on their little failings with a parent's 
eye and lead them into the path of duty with gentle- 
ness and firmness. I am naturally in good spirits, but 
keep very quiet, for misfortunes may arise at any instant; 
moreover to-morrow my paying-out apparatus will be 
wanted should all go well, and that will be another ner- 
vous operation. Fifteen miles are safely in; but no one 
knows better than I do that nothing is done till all is done. 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

" June 1 1 . 

"9 a. M. — We have reached the splice supposed to 
be faulty, and no fault has been found. The two men 

learned in electricity, L and W , squabble where 

the fault is. 

" Evening. — A weary day in a hot broiling sun; no 

air. After the experiments, L said the fault might 

be ten miles ahead; by that time, we should be accord- 
ing to a chart in about a thousand fathoms of water — 
rather more than a mile. It was most difficult to decide 
whether to go on or not. I made preparations for a 
heavy pull, set small things to rights and went to sleep. 
About four in the afternoon, Mr. Liddell decided to pro- 
ceed, and we are now (at seven) grinding it in at the 
rate of a mile and three-quarters per hour, which ap- 
pears a grand speed to us. If the paying-out only 
works well! I have just thought of a great improve- 
ment in it; I can't apply it this time, however. — The 
sea is of an oily calm, and a perfect fleet of brigs and 
ships surrounds us, their sails hardly filling in the lazy 
breeze. The sun sets behind the dim coast of the Isola 
San Pietro, the coast of Sardinia, high and rugged, be- 
comes softer and softer in the distance, while to the 
westward still the isolated rock of Toro springs from 
the horizon. — It would amuse you to see how cool (in 
head) and jolly everybody is. A testy word now and 
then shows the wires are strained a little, but every one 
laughs and makes his little jokes as if it were all in fun : 
yet we are all as much in earnest as the most earnest 
of the earnest bastard German school or demonstrative 
of Frenchmen. I enjoy it very much. 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENK1N 

"June !2. 

" 5.30 a.m. — Out of sight of land : about thirty nauti- 
cal miles in the hold; the wind rising a little; experi- 
ments being made for a fault, while the engine slowly 
revolves to keep us hanging at the same spot: depth 
supposed about a mile. The machinery has behaved 
admirably. Oh! that the paying-out were over! The 
new machinery there is but rough, meant for an experi- 
ment in shallow water, and here we are in a mile of 
water. 

"6.30. — I have made my calculations and find the 
new paying-out gear cannot possibly answer at this 
depth, some portion would give way. Luckily, I have 
brought the old things with me and am getting them 
rigged up as fast as may be. Bad news from the cable. 
Number four has given in some portion of the last ten 
miles: the fault in number three is still at the bottom of 
the sea: number two is now the only good wire; and 
the hold is getting in such a mess, through keeping bad 
bits out and cutting for splicing and testing, that there 
will be great risk in paying out. The cable is some- 
what strained in its ascent from one mile below us; 
what it will be when we get to two miles is a problem 
we may have to determine. 

"9 P.M. — A most provoking unsatisfactory day. We 
have done nothing. The wind and sea have both risen. 
Too litttle notice has been given to the telegraphists 
who accompany this expedition; they had to leave all 
their instruments at Lyons in order to arrive at Bona in 
time; our tests are therefore of the roughest, and no one 

really knows where the faults are. Mr. L in the 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

morning lost much time; then he told us, after we had 
been inactive for about eight hours, that the fault in 
number three was within six miles; and at six o'clock 
in the evening, when all was ready for a start to pick up 
these six miles, he comes and says there must be a fault 
about thirty miles from Bona! By this time it was too 
late to begin paying out to-day, and we must lie here 
moored in a thousand fathoms till light to-morrow 
morning. The ship pitches a good deal, but the wind 
is going down. 

"June 13, Sunday. 

"The wind has not gone down, however. It now 
(at 10.30) blows a pretty stiff gale. The sea has also 
risen ; and the Elba's bows rise and fall about 9 feet. 
We make twelve pitches to the minute, and the poor 
cable must feel very seasick by this time. We are quite 
unable to do anything, and continue riding at anchor in 
one thousand fathoms, the engines going constantly so 
as to keep the ship's bows up to the cable, which by 
this means hangs nearly vertical and sustains no strain 
but that caused by its own weight and the pitching of 
the vessel. We were all up at four, but the weather 
entirely forbade work for to-day, so some went to bed 
and most lay down, making up our leeway, as we 
nautically term our loss of sleep. I must say Liddell is 
a fine fellow and keeps his patience and temper won- 
derfully ; and yet how he does fret and fume about trifles 
at home! This wind has blown now for 36 hours, and 
yet we have telegrams from Bona to say the sea there 
is as calm as a mirror. It makes one laugh to remem- 
ber one is still tied to the shore. Click, click, click, the 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

pecker is at work : I wonder what Herr P says to 

Herr L , — tests, tests, tests, nothing more. This 

will be a very anxious day. 

"June 14. 

"Another day of fatal inaction. 

"June 15. 

"9.30. — The wind has gone down a deal; but even 
now there are doubts whether we shall' start to-day. 
When shall I get back to you ? 

"9 P.M. — Four miles from land. Our run has been 
successful and eventless. Now the work is nearly over 
I feel a little out of spirits — why, I should be puzzled 
to say — mere wantonness, or reaction perhaps after 
suspense. 

"June 1 6. 

" Up this morning at three, coupled my self-acting 
gear to the brake and had the satisfaction of seeing it 
pay out the last four miles in very good style. With 
one or two little improvements, I hope to make it a 
capital thing. The end has just gone ashore in two 
boats, three out of four wires good. Thus ends our 
first expedition. By some odd chance a Times of June 
the 7th has found its way on board through the agency 
of a wretched old peasant who watches the end of the 
line here. A long account of breakages in the Atlantic 
trial trip. To-night we grapple for the heavy cable, 
eight tons to the mile. I long to have a tug at him ; he 
may puzzle me, and though misfortunes or rather diffi- 
culties are a bore at the time, life when working with 
cables is tame without them. 

"2. p.m. — Hurrah, he is hooked, the big fellow, al- 
most at the first cast. He hangs under our bows look- 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

ing so huge and imposing that I could find it in my 
heart to be afraid of him. 



"Jum 17. 
" We went to a little bay called Chia, where a fresh- 
water stream falls into the sea, and took in water. 
This is rather a long operation, so I went a walk up the 
valley with Mr. Liddell. The coast here consists of 
rocky mountains 800 to 1,000 feet high covered with 
shrubs of a brilliant green. On landing our first amuse- 
ment was watching the hundreds of large fish who 
lazily swam in shoals about the river; the big canes on 
the further side hold numberless tortoises, we are told, 
but see none, for just now they prefer taking a siesta. 
A little further on, and what is this with large pink 
flowers in such abundance? — the oleander in full 
flower. At first I fear to pluck them, thinking they must 
be cultivated and valuable; but soon the banks show a 
long line of thick, tall shrubs, one mass of glorious pink 
and green. Set these in a little valley, framed by moun- 
tains whose rocks gleam out blue and purple colors 
such as pre-Raphaelites only dare attempt, shining out 
hard and weird-like amongst the clumps of castor-oil 
plants, cistus, arbor vitae and many other evergreens, 
whose names, alas! I know not; the cistus is brown 
now, the rest all deep or brilliant green. Large herds 
of cattle browse on the baked deposit at the foot of 
these large crags. One or two half-savage herdsmen 
in sheepskin kilts, &c, ask for cigars; partridges whir 
up on either side of us; pigeons coo and nightingales 
sing amongst the blooming oleander. We get six 
sheep and many fowls, too, from the priest of the small 

102 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

village; and then run back to Spartivento and make 
preparations for the morning. 

"June 18. 

" The big cable is stubborn and will not behave like 
his smaller brother. The gear employed to take him off 
the drum is not strong enough ; he gets slack on the drum 
and plays the mischief. Luckily for my own conscience, 
the gear I had wanted was negatived by Mr. Newall. 
Mr. Liddell does not exactly blame me, but he says Wf 
might have had a silver pulley cheaper than the cost o' 
this delay. He has telegraphed for more men to Cagliari 
to try to pull the cable off the drum into the hold, by hand. 
I look as comfortable as I can, but feel as if people were 
blaming me. I am trying my best to get something 
rigged which may help us; I wanted a little difficulty, 
and feel much better. — The short length we have picked 
up was covered at places with beautiful sprays of coral, 
twisted and twined with shells of those small, fairy ani- 
mals we saw in the aquarium at home; poor little 
things, they died at once, with their little bells and 
delicate bright tints. 

11 12 o'clock. — Hurrah, victory! for the present any- 
how. Whilst in our first dejection, I thought I saw a 
place where a flat roller would remedy the whole mis- 
fortune; but a flat roller at Cape Spartivento, hard, 
easily unshipped, running freely ! There was a grooved 
pulley used for the paying-out machinery with a spindle 
wheel, which might suit me. I filled him up with 
tarry spunyarn, nailed sheet copper round him, bent 
some parts in the fire; and we are paying-in without 
more trouble now. You would think some one would 

103 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

praise me ; no, no more praise than blame before ; per- 
haps now they think better of me, though. 

"iop.m. — We have gone on very comfortably for 
nearly six miles. An hour and a half was spent wash- 
ing down; for along with many coloured polypi, from 
corals, shells and insects, the big cable brings up much 
mud and rust, and makes a fishy smell by no means 
pleasant: the bottom seems to teem with life. — But 
now we are startled by a most unpleasant, grinding 
noise; which appeared at first to come from the large 
low pulley, but when the engines stopped, the noise 
continued; and we now imagine it is something slip- 
ping down the cable, and the pulley but acts as sound- 
ing-board to the big fiddle. Whether it is only an 
anchor or one of the two other cables, we know not. 
We hope it is not the cable just laid down. 

4 "June 19. 

" 10 a.m. — All our alarm groundless, it would ap- 
pear: the odd noise ceased after a time, and there was 
no mark sufficiently strong on the large cable to war- 
rant the suspicion that we had cut another line through. 
I stopped up on the look-out till three in the morning, 
which made 2} hours between sleep and sleep. One 
goes dozing about, though, most of the day, for it is 
only when something goes wrong that one has to look 
alive. Hour after hour, I stand on the forecastle-head, 
picking off little specimens of polypi and coral, or lie 
on the saloon deck reading back numbers of the Times 
— till something hitches, and then all is hurly-burly 
once more. There are awnings all along the ship, and 
a most ancient, fish-like smell beneath. 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

" i o'clock. — Suddenly a great strain in only 95 
fathoms of water — belts surging and general dismay ; 
grapnels being thrown out in the hope of finding what 
holds the cable. — Should it prove the young cable ! We 
are apparently crossing its path — not the working one, 
but the lost child ; Mr. Liddell would start the big one 
first though it was laid first; he wanted to see the job 
done, and meant to leave us to the small one unaided 
by his presence. 

"3.30. — Grapnel caught something, lost it again; it 
left its marks on the prongs. Started lifting gear again ; 
and after hauling in some 50 fathoms — grunt, grunt, 
grunt — we hear the other cable slipping down our big 
one, playing the selfsame tune we heard last night — 
louder, however. 

"10 p.m. — The pull on the deck engines became 
harder and harder. I got steam up in a boiler on deck, 
and another little engine starts hauling at the grapnel. 
I wonder if there ever was such a scene of confusion : 

Mr. Liddell and W and the captain all giving orders 

contradictory, &c, on the forecastle; D , the fore- 
man of our men, the mates, &c, following the example 
of our superiors; the ship's engine and boilers below, a 
50-horse engine on deck, a boiler 14 feet long on deck 
beside it, a little steam winch tearing round; a dozen 
Italians (20 have come to relieve our hands, the men 
we telegraphed for to Cagliari) hauling at the rope; 
wiremen, sailors, in the crevices left by ropes and 
machinery; everything that could swear swearing — I 
found myself swearing like a trooper at last. We got 
the unknown difficulty within ten fathoms of the sur- 
face; but then the forecastle got frightened that, if it 

105 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

was the small cable which we had got hold of, we 
should certainly break it by continuing the tremendous 
and increasing strain. So at last Mr. Liddell decided to 
stop; cut the big cable, buoying its end; go back to 
our pleasant watering-place at Chia, take more water 
and start lifting the small cable. The end of the large 
one has even now regained its sandy bed; and three 
buoys — one to grapnel foul of the supposed small cable, 
two to the big cable — are dipping about on the sur- 
face. One more — a flag-buoy — will soon follow, and 
then straight for shore. 

"June 20. 

" It is an ill- wind, &c. I have an unexpected oppor- 
tunity of forwarding this engineering letter; for the 
craft which brought out our Italian sailors must return 
to Cagliari to-night, as the little cable will take us nearly 
to Galita, and the Italian skipper could hardly find his 
way from thence. To-day — Sunday — not much rest 
Mr. Liddell is at Spartivento telegraphing. We are at 
Chia, and shall shortly go to help our boat's crew in 
getting the small cable on board. We dropped them 
some time since in order that they might dig it out of 
the sand as far as possible. 

"June 2i. 
"Yesterday — Sunday as it was — all hands were 
kept at work all day, coaling, watering, and making a 
futile attempt to pull the cable from the shore on board 
through the sand. This attempt was rather silly after 
the experience we had gained at Cape Spartivento. 
This morning we grappled, hooked the cable at once, 

106 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

and have made an excellent start. Though I have 
called this the small cable, it is much larger than the 
Bona one. — Here comes a break down and a bad one. 

"June 22. 

"We got over it, however; but it is a warning to 
me that my future difficulties will arise from parts 
wearing out. Yesterday the cable was often a lovely 
sight, coming out of the water one large incrustation 
of delicate, net-like corals and long, white curling 
shells. No portion of the dirty black wires was visible; 
instead we had a garland of soft pink with little scarlet 
sprays and white enamel intermixed. All was fragile, 
however, and could hardly be secured in safety; and 
inexorable iron crushed the tender leaves to atoms. — 
This morning at the end of my watch, about 4 o'clock, 
we came to the buoys, proving our anticipations right 
concerning the crossing of the cables. I went to bed 
for four hours, and on getting up, found a sad mess. 
A tangle of the six-wire cable hung to the grapnel 
which had been left buoyed, and the small cable had 
parted and is lost for the present. Our hauling of the 
other day must have done the mischief. 

"June 23. 

" We contrived to get the two ends of the large cable 
and to pick the short end up. The long end, leading 
us seaward, was next put round the drum and a mile 
of it picked up; but then, fearing another tangle, the 
end was cut and buoyed, and we returned to grapple 
for the three-wire cable. All this is very tiresome for 
me. The buoying and dredging are managed entirely 

107 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

by W , who has had much experience in this sort 

of thing; so I have not enough to do and get very 
homesick. At noon the wind freshened and the sea 
rose so high that we had to run for land and are once 
more this evening anchored at Chia. 

"June 24. 

" The whole day spent in dredging without success. 
This operation consists in allowing the ship to drift 
slowly across the line where you expect the cable to be, 
while at the end of a long rope, fast either to the bow 
or stern, a grapnel drags along the ground. This grap- 
nel is a small anchor, made like four pot-hooks tied 
back to back. When the rope gets taut, the ship is 
stopped and the grapnel hauled up to the surface in the 
hopes of finding the cable on its prongs. — I am much 
discontented with myself for idly lounging about and 
reading Westward Ho! for the second time, instead of 
taking to electricity or picking up nautical information. 
I am uncommonly idle. The sea is not quite so rough, 
but the weather is squally and the rain comes in fre- 
quent gusts. 

"June 25. 

"To-day about 1 o'clock we hooked the three-wire 
cable, buoyed the long sea end, and picked up the 
short [or shorej end. Now it is dark and we must 
wait for morning before lifting the buoy we lowered 
to-day and proceeding seawards. — The depth of water 
here is about 600 feet, the height of a respectable Eng- 
lish hill ; our fishing line was about a quarter of a mile long. 
It blows pretty fresh, and there is a great deal of sea. 

108 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

"26tb. 

" This morning it came on to blow so heavily that it 
was impossible to take up our buoy. The Elba recom- 
menced rolling in true Baltic style and towards noon 
we ran for land. 

" I'jtb, Sunday. 
"This morning was a beautiful calm. We reached 
the buoys at about 4.30 and commenced picking up at 
6.30. Shortly a new cause of anxiety arose. Kinks 
came up in great quantities, about thirty in the hour. 
To have a true conception of a kink, you must see one: 
it is a loop drawn tight, all the wires get twisted and 
the gutta-percha inside pushed out. These much di- 
minish the value of the cable, as they must all be cut 
out, the gutta-percha made good, and the cable spliced. 
They arise from the cable having been badly laid down 
so that it forms folds and tails at the bottom of the sea. 
These kinks have another disadvantage: they weaken 
the cable very much. — At about six o'clock [p.m.] we 
had some twelve miles lifted, when I went to the bows; 
the kinks were exceedingly tight and were giving way 
in a most alarming manner. I got a cage rigged up to 
prevent the end (if it broke) from hurting any one, and 
sat down on the bowsprit, thinking I should describe 
kinks to Annie: — suddenly I saw a great many coils 
and kinks altogether at the surface. I jumped to the 
gutta-percha pipe, by blowing through which the sig- 
nal is given to stop the engine. I blow, but the engine 
does not stop; again — no answer: the coils and kinks 
jam in the bows and I rush aft shouting, 'stop!' Too 
late: the cable had parted and must lie in peace at the 

109 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

bottom. Some one had pulled the gutta-percha tube 
across a bare part of the steam pipe and melted it. It 
had been used hundreds of times in the last few days 
and gave no symptoms of failing. I believe the cable 
must have gone at any rate; however, since it went in 
my watch and since I might have secured the tubing 
more strongly, I feel rather sad. . . . 

"June 28. 

"Since I could not go to Annie I took down Shake- 
speare, and by the time I had finished Antony and Cleo- 
patra, read the second half of Troilus and got some way 
in Coriolanus, I felt it was childish to regret the accident 
had happened in my watch, and moreover I felt myself 
not much to blame in the tubing matter — it had been 
torn down, it had not fallen down; so I went to bed, 
and slept without fretting, and woke this morning in 
the same good mood — for which thank you and our 
friend Shakespeare. I am happy to say Mr. Liddell said 
the loss of the cable did not much matter; though this 
would have been no consolation had I felt myself to 
blame. This morning we have grappled for and found 

another length of small cable which Mr. dropped 

in 100 fathoms of water. If this also gets full of kinks, we 
shall probably have to cut it after ten miles or so, or more 
probably still it will part of its own free will or weight. 

"10 p.m. — This second length of three-wire cable 
soon got into the same condition as its fellow — i. e. 
came up twenty kinks an hour — and after seven miles 
were in, parted on the pulley over the bows at one of 
the said kinks; during my watch again, but this time 
no earthly power could have saved it. I had taken all 

no 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

manner of precautions to prevent the end doing any 
damage when the smash came, for come I knew it 
must. We now return to the six-wire cable. As I sat 
watching the cable to-night, large phosphorescent globes 
kept rolling from it and fading in the black water. 

"June 29. 

"To-day we returned to the buoy we had left at the 
end of the six-wire cable, and after much trouble from 
a series of tangles, got a fair start at noon. You will 
easily believe a tangle of iron rope inch and a half di- 
ameter is not easy to unravel, especially with a ton or 
so hanging to the ends. It is now eight o'clock and we 
have about six and a half miles safe : it becomes very ex- 
citing, however, for the kinks are coming fast and furious. 

"July 2. 
"Twenty-eight miles safe in the hold. The ship is 
now so deep, that the men are to be turned out of their 
aft hold, and the remainder coiled there; so the good 
Elba's nose need not burrow too far into the waves. 
There can only be about 10 or 12 miles more, but these 
weigh 80 or 100 tons. 

"July 5. 

"Our first mate was much hurt in securing a buoy 
on the evening of the second. As interpreter [with the 
Italians] I am useful in all these cases; but for no for- 
tune would I be a doctor to witness these scenes con- 
tinually. Pain is a terrible thing. — Our work is done: 
the whole of the six- wire cable has been recovered; 
only a small part of the three-wire, but that wire was 
bad and, owing to its twisted state, the value small. We 
may therefore be said to have been very successful. " 

in 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 
II 

I have given this cruise nearly in full. From the 
notes, unhappily imperfect, of two others, I will take 
only specimens; for in all there are features of simi- 
larity and it is possible to have too much even of sub- 
marine telegraphy and the romance of engineering. 
And first from the cruise of 1859 in the Greek Islands and 
to Alexandria, take a few traits, incidents and pictures. 

" May 10, 1859. 
"We had a fair wind and we did very well, seeing 
a little bit of Cerig or Cythera, and lots of turtle-doves 
wandering about over the sea and perching, tired and 
timid, in the rigging of our little craft. Then Falconera, 
Antimilo, and Milo, topped with huge white clouds, 
barren, deserted, rising bold and mysterious from the 
blue, chafing sea; — Argentiera, Siphano, Scapho, Paros, 
Antiparos, and late at night Syra itself. Adam Bede in 
one hand, a sketch-book in the other, lying on rugs 
under an awning, I enjoyed a very pleasant day. 

"May 14. 

"Syra is semi-eastern. The pavement, huge shape- 
less blocks sloping to a central gutter; from this bare 
two-storied houses, sometimes plaster many coloured, 
sometimes rough-hewn marble, rise, dirty and ill-fin- 
ished, to straight, plain, flat roofs; shops guiltless of 
windows, with signs in Greek letters; dogs, Greeks 
in blue, baggy Zouave breeches and a fez, a few nar- 
ghilehs and a sprinkling of the ordinary continental 
shopboys. — In the evening I tried one more walk in 

113 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Syra with A , but in vain endeavoured to amuse 

myself or to spend money ; the first effort resulting in 
singing Doodah to a passing Greek or two, the second 

in spending, no, in making A spend, threepence 

on coffee for three. 

"May 16. 

"On coming on deck, I found we were at anchor in 
Canea bay, and saw one of the most lovely sights man 
could witness. Far on either hand stretch bold moun- 
tain capes, Spada and Maleka, tender in colour, bold in 
outline; rich sunny levels lie beneath them, framed by 
the azure sea. Right in front, a dark brown fortress gir- 
dles white mosques and minarets. Rich and green, 
our mountain capes here join to form a setting for the 
town, in whose dark walls — still darker — open a 
dozen high-arched caves in which the huge Venetian 
galleys used to lie in wait. High above all, higher and 
higher yet, up into the firmament, range after range of 
blue and snow-capped mountains. I was bewildered 
and amazed, having heard nothing of this great beauty. 
The town when entered is quite eastern. The streets 
are formed of open stalls under the first story, in which 
squat tailors, cooks, sherbet venders and the like, busy 
at their work or smoking narghilehs. Cloths stretched 
from house to house keep out the sun. Mules rattle 
through the crowd; curs yelp between your legs; ne- 
groes are as hideous and bright clothed as usual; grave 
Turks with long chibouques continue to march sol- 
emnly without breaking them; a little Arab in one 
dirty rag pokes fun at two splendid little Turks with 
brilliant fezzes ; wiry mountaineers in dirty, full, white 

i»3 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENK1N 

kilts, shouldering long guns and one hand on their pis- 
tols, stalk untamed past a dozen Turkish soldiers, who 
look sheepish and brutal in worn cloth jacket and cot- 
ton trousers. A headless, wingless lion of St. Mark 
still stands upon a gate, and has left the mark of his 
strong clutch. Of ancient times when Crete was Crete, 
not a trace remains; save perhaps in the full, well-cut 
nostril and firm tread of that mountaineer, and I suspect 
that even his sires were Albanians, mere outer barbarians. 

"May 17. 
" I spent the day at the little station where the cable 
was landed, which has apparently been first a Venetian 
monastery and then a Turkish mosque. At any rate 
the big dome is very cool, and the little ones hold [our 
electric] batteries capitally. A handsome young Bashi- 
bazouk guards it, and a still handsomer mountaineer is 
the servant; so I draw them and the monastery and 
the hill, till I'm black in the face with heat and come on 
board to hear the Canea cable is still bad. 

"May*y 
"We arrived in the morning at the east end of Can- 
dia, and had a glorious scramble over the mountains, 
which seem built of adamant. Time has worn away 
the softer portions of the rock, only leaving sharp 
jagged edges of steel. Sea eagles soaring above our 
heads; old tanks, ruins, and desolation at our feet. The 
ancient Arsinoe stood here; a few blocks of marble with 
the cross attest the presence of Venetian Christians; but 
now — the desolation of desolations. Mr. Liddelland I 
separated from the rest, and when we had found a sure 

114 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

bay for the cable, had a tremendous lively scramble back 
to the boat. These are the bits of our life which I enjoy, 
which have some poetry, some grandeur in them. 

"Af^2 9 (?). 
"Yesterday we ran round to the new harbour [of 
Alexandria], landed the shore end of the cable close to 
Cleopatra's bath, and made a very satisfactory start 
about one in the afternoon. We had scarcely gone 200 
yards when I noticed that the cable ceased to run out, 
and I wondered why the ship had stopped. People ran 
aft to tell me not to put such a strain on the cable; I 
answered indignantly that there was no strain; and 
suddenly it broke on every one in the ship at once that 
we were aground. Here was a nice mess. A violent 
scirocco blew from the land ; making one's skin feel as 
if it belonged to some one else and didn't fit, mak- 
ing the horizon dim and yellow with fine sand, oppress- 
ing every sense and raising the thermometer 20 degrees 
in an hour, but making calm water round us which en- 
abled the ship to lie for the time in safety. The wind 
might change at any moment, since the scirocco was 
only accidental; and at the first wave from seaward 
bump would go the poor ship, and there would [might] 
be an end of our voyage. The captain, without wait- 
ing to sound, began to make an effort to put the ship 
over what was supposed to be a sandbank; but by the 
time soundings were made, this was found to be im- 
possible, and he had only been jamming the poor Elba 
faster on a rock. Now every effort was made to get 
her astern, an anchor taken out, a rope brought to a 
winch I had for the cable, and the engines backed; but 

"5 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

all in vain. A small Turkish Government steamer, 
which is to be our consort, came to our assistance, but 
of course very slowly, and much time was occupied 
before we could get a hawser to her. I could do no 
good after having made a chart of the soundings round 
the ship, and went at last on to the bridge to sketch the 
scene. But at that moment the strain from the winch 
and a jerk from the Turkish steamer got off the boat, 
after we had been some hours aground. The carpenter 
reported that she had made only two inches of water 
in one compartment; the cable was still uninjured 
astern, and our spirits rose ; when, will you believe it ? 
after going a short distance astern, the pilot ran us once 
more fast aground on what seemed to me nearly the 
same spot. The very same scene was gone through as 
on the first occasion, and dark came on whilst the wind 
shifted, and we were still aground. Dinner was served 
up, but poor Mr. Liddell could eat very little; and 
bump, bump, grind, grind, went the ship fifteen or six- 
teen times as we sat at dinner. The slight sea, however, 
did enable us to bump off. This morning we appear not 
to have suffered in any way ; but a sea is rolling in, which 
a few hours ago would have settled the poor old Elba. 

"June—. 
"The Alexandria cable has again failed; after paying 
out two-thirds of the distance successfully, an unlucky 
touch in deep water snapped the line. Luckily the ac- 
cident occurred in Mr. Liddell's watch. Though per- 
sonally it may not really concern me, the accident 
weighs like a personal misfortune. Still I am glad I was 
present: a failure is probably more instructive than a 

■ 16 



MEMOJR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

success; and this experience may enable us to avoid 
misfortune in still greater undertakings. 

"June— . 

"We left Syra the morning after our arrival on Satur- 
day the 4th. This we did (first) because we were in 
a hurry to do something and (second) because, coming 
from Alexandria, we had four days' quarantine to per- 
form. We were all mustered along the side while the 
doctor counted us ; the letters were popped into a little 
tin box and taken away to be smoked; the guardians 
put on board to see that we held no communication 
with the shore — without them we should still have 
had four more day's quarantine; and with twelve Greek 
sailors besides, we started merrily enough picking up 
the Canea cable. ... To our utter dismay, the yarn 
covering began to come up quite decayed, and the 
cable, which when laid should have borne half a ton, 
was now in danger of snapping with a tenth part of 
that strain. We went as slow as possible in fear of a 
break at every instant. My watch was from eight to 
twelve in the morning, and during that time we had 
barely secured three miles of cable. Once it broke in- 
side the ship, but I seized hold of it in time — the weight 
being hardly anything — and the line for the nonce was 
saved. Regular nooses were then planted inboard with 
men to draw them taut, should the cable break inboard. 

A , who should have relieved me, was unwell, so I 

had to continue my look-out; and about one o'clock the 
line again parted, but was again caught in the last noose, 
with about four inches to spare. Five minutes after- 
wards it again parted and was yet once more caught. 

117 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Mr. Liddell (whom I had called) could stand this no 
longer; so we buoyed the line and ran into a bay in 
Siphano, waiting for calm weather, though I was by no 
means of opinion that the slight sea and wind had been 
the cause of our failures. — All next day (Monday) we 
lay off Siphano, amusing ourselves on shore with fowl- 
ing-pieces and navy revolvers. I need not say we killed 
nothing; and luckily we did not wound any of our- 
selves. A guardiano accompanied us, his functions be- 
ing limited to preventing actual contact with the natives, 
for they might come as near and talk as much as they 
pleased. These isles of Greece are sad, interesting 
places. They are not really barren all over, but they are 
quite destitute of verdure; and tufts of thyme, wild mastic 
or mint, though they sound well, are not nearly so 
pretty as grass. Many little churches, glittering white, 
dot the islands; most of them, I believe, abandoned 
during the whole year with the exception of one day 
sacred to their patron saint. The villages are mean, but 
the inhabitants do not look wretched and the men are 
good sailors. There is something in this Greek race 
yet; they will become a powerful Levantine nation in 
the course of time. — What a lovely moonlight evening 
that was! the barren island cutting the clear sky with 
fantastic outline, marble cliffs on either hand fairly 
gleaming over the calm sea. Next day, the wind still 
continuing, I proposed a boating excursion and decoyed 

A , L , and S into accompanying me. We 

took the little gig, and sailed away merrily enough 
round a point to a beautiful white bay, flanked with two 
glistening little churches, fronted by beautiful distant 
islands; when suddenly, to my horror, I discovered the 

1.8 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

Elba steaming full speed out from the island. Of course 
we steered after her; but the wind that instant ceased, 
and we were left in a dead calm. There was nothing 
for it but to unship the mast, get out the oars and pull. 
The ship was nearly certain to stop at the buoy; and I 
wanted to learn how to take an oar, so here was a 

chance with a vengeance. L steered, and we three 

pulled — a broiling pull it was about half way across to 
Palikandro — still we did come in, pulling an uncom- 
mon good stroke, and I had learned to hang on my oar. 

L had pressed me to let him take my place; but 

though I was very tired at the end of the first quarter of 
an hour, and then every successive half hour, I would 
not give in. I nearly paid dear for my obstinacy, 
however; for in the evening I had alternate fits of shiver- 
ing and burning." 

Ill 

The next extracts, and I am sorry to say the last, are 
from Fleeming's letters of i860, when he was back at 
Bona and Spartivento and for the first time at the head 
of an expedition. Unhappily these letters are not only 
the last, but the series is quite imperfect; and this is 
the more to be lamented as he had now begun to use a 
pen more skilfully, and in the following notes there is 
at times a touch of real distinction in the manner. 

"Cagliari: October 5 , 1860. 
"All Tuesday I spent examining what was on board 
the Elba, and trying to start the repairs of the Sparti- 
vento land line, which has been entirely neglected, and 

119 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

no wonder, for no one has been paid for three months, 
no, not even the poor guards who have to keep them- 
selves, their horses and their families, on their pay. 
Wednesday morning, I started for Spartivento and got 
there in time to try a good many experiments. Sparti- 
vento looks more wild and savage than ever, but is not 
without a strange deadly beauty : the hills covered with 
bushes of a metallic green with coppery patches of soil 
in between ; the valleys filled with dry salt mud and a 
little stagnant water; where that very morning the deer 
had drunk, where herons, curlews, and other fowl 
abound, and where, alas! malaria is breeding with this 
rain. (No fear for those who do not sleep on shore.) 
A little iron hut had been placed there since 1858; but 
the windows had been carried off, the door broken 
down, the roof pierced all over. In it, we sat to make 
experiments; and how it recalled Birkenhead! There 
was Thomson, there was my testing board, the strings 

of gutta-percha ; Harry P even, battering with the 

batteries; but where was my darling Annie? Whilst 
I sat feet in sand, with Harry alone inside the hut — 
mats, coats, and wood to darken the window — the 
others visited the murderous old friar, who is of the 
order of Scaloppi, and for whom I brought a letter from 
his superior, ordering him to pay us attention ; but he 
was away from home, gone to Cagliari in a boat with 
the produce of the farm belonging to his convent. 
Then they visited the tower of Chia, but could not get 
in because the door is thirty feet off the ground; so 
they came back and pitched a magnificent tent which I 
brought from the Bahiana a long time ago — and where 
they will live (if I mistake not) in preference to the 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

friar's, or the owl- and bat-haunted tower. MM. T ■ 

and S will be left there: T , an intelligent, hard- 
working Frenchman, with whom I am well pleased; he 
can speak English and Italian well, and has been two 

years at Genoa. S is a French-German with a face 

like an ancient Gaul, who has been sergeant-major in 
the French line and who is, I see, a great, big, muscular 
faineant. We left the tent pitched and some stores in 
charge of a guide, and ran back to Cagliari. 

" Certainly, being at the head of things is pleasanter 
than being subordinate. We all agree very well; and 
I have made the testing office into a kind of private 
room where I can come and write to you undisturbed, 
surrounded by my dear, bright brass things which all of 
them remind me of our nights at Birkenhead. Then I 
can work here, too, and try lots of experiments; you 
know how I like that! and now and then I read — 
Shakespeare principally. Thank you so much for 
making me bring him: I think I must get a pocket 
edition of Hamlet and Henry the Fifth, so as never to 
be without them. 

" Cagliari: October 7. 
"[The town was full?] . . . of red-shirted English 
Garibaldini. A very fine looking set of fellows they 
are, too: the officers rather raffish, but with medals 
Crimean and Indian; the men a very sturdy set, with 
many lads of good birth I should say. They still wait 
their consort the Emperor and will, I fear, be too late 
to do anything. I meant to have called on them, but 
they are all gone into barracks some way from the 
town, and I have been much too busy to go far. 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

"The view from the ramparts was very strange and 
beautiful. Cagliari rises on a very steep rock, at the 
mouth of a wide plain circled by large hills and three- 
quarters filled with lagoons; it looks, therefore, like an 
old island citadel. Large heaps of salt mark the border 
between the sea and the lagoons; thousands of fla- 
mingoes whiten the centre of the huge shallow marsh; 
hawks hover and scream among the trees under the 
high mouldering battlements. — A little lower down, 
the band played. Men and ladies bowed and pranced, 
the costumes posed, church bells tinkled, processions 
processed, the sun set behind thick clouds capping the 
hills; I pondered on you and enjoyed it all. 

"Decidedly I prefer being master to being man : boats 
at all hours, stewards flying for marmalade, captain en- 
quiring when ship is to sail, clerks to copy my writing, 
the boat to steer when we go out — I have run her nose 
on several times; decidedly, I begin to feel quite a little 
king. Confound the cable, though! I shall never be 
able to repair it. 

" Bona: October 14. 
" We left Cagliari at 4.30 on the 9th and soon got to 
Spartivento. I repeated some of my experiments, but 
found Thomson, who was to have been my grand 
stand-by, would not work on that day in the wretched 
little hut. Even if the windows and door had been put 
in, the wind, which was very high, made the lamp 
flicker about and blew it out; so I sent on board and 
got old sails, and fairly wrapped the hut up in them; 
and then we were as snug as could be, and I left the 
hut in glorious condition with a nice little stove in it. 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

The tent which should have been forthcoming from the 
cure's for the guards, had gone to Cagliari; but I found 
another, [a] green, Turkish tent, in the Elba and soon 
had him up. The square tent left on the last occasion 
was standing all right and tight in spite of wind and 
rain. We landed provisions, two beds, plates, knives, 
forks, candles, cooking utensils, and were ready for a 
start at 6 p.m. ; but the wind meanwhile had come on 
to blow at such a rate that I thought better of it, and 

we stopped. T and S slept ashore, however, 

to see how they liked it; at least they tried to sleep, 

for S , the ancient sergeant-major, had a toothache, 

and T thought the tent was coming down every 

minute. Next morning they could only complain of 
sand and a leaky coffee-pot, so I leave them with a good 
conscience. The little encampment looked quite pic- 
turesque: the green round tent, the square white tent 
and the hut all wrapped up in sails, on a sand hill, look- 
ing on the sea and masking those confounded marshes 
at the back. One would have thought the Cagliaritans 
were in a conspiracy to frighten the two poor fellows, 
who (I believe) will be safe enough if they do not go 

into the marshes after nightfall. S brought a little 

dog to amuse them, such a jolly, ugly little cur without 
a tail, but full of fun; he will be better than quinine. 

"The wind drove a barque, which had anchored 
near us for shelter, out to sea. We started, however, 
at 2 p.m., and had a quick passage but a very rough 
one, getting to Bona by daylight [on the nthj. Such 
a place as this is forgetting anything done! The health 

boat went away from us at 7.30 with W on board; 

and we heard nothing of them till 9.30, when W 

123 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

came back with two fat Frenchmen who are to look on 
on the part of the Government. They are exactly alike : 
only one has four bands and the other three round his 
cap, and so I know them. Then I sent a boat round 
to Fort Genois [Fort Genova of 1858], where the cable 
is landed, with all sorts of things and directions, whilst 
I went ashore to see about coals and a room at the fort. 
We hunted people in the little square in their shops and 
offices, but only found them in cafes. One amiable 
gentleman wasn't up at 9.30, was out at 10, and as 
soon as he came back the servant said he would go to 
bed and not get up till 3 : he came, however, to find us 
at a cafe, and said that, on the contrary, two days in 
the week he did not do so! Then my two fat friends 
must have their breakfast after their ' something ' at a 
cafe; and all the shops shut from 10 to 2; and the post 
does not open till 12; and there was a road to Fort 
Genois, only a bridge had been carried away, &c. At 
last I got off, and we rowed round to Fort Genois, 
where my men had put up a capital gipsy tent with 
sails, and there was my big board and Thomson's num- 
ber 5 in great glory. I soon came to the conclusion 
there was a break. Two of my faithful Cagliaritans 
slept all night in the little tent, to guard it and my pre- 
cious instruments ; and the sea, which was rather rough, 
silenced my Frenchmen. 

"Next day I went on with my experiments, whilst a 
boat grappled for the cable a little way from shore and 
buoyed it where the Elba could get hold. I brought 
all back to the Elba, tried my machinery and was all 
ready for a start next morning. But the wretched coal 
had not come yet; Government permission from Algiers 

124 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

to be got; lighters, men, baskets, and I know not what 
forms to be got or got through — and everybody asleep J 
Coals or no coals, I was determined to start next morn- 
ing; and start we did at four in the morning, picked up 
the buoy with our deck engine, popped the cable across 
a boat, tested the wires to make sure the fault was not 
behind us, and started picking up at II. Everything 
worked admirably, and about 2 p.m., in came the fault. 
There is no doubt the cable was broken by coral fishers; 
twice they have had it up to their own knowledge. 

" Many men have been ashore to-day and have come 
back tipsy, and the whole ship is in a state of quarrel 
from top to bottom, and they will gossip just within 
my hearing. And we have had, moreover, three French 
gentlemen and a French lady to dinner, and I had to act 
host and try to manage the mixtures to their taste. The 
good-natured little Frenchwoman was most amusing; 
when I asked her if she would have some apple tart — 
* Mon Dieu/ with heroic resignation, ' je veux bien; ' 
or a little plombodding — ' Mais ce que votes voudre^, 
Monsieur / ' 

"S. S. Elba, somewhere not far from Bona: Oct. 19. 
" Yesterday [after three previous days of useless grap- 
pling] was destined to be very eventful. We began 
dredging at daybreak and hooked at once every time in 
rocks; but by capital luck, just as we were deciding it 
was no use to continue in that place, we hooked the 
cable: up it came, was tested, and lo! another com- 
plete break, a quarter of a mile off. I was amazed at 
my own tranquillity under these disappointments, but 
I was not really half so fussy as about getting a cab. 

125 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Well, there was nothing for it but grappling again, 
and, as you may imagine, we were getting about six 
miles from shore. But the water did not deepen rap- 
idly; we seemed to be on the crest of a kind of sub- 
marine mountain in prolongation of Cape de Gonde, 
and pretty havoc we must have made with the crags. 
What rocks we did hook! No sooner was the grapnel 
down than the ship was anchored; and then came 
such a business: ship's engines going, deck engine 
thundering, belt slipping, fear of breaking ropes: ac- 
tually breaking grapnels. It was always an hour or 
more before we could get the grapnel down again. At 
last we had to give up the place, though we knew we 
were close to the cable, and go further to sea in much 
deeper water; to my great fear, as I knew the cable 
was much eaten away and would stand but little 
strain. Well, we hooked the cable first dredge this 
time, and pulled it slowly and gently to the top, with 
much trepidation. Was it the cable ? was there any 
weight on ? it was evidently too small. Imagine 
my dismay when the cable did come up, but hanging 
loosely, thus 



A 



instead of taut, thus 




showing certain signs of a break close by. For a mo- 
ment I felt provoked, as I thought, ■ Here we are in 

126 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

deep water, and the cable will not stand lifting!' I 
tested at once, and by the very first wire found it had 
broken towards shore and was good towards sea. This 
was of course very pleasant; but from that time to this, 
though the wires test very well, not a signal has come 
from Spartivento. I got the cable into a boat, and a 
gutta-percha line from the ship to the boat, and we 
signalled away at a great rate — but no signs of life. 
The tests, however, make me pretty sure one wire at 
least is good ; so I determined to lay down cable from 
where we were to the shore, and go to Spartivento to 
see what had happened there. I fear my men are ill. 
The night was lovely, perfectly calm ; so we lay close 
to the boat and signals were continually sent, but with 
no result. This morning I laid the cable down to Fort 
Genois in style; and now we are picking up odds and 
ends of cable between the different breaks, and getting 
our buoys on board, &c. To-morrow I expect to leave 
for Spartivento." 

IV 

And now I am quite at an end of journal keeping; 
diaries and diary letters being things of youth which 
Fleeming had at length outgrown. But one or two 
more fragments from his correspondence may be taken, 
and first this brief sketch of the laying of the Norderney 
cable; mainly interesting as showing under what de- 
fects of strength and in what extremities of pain this 
cheerful man must at times continue to go about his 
work. 

" I slept on board 29th September, having arranged 
127 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

everything to start by daybreak from where we lay in 
the roads : but at daybreak a heavy mist hung over us 
so that nothing of land or water could be seen. At 
midday it lifted suddenly and away we went with per- 
fect weather, but could not find the buoys Forde left, 
that evening. 1 saw the captain was not strong in 
navigation, and took matters next day much more into 
my own hands and before nine o'clock found the 
buoys (the weather had been so fine we had anchored 
in the open sea near Texel). It took us till the evening 
to reach the buoys, get the cable on board, test the first 
half, speak to Lowestoft, make the splice, and start. 

H had not finished his work at Norderney, so I 

was alone on board for Reuter. Moreover the buoys 
to guide us in our course were not placed, and the 
captain had very vague ideas about keeping his course; 
so I had to do a good deal, and only lay down as I was 
for two hours in the night. I managed to run the 
course perfectly. Everything went well, and we found 
Norderney just where we wanted it next afternoon, 
and if the shore end had been laid, could have finished 
there and then, October ist. But when we got to Nor- 
derney, we found the Caroline with shore end lying 
apparently aground, and could not understand her sig- 
nals; so we had to anchor suddenly and I went off in 
a small boat with the captain to the Caroline. It was 
cold by this time, and my arm was rather stiff and I 
was tired; I hauled myself up on board the Caroline 

by a rope and found H and two men on board. 

All the rest were trying to get the shore end on shore, 
but had failed and apparently had stuck on shore, and 
the waves were getting up. We had anchored in the 

128 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

right place and next morning we hoped the shore end 
would be laid, so we had only to go back. It was 
of course still colder and quite night. I went to bed 
and hoped to sleep, but, alas, the rheumatism got 
into the joints and caused me terrible pain so that I 
could not sleep. I bore it as long as I could in order 
to disturb no one, for all were tired; but at last I 
could bear it no longer and managed to wake the stew- 
ard and got a mustard poultice, which took the pain 
from the shoulder; but then the elbow got very bad, 
and I had to call the second steward and get a second 
poultice, and then it was daylight, and I felt very ill 
and feverish. The sea was now rather rough — too 
rough rather for small boats, but luckily a sort of thing 
called a scoot came out, and we got on board her with 
some trouble, and got on shore after a good tossing 
about which made us all sea-sick. The cable sent from 
the Caroline was just 60 yards too short and did not 
reach the shore, so although the Caroline did make the 
splice late that night, we could neither test nor speak. 
Reuter was at Norderney, and I had to do the best I 
could, which was not much, and went to bed early; I 
thought I should never sleep again, but in sheer des- 
peration got up in the middle of the night and gulped a 
lot of raw whisky and slept at last. But not long. A 

Mr. F washed my face and hands and dressed me; 

and we hauled the cable out of the sea, and got it joined 
to the telegraph station, and on October 3rd telegraphed 
to Lowestoft first and then to London. Miss Clara 
Volkman, a niece of Mr. Reuter's, sent the first mes- 
sage to Mrs. Reuter, who was waiting (Varley used 
Miss Clara's hand as a kind of key), and I sent one of 

129 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

the first messages to Odden. I thought a message ad- 
dressed to him would not frighten you, and that he 
would enjoy a message through Papa's cable. I hope 
he did. They were all very merry, but I had been so 
lowered by pain that I could not enjoy myself in spite 
of the success." 



Of the 1869 cruise in the Great Eastern, I give what 
I am able; only sorry it is no more, for the sake of the 
ship itself, already almost a legend even to the genera- 
tion that saw it launched. 

"June 17, 1869. — Here are the names of our staff in 
whom I expect you to be interested, as future Great 
Eastern stories may be full of them : Theophilus Smith, 
a man of Latimer Clark's; Leslie C. Hill, my prizeman 
at University College; Lord Sackville Cecil; King, one 
of the Thomsonian Kings; Laws, goes for Willoughby 
Smith, who will also be on board; Varley, Clark, and 
Sir James Anderson make up the sum of all you know 
anything of. A Captain Halpin commands the big 
ship. There are four smaller vessels. The Wm. Cory, 
which laid the Norderney cable, has already gone to St. 
Pierre to lay the shore ends. The Hawk and Chiltern 
have gone to Brest to lay shore ends. The Hawk and 
Scanderia go with us across the Atlantic and we shall 
at St. Pierre be trans-shipped into one or the other. 

"June 18. Somewhere in London. — The shore end 
is laid, as you may have seen, and we are all under 
pressing orders to march, so we start from London to- 
night at 5. 10. 

no 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

"June 20. Off Ushant. — I am getting quite fond 
of the big ship. Yesterday morning in the quiet sun- 
light, she turned so slowly and lazily in the great har- 
bour at Portland, and bye and bye slipped out past the 
long pier with so little stir, that I could hardly believe 
we were really off. No men drunk, no women crying, 
no singing or swearing, no confusion or bustle on deck 
— nobody apparently aware that they had anything to 
do. The look of the thing was that the ship had been 
spoken to civilly and had kindly undertaken to do 
everything that was necessary without any further in- 
terference. I have a nice cabin with plenty of room for 
my legs in my berth and have slept two nights like a 
top. Then we have the ladies' cabin set apart as an 
engineer's office, and I think this decidedly the nicest 
place in the ship: 35 ft. x 20 ft. broad — four tables, 
three great mirrors, plenty of air and no heat from the 
funnels which spoil the great dining-room. I saw a 
whole library of books on the walls when here last, and 
this made me less anxious to provide light literature; 
but alas, to-day I find that they are every one bibles or 
prayer-books. Now one cannot read many hundred 
bibles. ... As for the motion of the ship it is not very 
much, but 'twill suffice. Thomson shook hands and 
wished me well. I do like Thomson. . . . Tell Austin 
that the Great Eastern has six masts and four funnels. 
When I get back I will make a little model of her for all 
the chicks and pay out cotton reels. . . . Here we are 
at 4.20 at Brest. We leave probably to-morrow morn- 
ing. 

"July 12. Great Eastern. — Here as I write we run 
our last course for the buoy at the St. Pierre shore end, 

131 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

It blows and lightens, and our good ship rolls, and 
buoys are hard to find ; but we must soon now finish 
our work, and then this letter will start for home. . . . 
Yesterday we were mournfully groping our way through 
the wet grey fog, not at all sure where we were, with 
one consort lost and the other faintly answering the 
roar of our great whistle through the mist. As to the 
ship which was to meet us, and pioneer us up the deep 
channel, we did not know if we should come within 
twenty miles of her; when suddenly up went the fog, 
out came the sun, and there, straight ahead, was the 
Wm. Cory, our pioneer, and a little dancing boat, the 
Gulnare, sending signals of welcome with many-col- 
oured flags. Since then we have been steaming in a 
grand procession; but now at 2 a.m. the fog has fallen, 
and the great roaring whistle calls up the distant an- 
swering notes all around us. Shall we, or shall we not 
find the buoy ? 

"July 13. — All yesterday we lay in the damp drip- 
ping fog, with whistles all round and guns firing so 
that we might not bump up against one another. This 
little delay has let us get our reports into tolerable order. 
We are now at seven o'clock getting the cable end 
again, with the main cable buoy close to us." 

A telegram of July 20: "I have received your four 
welcome letters. The Americans are charming people." 

VI 

And here to make an end are a few random bits 
about the cruise to Pernambuco: — 
" Plymouth, June 21, 1873. — I have been down to 
132 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

the sea-shore and smelt the salt sea and like it; and I 
have seen the Hooper pointing her great bow sea-ward, 
while light smoke rises from her funnels telling that the 
fires are being lighted; and sorry as I am to be without 
you, something inside me answers to the call to be off 
and doing. 

" LaUa Rookh. Plymouth, June 22. — We have been 
a little cruise in the yacht over to the Eddystone light- 
house, and my sea-legs seem very well on. Strange 
how alike all these starts are — first on shore, steaming 
hot days with a smell of bone-dust and tar and salt 
water; then the little puffing, panting steam-launch that 
bustles out across a port with green woody sides, little 
yachts sliding about, men-of-war training-ships, and 
then a great big black hulk of a thing with a mass of 
smaller vessels sticking to it like parasites ; and that is 
one's home being coaled. Then comes the Champagne 
lunch where everyone says all that is polite to everyone 
else, and then the uncertainty when to start. So far as 
we know now, we are to start to-morrow morning at 
daybreak; letters that come later are to be sent to 
Pernambuco by first mail. . . . My father has sent me 
the heartiest sort of Jack Tar's cheer. 

" S. S. Hooper. Off Funchal, June 29. — Here we 
are off Madeira at seven o'clock in the morning. Thom- 
son has been sounding with his special toy ever since 
half-past three (1087 fathoms of water). I have been 
watching the day break, and long jagged islands start 
into being out of the dull night. We are still some 
miles from land; but the sea is calmer than Loch Eil 
often was, and the big Hooper rests very contentedly 
after a pleasant voyage and favourable breezes. I have 

•33 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

not been able to do any real work except the testing 
[of the cable], for though not sea-sick, I get a little 
giddy when I try to think on board. . . . The ducks 
have just had their daily souse and are quacking and 
gabbling in a mighty way outside the door of the cap- 
tain's deck cabin where I write. The cocks are crow- 
ing, and new-laid eggs are said to be found in the coops. 
Four mild oxen have been untethered and allowed to 
walk along the broad iron decks — a whole drove of 
sheep seem quite content while licking big lumps of bay 
salt. Two exceedingly impertinent goats lead the cook 
a perfect life of misery. They steal round the galley and 
will nibble the carrots or turnips if his back is turned 
for one minute; and then he throws something at them 
and misses them ; and they scuttle off laughing impu- 
dently, and flick one ear at him from a safe distance. 
This is the most impudent gesture I ever saw. Wink- 
ing is nothing to it. The ear normally hangs down be- 
hind; the goat turns sideways to her enemy — by a 
little knowing cock of the head flicks one ear over one 
eye, and squints from behind it for half a minute — 
tosses her head back, skips a pace or two further off, 
and repeats the manoeuvre. The cook is very fat and 
cannot run after that goat much. 

" Pernambuco, Aug. i. — We landed here yesterday, 
all well and cable sound, after a good passage. ... I 
am on familiar terms with cocoa-nuts, mangoes, and 
bread-fruit trees, but I think I like the negresses best 
of anything I have seen. In turbans and loose sea- 
green robes, with beautiful black-brown complexions 
and a stately carriage, they really are a satisfaction to 
my eye. The weather has been windy and rainy; the 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

Hooper has to lie about a mile from the town, in an 
open roadstead, with the whole swell of the Atlantic 
driving straight on shore. The little steam launch 
gives all who go in her a good ducking, as she bobs 
about on the big rollers; and my old gymnastic prac- 
tice stands me in good stead on boarding and leaving 
her. We clamber down a rope ladder hanging from 
the high stern, and then taking a rope in one hand, 
swing into the launch at the moment when she can 
contrive to steam up under us — bobbing about like an 
apple thrown into a tub all the while. The President 
of the province and his suite tried to come off to a State 
luncheon on board on Sunday; but the launch being 
rather heavily laden, behaved worse than usual, and 
some green seas stove in the President's hat and made 
him wetter than he had probably ever been in his life; 
so after one or two rollers, he turned back ; and indeed 
he was wise to do so, for I don't see how he could 
have got on board. . . . Being fully convinced that the 
world will not continue to go round unless I pay it per- 
sonal attention, I must run away to my work." 



>35 



CHAPTER VI 
1869— 1885 

Edinburgh — Colleagues — Farrago Vitce — I. The Family Circle — 
Fleeming and his Sons — Highland Life — The Cruise of the Steam 
Launch — Summer in Styria — Rustic Manners — II. The Drama — 
Private Theatricals — III. Sanitary Associations — The Phonograph 
— IV. Fleeming's Acquaintance with a Student — His late Maturity 
of Mind — Religion and Morality — His Love of Heroism — Taste in 
Literature — V. His Talk — His late Popularity — Letter from M. 
Trelat. 

The remaining external incidents of Fleeming's life, 
pleasures, honours, fresh interests, new friends, are not 
such as will bear to be told at any length or in the tem- 
poral order. And it is now time to lay narration by, 
and to look at the man he was and the life he lived, 
more largely. 

Edinburgh, which was henceforth to be his home, is 
a metropolitan small town; where college professors 
and the lawyers of the Parliament House give the tone, 
and persons of leisure, attracted by educational advan- 
tages, make up much of the bulk of society. Not, 
therefore, an unlettered place, yet not pedantic, Edin- 
burgh will compare favourably with much larger cities. 
A hard and disputatious element has been commented 
on by strangers: it would not touch Fleeming, who 
was himself regarded, even in this metropolis of dispu- 
tation, as a thorny table-mate. To golf unhappily he 

136 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

did not take, and golf is a cardinal virtue in the city 
of the winds. Nor did he become an archer of the 
Queen's Body-Guard, which is the Chiltern Hundreds 
of the distasted golfer. He did not even frequent the 
Evening Club, where his colleague Tait (in my day) 
was so punctual and so genial. So that in some ways 
he stood outside of the lighter and kindlier life of his 
new home. 1 should not like to say that he was gen- 
erally popular; but there as elsewhere, those who knew 
him well enough to love him, loved him well. And 
he, upon his side, liked a place where a dinner party 
was not of necessity unintellectual, and where men 
stood up to him in argument. 

The presence of his old classmate, Tait, was one of 
his early attractions to the chair; and now that Fleem- 
ing is gone again, Tait still remains, ruling and really 
teaching his great classes. Sir Robert Christison was 
an old friend of his mother's ; Sir Alexander Grant, Kel- 
land, and Sellar, were new acquaintances and highly 
valued; and these too, all but the last, have been taken 
from their friends and labours. Death has been busy 
in the Senatus. I will speak elsewhere of Fleeming's 
demeanour to his students; and it will be enough to 
add here that his relations with his colleagues in gene- 
ral were pleasant to himself. 

Edinburgh, then, with its society, its university work, 
its delightful scenery, and its skating in the winter, was 
thenceforth his base of operations. But he shot mean- 
while erratic in many directions: twice to America, as 
we have seen, on telegraph voyages; continually to 
London on business; often to Paris; year after year to 
the Highlands to shoot, to fish, to learn reels and Gae- 

"37 



MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENK1N 

lie, to make the acquaintance and fall in love with the 
character of Highlanders; and once to Styria, to hunt 
chamois and dance with peasant maidens. All the 
while, he was pursuing the course of his electrical 
studies, making fresh inventions, taking up the phono- 
graph, filled with theories of graphic representation; 
reading, writing, publishing, founding sanitary associa- 
tions, interested in technical education, investigating 
the laws of metre, drawing, acting, directing private 
theatricals, going a long way to see an actor — a long 
way to see a picture; in the very bubble of the tide- 
way of contemporary interests. And all the while he 
was busied about his father and mother, his wife, and 
in particular his sons; anxiously watching, anxiously 
guiding these, and plunging with his whole fund of 
youthfulness into their sports and interests. And all 
the while he was himself maturing — not in charac- 
ter or body, for these remained young — but in the 
stocked mind, in the tolerant knowledge of life and 
man, in pious acceptance of the universe. Here is a 
farrago for a chapter: here is a world of interests and 
activities, human, artistic, social, scientific, at each of 
which he sprang with impetuous pleasure, on each of 
which he squandered energy, the arrow drawn to the 
head, the whole intensity of his spirit bent, for the 
moment, on the momentary purpose. It was this that 
lent such unusual interest to his society, so that no 
friend of his can forget that figure of Fleeming coming 
charged with some new discovery : it is this that makes 
his character so difficult to represent. Our fathers, upon 
some difficult theme, would invoke the Muse; I can 
but appeal to the imagination of the reader. When I 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

dwell upon some one thing, he must bear in mind it 
was only one of a score; that the unweariable brain 
was teeming at the very time with other thoughts; that 
the good heart had left no kind duty forgotten. 



I 

In Edinburgh, for a considerable time, Fleeming's 
family, to three generations, was united : Mr. and Mrs. 
Austin at Hailes, Captain and Mrs. Jenkin in the suburb 
of Merchiston, Fleeming himself in the city. It is not 
every family that could risk with safety such close in- 
terdomestic dealings; but in this also Fleeming was 
particularly favoured. Even the two extremes, Mr. 
Austin and the Captain, drew together. It is pleasant 
to find that each of the old gentlemen set a high value 
on the good looks of the other, doubtless also on his 
own ; and a fine picture they made as they walked the 
green terrace at Hailes, conversing by the hour. What 
they talked of is still a mystery to those who knew 
them ; but Mr. Austin always declared that on these oc- 
casions he learned much. To both of these families of 
elders, due service was paid of attention; to both, 
Fleeming's easy circumstances had brought joy; and 
the eyes of all were on the grandchildren. In Fleeming's 
scheme of duties, those of the family stood first; a man 
was first of all a child, nor did he cease to be so, but 
only took on added obligations, when he became in 
turn a father. The care of his parents was always a 
first thought with him, and their gratification his de- 
light. And the care of his sons, as it was always a grave 
subject of study with him, and an affair never neglected, 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

so it brought him a thousand satisfactions. "Hard 
work they are, " as he once wrote, ' ' but what fit work ! " 
And again: " O, it's a cold house where a dog is the 
only representative of a child!" Not that dogs were 
despised ; we shall drop across the name of Jack, the 
harum-scarum Irish terrier, ere we have done; his own 
dog Plato went up with him daily to his lectures, and 
still (like other friends) feels the loss and looks visibly 
for the reappearance of his master; and Martin, the cat, 
Fleeming has himself immortalized, to the delight of 
Mr. Swinburne, in the columns of the Spectator. In- 
deed there was nothing in which men take interest, in 
which he took not some; and yet always most in the 
strong human bonds, ancient as the race and woven of 
delights and duties. 

He was even an anxious father; perhaps that is the 
part where optimism is hardest tested. He was 
eager for his sons; eager for their health, whether of 
mind or body ; eager for their education ; in that, I should 
have thought, too eager. But he kept a pleasant face 
upon all things, believed in play, loved it himself, shared 
boyishly in theirs, and knew how to put a face of en- 
tertainment upon business, and a spirit of education in- 
to entertainment. If he was to test the progress of the 
three boys, this advertisement would appear in their 
little manuscript paper: — "Notice: The Professor of 
Engineering in the University of Edinburgh intends at 
the close of the scholastic year to hold examinations in 
the following subjects: (i) For boys in the fourth class 
of the Academy — Geometry and Algebra; (2) For boys 
at Mr. Henderson's school — Dictation and Recitation; 
(3) For boys taught exclusively by their mothers — 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Arithmetic and Reading. " Prizes were given ; but what 
prize would be so conciliatory as this boyish little joke ? 
It may read thin here; it would smack racily in the play- 
room. Whenever his sons "started a new fad" (as 
one of them writes to me) they "had only to tell him 
about it, and he was at once interested and keen to 
help." He would discourage them in nothing unless it 
was hopelessly too hard for them; only, if there was 
any principle of science involved, they must understand 
the principle; and whatever was attempted, that was to 
be done thoroughly. If it was but play, if it was but a 
puppet show they were to build, he set them the example 
of being no sluggard in play. When Frewen, the second 
son, embarked on the ambitious design to make an engine 
for a toy steamboat, Fleeming made him begin with a 
proper drawing — doubtless to the disgust of the young 
engineer; but once that foundation laid, helped in the 
work with unflagging gusto, "tinkering away," for 
hours, and assisted at the final trial "in the big bath " 
with no less excitement than the boy. " He would take 
any amount of trouble to help us," writes my corre- 
spondent. " We never felt an affair was complete till 
we had called him to see, and he would come at any 
time, in the middle of any work." There was indeed 
one recognized playhour, immediately after the despatch 
of the day's letters; and the boys were to be seen wait- 
ing on the stairs until the mail should be ready and the 
fun could begin. But at no other time did this busy 
man suffer his work to interfere with that first duty to 
his children; and there is a pleasant tale of the inventive 
Master Frewen, engaged at the time upon a toy crane, 
bringing to the study where his father sat at work a 

'4' 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

half- wound reel that formed some part of his design, 
and observing, "Papa, you might finiss windin' this 
for me; I am so very busy to-day." 

I put together here a few brief extracts from Fleem- 
ing's letters, none very important in itself, but all to- 
gether building up a pleasant picture of the father with 
his sons. 

"Jan. i^tb, 1875. — Frewen contemplates suspending 
soap bubbles by silk threads for experimental purposes. 
I don't think he will manage that. Bernard " [the 
youngest] " volunteered to blow the bubbles with en- 
thusiasm." 

"Jan. 17th. — I am learning a great deal of electro- 
statics in consequence of the perpetual cross-examina- 
tion to which I am subjected. I long for you on many 
grounds, but one is that I may not be obliged to deliver 
a running lecture on abstract points of science, subject 
to cross-examination by two acute students. Bernie 
does not cross-examine much ; but if anyone gets dis- 
comfited, he laughs a sort of little silver-whistle giggle, 
which is trying to the unhappy blunderer." 

" May qtb. — Frewen is deep in parachutes. I beg 
him not to drop from the top landing in one of his own 
making." 

"June 6th, 1876. — Frewen's crank axle is a failure 
just at present — but he bears up." 

"June 14th. — The boys enjoy their riding. It gets 
them whole funds of adventures. One of their caps 
falling off is matter for delightful reminiscences; and 
when a horse breaks his step, the occurrence becomes a 
rear, a shy, or a plunge as they talk it over. Austin, 
with quiet confidence, speaks of the greater pleasure in 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

riding a spirited horse, even if he does give a little 
trouble. It is the stolid brute that he dislikes. (N. B. 
You can still see six inches between him and the sad- 
dle when his pony trots.) I listen and sympathise and 
throw out no hint that their achievements are not really 
great." 

"June iStb. — Bernard is much impressed by the 
fact that I can be useful to Frewen about the steam- 
boat " [which the latter irrepressible inventor was mak- 
ing]. " He says, quite with awe, ■ He would not have 
got on nearly so well if you had not helped him.' " 

"June 2*]tb. — I do not see what I could do without 
Austin. He talks so pleasantly and is so truly good all 
through." 

"July ytb. — My chief difficulty with Austin is to get 
him measured for a pair of trousers. Hitherto I have 
failed, but I keep a stout heart and mean to succeed. 
Frewen the observer, in describing the paces of two 
horses, says, * Polly takes twenty-seven steps to get 
round the school. I couldn't count Sophy, but she 
takes more than a hundred.' " 

''Feb. iStb, 1877. — We all feel very lonely without 
you. Frewen had to come up and sit in my room for 
company last night and I actually kissed him, a thing 
that has not occurred for years. Jack, poor fellow, 
bears it as well as he can, and has taken the opportu- 
nity of having a fester on his foot, so he is lame and has 
it bathed, and this occupies his thoughts a good deal." 

"Feb. igtb. — As to Mill, Austin has not got the list 
yet. I think it will prejudice him very much against 
Mill — but that is not my affair. Education of that 
kind! ... I would as soon cram my boys with food 

«43 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

and boast of the pounds they had eaten, as cram them 
with literature." 

But if Fleeming was an anxious father, he did not 
suffer his anxiety to prevent the boys from any manly 
or even dangerous pursuit. Whatever it might occur 
to them to try, he would carefully show them how to 
do it, explain the risks, and then either share the dan- 
ger himself or, if that were not possible, stand aside 
and wait the event with that unhappy courage of the 
looker-on. He was a good swimmer, and taught them 
to swim. He thoroughly loved all manly exercises; 
and during their holidays, and principally in the High- 
lands, helped and encouraged them to excel in as many 
as possible — to shoot, to fish, to walk, to pull an oar, to 
hand, reef and steer, and to run a steam launch. In all 
of these, and in all parts of Highland life, he shared de- 
lightedly. He was well on to forty when he took once 
more to shooting, he was forty-three when he killed 
his first salmon, but no boy could have more single- 
mindedly rejoiced in these pursuits. His growing love 
for the Highland character, perhaps also a sense of the 
difficulty of the task, led him to take up at forty-one 
the study of Gaelic; in which he made some shadow of 
progress, but not much : the fastnesses of that elusive 
speech retaining to the last their independence. At the 
house of his friend Mrs. Blackburn, who plays the part 
of a Highland lady as to the manner born, he learned 
the delightful custom of kitchen dances, which became 
the rule at his own house and brought him into yet 
nearer contact with his neighbors. And thus at forty- 
two, he began to learn the reel; a study to which he 
brought his usual smiling earnestness; and the steps, 

144 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

diagrammatically represented by his own hand, are be- 
fore me as I write. 

It was in 1879 that a new feature was added to the 
Highland life: a steam launch, called the Purgle, the 
Styrian corruption of Walpurga, after a friend to be 
hereafter mentioned. "The steam launch goes," 
Fleeming wrote. "I wish you had been present to 
describe two scenes of which she has been the occa- 
sion already : one during which the population of Ulla- 
pool, to a baby, was harnessed to her hurrahing — and 
the other in which the same population sat with its 
legs over a little pier, watching Frewen and Bernie 
getting up steam for the first time." The Purgle was 
got with educational intent; and it served its pur- 
pose so well, and the boys knew their business so 
practically, that when the summer was at an end, 
Fleeming, Mrs. Jenkin, Frewen the engineer, Bernard 
the stoker, and Kenneth Robertson, a Highland sea- 
man, set forth in her to make the passage south. The 
first morning they got from Loch Broom into Gruinard 
bay, where they lunched upon an island ; but the wind 
blowing up in the afternoon, with sheets of rain, it was 
found impossible to beat to sea; and very much in the 
situation of castaways upon an unknown coast, the 
party landed at the mouth of Gruinard river. A shoot- 
ing lodge was spied among the trees; there Fleeming 
went; and though the master, Mr. Murray, was from 
home, though the two Jenkin boys were of course 
as black as colliers, and all the castaways so wetted 
through that, as they stood in the passage, pools 
formed about their feet and ran before them into the 
house, yet Mrs. Murray kindly entertained them for the 

»45 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

night. On the morrow, however, visitors were to ar- 
rive; there would be no room and, in so out-of-the- 
way a spot, most probably no food for the crew of the 
Purgle; and on the morrow about noon, with the bay 
white with spindrift and the wind so strong that one 
could scarcely stand against it, they got up steam and 
skulked under the land as far as Sanda Bay. Here they 
crept into a seaside cave, and cooked some food; but 
the weather now freshening to a gale, it was plain they 
must moor the launch where she was, and find their 
way overland to some place of shelter. Even to get 
their baggage from on board was no light business; 
for the dingy was blown so far to leeward every trip, 
that they must carry her back by hand along the beach. 
But this once managed, and a cart procured in the 
neighbourhood, they were able to spend the night in 
a pot-house on Ault Bea. Next day, the sea was un- 
approachable; but the next they had a pleasant pas- 
sage to Poolewe, hugging the cliffs, the falling swell 
bursting close by them in the gullies, and the black 
scarts that sat like ornaments on the top of every stack 
and pinnacle looking down into the Purgle as she 
passed. The climate of Scotland had not done with 
them yet: for three days they lay stormstayed in Pool- 
ewe, and when they put to sea on the morning of the 
fourth, the sailors prayed them for God's sake not to 
attempt the passage. Their setting out was indeed 
merely tentative; but presently they had gone too far 
to return, and found themselves committed to double 
Rhu Reay with a foul wind and a cross sea. From 
half-past eleven in the morning until half-past five at 
night, they were in immediate and unceasing danger. 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Upon the least mishap, the Purgle must either have 
been swamped by the seas or bulged upon the cliffs 
of that rude headland. Fleeming and Robertson took 
turns baling and steering; Mrs. Jenkin, so violent was 
the commotion of the boat, held on with both hands; 
Frewen, by Robertson's direction, ran the engine, 
slacking and pressing her to meet the seas; and Ber- 
nard, only twelve years old, deadly sea-sick, and con- 
tinually thrown against the boiler, so that he was 
found next day to be covered with burns, yet kept an 
even fire. It was a very thankful party that sat down 
that evening to meat in the Hotel at Gairloch. And 
perhaps, although the thing was new in the family, 
no one was much surprised when Fleeming said grace 
over that meal. Thenceforward he continued to ob- 
serve the form, so that there was kept alive in his 
house a grateful memory of peril and deliverance. But 
there was nothing of the muffin Fleeming; he thought 
it a good thing to escape death, but a becoming and a 
healthful thing to run the risk of it; and what is rarer, 
that which he thought for himself, he thought for his 
family also. In spite of the terrors of Rhu Reay, the 
cruise was persevered in and brought to an end under 
happier conditions. 

One year, instead of the Highlands, Alt Aussee, in the 
Steiermark, was chosen for the holidays; and the place, 
the people, and the life delighted Fleeming. He worked 
hard at German, which he had much forgotten since he 
was a boy; and what is highly characteristic, equally 
hard at the patois, in which he learned to excel. He 
won a prize at a Schutzen-fest; and though he hunted 
chamois without much success, brought down more 

»47 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

interesting game in the shape of the Styrian peasants, 
and in particular of his gillie, Joseph. This Joseph was 
much of a character; and his appreciations of Fleeming 
have a fine note of their own. The bringing up of the 
boys he deigned to approve of: "fast so gut wie ein 
Bauer/' was his trenchant criticism. The attention 
and courtly respect with which Fleeming surrounded 
his wife, was something of a puzzle to the philosophic 
gillie; he announced in the village that Mrs. Jenkin — 
die silberne Frau, as the folk had prettily named her 
from some silver ornaments — was a (f geborene Grafin " 
who had married beneath her; and when Fleeming ex- 
plained what he called the English theory (though in- 
deed it was quite his own) of married relations, Joseph, 
admiring but unconvinced, avowed it was " gar scb&n. " 
Joseph's cousin, Walpurga Moser, to an orchestra of 
clarionet and zither, taught the family the country 
dances, the Steierisch and the Landler, and gained their 
hearts during the lessons. Her sister Loys, too, who 
was up at the Alp with the cattle, came down to church 
on Sundays, made acquaintance with the Jenkins, and 
must have them up to see the sunrise from her house 
upon the Loser, where they had supper and all slept in 
the loft among the hay. The Mosers were not lost 
sight of; Walpurga still corresponds with Mrs. Jenkin, 
and it was a late pleasure of Fleeming's to choose and 
despatch a wedding present for his little mountain 
friend. This visit was brought to an end by a ball in 
the big inn parlour; the refreshments chosen, the list 
of guests drawn up, by Joseph; the best music of the 
place in attendance; and hosts and guests in their best 
clothes. The ball was opened by Mrs. Jenkin dancing 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Steierisch with a lordly Bauer, in grey and silver and 
with a plumed hat; and Fleeming followed with Wal- 
purga Moser. 

There ran a principle through all these holiday plea- 
sures. In Styria as in the Highlands, the same course was 
followed : Fleeming threw himself as fully as he could 
into the life and occupations of the native people, study- 
ing everywhere their dances and their language, and 
conforming, always with pleasure, to their rustic eti- 
quette. Just as the ball at Alt Aussee was designed 
for the taste of Joseph, the parting feast at Attadale was 
ordered in every particular to the taste of Murdoch the 
Keeper. Fleeming was not one of the common, so- 
called gentlemen, who take the tricks of their own 
coterie to be eternal principles of taste. He was aware, 
on the other hand, that rustic people dwelling in their 
own places follow ancient rules with fastidious preci- 
sion, and are easily shocked and embarrassed by what 
(if they used the word) they would have to call the 
vulgarity of visitors from town. And he, who was so 
cavalier with men of his own class, was sedulous to 
shield the more tender feelings of the peasant; he, who 
could be so trying in a drawing-room, was even punc- 
tilious in the cottage. It was in all respects a happy 
virtue. It renewed his life, during these holidays, in 
all particulars. It often entertained him with the dis- 
covery of strange survivals; as when, by the orders of 
Murdoch, Mrs. Jenkin must publicly taste of every dish 
before it was set before her guests. And thus to throw 
himself into a fresh life and a new school of manners 
was a grateful exercise of Fleeming's mimetic instinct; 
and to the pleasures of the open air, of hardships sup- 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

ported, of dexterities improved and displayed, and of 
plain and elegant society, added a spice of drama. 



II 

Fleeming was all his life a lover of the play and all 
that belonged to it. Dramatic literature he knew fully. 
He was one of the not very numerous people who can 
read a play : a knack, the fruit of much knowledge and 
some imagination, comparable to that of reading score. 
Few men better understood the artificial principles on 
which a play is good or bad ; few more unaffectedly en- 
joyed a piece of any merit of construction. His own 
play was conceived with a double design ; for he had long 
been filled with his theory of the true story of Griselda; 
used to gird at Father Chaucer for his misconception; 
and was, perhaps first of all, moved by the desire to do 
justice to the Marquis of Saluces, and perhaps only in 
the second place, by the wish to treat a story (as he 
phrased it) like a sum in arithmetic. I do not think he 
quite succeeded; but I must own myself no fit judge. 
Fleeming and I were teacher and taught as to the prin- 
ciples, disputatious rivals in the practice, of dramatic 
writing. 

Acting had always, ever since Rachel and the Mar- 
seillaise, a particular power on him. "If I do not cry 
at the play," he used to say, "I want to have my 
money back." Even from a poor play with poor actors, 
he could draw pleasure. " Giacometti's Eli&abetta," I 
find him writing, "fetched the house vastly. Poor 
Queen Elizabeth! And yet it was a little good." And 
again, after a night of Salvini: "I do not suppose any 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

one with feelings could sit out Othello, if Iago and Des- 
demona were acted." Salvini was, in his view, the 
greatest actor he had seen. We were all indeed moved 
and bettered by the visit of that wonderful man. — "1 
declare I feel as if I could pray ! " cried one of us, on the 
return from Hamlet. — "That is prayer," said Fleeming. 
W. B. Hole and I, in a fine enthusiasm of gratitude, 
determined to draw up an address to Salvini, did so, 
and carried it to Fleeming ; and I shall never forget with 
what coldness he heard and deleted the eloquence of 
our draft, nor with what spirit (our vanities once pro- 
perly mortified) he threw himself into the business of 
collecting signatures. It was his part, on the ground 
of his Italian, to see and arrange with the actor; it was 
mine to write in the Academy a notice of the first per- 
formance of Macbeth. Fleeming opened the paper, read 
so far, and flung it on the floor. "No," he cried, 
"that won't do. You were thinking of yourself, not 
of Salvini!" The criticism was shrewd as usual, but 
it was unfair through ignorance; it was not of myself 
that I was thinking, but of the difficulties of my trade 
which I had not well mastered. Another unalloyed 
dramatic pleasure which Fleeming and I shared the year 
of the Paris Exposition, was the Marquis de Villemer, 
that blameless play, performed by Madeleine Brohan, 
Delaunay, Worms, and Broisat — an actress, in such 
parts at least, to whom I have never seen full justice 
rendered. He had his fill of weeping on that occasion ; 
and when the piece was at an end, in front of a cafe, in 
the mild midnight air, we had our fill of talk about the 
art of acting. 

But what gave the stage so strong a hold on Fleem- 
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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

ing was an inheritance from Norwich, from Edward 
Barron, and from Enfield of the Speaker. The theatre 
was one of Edward Barron's elegant hobbies; he read 
plays, as became Enfield's son-in-law, with a good 
discretion; he wrote plays for his family, in which Eliza 
Barron used to shine in the chief parts; and later in life, 
after the Norwich home was broken up, his little grand- 
daughter would sit behind him in a great armchair, and 
be introduced, with his stately elocution, to the world 
of dramatic literature. From this, in a direct line, we 
can deduce the charades at Claygate; and after money 
came, in the Edinburgh days, that private theatre which 
took up so much of Fleeming's energy and thought. 
The company — Mr. and Mrs. R. O. Carter of Colwall, 
W. B. Hole, Captain Charles Douglas, Mr. Kunz, Mr. 
Burnett, Professor Lewis Campbell, Mr. Charles Baxter, 
and many more — made a charming society for them- 
selves and gave pleasure to their audience. Mr. Carter 
in Sir Toby Belch it would be hard to beat. Mr. Hole 
in broad farce, or as the herald in the Trachinice, showed 
true stage talent. As for Mrs. Jen kin, it was for her the 
rest of us existed and were forgiven ; her powers were 
an endless spring of pride and pleasure to her husband; 
he spent hours hearing and schooling her in private; 
and when it came to the performance, though there 
was perhaps no one in the audience more critical, none 
was more moved than Fleeming. The rest of us did 
not aspire so high. There were always five perform- 
ances and weeks of busy rehearsal ; and whether we 
came to sit and stifle as the prompter, to be the dumb 
(or rather the inarticulate) recipients of Carter's dog 
whip in the Taming of the Shrew, or having earned our 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

spurs, to lose one more illusion in a leading part, we 
were always sure at least of a long and an exciting hol- 
iday in mirthful company. 

In this laborious annual diversion, Fleeming's part 
was large. I never thought him an actor, but he was 
something of a mimic, which stood him in stead. Thus 
he had seen Got in Poirier; and his own Poirier, when 
he came to play it, breathed meritoriously of the model. 
The last part I saw him play was Triplet, and at first I 
thought it promised well. But alas ! the boys went for 
a holiday, missed a train, and were not heard of at 
home till late at night. Poor Fleeming, the man who 
never hesitated to give his sons a chisel or a gun, or to 
send them abroad in a canoe or on a horse, toiled all day 
at his rehearsal, growing hourly paler, Triplet growing 
hourly less meritorious. And though the return of the 
children, none the worse for their little adventure, 
brought the colour back into his face, it could not restore 
him to his part. I remember finding him seated on the 
stairs in some rare moment of quiet during the subse- 
quent performances. "Hullo, Jenkin," said I, "you 
look down in the mouth." — "My dear boy," said he, 
11 haven't you heard me ? I have not one decent intona- 
tion from beginning to end." 

But indeed he never supposed himself an actor; took 
a part, when he took any, merely for convenience, as 
one takes a hand at whist; and found his true service 
and pleasure in the more congenial business of the 
manager. Augier, Racine, Shakespeare, Aristophanes 
in Hookham Frere's translation, Sophocles and /Eschy- 
lus in Lewis Campbell's, such were some of the authors 
whom he introduced to his public. In putting these 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

upon the stage, he found a thousand exercises for his 
ingenuity and taste, a thousand problems arising which 
he delighted to study, a thousand opportunities to make 
these infinitesimal improvements which are so much in 
art and for the artist. Our first Greek play had been 
costumed by the professional costumer, with unforget- 
able results of comicality and indecorum : the second, 
the Trachinice of Sophocles, he took in hand himself, 
and a delightful task he made of it. His study was 
then in antiquarian books, where he found confusion, 
and on statues and bas-reliefs, where he at last found 
clearness; after an hour or so at the British Museum, 
he was able to master "the chiton, sleeves and ail"; 
and before the time was ripe, he had a theory of Greek 
tailoring at his fingers' ends, and had all the costumes 
made under his eye as a Greek tailor would have made 
them. " The Greeks made the best plays and the best 
statues, and were the best architects : of course, they 
were the best tailors, too," said he; and was never 
weary, when he could find a tolerant listener, of dwell- 
ing on the simplicity, the economy, the elegance both 
of means and effect, which made their system so de- 
lightful. 

But there is another side to the stage-manager's em- 
ployment. The discipline of acting is detestable; the 
failures and triumphs of that business appeal too directly 
to the vanity ; and even in the course of a careful amateur 
performance such as ours, much of the smaller side of 
man will be displayed. Fleeming, among conflicting 
vanities and levities, played his part to my admiration. 
He had his own view; he might be wrong; but the 
performances (he would remind us) were after all his, 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

and he must decide. He was, in this as in all other 
things, an iron taskmaster, sparing not himself nor 
others. If you were going to do it at all, he would see 
that it was done as well as you were able. I have 
known him to keep two culprits (and one of these his 
wife) repeating the same action and the same two or 
three words for a whole weary afternoon. And yet he 
gained and retained warm feelings from far the most of 
those who fell under his domination, and particularly (it 
is pleasant to remember) from the girls. After the slip- 
shod training and the incomplete accomplishments of a 
girls' school, there was something at first annoying, at 
last exciting and bracing, in this high standard of ac- 
complishment and perseverance. 

Ill 

It did not matter why he entered upon any study or 
employment, whether for amusement, like the Greek 
tailoring or the Highland reels, whether from a desire to 
serve the public as with his sanitary work, or in the 
view of benefiting poorer men as with his labours for 
technical education, he " pitched into it" (as he would 
have said himself) with the same headlong zest. I give 
in the Appendix a letter from Colonel Fergusson, which 
tells fully the nature of the sanitary work and of Fleem- 
ing's part and success in it. It will be enough to say 
here that it was a scheme of protection against the 
blundering of builders and the dishonesty of plumbers. 
Started with an eye rather to the houses of the rich, 
Fleeming hoped his Sanitary Associations would soon 
extend their sphere of usefulness and improve the 

>55 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

dwellings of the poor. In this hope he was disappointed ; 
but in all other ways the scheme exceedingly prospered, 
associations sprang up and continue to spring up in 
many quarters, and wherever tried they have been found 
of use. 

Here, then, was a serious employment; it has proved 
highly useful to mankind ; and it was begun besides, in 
a mood of bitterness, under the shock of what Fleeming 
would so sensitively feel — the death of a whole family 
of children. Yet it was gone upon like a holiday jaunt. 
I read in Colonel Fergusson's letter that his schoolmates 
bantered him when he began to broach his scheme; so 
did I at first, and he took the banter as he always did 
with enjoyment, until he suddenly posed me with the 
question: "And now do you see any other jokes to 
make? Well, then," said he, "that's all right. I 
wanted you to have your fun out first; now we can be 
serious." And then with a glowing heat of pleasure, 
he laid his plans before me, revelling in the details, 
revelling in hope. It was as he wrote about the joy of 
electrical experiment: "Whatshall I compare them to? 
A new song ? — a Greek play ? " Delight attended the 
exercise of all his powers; delight painted the future. 
Of these ideal visions, some (as I have said) failed of 
their fruition. And the illusion was characteristic. Fleem- 
ing believed we had only to make a virtue cheap and 
easy, and then all would practise it; that for an end 
unquestionably good, men would not grudge a little 
trouble and a little money, though they might stumble 
at laborious pains and generous sacrifices. He could 
not believe in any resolute badness. " I cannot quite 
say," he wrote in his young manhood, "that I think 

156 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

there is no sin or misery. This I can say : I do not re- 
member one single malicious act done to myself. In 
fact it is rather awkward when I have to say the Lord's 
Prayer. I have nobody's trespasses to forgive." And to 
the point, I remember one of our discussions. I said it 
was a dangerous error not to admit there were bad peo- 
ple ; he, that it was only a confession of blindness on our 
part, and that we probably called others bad only so 
far as we were wrapped in ourselves and lacking in the 
transmigratory forces of imagination. I undertook to 
describe to him three persons irredeemably bad and 
whom he should admit to be so. In the first case, he 
denied my evidence: " You cannot judge a man upon 
such testimony," said he. For the second, he owned 
it made him sick to hear the tale; but then there was 
no spark of malice, it was mere weakness I had de- 
scribed, and he had never denied nor thought to set a 
limit to man's weakness. At my third gentleman, he 
struck his colours. "Yes," said he, " I'm afraid that is 
a bad man." And then looking at me shrewdly: "I 
wonder if it isn't a very unfortunate thing for you to 
have met him." I showed him radiantly how it was the 
world we must know, the world as it was, not a world 
expurgated and prettified with optimistic rainbows. 
"Yes, yes," said he; "but this badness is such an easy, 
lazy explanation. Won't you be tempted to use it, in- 
stead of trying to understand people?" 

In the year 1878, he took a passionate fancy for the 
phonograph : it was a toy after his heart, a toy that 
touched the skirts of life, art, and science, a toy prolific 
of problems and theories. Something fell to be done 
for a University Cricket Ground Bazaar. "And the 

•57 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

thought struck him," Mr. Ewing writes to me, " to ex- 
hibit Edison's phonograph, then the very newest scien- 
tific marvel. The instrument itself was not to be pur- 
chased — I think no specimen had then crossed the 
Atlantic — but a copy of the Times with an account of 
it was at hand, and by the help of this we made a phon- 
ograph which to our great joy talked, and talked, too, 
with the purest American accent. It was so good that 
a second instrument was got ready forthwith. Both 
were shown at the Bazaar: one by Mrs. Jenkin to peo- 
ple willing to pay half a crown for a private view and 
the privilege of hearing their own voices, while Jenkin, 
perfervid as usual, gave half-hourly lectures on the 
other in an adjoining room — I, as his lieutenant, taking 
turns. The thing was in its way a little triumph. A 
few of the visitors were deaf, and hugged the belief 
that they were the victims of a new kind of fancy-fair 
swindle. Of the others, many who came to scoff re- 
mained to take raffle tickets; and one of the phono- 
graphs was finally disposed of in this way, falling, by a 
happy freak of the ballot-box, into the hands of Sir 
William Thomson." The other remained in Fleeming's 
hands, and was a source of infinite occupation. Once 
it was sent to London, "to bring back on the tinfoil 
the tones of a lady distinguished for clear vocalisations ; 
at another time Sir Robert Christison was brought in to 
contribute his powerful bass " ; and there scarcely came 
a visitor about the house, but he was made the subject 
of experiment. The visitors, I am afraid, took their 
parts lightly: Mr. Hole and I, with unscientific laughter, 
commemorating various shades of Scotch accent, or 
proposing to M teach the poor dumb animal to swear." 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

But Fleeming and Mr. Ewing, when we butterflies 
were gone, were laboriously ardent. Many thoughts 
that occupied the later years of my friend were caught 
from the small utterance of that toy. Thence came his 
inquiries into the roots of articulate language and the 
foundations of literary art; his papers on vowel sounds, 
his papers in the Saturday Review upon the laws of 
verse, and many a strange approximation, many a just 
note, thrown out in talk and now forgotten. I pass 
over dozens of his interests, and dwell on this trifling 
matter of the phonograph, because it seems to me that 
it depicts the man. So, for Fleeming, one thing joined 
into another, the greater with the less. He cared not 
where it was he scratched the surface of the ultimate 
mystery — in the child's toy, in the great tragedy, in 
the laws of the tempest, or in the properties of energy 
or mass — certain that whatever he touched, it was a 
part of life — and however he touched it, there would 
flow for his happy constitution interest and delight. 
M All fables have their morals," says Thoreau, " but the 
innocent enjoy the story." There is a truth repre- 
sented for the imagination in these lines of a noble 
poem, where we are told that, in our highest hours of 
visionary clearness, we can but 

see the children sport upon the shore 
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore. 

To this clearness Fleeming had attained; and although 
he heard the voice of the eternal seas and weighed its 
message, he was yet able, until the end of his life, to 
sport upon these shores of death and mystery with the 
gaiety and innocence of children. 

'59 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

IV 

It was as a student that I first knew Fleeming, as 
one of that modest number of young men who sat 
under his ministrations in a soul-chilling class-room 
at the top of the University buildings. His presence 
was against him as a professor: no one, least of all 
students, would have been moved to respect him at 
first sight: rather short in stature, markedly plain, boy- 
ishly young in manner, cocking his head like a terrier 
with every mark of the most engaging vivacity and 
readiness to be pleased, full of words, full of paradox, 
a stranger could scarcely fail to look at him twice, a 
man thrown with him in a train could scarcely fail to 
be engaged by him in talk, but a student would never 
regard him as academical. Yet he had that fibre in 
him that order always existed in his class-room. I do 
not remember that he ever addressed me in language; 
at the least sign of unrest, his eye would fall on me 
and I was quelled. Such a feat is comparatively easy 
in a small class; but I have misbehaved in smaller 
classes and under eyes more Olympian than Fleeming 
Jenkin's. He was simply a man from whose reproof 
one shrank; in manner the least buckrammed of man- 
kind, he had, in serious moments, an extreme dignity 
of goodness. So it was that he obtained a power over 
the most insubordinate of students, but a power of 
which I was myself unconscious. I was inclined to 
regard any professor as a joke, and Fleeming as a par- 
ticularly good joke, perhaps the broadest in the vast 
pleasantry of my curriculum. I was not able to follow 
his lectures ; I somehow dared not misconduct myself, 

160 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

as was my customary solace; and I refrained from at- 
tending. This brought me at the end of the session 
into a relation with my contemned professor that com- 
pletely opened my eyes. During the year, bad student 
as I was, he had shown a certain leaning to my so- 
ciety; I had been to his house, he had asked me to 
take a humble part in his theatricals; I was a master in 
the art of extracting a certificate even at the cannon's 
mouth ; and I was under no apprehension. But when 
I approached Fleeming, I found myself in another 
world; he would have naught of me. "It is quite 
useless for you to come to me, Mr. Stevenson. There 
may be doubtful cases, there in no doubt about yours. 
You have simply not attended my class." The docu- 
ment was necessary to me for family considerations; 
and presently I stooped to such pleadings and rose to 
such adjurations, as made my ears burn to remember. 
He was quite unmoved; he had no pity for me. "You 
are no fool," said he, "and you chose your course." I 
showed him that he had misconceived his duty, that 
certificates were things of form, attendance a matter of 
taste. Two things, he replied, had been required for 
graduation, a certain competency proved in the final 
trials and a certain period of genuine training proved 
by certificate; if he did as I desired, not less than if he 
gave me hints for an examination, he was aiding me to 
steal a degree. "You see, Mr. Stevenson, these are 
the laws and I am here to apply them," said he. I 
could not say but that this view was tenable, though 
it was new to me; I changed my attack: it was only 
for my father's eye that I required his signature, it need 
never go to the Senatus, I had already certificates 

161 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

enough to justify my year's attendance. " Bring them 
to me; I cannot take your word for that," said he. 
"Then I will consider." The next day I came charged 
with my certificates, a humble assortment. And when 
he had satisfied himself, "Remember," said he, "that 
I can promise nothing, but I will try to find a form of 
words." He did find one, and I am still ashamed when 
I think of his shame in giving me that paper. He made 
no reproach in speech, but his manner was the more 
eloquent; it told me plainly what a dirty business we 
were on; and I went from his presence, with my certi- 
ficate indeed in my possession, but with no answer- 
able sense of triumph. That was the bitter beginning 
of my love for Fleeming; I never thought lightly of him 
afterwards. 

Once, and once only, after our friendship was truly 
founded, did we come to a considerable difference. It 
was, by the rules of poor humanity, my fault and his. 
I had been led to dabble in society journalism; and this 
coming to his ears, he felt it like a disgrace upon him- 
self. So far he was exactly in the right; but he was 
scarce happily inspired when he broached the subject 
at his own table and before guests who were strangers 
to me. It was the sort of error he was always ready 
to repent, but always certain to repeat; and on this oc- 
casion he spoke so freely that I soon made an excuse 
and left the house with the firm purpose of returning 
no more. About a month later, I met him at dinner at 
a common friend's. "Now," said he, on the stairs, 
"I engage you — like a lady to dance — for the end of 
the evening. You have no right to quarrel with me and 
not give me a chance." I have often said and thought 

162 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

that Fleeming had no tact ; he belied the opinion then. I 
remember perfectly how, so soon as we could get to- 
gether, he began his attack: " You may have grounds 
of quarrel with me; you have none against Mrs. Jenkin; 
and before I say another word, I want you to promise 
you will come to her house as usual." An interview 
thus begun could have but one ending: if the quarrel 
were the fault of both, the merit of the reconciliation 
was entirely Fleeming's. 

When our intimacy first began, coldly enough, acci- 
dentally enough on his part, he had still something of 
the Puritan, something of the inhuman narrowness of 
the good youth. It fell from him slowly, year by year, 
as he continued to ripen, and grow milder, and un- 
derstand more generously the mingled characters of 
men. In the early days he once read me a bitter lec- 
ture; and I remember leaving his house in a fine spring 
afternoon, with the physical darkness of despair upon 
my eyesight. Long after he made me a formal retrac- 
tion of the sermon and a formal apology for the pain 
he had inflicted; adding drolly, but truly, "You see, 
at that time I was so much younger than you! " And 
yet even in those days there was much to learn from 
him ; and above all his fine spirit of piety, bravely and 
trustfully accepting life, and his singular delight in the 
heroic. 

His piety was, indeed, a thing of chief importance. 
His views (as they are called) upon religious matters 
varied much: and he could never be induced to think 
them more or less than views. "All dogma is to me 
mere form," he wrote; " dogmas are mere blind strug- 
gles to express the inexpressible. I cannot conceive 

163 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

that any single proposition whatever in religion is true 
in the scientific sense: and yet all the while I think the 
religious view of the world is the most true view. Try 
to separate from the mass of their statements that which 
is common to Socrates, Isaiah, David, St. Bernard, the 
Jansenists, Luther, Mahomet, Bunyan — yes, and George 
Eliot: of course you do not believe that this something 
could be written down in a set of propositions like Eu- 
clid, neither will you deny that there is something com- 
mon and this something very valuable. ... I shall be 
sorry if the boys ever give a moment's thought to the 
question of what community they belong to — I hope 
they will belong to the great community." I should ob- 
serve that as time went on his conformity to the church 
in which he was born grew more complete, and his 
views drew nearer the conventional. ■ ' The longer I live, 
my dear Louis," he wrote but a few months before his 
death, "the more convinced I become of a direct care 
by God — which is reasonably impossible — but there 
it is." And in his last year he took the communion. 

But at the time when I fell under his influence, he 
stood more aloof; and this made him the more impres- 
sive to a youthful atheist. He had a keen sense of lan- 
guage and its imperial influence on men; language 
contained all the great and sound metaphysics, he was 
wont to say; and a word once made and generally un- 
derstood, he thought a real victory of man and reason. 
But he never dreamed it could be accurate, knowing 
that words stand symbol for the indefinable. I came 
to him once with a problem which had puzzled me out 
of measure: what is a cause ? why out of so many in- 
numerable millions of conditions, all necessary, should 

164 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

one be singled out and ticketed "the cause " ? "You 
do not understand," said he. "A cause is the answer 
to a question : it designates that condition which I hap- 
pen to know and you happen not to know." It was 
thus, with partial exception of the mathematical, that 
he thought of all means of reasoning: they were in 
his eyes but means of communication, so to be under- 
stood, so to be judged, and only so far to be credited. 
The mathematical he made, I say, exception of: num- 
ber and measure he believed in to the extent of their 
significance, but that significance, he was never weary 
of reminding you, was slender to the verge of nonentity. 
Science was true, because it told us almost nothing. 
With a few abstractions it could deal, and deal cor- 
rectly ; conveying honestly faint truths. Apply its means 
to any concrete fact of life, and this high dialect of the 
wise became a childish jargon. 

Thus the atheistic youth was met at every turn by a 
scepticism more complete than his own, so that the very 
weapons of the fight were changed in his grasp to 
swords of paper. Certainly the church is not right, he 
would argue, but certainly not the anti-church either. 
Men are not such fools as to be wholly in the wrong, 
nor yet are they so placed as to be ever wholly in the 
right. Somewhere, in mid air between the disputants, 
like hovering Victory in some design of a Greek battle, 
the truth hangs undiscerned. And in the meanwhile 
what matter these uncertainties ? Right is very obvi- 
ous; a great consent of the best of mankind, a loud 
voice within us (whether of God, or whether by in- 
heritance, and in that case still from God), guide and 
command us in the path of duty. He saw life very 

.65 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

simple; he did not love refinements; he was a friend to 
much conformity in unessentials. For (he would argue) 
it is in this life as it stands about us, that we are given 
our problem; the manners of the day are the colours of 
our palette, they condition, they constrain us; and a 
man must be very sure he is in the right, must (in a 
favourite phrase of his) be " either very wise or very 
vain," to break with any general consent in ethics. I 
remember taking his advice upon some point of conduct. 
" Now," he said, " how do you suppose Christ would 
have advised you?" and when I had answered that he 
would not have counselled me anything unkind or 
cowardly, "No," he said, with one of his shrewd 
strokes at the weakness of his hearer, "nor anything 
amusing." Later in life, he made less certain in the field 
of ethics. "The old story of the knowledge of good 
and evil is a very true one," I find him writing; only (he 
goes on) "the effect of the original dose is much worn 
out, leaving Adam's descendants with the knowledge 
that there is such a thing — but uncertain where." His 
growing sense of this ambiguity made him less swift to 
condemn, but no less stimulating in counsel. "You 
grant yourself certain freedoms. Very well," he would 
say, " 1 want to see you pay for them some other way. 
You positively cannot do this: then there positively 
must be something else that you can do, and I want to 
see you find that out and do it." Fleeming would 
never suffer you to think that you were living, if there 
were not, somewhere in your life, some touch of heroism, 
to do or to endure. 

This was his rarest quality. Far on in middle age, 
when men begin to lie down with the bestial goddesses, 

1 66 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

Comfort and Respectability, the strings of his nature 
still sounded as high a note as a young man's. He 
loved the harsh voice of duty like a call to battle. He 
loved courage, enterprise, brave natures, a brave word, 
an ugly virtue ; everything that lifts us above the table 
where we eat or the bed we sleep upon. This with no 
touch of the motive-monger or the ascetic. He loved 
his virtues to be practical, his heroes to be great eaters 
of beef; he loved the jovial Heracles, loved the astute 
Odysseus; not the Robespierres and Wesleys. A 
fine buoyant sense of life and of man's unequal char- 
acter ran through all his thoughts. He could not tol- 
erate the spirit of the pickthank; being what we are,'he 
wished us to see others with a generous eye of admira- 
tion, not with the smallness of the seeker after faults. 
If there shone anywhere a virtue, no matter how in- 
congruously set, it was upon the virtue we must fix our 
eyes. I remember having found much entertainment 
in Voltaire's SaUl, and telling him what seemed to me 
the drollest touches. He heard me out, as usual when 
displeased, and then opened fire on me with red-hot 
shot. To belittle a noble story was easy ; it was not 
literature, it was not art, it was not morality ; there was 
no sustenance in such a form of jesting, there was (in 
his favourite phrase) "no nitrogenous food" in such 
literature. And then he proceeded to show what a fine 
fellow David was; and what a hard knot he was in 
about Bathsheba, so that (the initial wrong committed) 
honour might well hesitate in the choice of conduct; 
and what owls those people were who marvelled be- 
cause an Eastern tyrant had killed Uriah, instead of 
marvelling that he had not killed the prophet also. 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

14 Now if Voltaire had helped me to feel that," said he, 
" I could have seen some fun in it." He loved the com- 
edy which shows a hero human, and yet leaves him a 
hero, and the laughter which does not lessen love. 

It was this taste for what is fine in human-kind, that 
ruled his choice in books. These should all strike a 
high note, whether brave or tender, and smack of the 
open air. The noble and simple presentation of things 
noble and simple, that was the " nitrogenous food " of 
which he spoke so much, which he sought so eagerly, 
enjoyed so royally. He wrote to an author, the first 
part of whose story he had seen with sympathy, hoping 
that it might continue in the same vein. * ' That this may 
be so," he wrote, "I long with the longing of David 
for the water of Bethlehem. But no man need die for 
the water a poet can give, and all can drink it to the 
end of time, and their thirst be quenched and the pool 
never dry — and the thirst and the water are both 
blessed." It was in the Greeks particularly that he 
found this blessed water; he loved "a fresh air" which 
he found "about the Greek things even in transla- 
tions"; he loved their freedom from the mawkish and 
the rancid. The tale of David in the Bible, the Odyssey, 
Sophocles, ;*Eschylus, Shakespeare, Scott; old Dumas 
in his chivalrous note; Dickens rather than Thackeray, 
and the Tale of Two Cities out of Dickens : such were 
some of his preferences. To Ariosto and Boccaccio he 
was always faithful; Burnt Nj'al was a late favourite; 
and he found at least a passing entertainment in the 
Arcadia and the Grand Cyrus. George Eliot he out- 
grew, finding her latterly only sawdust in the mouth; 
but her influence, while it lasted, was great, and must 

1 68 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

have gone some way to form his mind. He was easily 
set on edge, however, by didactic writing; and held 
that books should teach no other lesson but what M real 
life would teach, were it as vividly presented." Again, 
it was the thing made that took him, the drama in the 
book; to the book itself, to any merit of the making, he 
was long strangely blind. He would prefer the Aga- 
memnon in the prose of Mr. Buckley, ay, to Keats. But 
he was his mother's son, learning to the last. He told 
me one day that literature was not a trade; that it was 
no craft ; that the professed author was merely an ama- 
teur with a door-plate. " Very well," said I, " the first 
time you get a proof, I will demonstrate that it is as 
much a trade as bricklaying, and that you do not know 
it." By the very next post, a proof came. I opened it 
with fear; for he was indeed, as the reader will see by 
these volumes, a formidable amateur; always wrote 
brightly, because he always thought trenchantly; and 
sometimes wrote brilliantly, as the worst of whistlers 
may sometimes stumble on a perfect intonation. But 
it was all for the best in the interests of his education; 
and I was able, over that proof, to give him a quarter 
of an hour such as Fleeming loved both to give and to 
receive. His subsequent training passed out of my 
hands into those of our common friend, W. E. Henley. 
"Henley and I," he wrote, "have fairly good times 
wigging one another for not doing better. I wig him 
because he won't try to write a real play, and he wigs 
me because I can't try to write English." When I next 
saw him, he was full of his new acquisitions. " And 
yet I have lost something too," he said regretfully. 
" Up to now Scott seemed to me quite perfect, he was 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEM1NG JENKIN 

all I wanted. Since I have been learning this confounded 
thing, I took up one of the novels, and a great deal of 
it is both careless and clumsy." 



He spoke four languages with freedom, not even 
English with any marked propriety. What he uttered 
was not so much well said, as excellently acted : so we 
may hear every day the inexpressive language of a 
poorly-written drama assume character and colour in 
the hands of a good player. No man had more of the 
vis comica in private life; he played no character on the 
stage, as he could play himself among his friends. It 
was one of his special charms; now when the voice is 
silent and the face still, it makes it impossible to do 
justice to his power in conversation. He was a delight- 
ful companion to such as can bear bracing weather; not 
to the very vain ; not to the owlishly wise, who cannot 
have their dogmas canvassed; not to the painfully re- 
fined, whose sentiments become articles of faith. The 
spirit in which he could write that he was "much 
revived by having an opportunity of abusing Whistler 
to a knot of his special admirers," is a spirit apt to be 
misconstrued. He was not a dogmatist, even about 
Whistler. "The house is full of pretty things," he 

wrote, when on a visit; " but Mrs. 's taste in pretty 

things has one very bad fault: it is not my taste." And 
that was the true attitude of his mind ; but these eternal 
differences it was his joy to thresh out and wrangle 
over by the hour. It was no wonder if he loved the 
Greeks; he was in many ways a Greek himself; he 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

should have been a sophist and met Socrates; he would 
have loved Socrates, and done battle with him staunchly 
and manfully owned his defeat; and the dialogue, ar- 
ranged by Plato, would have shown even in Plato's 
gallery. He seemed in talk aggressive, petulant, full of 
a singular energy; as vain you would have said as a 
peacock, until you trod on his toes, and then you saw 
that he was at least clear of all the sicklier elements of 
vanity. Soundly rang his laugh at any jest against 
himself. He wished to be taken, as he took others, for 
what was good in him without dissimulation of the 
evil, for what was wise in him without concealment of 
the childish. He hated a draped virtue, and despised a 
wit on its own defence. And he drew (if I may so ex- 
press myself) a human and humorous portrait of him- 
self with all his defects and qualities, as he thus enjoyed 
in talk the robust sports of the intelligence; giving and 
taking manfully, always without pretence, always with 
paradox, always with exuberant pleasure; speaking 
wisely of what he knew, foolishly of what he knew 
not; a teacher, a learner, but still combative; picking 
holes in what was said even to the length of captious- 
ness, yet aware of all that was said rightly ; jubilant in 
victory, delighted by defeat: a Greek sophist, a British 
schoolboy. 

Among the legends of what was once a very pleasant 
spot, the old Savile Club, not then divorced from Savile 
Row, there are many memories of Fleeming. He was 
not popular at first, being known simply as "the man 
who dines here and goes up to Scotland " ; but he grew 
at last, I think, the most generally liked of all the mem- 
bers. To those who truly knew and loved him, who 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

had tasted the real sweetness of his nature, Fleeming's 
porcupine ways had always been a matter of keen re- 
gret. They introduced him to their own friends with 
fear; sometimes recalled the step with mortification. 
It was not possible to look on with patience while a 
man so lovable thwarted love at every step. But the 
course of time and the ripening of his nature brought a 
cure. It was at the Savile that he first remarked a 
change; it soon spread beyond the walls of the club. 
Presently I find him writing: "Will you kindly explain 
what has happened to me ? All my life I have talked a 
good deal, with the almost unfailing result of making 
people sick of the sound of my tongue. It appeared to 
me that I had various things to say, and I had no malev- 
olent feelings, but nevertheless the result was that ex- 
pressed above. Well, lately some change has hap- 
pened. If I talk to a person one day, they must have 
me the next. Faces light up when they see me. — 
'Ah, I say, come here,' — 'come and dine with me.' 
It's the most preposterous thing I ever experienced. 
It is curiously pleasant. You have enjoyed it all your 
life, and therefore cannot conceive how bewildering a 
burst of it is for the first time at forty-nine." And this 
late sunshine of popularity still further softened him. 
He was a bit of a porcupine to the last, still shedding 
darts; or rather he was to the end a bit of a schoolboy, 
and must still throw stones; but the essential toleration 
that underlay his disputatiousness, and the kindness 
that made of him a tender sicknurse and a generous 
helper, shone more conspicuously through. A new 
pleasure had come to him; and as with all sound na- 
tures, he was bettered by the pleasure. 

! 7 2 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

I can best show Fleeming in this later stage by quot- 
ing from a vivid and interesting letter of M. Emile 
Trelat's. Here, admirably expressed, is how he ap- 
peared to a friend of another nation, whom he en- 
countered only late in life. M. Trelat will pardon me 
if I correct, even before I quote him; but what the 
Frenchman supposed to flow from some particular bit- 
terness against France, was only Fleeming's usual ad- 
dress. Had M. Trelat been Italian, Italy would have 
fared as ill; and yet Italy was Fleeming's favourite 
country. 

Vous savez comment j'ai connu Fleeming Jenkin ! C'etait en Mai 
1878. Nous etions tous deux membres du jury de l'Exposition Uni- 
versale. On n'avait rien fait qui vaille a la premiere seance de notre 
classe, qui avait eu lieu le matin. Tout le monde avait parle et reparle 
pour ne rien dire. Cela durait depuis huit heures ; il etait midi. Je de- 
mandai la parole pour une motion d'ordre, et je proposai que la seance 
flit levee a la condition que chaque membre francais emportat a dejeu- 
ner un jure etranger. Jenkin applaudit. " Je vous emmene dejeuner," 
lui criai-je. "Je veux bien." . . . Nous partimes; en chemin nous 
vous rencontrions ; il vous presente et nous allons dejeuner tous trois 
aupres du Trocadero. 

Et, depuis ce temps, nous avons ete de vieux amis. Non seulement 
nous passions nos journees au jury, ou nous etions toujours ensemble, 
c6te-a-cote. Mais nos habitudes s'etaient faites telles que, non contents 
de dejeuner en face Tun de l'autre, je le ramenais diner presque tous 
les jours chez moi. Cela dura une quinzaine : puis il fut rappele en 
Angleterre. Mais il revint, et nous times encore une bonne etape de 
vie intellectuelle, morale et philosophique. Je crois qu'il me rendait 
deja tout ce que j'eprouvais de sympathie et d'estime, et que je ne fus 
pas pour rien dans son retour a Paris. 

Chose singuliere ! nous nous etions attaches l'un a l'autre par les sous- 
entendus bien plus que par la matiere de nos conversations. A vrai 
dire, nous etions presque toujours en discussion ; et il nous arrivait de 
nous rire au nez Tun et l'autre pendant des heures, tant nous nous eton- 

»73 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

nions reciproquement de la diversite de nos points de vue. Je le trou- 
vais si Anglais, et il me trouvait si Francais ! 11 etait si franchement 
revolte de certaines choses qu'il voyait chez nous, et je comprenais si 
mal certaines choses qui se passaient chez vous ! Rien de plus interes- 
sant que ces contacts qui etaient des contrastes, et que ces rencontres 
d'idees qui etaient des choses ; rien de si attachant que les echappees 
de cceur ou d'esprit auxquelles ces petits conflits donnaient a tout mo- 
ment cours, C'est dans ces conditions que, pendant son sejour a Paris 
en 1878, je conduisis un peu partout mon nouvel ami. Nous allames 
chez Madame Edmond Adam, ou il vit passer beaucoup d'hommes po- 
litiques avec lesquels il causa. Mais c'est chez les ministres qu'il fut 
interesse. Le moment etait, d'ailleurs, curieux en France. Je me rap- 
pelle que, lorsque je le presentai au Ministre du Commerce, il fit cette 
spirituelle repartie : " C'est la seconde fois que je viens en France sous 
la Republique. La premiere fois, c'etait en 1848, elle s'etait coiffee de 
travers : je suisbien heureux de saluer aujourd'hui votre excellence, quand 
elle a mis soachapeau droit." Une fois je le menai voir couronner la 
Rosiere de Nanterre. II y suivit les ceremonies civiles et religieuses; il 
y assista au banquet donne par le Maire; il y vit notre De Lesseps, au- 
quel il porta un toast. Le soir, nous revinmes tard a Paris; il faisait 
chaud; nous etions un peu fatigues; nous entrames dans un des rares 
cafes encore ouverts. II devint silencieux. — " N'etes-vous pas content 
de votre journee ? " lui dis-je. — " O, si ! mais je reflechis, et je me dis que 
vous etes un peuple gai — tous ces braves gens etaient gais aujourd'hui. 
C'est une vertu, la gaiete, et vous 1'avez en France, cette vertu ! " 11 me 
disait cela melancoliquement; et c'etait la premiere fois que je lui enten- 
dais faire une louange adressee a la France. . . . Mais il ne faut pas 
que vous voyiez la une plainte de ma part. Je serais un ingrat si je me 
plaignais; car il me disait souvent : " Quel bon Francais vous faites ! " 
Et il m'aimait a cause de cela, quoiqu'il semblat n'aimer pas la France. 
C'etait la un trait de son origin alite. 11 est vrai qu'il s'en tirait en disant 
que je ne ressemblai pas a mes compatriotes, ce a quoi il ne connaissait 
rien ! — Tout cela etait fort curieux ; car, moi-meme, je l'aimais quoi- 
qu'il en eut a mon pays ! 

En 1879 il amena son fils Austin a Paris. J'attirai celui-ci. II dejeu- 
nait avec mois deux fois par semaine. Je lui montrai ce qu'etait l'inti- 
mite francaise en le tutoyant paternellement. Cela reserra beaucoup 
nos liens d'intimite avec Jenkin. . . . Je fis inviter mon ami au con- 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

gres de V Association francaise pour Vavancement des sciences, qui se 
tenait a Rheims en 1880. 11 y vint. J'eus le plaisir de lui donner la 
parole dans la section du genie civil et militaire, que je presidais. 11 y 
fit une tres interessante communication, qui me montrait une fois de 
plus l'originalite de ses vues et la surete de sa science. C'est a Tissue 
de ce congres que je passai lui faire visite a Rochefort, ou je le trouvai 
installe en famille et ou je presentai pour la premiere fois mes hommages 
a son eminente compagne. Je le vis la sous un jour nouveau et tou- 
chant pour moi. Madame Jenkin, qu'il entourait si galamment, et ses 
deux jeunes fils donnaient encore plus de relief a sa personne. J'em- 
portai des quelques heures que je passai a cote de lui dans ce charmant 
paysage un souvenir emu. 

J'etais alle en Angleterre en 1882 sans pouvoir gagner Edimbourg. 
J'y retournai en 1883 avec ^ a commission d'assainissement de la ville de 
Paris, dont je faisais partie. Jenkin me rejoignit. Je le fis entendre par 
mes collegues; car il etait fondateur d'une societe de salubrite. II eut 
un grand succes parmi nous. Mais ce voyage me restera toujours en 
memoire parce que c'est la que se fixa definitivement notre forte amitie. 
II m'invita un jour a diner a son club et au moment de me faire asseoir 
a cote de lui, il me retint et me dit : " Je voudrais vous demander de 
m'accorder quelque chose. C'est mon sentiment que nos relations ne 
peuvent pas se bien continuer si vous ne me donnez pas la permission 
de vous tutoyer. Voulez-vous que nous nous tutoyions ? " Je lui pris 
les mains et je lui dis qu'une pareille proposition venant d'un Anglais, 
et d'un Anglais de sa haute distinction, c'etait une victoire, dont je se- 
rais fier toute ma vie. Et nous commencions a user de cette nouvelle 
forme dans nos rapports. Vous savez avec quelle finesse il parlait le 
francais : comme il en connaissait tous les tours, comme il jouait avec 
ses difticultes, et meme avec ses petites gamineries. Je crois qu'il a ete 
heureux de pratiquer avec moi ce tutoiement, qui ne s'adapte pas a 
Tanglais, et qui est si francais. Je ne puis vous peindre Tetendue et la 
variete de nos conversations de la soiree. Mais ce que je puis vous 
dire, c'est que, sous la caresse du tu, nos idees se sont elevees. Nous 
avions toujours beaucoup ri ensemble; mais nous n'avions jamais laisse 
des banalites s'introduire dans nos echanges de pensees. Ce soir-la, 
notre horizon intellectuel s'est elargi, et nous y avons pousse des recon- 
naissances profondes et lointaines. Apres avoir vivement cause a table, 
nous avons longuement cause au salon ; et nous nous separions le soir 

175 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

a Trafalgar Square, apres avoir longe les trottoirs, stationne aux coins des 
rues et deux fois rebrousse chemin en nous reconduisant Tun l'autre. II 
6tait pres d'une heure du matin ! Mais quelle belle passe d'argumenta- 
tion, quels beaux echanges de sentiments, quelles fortes confidences 
patriotiques nous avions fournies ! J'ai compris ce soir-la que Jenkin ne 
detestait pas la France, et je lui serrai fort les mains en l'embrassant. 
Nous nous quittions aussi amis qu'on puisse l'etre ; et notre affection 
s'etait par lui etendue et comprise dans un tu francais. 



i 7 6 



CHAPTER VII 

1875 — 1885 

Mrs. Jenkin's Illness — Captain Jenkin — The Golden Wedding — 
Death of Uncle John — Death of Mr. and Mrs. Austin — Illness and 
Death of the Captain — Death of Mrs. Jenkin — Effect on Fleeming 
— Telpherage — The End. 

And now I must resume my narrative for that mel- 
ancholy business that concludes all human histories. 
In January of the year 1875, while Fleeming's sky was 
still unclouded, he was reading Smiles. " I read my 
engineers' lives steadily," he writes, "but find biog- 
raphies depressing. I suspect one reason to be that 
misfortunes and trials can be graphically described, but 
happiness and the causes of happiness either cannot be 
or are not. A grand new branch of literature opens to 
my view : a drama in which people begin in a poor way 
and end, after getting gradually happier, in an ecstasy 
of enjoyment. The common novel is not the thing at 
all. It gives struggle followed by relief. I want each 
act to close on a new and triumphant happiness, which 
has been steadily growing all the while. This is the 
real antithesis of tragedy, where things get blacker and 
blacker and end in hopeless woe. Smiles has not 
grasped my grand idea, and only shows a bitter struggle 
followed by a little respite before death. Some feeble 
critic might say my new idea was not true to nature. I'm 
sick of this old-fashioned notion of art. Hold a mirror 

177 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

up, indeed! Let's paint a picture of how things ought 
to be and hold that up to nature, and perhaps the poor 
old woman may repent and mend her ways." The 
"grand idea" might be possible in art; not even the 
ingenuity of nature could so round in the actual life of 
any man. And yet it might almost seem to fancy that 
she had read the letter and taken the hint; for to Fleem- 
ing the cruelties of fate were strangely blended with 
tenderness, and when death came, it came harshly to 
others, to him not unkindly. 

In the autumn of that same year 1875, Fleeming's 
father and mother were walking in the garden of their 
house at Merchiston, when the latter fell to the ground. 
It was thought at the time to be a stumble; it was in 
all likelihood a premonitory stroke of palsy. From that 
day, there fell upon her an abiding panic fear; that glib, 
superficial part of us that speaks and reasons could al- 
lege no cause, science itself could find no mark of 
danger, a son's solicitude was laid at rest; but the eyes 
of the body saw the approach of a blow, and the con- 
sciousness of the body trembled at its coming. It came 
in a moment; the brilliant, spirited old lady leapt from 
her bed, raving. For about six months, this stage of 
her disease continued with many painful and many 
pathetic circumstances; her husband who tended her, 
her son who was unwearied in his visits, looked for 
no change in her condition but the change that comes 
to all. "Poor mother," I find Fleeming writing, "I 
cannot get the tones of her voice out of my head. . . . 
I may have to bear this pain for a long time; and so I 
am bearing it and sparing myself whatever pain seems 
useless. Mercifully I do sleep, I am so weary that I 

178 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

must sleep. " And again later: " I could do very well, 
if my mind did not revert to my poor mother's state 
whenever I stop attending to matters immediately be- 
fore me." And the next day: "I can never feel a 
moment's pleasure without having my mother's suffer- 
ing recalled by the very feeling of happiness. A pretty, 
young face recalls hers by contrast — a careworn face 
recalls it by association. I tell you, for I can speak to 
no one else; but do not suppose that I wilfully let my 
mind dwell on sorrow." 

In the summer of the next year, the frenzy left her; it 
left her stone deaf and almost entirely aphasic, but with 
some remains of her old sense and courage. Stoutly she 
set to work with dictionaries, to recover her lost tongues ; 
and had already made notable progress, when a third 
stroke scattered her acquisitions. Thenceforth, for 
nearly ten years, stroke followed upon stroke, each still 
further jumbling the threads of her intelligence, but by 
degrees so gradual and with such partiality of loss and 
of survival, that her precise state was always and to the 
end a matter of dispute. She still remembered her 
friends: she still loved to learn news of them upon the 
slate; she still read and marked the list of the subscrip- 
tion library; she still took an interest in the choice of a 
play for the theatricals, and could remember and find 
parallel passages; but alongside of these surviving 
powers, were lapses as remarkable, she misbehaved like 
a child, and a servant had to sit with her at table. To 
see her so sitting, speaking with the tones of a deaf 
mute not always to the purpose, and to remember what 
she had been, was a moving appeal to all who knew 
her. Such was the pathos of these two old people in 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

their affliction, that even the reserve of cities was 
melted and the neighbours vied in sympathy and kind- 
ness. Where so many were more than usually helpful, 
it is hard to draw distinctions ; but I am directed and I 
delight to mention in particular the good Dr. Joseph 
Bell, Mr. Thomas, and Mr. Archibald Constable with 
both their wives, the Rev. Mr. Belcombe (of whose 
good heart and taste I do not hear for the first time — 
the news had come to me by way of the Infirmary), 
and their next-door neighbour, unwearied in service, 
Miss Hannah Mayne. Nor should I omit to mention 
that John Ruffini continued to write to Mrs. Jenkin till 
his own death, and the clever lady known to the world 
as Vernon Lee until the end: a touching, a becoming 
attention to what was only the wreck and survival of 
their brilliant friend. 

But he to whom this affliction brought the greatest 
change was the Captain himself. What was bitter in 
his lot, he bore with unshaken courage; only once, in 
these ten years of trial, has Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin seen 
him weep; for the rest of the time his wife — his com- 
manding officer, now become his trying child — was 
served not with patience alone, but with a lovely hap- 
piness of temper. He had belonged all his life to the 
ancient, formal, speech-making, compliment-present- 
ing school of courtesy; the dictates of this code partook 
in his eyes of the nature of a duty; and he must now 
be courteous for two. Partly from a happy illusion, 
partly in a tender fraud, he kept his wife before the 
world as a still active partner. When he paid a call, 
he would have her write "with love" upon a card; or 
if that (at the moment) was too much he would go 

1 80 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

armed with a bouquet and present it in her name. He 
even wrote letters for her to copy and sign : an innocent 
substitution, which may have caused surprise to Ruflfini 
or to Vernon Lee, if they ever received, in the hand of 
Mrs. Jenkin, the very obvious reflections of her hus- 
band. He had always adored this wife whom he now 
tended and sought to represent in correspondence: it 
was now, if not before, her turn to repay the compli- 
ment; mind enough was left her to perceive his un- 
wearied kindness; and as her moral qualities seemed to 
survive quite unimpaired, a childish love and gratitude 
were his reward. She would interrupt a conversation 
to cross the room and kiss him. If she grew excited 
(as she did too often) it was his habit to come behind 
her chair and pat her shoulder; and then she would 
turn round, and clasp his hand in hers, and look from 
him to her visitor with a face of pride and love; and it 
was at such moments only that the light of humanity 
revived in her eyes. It was hard for any stranger, it 
was impossible for any that loved them, to behold these 
mute scenes, to recall the past, and not to weep. But 
to the Captain, I think it was all happiness. After these 
so long years, he had found his wife again; perhaps 
kinder than ever before; perhaps now on a more equal 
footing; certainly, to his eyes, still beautiful. And the 
call made on his intelligence had not been made in vain. 
The merchants of Aux Cayes, who had seen him tried 
in some "counter-revolution" in 1845, wrote to the 
consul of his "able and decided measures," "his cool, 
steady judgment and discernment" with admiration; 
and of himself, as "a credit and an ornament to H. M. 
Naval Service." It is plain he must have sunk in all his 

181 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

powers, during the years when he was only a figure, 
and often a dumb figure, in his wife's drawing-room ; 
but with this new term of service, he brightened visibly. 
He showed tact and even invention in managing his 
wife, guiding or restraining her by the touch, holding 
family worship so arranged that she could follow and 
take part in it. He took (to the world's surprise) to 
reading — voyages, biographies, Blair's Sermons, even 
(for her letter's sake) a work of Vernon Lee's, which 
proved, however, more than he was quite prepared for. 
He shone more, in his remarkable way, in society; and 
twice he had a little holiday to Glenmorven, where, as 
may be fancied, he was the delight of the Highlanders. 
One of his last pleasures was to arrange his dining- 
room. Many and many a room (in their wandering 
and thriftless existence) had he seen his wife furnish 
"with exquisite taste" and perhaps with "considera- 
ble luxury " : now it was his turn to be the decorator. 
On the wall he had an engraving of Lord Rodney's ac- 
tion, showing the Protbte, his father's ship, if the reader 
recollects; on either side of this on brackets, his father's 
sword, and his father's telescope, a gift from Admiral 
Buckner, who had used it himself during the engage- 
ment; higher yet, the head of his grandson's first stag, 
portraits of his son and his son's wife, and a couple of 
old Windsor jugs from Mrs. Buckner's. But his simple 
trophy was not yet complete; a device had to be worked 
and framed and hung below the engraving; and for 
this he applied to his daughter-in-law: "I want you 
to work me something, Annie. An anchor at each side 
— an anchor — stands for an old sailor, you know — 
stands for hope, you know — an anchor at each side, 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENK1N 

and in the middle Thankful." It is not easy, on any 
system of punctuation, to represent the Captain's 
speech. Yet I hope there may shine out of these facts, 
even as there shone through his own troubled utterance, 
some of the charm of that delightful spirit. 

In 1881, the time of the golden wedding came round 
for that sad and pretty household. It fell on a Good 
Friday, and its celebration can scarcely be recalled with- 
out both smiles and tears. The drawing-room was 
filled with presents and beautiful bouquets; these, to 
Fleeming and his family, the golden bride and bride- 
groom displayed with unspeakable pride, she so pain- 
fully excited that the guests feared every moment to 
see her stricken afresh, he guiding and moderating her 
with his customary tact and understanding, and do- 
ing the honours of the day with more than his usual 
delight. Thence they were brought to the dining- 
room, where the Captain's idea of a feast awaited 
them: tea and champagne, fruit and toast and childish 
little luxuries, set forth pell-mell and pressed at random 
on the guests. And here he must make a speech for 
himself and his wife, praising their destiny, their mar- 
riage, their son, their daughter-in-law, their grand- 
children, their manifold causes of gratitude: surely the 
most innocent speech, the old, sharp contemner of his 
innocence now watching him with eyes of admiration. 
Then it was time for the guests to depart; and they 
went away, bathed, even to the youngest child, in 
tears of inseparable sorrow and gladness, and leaving 
the golden bride and bridegroom to their own society 
and that of the hired nurse. 

It was a great thing for Fleeming to make, even thus 
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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

late, the acquaintance of his father; but the harrowing 
pathos of such scenes consumed him. In a life of tense 
intellectual effort, a certain smoothness of emotional 
tenor were to be desired; or we burn the candle at 
both ends. Dr. Bell perceived the evil that was being 
done; he pressed Mrs. Jenkin to restrain her husband 
from too frequent visits; but here was one of those 
clear-cut, indubitable duties for which Fleeming lived, 
and he could not pardon even the suggestion of neglect. 
And now, after death had so long visibly but still in- 
nocuously hovered above the family, it began at last to 
strike and its blows fell thick and heavy. The first to 
go was uncle John Jenkin, taken at last from his Mex- 
ican dwelling and the lost tribes of Israel; and nothing 
in this remarkable old gentleman's life became him 
like the leaving of it. His sterling, jovial acquiescence 
in man's destiny was a delight to Fleeming. "My 
visit to Stowting has been a very strange but not at all 
a painful one," he wrote. "In case you ever wish to 
make a person die as he ought to die in a novel," he 
said to me, " I must tell you all about my old uncle." 
He was to see a nearer instance before long; for this 
family of Jenkin, if they were not very aptly fitted to 
live, had the art of manly dying. Uncle John was but 
an outsider after all; he had dropped out of hail of his 
nephew's way of life and station in society, and was 
more like some shrewd, old, humble friend who should 
have kept a lodge; yet he led the procession of becom- 
ing deaths, and began in the mind of Fleeming that 
train of tender and grateful thought, which was like a 
preparation for his own. Already I find him writing 
in the plural of "these impending deaths"; already I 

184 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

find him in quest of consolation. " There is little pain 
in store for these wayfarers," he wrote, "and we have 
hope — more than hope, trust." 

On May 19, 1884, Mr. Austin was taken. He was 
seventy-eight years of age, suffered sharply with all his 
old firmness, and died happy in the knowledge that he 
had left his wife well cared for. This had always been 
a bosom concern; for the Barrons were long-lived and 
he believed that she would long survive him. But 
their union had been so full and quiet that Mrs. Austin 
languished under the separation. In their last years, 
they would sit all evening in their own drawing-room 
hand in hand: two old people who, for all their funda- 
mental differences, had yet grown together and become 
all the world in each other's eyes and hearts; and it 
was felt to be a kind release, when eight months after, 
on January 14, 1885, Eliza Barron followed Alfred Aus- 
tin. "I wish I could save you from all pain," wrote 
Fleeming six days later to his sorrowing wife, "I would 
if I could — but my way is not God's way; and of this 
be assured, — God's way is best." 

In the end of the same month, Captain Jenkin caught 
cold and was confined to bed. He was so unchanged 
in spirit that at first there seemed no ground of fear; 
but his great age began to tell, and presently it was 
plain he had a summons. The charm of his sailor's 
cheerfulness and ancient courtesy, as he lay dying, is 
not to be described. There he lay, singing his old sea 
songs ; watching the poultry from the window with a 
child's delight; scribbling on the slate little messages to 
his wife, who lay bed-ridden in another room; glad 
to have Psalms read aloud to him, if they were of a 

185 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

pious strain — checking, with an " I don't think we need 
read that, my dear," any that were gloomy or bloody. 
Fleeming's wife coming to the house and asking one of 
the nurses for news of Mrs. Jenkin, " Madam, I do not 
know," said the nurse; "for I am really so carried 
away by the captain that I can think of nothing else." 
One of the last messages scribbled to his wife and sent 
her with a glass of the champagne that had been or- 
dered for himself, ran, in his most finished vein of child- 
ish madrigal: "The Captain bows to you, my love, 
across the table." When the end was near and it was 
thought best that Fleeming should no longer go home 
but sleep at Merchiston, he broke his news to the Cap- 
tain with some trepidation, knowing that it carried sen- 
tence of death. •• Charming, charming — charming ar- 
rangement," was the Captain's only commentary. It 
was the proper thing for a dying man, of Captain Jen- 
kin's school of manners, to make some expression of 
his spiritual state; nor did he neglect the observance. 
With his usual abruptness, "Fleeming," said he, "I 
suppose you and I feel about all this as two Christian 
gentlemen should." A last pleasure was secured for 
him. He had been waiting with painful interest for 
news of Gordon and Khartoum ; and by great good for- 
tune, a false report reached him that the city was re- 
lieved, and the men of Sussex (his old neighbours) had 
been the first to enter. He sat up in bed and gave three 
cheers for the Sussex regiment. The subsequent cor- 
rection, if it came in time, was prudently withheld from 
the dying man. An hour before midnight on the fifth 
of February, he passed away : aged eighty-four. 
Word of his death was kept from Mrs. Jenkin ; and 

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MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

she survived him no more than nine and forty hours. 
On the day before her death, she received a letter from 
her old friend Miss Bell of Manchester, knew the hand, 
kissed the envelope, and laid it on her heart; so that 
she too died upon a pleasure. Half an hour after mid- 
night, on the eighth of February, she fell asleep: it is 
supposed in her seventy-eighth year. 

Thus, in the space of less than ten months, the four 
seniors of this family were taken away; but taken with 
such features of opportunity in time or pleasant courage 
in the sufferer, that grief was tempered with a kind of 
admiration. The effect on Fleemmg was profound. 
His pious optimism increased and became touched with 
something mystic and filial. "The grave is not good, 
the approaches to it are terrible," he had written at the 
beginning of his mother's illness: he thought so no 
more, when he had laid father and mother side by side 
at Stowting. He had always loved life; in the brief 
time that now remained to him, he seemed to be half 
in love with death. "Grief is no duty," he wrote to 
Miss Bell; "it was all too beautiful for grief," he said 
to me; but the emotion, call it by what name we please, 
shook him to his depths; his wife thought he would 
have broken his heart when he must demolish the Cap- 
tain's trophy in the dining-room, and he seemed thence- 
forth scarcely the same man. 

These last years were indeed years of an excessive 
demand upon his vitality; he was not only worn out 
with sorrow, he was worn out by hope. The singular 
invention to which he gave the name of telpherage, had 
of late consumed his time, overtaxed his strength and 
overheated his imagination. The words in which he 

187 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

first mentioned his discovery to me — "I am simply 
Alnaschar" — were not only descriptive of his state of 
mind, they were in a sense prophetic; since whatever 
fortune may await his idea in the future, it was not his 
to see it bring forth fruit. Alnaschar he was indeed ; be- 
holding about him a world all changed, a world filled 
with telpherage wires; and seeing not only himself and 
family but all his friends enriched. It was his pleasure, 
when the company was floated, to endow those whom 
he liked with stock; one, at least, never knew that he 
was a possible rich man until the grave had closed over 
his stealthy benefactor. And however Fleeming chafed 
among material and business difficulties, this rainbow 
vision never faded ; and he, like his father and his mother, 
may be said to have died upon a pleasure. But the 
strain told, and he knew that it was telling. " I am be- 
coming a fossil," he had written five years before, as a 
kind of plea for a holiday visit to his beloved Italy. 
" Take care ! If I am Mr. Fossil, you will be Mrs. Fossil, 
and Jack will be Jack Fossil, and all the boys will be little 
fossils, and then we shall be a collection." There was 
no fear more chimerical for Fleeming; years brought 
him no repose; he was as packed with energy, as fiery 
in hope, as at the first; weariness, to which he began 
to be no stranger, distressed, it did not quiet him. He 
feared for himself, not without ground, the fate which 
had overtaken his mother; others shared the fear. In 
the changed life now made for his family, the elders 
dead, the sons going from home upon their education, 
even their tried domestic (Mrs. Alice Dunns) leaving 
the house after twenty-two years of service, it was not 
unnatural that he should return to dreams of Italy. He 

188 



MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN 

and his wife were to go (as he told me) on "a real 
honeymoon tour." He had not been alone with his wife 
" to speak of," he added, since the birth of his children. 
But now he was to enjoy the society of her to whom he 
wrote, in these last days, that she was his " Heaven on 
earth." Now he was to revisit Italy, and see all the 
pictures and the buildings and the scenes that he ad- 
mired so warmly, and lay aside for a time the irritations 
of his strenuous activity. Nor was this all. A trifling 
operation was to restore his former lightness of foot ; and 
it was a renovated youth that was to set forth upon this 
reenacted honeymoon. 

The operation was performed; it was of a trifling 
character, it seemed to go well, no fear was entertained ; 
and his wife was reading aloud to him as he lay in bed, 
when she perceived him to wander in his mind. It is 
doubtful if he ever recovered a sure grasp upon the 
things of life; and he was still unconscious when he 
passed away, June the twelfth, 1885, in the fifty-third 
year of his age. He passed; but something in his gal- 
lant vitality had impressed itself upon his friends, and 
still impresses. Not from one or two only, but from 
many, I hear the same tale of how the imagination re- 
fuses to accept our loss and instinctively looks for his 
reappearing, and how memory retains his voice and 
image like things of yesterday. Others, the well-be- 
loved too, die and are progressively forgotten; two 
years have passed since Fleeming was laid to rest beside 
his father, his mother, and his Uncle John; and the 
thought and the look of our friend still haunt us. 



189 



RECORDS OF A FAMILY OF 
ENGINEERS 



NOTE BY SIDNEY COLVIN 

The following fragment of family biography is here published for the 
first time. It had occupied the author at intervals for several years 
of his life in Samoa, and especially during the summer of 1893 (see 
Vailima Letters, pp. 240, 241, etc.). It is printed substantially from 
a manuscript which he sent home in the autumn of that year, and 
which was at his request set up in type for further revision and cor- 
rection. In the meantime he had received from a friend and name- 
sake who is a specialist in genealogical research, Mr. J. H. Steven- 
son, Advocate, Edinburgh, a long communication which caused 
him to modify in several points his views concerning the family 
name and history. But, so far as is known, he had not before his 
death revised his original draft so as to embody the corrections re- 
ceived from this and other quarters. Accordingly the following 
chapters must be regarded as representing his first rather than his 
final conceptions of the subject. With the help of Mr. J. H. Ste- 
venson, and from information furnished by some members of the 
family, the Editor has been enabled to make a certain number of 
corrections on matters of fact. All footnotes not followed by the 
author's initials are editorial.* 

S. C 

1 The above appeared in the Edinburgh Edition, from which the following pages are 
copied with the approval of Mr. Stevenson's executors. 



INTRODUCTION 

THE SURNAME OF STEVENSON 

FROM the thirteenth century onwards, the name, 
under the various disguises of Stevinstoun, Steven- 
soun, 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 Steven- 
ston in Cunningham; a second place of the name in the 
Barony of Both well 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 Luth- 
rie 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. 1 

1 An error : Stevensons owned at this date the barony of Dolphing- 
ston in Haddingtonshire, Montgrennan in Ayrshire, and several other 
Jesser places. 

195 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 mo- 
ment, 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 in- 
glorious Stevensons, picking a private way through the 
brawl that makes Scots history. They were members 
of Parliament for Peebles, Stirling, Pittenweem, Kil- 
renny, 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, Ogil- 
vies, and Turnbulls, we find them inconspicuously in- 
volved, and apparently getting rather better than they 
gave. Schir William (reverend gentleman) was cruellie 
slaughtered on the Links of Kincraig in 1532; 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. Will- 
iam, at the ringing of Perth bell, ran before Gowrie 

196 



THE SURNAME OF STEVENSON 

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 hang- 
it'" — a piece of advice which William took, and im- 
mediately "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. 1 Under the Restoration, one 
Stevenson was a bailie in Edinburgh, and another the 
lessee of the Ganonmills. There were at the same pe- 
riod 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 con- 
tinual need of him ; it was he who reported, for in- 
stance, 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. 2 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 

1 Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, at large. — [R. L. S.] 

2 Fountainhall's Decisions, vol. i. pp. 56, 132, 186, 204, 368. — [R. 
L. S.] 

197 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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. 1 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, 2 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 morn- 
ing. 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 hand of God protected and directed him. 
Dragoons were turned aside from the bramble-bush 
where he lay hidden. Miracles were performed for his 
1 Ibid,, pp. 158, 299. — [R. L. S.] 2 Working farmer : Fr. laboureur. 

198 



THE SURNAME OF STEVENSON 

behoof. "I got a horse and a woman to carry the 
child, and came to the same mountain, where I wan- 
dered by the mist before; it is commonly known by the 
name of Kells-rhins: when we came to go up the moun- 
tain, 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, be- 
cause hitherto, and in that place, the Lord had formerly 
helped, and I hoped would yet help. The rain still con- 
tinuing, 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 persecu- 
tions. "\ retired to the fields for secret prayer about 
midnight. 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; 

199 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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." 1 But it was 
otherwise ordered, and the cause of piety escaped that 
danger. 2 

On the whole, the Stevensons may be described as 
decent, reputable folk, following honest trades — mil- 
lers, maltsters, and doctors, playing the character parts 
in the Waverley Novels with propriety, if without dis- 
tinction; 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 memora- 
ble 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 

iThis 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. 

2 Wodrow Society's Select Biographies, vol. ii. — [R. L. S.] 

200 



THE SURNAME OF STEVENSON 

debarred me, and I must relinquish from the trophies 
of my house his rare soul-strengtbening 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 in- 
conspicuous 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 con- 
tinual 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 inGlencoe 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 pro- 
cess; and, curiously enough, I have come across no less 
than two Gaelic forms : John Macstopbane 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, 

201 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

Peebles, Stirling, Perth, Fife, and the Lothians, would 
seem to forbid the supposition. 1 

M 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 sinis- 
ter aspect of the name " : these are the dark words of 
Mr. Cosmo Innes; but history or tradition, being interro- 
gated, tells a somewhat tangled tale. The heir of Mac- 
gregor of Glenorchy, murdered about 1353 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 1 502 
and 1552, we find the Macgregors again banding them- 
selves into a sept of "Sons of my love " ; and when the 
great disaster fell on them in 1603, the whole original leg- 
end reappears, and we have the heir of Alaster of Glen- 
strae 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 Mist. 

1 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. 

202 



THE SURNAME OF STEVENSON 

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 Mac- 
gregor 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 correspon- 
dent), 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 Suc- 
cession 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 re- 
plies 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 
1 Colonel Macgregor.' " 

203 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

Here, then, are certain Macgregors habitually using 
the name of Stevenson, and at last, under the influence 
of Methodism, adopting it entirely. Doubtless a pro- 
scribed 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 Steven- 
son in Glasgow, my first authentic ancestor, may have 
had a Highland alias upon his conscience and a clay- 
more 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 Car- 
dinal 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. 1 

1 Mr. J. H. Stevenson is satisfied that these speculations as to a pos- 
sible 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 par- 
ish 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 Steven- 
son in Lanarkshire, first mentioned in the next century, in the Ragman 
Roll, lie within twenty miles east. 



204 



CHAPTER I 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 



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 cer- 
tain they had risen to be at the head of considerable in- 
terests in the West Indies, which Hugh managed abroad 
and Alan at home, at an age when others are still cur- 
veting 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. 

205 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 memo- 
rial of my great-grand sire 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 child- 
hood how the brothers pursued him from one island to 
another in an open boat, were exposed to the perni- 
cious dews of the tropics, and simultaneously struck 
down. The dates and places of their deaths (now be- 
fore 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 May 
26th, and so far away as " Santt Kittes," in the Lee- 
ward 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 some- 

206 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

thing 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 prop- 
erty 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 fam- 
ily 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 bear- 
ing 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 disposi- 
tion, which it is like that these misfortunes heated. 
Like so many other widowed Scotswomen, 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 lin- 
guist," were all she could afford in the way of educa- 
tion 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 de- 
scendants — the second marriage of his mother. 

There was a Merchant-Burgess of Edinburgh of the 
207 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 char- 
acter seems to have appeared, indeed, for a moment at 
the wings of history: a skipper of Dundee who smug- 
gled 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 inter- 
est 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 authen- 
ticated, 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 
stereotype; 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 hap- 
pened to such a person — as the tale is being told of 

208 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

him. In all else, he appears as a man, ardent, passion- 
ate, practical, designed for affairs and prospering in 
them far beyond the average. He founded a solid busi- 
ness 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, Profes- 
sor Swan, "of tinsmiths, coppersmiths, brassfounders, 
blacksmiths, and japanners." He was also, it seems, a 
shipowner and underwriter. He built himself " a land " 
— Nos. i and 2 Baxter's Place, then no such unfash- 
ionable neighbourhood — and died, leaving his only 
son in easy circumstances, and giving to his three sur- 
viving 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 pa- 
triot, a captain — so I find it in my notes — of Edin- 
burgh Spearmen, and on duty in the Castle during the 
Muir and Palmer troubles, he bequeathed to his de- 
scendants 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 Anti- 
christ. Towards the end he fell into a kind of dotage; 
his family must entertain him with games of tin sol 
diers, which he took a childish pleasure to array and 
overset; but those who played with him must be upon 

209 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 suf- 
fered. Baptized and brought up in the Church of Scot- 
land, he had, upon some conscientious scruple, joined 
the communion of the Baptists. Like other Noncon- 
formists, these were inclined to the liberal side in poli- 
tics, and, at least in the beginning, regarded Buonaparte 
as a deliverer. From the time of his joining the Spear- 
men, 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 bet- 
tered 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 consti- 
tution. 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 lightkeeper old in the service. Nor did this change 
come alone. On the 9th July of the same year, Tho- 

210 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

mas 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 encum- 
bered at the time with a family of children, five in num- 
ber, 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 exag- 
gerate 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 be- 
fore acquired the name of civil engineering. 

For the profession which is now so thronged, famous, 
and influential, was then a thing of yesterday. My 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 am 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. 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

The vacant stage on which he was to act, and where 
all had yet to be created — the greatness of the difficul- 
ties, 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 char- 
acter to sympathize; 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 attrac- 
tion 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 so- 
journ 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 out-door life. The joy of my grand- 
father 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 confident and adviser 
of his new connection; the Church, if he had ever en- 

213 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

tertained 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 oc- 
cupation, 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 unin- 
habited, 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 mathe- 
matics, 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 get- 
ting on, much must be forgiven to the bearded and be- 
lated student who looked across, with a sense of diflfer- 

2! 4 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

ence, 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 till 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 exertions." 

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 un- 
reality of that scene in which we play our uncompre- 
hended parts; like all Scots, realizing 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 am- 
bition — to gather wealth, to rise in society, to leave 
their descendants higher than themselves, to be (in some 

215 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 correspon- 
dent, "this day being the anniversary of our acquaintance, I feel in- 
clined to address you; but where shall I find words to express the feel- 
ings 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 hand- 
maiden, ye did it unto me. ' " 

This is to Jean ; but the same afflicted lady wrote in- 
differently to Jean, to Janet, and to Mrs. 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 cor- 
respondents, affection, italics, texts, ecstasies, and im- 
perfect spelling. When a midwife is recommended, 
not at all for proficiency in her important art, but be- 

216 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

cause she has "a sister whom I [the correspondent] 
esteem and respect, and [who] is a spiritual daugh- 
ter of my Hon d 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 mid- 
wife, 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 in- 
troduced 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 pa- 
tience 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 harrow- 

217 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

ing 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 Steven- 
son. 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 diffi- 
cult 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 M landed 
gentlemen " ; learned a ready address, had a flow of in- 

218 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

teresting conversation, and when he was referred to as 
"a highly respectable bourgeois" resented the descrip- 
tion. 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 dark- 
ened countenance at some indissoluble joint — "Pre- 
serve me, my dear, what kind of a reedy, stringy beast 
is this?" — of the joint removed, the pudding substi- 
tuted and uncovered; and of my grandmother's anxious 
glance and hasty, deprecatory comment, "Just mis- 
managed!" 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 re- 
place 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 

219 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

him informing his wife that he was "in time for after- 
noon 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 Steven- 
son — Robert Stevenson to the daughter of Thomas 
Smith. And if for once my grandfather suffered him- 
self to be hurried, by his sense of humor 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 criti- 
cism. 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 
humor 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 grand- 
mother 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 "ina Pelisse and Bonnet of the same colour 
of cloth as the Boys' Dress jackets, trimmed with blue 

220 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

satin ribbons; the hat or Bonnet, Mr. Spittal said, was 
a Parisian sloutch, 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 let- 
ters, 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 house- 
hold. And there is little doubt that Mrs. Smith, as she 
looked on at the domestic life of her son and her step- 
daughter, and numbered the heads in their increasing 
nursery, must have breathed fervent thanks to her Cre- 
ator. 

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 ist of January 1808, besides a pair of 
still-born twins, five children had been born and still 
survived to the young couple. By the 1 ith 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 

221 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

time, some of the bitterness of that month of bereave- 
ment 

11 1 have this day received," she writes to Miss Janet, " the melan- 
choly 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 oc- 
casion! 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. 1 also received the hair of 
my three sweet babys, which 1 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 Camp- 
bell, a man of obvious sense and human value, but hate- 
ful 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 or- 
nament 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 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

and scarlet fever and small- pox ran the round; and lit- 
tle Lillies, and Smiths, and Stevensons fell like moths 
about a candle; and nearly ail the sympathetic corre- 
spondents 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. V 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 18 16 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 in- 
stance, under date of May 26th, 18 16, is part of a myth- 
ological account of London, with a moral for the three 
gentlemen, " Messieurs Alan, Robert, and James Ste- 
venson," 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 peo- 
ple 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 

223 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 1 imagine you to be 
busy with the young folks, hearing the questions [Anglice, 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, 1 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 compli- 
ments to my mother, that 1 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 humor lights up this evocation of the 
distant scene — the humor 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 wel- 
come their returning father. On the 25th, one of the 
godly women writes to Janet: 

11 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 1 startled to hear that dear James was gone! Ah, what is this? 
My dear benefactors, doing so much good to many, to the Lord, sud- 
denly 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. 1 could not rest, but at midnight, whether 
spoken [or not] it was presented to my mind — ' Those whom ye de- 
plore are walking with me in white.' I conclude from this the Lord 

234 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

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 1 
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 in- 
spector to my grandfather: 

" in reading your letter the trickling tear ran down my cheeks in si- 
lent sorrow for your departed dear ones, my sweet little friends. Well 
do I remember, and you will call to mind, their little innocent and in- 
teresting stories. Often have they come round me and taken me by 
the hand, but alas! 1 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 
M heavenly the three last days of his life/' But it ap- 
pears 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 in- 
nocent 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 contin- 
ually present in his mind, and he draws in his letters 
home an interesting picture of his family relations: — 

" Windy gates Inn, Monday (Postmark July i6tb). 
" 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 

225 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

excellent passage across the water, and got to Wemyss at mid-day. 1 
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 Eng- 
lish in company. Let them have strawberries on Saturdays." 

" IVe&thaven, 1 7th 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 beau- 
tiful 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 appear- 
ance of bright stars, and the morning was ushered in with the song of 
many little birds." 

" Aberdeen, July 19th. 
" 1 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 ;o be done, I would have you 
not to be too strange to the house in town. 

" Tell the boys that 1 fell in with a soldier — his name is Henderson 

— who was twelve years with Lord Wellington and other comman- 
ders. He returned very lately with only eight-pence-half-penny 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 20th. 
" Fraserburgh is the same dull place which [Auntie] Mary and Jean- 
nie found it. As I am travelling along the coast which they are ac- 
quainted with, you had better cause Robert to bring down the map 
from Edinburgh; and it will be a good exercise in geography for the 

226 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

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. 1 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 1 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." 

227 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

[To Mrs. Stevenson.] 

" Inverness, July 2 1st. 
u I propose going to church in the afternoon, and as I have break- 
fasted late, I shall afterwards take a walk, and dine about six o'clock. 
I do not know who is the clergyman here, but 1 shall think of you all. 
1 travelled in the mail-coach [from Banff] almost alone. While it was 
daylight 1 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 re- 
collection 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 1 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 2yd. 

"lam 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 brood- 
ing too much upon one subject. Sensibility and tenderness are cer- 
tainly 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 highei power, and have 
always preserved that propriety and consistency of conduct in all cir- 
cumstances which endears your example to your family in particular, 

228 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

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 mo- 
ther, 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 25th, n 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 children." 

"On hoard of the Lighthouse Yacht, July 29th. 
H 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 4th. 

" 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. 1 am quite well, my dear; and Captain Wemyss, who has 
much spirit, and who is much given to observation, and a perfect en- 

229 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

thusiast 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 1 wish you would 
indulge them in this respect. Mr. Scales is the best person 1 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. 

14 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, of Greenock, Aug. i8tb. 
" 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 regret." 

Strange that, after his long experience, my grand- 
father 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 agree- 
able features of the kindly series — that he was doing 
his best to please, and there is little doubt that he suc- 
ceeded. 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 Rever- 

230 



DOMESTIC ANNALS 

end 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 ro- 
mantic to a boy, his needless pomp of language, his ex- 
cellent 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 sor- 
row; 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 matur- 
ity and to outlive their parents. 



231 



CHAPTER II 

THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 



It were hard to imagine a contrast more sharply de- 
fined than that between the lives of the men and wo- 
men of this family: the one so chambered, so centred 
in the affections and the sensibilities; the other so ac- 
tive, healthy, and expeditious. From May to Novem- 
ber, 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 start- 
ing "ona tour round the South Coast of England, from 
the Humber to the Severn." Peace was not long de- 
clared 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 

232 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

part of his duty as Engineer to the Board of Northern 
Lights was one round of dangerous and laborious 
travel. 

In 1786, when Thomas Smith first received the ap- 
pointment, the extended and formidable coast of Scot- 
land was lighted at a single point — the Isle of May, in 
the jaws of the Firth of Forth, where, on a tower al- 
ready 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 Ork- 
ney, 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 navi- 
gation 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 inaccessi- 
ble 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, 

233 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

and organized. 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 sup- 
posed 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 cre- 
ated 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 en- 
gineer. 

War added fresh complications. In 1794 Smith came 
"very near to be taken " by a French squadron. In 
1 8 1 3 Robert Stevenson was cruising about the neighbour- 
hood of Cape Wrath in the immediate fear of Commo- 
dore 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 em- 
barrassing. 

M 1 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 fel- 
lows, 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 sus- 
pected 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 

234 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

a loss how to proceed. The complaint preferred against me was " that 
1 had examined the Longships Lighthouse with the most minute atten- 
tion, 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. Fur- 
ther, 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 jour- 
ney, — " which I did with so much eagerness," he adds, 
M 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 sup- 
plied with towns; the Scottish presents hundreds of 
miles of savage islands and desolate moors. The Par- 
liamentary committee of 1834, profoundly ignorant of 
this distinction, insisted with my grandfather that the 
work at the various stations should be let out on con- 
tract "in the neighbourhood," where sheep and deer, 
and gulls and cormorants, and a few ragged gillies, per- 
haps crouching in a bee-hive house, made up the only 
neighbours. In such situations repairs and improve- 
rs 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

ments 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, Sept. 
ioth, 1830, the Regent lying in Lerwick Bay, we have 
this entry: "The gale increases, with continued rain." 
On the morrow, Saturday, nth, 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 even- 
ing anchored in Otters wick. " Monday, 20th, it blows 
so fresh that we have no communication with the shore. 
We see Mr. Rome on the beach, but we cannot com- 
municate with him. It blows ' mere fire,' as the sailors 

236 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

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 be- 
fore me to transcribe, in which my grandfather draws 
himself as a man of exactitude about minute and anx- 
ious details. It must not be forgotten that these voy- 
ages in the tender were the particular pleasure and re- 
ward of his existence; that he had in him a reserve of 
romance which carried him delightedly over these hard- 
ships and perils; that to him it was " great gain " to be 
eight nights and seven days in the savage bay of Lev- 
enswick — 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 clamorous 
and continued voices of the gale. 

His perils and escapes were beyond counting. I 
shall only refer to two: the first, because of the impres- 
sion 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 
EU%abetb of Strom ness. She made a fair passage tilt 
within view of Kinnaird Head, where, as she was be- 
calmed 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 Eliza- 
beth 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 

237 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 1 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 in- 
terest; 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 

iThis 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.] 

238 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

them again ; and little by little the Regent fetched way 
against the swell, and clawed off shore into the turbu- 
lent firth. 

The purpose of these voyages was to effect a landing 
on open beaches or among shelving rocks, not for per- 
sons only, but for coals and food, and the fragile furni- 
ture 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 ad- 
miration ; and I find my grandfather in his diary depict- 
ing the nature of their excellence in one happily descrip- 
tive 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 1 he 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, leav- 
ing 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 lightkeepers seemed to be quite familiar to, the 
principal keeper remarking that 'it was very pleasant,' 
perhaps neaning 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 

239 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 fa- 
ther, 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 enter- 
prise, for Soutar could not be made drunk ; they pro- 
posed 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 with- 
drew 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 

240 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

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 re- 
mote 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 grandfather 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 trav- 
ersed 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; 

241 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 neigh- 
bourhood 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 em- 
barked 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 
grandfather and the captain long paced the beach, im- 
patient 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, 1 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 Scot- 

242 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

land, vulgarizing all where it approaches, is still de- 
fined 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-a-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 civilization 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 lighthouse 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 popu- 
lation 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 be- 
tween 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 Archipela- 
go; and forty-seven years earlier, when Thomas Smith 

243 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

began his rounds, or forty-two, when Robert Steven- 
son 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 outly- 
ing 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 Ronald- 
say and Sanday, two of the Orkney group. These bor- 
dered on one of the water-highways of civilization ; a 
great fleet passed annually in their view, and of the ship- 
wrecks 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 have certainly had 
their share of wrecked goods, for the eye is presented with these melan- 
choly remains in almost every form. For example, although quarries 

244 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

are to be met with generally in these islands, and the stones are very 
suitable for building dykes (Anglice, walls), yet instances occur of the 
land being enclosed, even to a considerable extent, with ship-timbers. 
The author has actually seen a park (Anglice, 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 camena' 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 diminu- 
tive door." He once landed on Ronaldsay with two 
friends. "The inhabitants crowded and pressed so 
much upon the strangers that the bailiff, or resident fac- 
tor of the island, blew with his ox-horn, calling out to 
the natives to stand off and let the gentlemen come for- 
ward to the laird ; upon which one of the islanders, as 
spokesman, called out, ' God ha'e us, man ! thou needsna 

245 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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. Pat- 
rick Neill, were received by an old lady in a Ronaldsay 
hut. Her hut, which was similar to the model de- 
scribed, 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 Nor- 
wegian 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 sim- 
plicity, 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 awak- 
ened 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 

246 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

not wickedness: it is scarce evil; it is only, in its high- 
est power, the sense of isolation and the wise disinter- 
estedness 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, minis- 
ter 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, ex- 
hausted and unshaved, from a long boat passage, and 
lay down to sleep in the home of the parish school- 
master. But he had been seen landing. The inhabi- 
tants had identified him for a Pict, as, by some singular 
confusion of name, they call the dark and dwarfish abo- 
riginal people of the land. Immediately the obscure fer- 
ment 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 

247 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

at last despatched a messenger to call my grandfather. 
He came: he found the islanders beside themselves at 
this unwelcome resurrection of the dead and the de- 
tested; 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 mer- 
cies 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 Po- 
mona, lived, in 1814, an aged dame called Bessie Millie, who helped 

248 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

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 dis- 
claimed 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 unbe- 
coming 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 ut- 
terance of astonishing rapidity, a nose and chin that almost met to- 
gether, 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 earnest" 



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 correspon- 
dence, 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 

249 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

they are more particularly exposed. The lightkeeper 
occupies a position apart among men. In sea-towers 
the complement has always been three since the de- 
plorable 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 some- 
times hardly less isolated, the usual number is two, 
a principal and an assistant. The principal is dissatis- 
fied 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 assis- 
tant's servants," I read in one case, and the eminently 
Scots periphrasis means neither more nor less than ex- 
communication, "on account of the discordant and 
quarrelsome state of the families. The cause, when in- 
quired 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 appar- 

250 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

ently shocked by the picture of these dissensions. 
"When the Trinity House can," I find my grandfather 
writing at Beechy 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 con- 
vinces 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 regu- 
late 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 com- 
plain 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 

251 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

your duties as a lightkeeper." A high ideal for the ser- 
vice 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 be- 
ginnings 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 al- 
ways 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 ex- 
pressing himself on paper with an almost startling em- 
phasis. Personally, with his powerful voice, sanguine 
countenance, and eccentric and original locutions, he 

252 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

was well qualified to inspire a salutary terror in the ser- 
vice. 

" 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 cul- 
pable 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 ap- 
pearance in their houses, stairs, and lanterns, I always find their re- 
flectors, 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 appoint- 
ment 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 de- 
mand 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 

253 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 un- 
fit 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 light- 
house 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 fam- 
ilies at Kinnaird Head, as this would be like Tale-bearing." 

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

" Write to [David one of the lightkeepersj 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 1 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 him- 
self inaccessible to the Tale-bearer, as the following in- 
dicates : — 

" 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, 4 That will be with regard to the lass ? ' I told him 1 was 
to enter no farther with him upon the subject." " Mr. Miller appears 

254 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

to be master and man. I am sorry about this foolish fellow. Had ! 
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 obstrep- 
erous man.' I could not bring Mr. Watt to put in language his ob- 
jections 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 calcu- 
lated 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 rec- 
tified, 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 

255 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 har- 
assed 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 al- 
ways 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, be- 
sides, 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 
?8o6, when his mind was already pre-occupied with 

256 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

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 be- 
yond 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 de- 
lightedly with his broad-spoken, homespun officers. 
His whole relation to the service was, in fact, patri- 
archal; and I believe I may say that throughout its 
ranks he was adored. 1 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 Stevenson. 

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 al- 
ready 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 Eliza- 
beth 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 

257 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 be- 
ginning 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 Com- 
missioners. 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 ap- 
portioned between their mother and themselves. He 
approached the Board and got an annuity of £*> be- 
stowed on the widow Peebles; and we find him writ- 
ing 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 " ad- 

258 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

vice, 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 encum- 
bered 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 help- 
less 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 apostro- 
phes sound to me like the voice of an awakened con- 
science; 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 an- 
swer 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 dis- 
appointment and discharge, must have ended his ser- 
vice in the Northern Lights; and in later correspond- 
ence 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 

259 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

about your son, as it lies quite out of my way to for- 
ward his views in the line of his profession as a 
Draper." 



Ill 



A professional life of Robert Stevenson has been al- 
ready 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 engi- 
neer. His chief claim to the style of a mechanical in- 
ventor 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 en- 
gines. 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 sim- 
ilar 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 accu- 
rately 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 engi- 
neer. "The very term mensuration sounds engineer- 

260 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

like," I find him writing; and in truth what the engi- 
neer 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 exer- 
cise. 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 me- 
chanical 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 Smea- 
ton'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 in- 

261 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

fluence: how it shall deflect the tide, exaggerate the 
waves, dam back the rain-water, or attract the thunder- 
bolt. He visits a piece of sea-board : and from the in- 
clination 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 induce what mag- 
nitude 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 suf- 
ficed, but the valleys may come to be meliorated by drain- 
age. " 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 tran- 
sient flood, as the gush of the flowing drain-pipe is su- 
perior to the leakage of a peat. 

It is plain there is here but a restricted use for for- 
mulas. 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 every- 
where 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 be- 
ginning and progressively fortified by observation 

262 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

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 undercut," 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 grandfather 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 evanes- 
cent, 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 

263 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 grandfather 
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 Traveling 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 med- 
ley: the whole details of his employment in the North- 
ern Lights and his general practice; the whole biog- 
raphy 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 sug- 
gested vignette of a lusty old gentleman scrambling 
nmong 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 grandfather (Lillie) two 

264 



THE SERVICE OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 

days " ! The profession was still but in its second gen- 
eration, 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 ex- 
tending it. They were more happily inspired. My 
father's engineering pocket-book was not a bulky vol- 
ume; with its store of pregnant notes and vital for- 
mulas, it served him through life, and was not yet filled 
when he came to die. As for Robert Stevenson and the 
Traveling 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 Val- 
ley 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 con- 
struction 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 

265 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 fore- 
man be careful, in quarrying, not M to disfigure the isl- 
and"; 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." 



26C 



CHAPTER III 

THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

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 hun- 
dred 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 seam- 
less 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 rupcstru 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 Hen- 
ware 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 tradition, a bell had been once hung 
upon this rock by an abbot of Arbroath, 1 M and being 

1 This is, of course, the tradition commemorated by Southey in his 
ballad of " The Inchcape Bell." Whether true or not, it points to the 

267 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

taken down by a sea-pirate, a year thereafter he perished 
upon the same rock, with ship and goods, in the right- 
eous judgment of God." From the days of the abbot 
and the sea-pirate no man had set foot upon the Inch- 
cape, save fishers from the neighbouring coast, or per- 
haps — 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 dur- 
ing 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. 
But the number of vessels actually lost upon the reef 
was as nothing to those that were cast away in fruit- 
less 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 

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. 

268 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

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. 

From 1794 onward, the mind of my grandfather had 
been exercised with the idea of a light upon this formi- 
dable 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. 1 My 
grandfather was, besides, but a young man, of an ex- 
perience comparatively restricted, and a reputation con- 
fined 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," 

l 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 dis- 
aster, 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 ma- 
sonry 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. 

269 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 con- 
versations. '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. J onn 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 con- 
troversy 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. 1 

1 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 pro- 
posed 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 Parlia- 
ment in 1806. Rennie was afterwards appointed by the Commissioners 
as advising engineer, whom Stevenson might consult in cases of emer- 
gency. It seems certain that the title of chief engineer had in this in- 
stance no more meaning than the above. Rennie, in point of fact, 

270 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

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 amus- 
ing 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 / beg you will 
see to get two minutes of bim as be 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, immor- 
talize you in the annals of fame." The style might be 
bettered, but the sentiment is charming. 

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. 

271 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 Eddy- 
stone; but his solution had not been in all respects per- 
fect. It remained for my grandfather 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 exer- 
cised an outward thrust upon the walls, which must he 
met and combated by embedded chains. My grandfa- 
ther's flooring-stones, on the other hand, were flat, 
made part of the outer wall, and were keyed and dove- 
tailed into a central stone, so as to bind the work to- 
gether 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 Smea- 
ton'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. 

272 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

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 
sea-hardy 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 halfpenny if laid upon deck." By 
two o'clock on the morning of the 15th July this pur- 
gatorial 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 — 

11 carrying with him Mr. Peter Logan, foreman builder, and five artifi- 
cers 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 land- 
ing 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 mean- 
time the crew of the Smeaton was employed in laying down the sev- 
eral sets of moorings within about half a mile of the rock for the con- 
venience 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 

273 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

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 pro- 
cess 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 prac- 
tically 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 correspond- 
ence. 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. 

274 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 



OPERATIONS OF 1807 

Everything being arranged for sailing to the rock on Saturday the '807 
1 5th, the vessel might have proceeded on the Sunday ; but understand- 16th Aug 
ing 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 cir- 
cumstances. 

The tide happening to fall late in the evening of Monday the 1 7th, 
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 ex- 
tended to the safety of all who should be engaged in this perilous 
work. With such sensations he retired to his cabin ; but as the artifi- 
cers 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 

275 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 
1807 pleasure to the sailor at the helm, who hummed over Dibdin's charao 

Monday, * . ' 

17th Aug. tenstx air : — 

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

Tuesday, The weather had been very gentle all night, and, about four in the 
ifcth Aug. morn j n g f th e ,8th, the Smeaton anchored. Agreeably to an ar- 
ranged 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 foam- 
ing sea. The two boats belonging to the floating light attended the 
Smeaton, to carry the artificers to the rock, as her boat could only ac- 
commodate 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, sea- 
men 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 artificers. 

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 com- 
mencing 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 

276 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

an hour, and as nothing further could be done during this tide towards i&>7 
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 pal- 
tnatus), which they ate with much seeming appetite; others were more 
intent upon collecting limpets for bait, to enjoy the amusement of fish- 
ing 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 dis- 
covery. 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 him- 
self, 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 cir- 
cumstance 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 quar- 
ters, 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 oc- 
cupied was now employed in assisting the smith to fit up the apparatus 

277 



19th Aug. 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

'8«7 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 
be 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 ob- 
servation was not altogether applicable to the writer himself, yet he 
was not a little pleased to find that thirty people could all at once be- 
come so reconciled to a night's quarters within a few hundred paces of 
the Bell Rock. 
Wednesday, 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 emblem- 
atical 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 expecta- 
tion 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 ap- 
proached 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 immedi- 
ately steered the boat through a narrow entrance to the eastern har- 
bour, 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 re- 

278 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

turning so freely to their work. In the midst of these reveries the i8°7 
boat took the ground at an improper landing-place, but, without wait- 
ing 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 satisfac- 
tion to ascertain that he had only been deceived by the peculiar situa- 
tion 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 dis- 
tant peals of thunder were heard, and the atmosphere suddenly be- 
came 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. 

The wind this morning inclined from the north-east, and the sky Thunday, 
had a heavy and cloudy appearance, but the sea was smooth, though zoth Auit 
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 neg- 
lected 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 con- 
dition 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 

279 



list Aug. 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1807 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 de- 
grees, 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. 

r. ri !f\ y :._ Everything connected with the forge being now completed, the arti- 
ficers 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 ham- 
mers 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 ob- 
servable in these animals when following a boat. 

Saturday, Hitherto the artificers had remained on board of 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 conve- 
niency to the work. Being so near, the seamen could never be mis- 
taken as to the progress of the tide, or state of the sea upon the rock, 

280 



zznd Aug. 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

nor could the boats be much at a loss to pull on board of the vessel 1807 
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 accommoda- 
tions 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 possi- 
bly have been accommodated. To add to this evil, the co-boose or cook- 
ing-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 be- 
ing 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 con- 
gratulating themselves upon having become sea-hardy while on board 
of the Smeaton, had a complete relapse on returning to the floating 
light. This was the case with the writer. From the spacious and con- 
venient berthage of the floating light, the exchange to the artificers 
was, in this respect, much for the better. The boats were also com- 
modious, 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. 

281 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1807 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, watch- 
ing the proper time for letting go the man-ropes, it required the great- 
est 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 ex- 
erted 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 — consist- 
ing 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 circum- 
stance, 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 this spirit of emulation, and 

282 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

the speed of their respective boats became a favourite topic. Premiums 1807 
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 sail- 
ors' 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, ac- 
cording to invariable practice, every man must play a tune, sing a song, 
or tell a story. 

Having, on the previous evening, arranged matters with the land- Sunday, 
ing-master as to the business of the day, the signal was rung for all r u& 
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 leav- 
ing the ship. At eight o'clock all hands were assembled on the quar- 
ter-deck for prayers, a solemnity which was gone through in as orderly 
a manner as circumstances would admit. When the weather permit- 
ted, the flags of the ship were hung up as an awning or screen, form- 
ing 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 stair- 
case, 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, 

283 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1807 which had hitherto been touched upon as delicately as possible, all 
hands being called aft, the writer, from the quarter-deck, stated gen- 
erally 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 Sun- 
day; 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 per- 
fectly at liberty to hold their sentiments without the imputation of con- 
tumacy 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 observ- 
able that the men wrought, if possible, with more keenness upon the 
Sundays than at other times, from an impression that they were en- 
gaged 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 help- 
ing the artificers on board; but the four masons who had absented 
themselves from the work did not appear upon deck. 

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 become 
gradually shorter, and it was now with difficulty that two and a half 

284 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

hours' work could be got. But so keenly had the workmen entered '807 
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 Monday, 

24th Aug. 

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 fix- 
ture 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 get- 
ting the beacon erected this year began to be more and more con- 
firmed, 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 ap- 
paratus, 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. 

We had now experienced an almost unvaried tract of light airs of T "! 8 ^ ay ' 
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 at- 
tended 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 
285 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1807 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 contin- 
ually 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. 

:dnesday, The wind had shifted this morning to N.N.W., with rain, and was 
blowing what sailors call a fresh breeze. To speak, perhaps, some- 
what 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 enter- 
prise for landing on all practical 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 forge. 

# 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 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. 

286 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

The boat which the writer steered was considerably behind the 1807 
other, one of the masons having unluckily broken his oar. Our pros- 
pect 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 com- 
pletely 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. 

The tides were now in that state which sailors term the dead of the Thursday, 
neap, and it was not expected that any part of the rock would be seen * 7t ug " 
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 
boat-hook, 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 amus- 
ing 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 

287 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

»*>7 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 re- 
gard 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 em- 
braced, till this essential part of the operations should be completed. 
W d^ e,day ' ^he fl° a ti n g 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 sal- 
vagee, 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 

288 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

riding ropes, and see that they were in proper order. The boat had 180? 
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 praamboat astern ; and, having both the wind and a tide against 
her, the writer perceived, with no little anxiety, that she could not pos- 
sibly return to the rock till long after its being overflowed; for, owing 
to the anomaly of the tides formerly noticed, the Bell Rock is com- 
pletely 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 pre- 
dominant 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 dispatch 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, ex- 
cavating the rock, or boring with the jumpers, and while their numer- 
ous hammers, with the sound of the smith's anvil, continued, the situ- 
tion of things did not appear so awful. In this state of suspense, with 

289 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

**>7 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 be- 
gan, 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 mo- 
ment the author was standing upon an elevated part of Smith's Ledge, 
where he endeavored to mark the progress of the Smeaton, not a little 
surprised that her crew did not cut the praam adrift, which greatly re- 
tarded her way, and amazed that some effort was not making to bring 
at least the boat, and attempt our relief. The workmen looked stead- 
fastly upon the writer, and turned occasionally towards the vessel, still 
far to leeward. 1 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 — pro- 
viding 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 unneces- 
sary 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 

1 "Nothing was said, but I was looked out of countenance," he says in a letter. 
290 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

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 peo- 
ple 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 ser- 
vice 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 vessel. 

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 

291 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

>*7 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 pe-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 possession. 
Thursday, The bell rung this morning at five o'clock, but the writer must ac- 
' knowledge, from the circumstances of yesterday, that its sound was ex- 
tremely 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 de- 
scription. 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 dis- 
comfort, or even the risk of the loss of a limb, but life itself that be- 
comes the question. The boats, notwithstanding the thinness of our 
ranks, left the vessel at half-past five. The rough weather of yester- 
day having proved but a summer's gale, the wind came to-day in 
gentle breezes; yet, the atmosphere being cloudy, it had 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 re- 
mained 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 

202 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

the whole progress of the work, excepting that of the four men who de- i*»7 
clined 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. 

It was fortunate that a landing was not attempted this evening, for !*h U se*f* 
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. 

During the last night there was little rest on board of the Pharos, Sunday, 
and daylight, though anxiously wished for, brought no relief, as the 6th Sept 
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 unfrequently 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 con- 
tinued 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 1 20 
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 pitch- 
ing 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; 
ftut, when another sea came, she ranged up against it with great force, 

293 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

,8 °7 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 side 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 down-stairs into 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 pre- 
cincts of his bed. The writer even found himself so much tossed about 
that it became necesssary, 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 comfortless. 

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 ves- 
sel 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, repeat- 

294 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

ing 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 bulkheads 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 an- 
swer, 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 con- 
siderably 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 im- 
mediately 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 pass- 
ing 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 

295 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1807 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 ordi- 
nary jacket and trousers; his hat was tied under his chin with a nap- 
kin, 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 confi- 
dence of the crew in their ship. This person on watch was as com- 
pletely 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 accidentally 
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 sev- 
erally 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 

296 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

of the tide, they were of opinion, from the flatness and strength of the «&°7 
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 result. 

About six o'clock in the evening the ship's company was heard mov- 
ing 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 gun- 
wales and rails in the waist. By nine o'clock all hands had been re- 
freshed by the exertions of the cook and steward, and were happy in 
the prospect of the worst of the gale being over. The usual comple- 
ment of men was also now set on watch, and more quietness was ex- 
perienced 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. 

297 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1807 This morning, about eight o'clock, the writer was agreeably sur- 

7th Sept.' prised to see the scuttle of his cabin skylight removed, and the bright 
rays of the sun admitted. Although the ship continued to roll exces- 
sively, and the sea was still running very high, yet the ordinary busi- 
ness 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 handspikes, 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 occa- 
sional 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. 
Tueiday, 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 

298 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

was welcomed by every one on board. There being a heavy breach 1*7 
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 ist 
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. 

The writer was made happy to-day by the return of the Lighthouse Wednesday 
yacht from a voyage to the Northern Lighthouses. Having immedi- 
ately 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 month 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 

299 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1807 made a change from the floating light, they were now perfectly recon- 
ciled to their situation, and would remain afloat till the end of the 
working season. 

Thursday, The wind was at N.E. this morning, and though there were only 
cp 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 ex- 
pressed 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 re- 
mained 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 arti- 
ficers, 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 incon- 
veniency was felt, and no one seemed to complain of the affection 
called "catching cold." 

Friday, An important occurrence connected with the operations of this season 

18th Sept. 

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 bea- 
con at this late period of the season new difficulties presented them- 
selves. The success of such an undertaking at any season was pre- 
carious, 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 de- 
termined to make the trial, although he could almost have wished, 

300 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

upon looking at the state of the clouds and the direction of the wind, *8°7 
that the apparatus for the beacon had been still in the workyard. 

The main beams of the beacon were made up in two separate rafts, Saturday, 
fixed with bars and bolts of iron. One of these rafts, not being imme- I9t cptt 
diately 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 arti- 
ficers 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 sus- 
pending 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. 

The wind this morning was variable, but the weather continued ex- Sunday, 
tremely favourable for the operations throughout the whole day. At six *** ep 
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 practicable. 

Having made fast a piece of very good new line, at about two-thirds 

301 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

«o7 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 into 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 perma- 
nently 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 use- 
ful 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 diffi- 
culty 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 up- 
per ends to fit. Here they formed the apex of a cone, and were all to- 
gether 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 

302 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

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 after- 
wards 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. 

The remaining two principal beams were erected in the course of Monday, 
this tide, which, with the assistance of those set up yesterday, was ep 
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. Having now got the weighty part of this work over, Tuesday, 

zznd Sept. 

and being thereby relieved of the difficulty both of landing and vic- 
tualling 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. 

In going out of the eastern harbour, the boat which the writer steered Wednesday, 
shipped a sea, that filled her about one-third with water. She had ep 

also been hid for a short time, by the waves breaking upon the rock, 
fi om 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 Light- 
house 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. 

At two o'clock this morning we were in St. Andrews Bay, standing Thursday, 
off and on shore, with strong gales of wind at S.W. ; at seven we 

305 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1K07 W ere 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 some- 
what smoother water for the night. 
Friday, At seven o'clock bore away for the Bell Rock, but finding a heavy 
»5th sept. sea runn j n g on j t 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 ap- 
pearance, 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, At daylight the yacht steered towards the Bell Rock, and at eight 
ep ' 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 2 1 st. 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 rock. 

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 

304 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

was the removal of the large bellows, which had all along been a source »8°7 
of much trouble and perplexity, by their hampering and incommoding 
the boat which carried the smiths and their apparatus. 

The wind being west to-day, the weather was very favourable for Saturday, 
operations at the rock, and during the morning and evening tides, with 
the aid of torch-light, 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-quar- 
ters. 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 ; espe- 
cially 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 com- 
plete 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 be- 
lieved, continued throughout the whole of the operations. 

The external part of the beacon was now finished, with its supports Sunday, 
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 

305 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

»8o7 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 perspec- 
tive 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, In the afternoon, and just as the tide's work was over, Mr. John 

st ° cc ' 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, The artificers landed this morning at nine, after which one of the 

6th Oct. ° 

boats returned to the ship for the writer and Messrs. Rennie, who, 
upon landing, were saluted with a display of the colours from the bea- 
con 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 1 808, might be found in the same state 
of good order as it was now about to be left. 



II 

OPERATIONS OF 1808 

,808 The writer sailed from Arbroath at one a.m. in the Lighthouse 

29th Fd> vacnt - 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 ap- 

306 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

pearance, and looked better than at the close of the works upon the «8o* 
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 pecu- 
liar in his history, and was reported by his comrades to have seen bet- 
ter 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. 

At daybreak the Lighthouse yacht, attended by a boat from the Tuesday, 
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 instant of their confluence the water rose in spray to a considerable 
height. Watching what the sailors term a smooth, we caught a fa- 
vourable 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 

307 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1808 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 partic- 
ular 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 ap- 
proached, 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 estima- 
tion 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 that the wind had suddenly in- 
creased 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 

308 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

of the sea-gull and the cormorant, affording only bread and water, yet 1808 
life would be preserved, and the mind would still be supported by the 
hope of being ultimately relieved. 

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

Mr. James Wilson, now commander of the Pharos floating light, and Thursday, 
landing-master, in the room of Mr. Sinclair, who had left the service, a6th May *. 
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 1 808. 

This morning the wind was at east, blowing a fresh gale, the weather Friday, 
being hazy, with a considerable breach of sea setting in upon the rock. 27th M * jr * 
The morning bell was therefore rung, in some doubt as to the practica- 
bility 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 eight 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. Tay- 
lor, 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 ex- 
cavation 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 

309 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

»8°8 interruption, and to take the comparative levels of the different inequali- 
ties 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 em- 
ployed 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, The wind still continued from the eastward with a heavy swell; and 
* y ' 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 sur- 
prising 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 beacor. 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 remain- 
ing 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 eve- 
ning, but in the twilight the boats were sent to fetch the people on 
board who had been left on the rock. 

Sunday, The wind was from the S.W. to-day, and the signal-bell rung, as 

29th May. J 

310 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

usual, about an hour before the period for landing on the rock. The «8o8 
writer was rather surprised, however, to hear the landing-master re- 
peatedly 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. 

Mr. Francis Watt commenced, with five joiners, to fit up a tempo- Monday, 
rary platform upon the beacon, about twenty-five feet above the high- 3° th M *x 
est 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 ac- 
cumulating in great quantities on the rock. These the boats loaded, 
after discharging the iron. The object in carrying off these chips, be- 
sides 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 bal- 
lasting a ship at the Bell Rock afforded great entertainment, especially 
to the sailors; and it was perhaps with truth remarked that the Smea- 
ton 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 

3>» 



7th June. 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

*&* 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 penny. 

Tues 1 J*J r ' 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 al- 
most 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. 

Tue»«Uy, At three o'clock in the morning the ship's bell was rung as the sig- 
nal 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 sharp- 
ening the picks and irons for the masons, and in making bats and other 
apparatus of various descriptions connected with the fitting of the rail- 
ways. The landing-master's crew were occupied in assisting the mill- 
wrights in laying the railways to hand. Sailors, of all other descrip- 
tions of men, are the most accommodating in the use of their hands. 
They worked freely with the boring-irons, and assisted in all the oper- 

312 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

ations of the railways, acting by turns as boatmen, seamen, and arti- 1808 
ficers. We had no such character on the Bell Rock as the common 
labourer. All the operations of this department were cheerfully under- 
taken 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 pre- 
paring 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 em- 
ployed 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 ac- 
tive 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 over- 
flowed 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 barome- 
ter also had fallen from 30 in. to 29.6. It was, therefore, judged pru- 
dent to shift the vessel to the S.W. or more distant buoy. Her bow- 
sprit was also soon afterwards taken in, the topmasts struck, and every- 

313 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1808 thing 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, 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 her counter with such 
force that the writer, who possessed the aftermost cabin, being unac- 
customed 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 ves- 
sel 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 im- 
possible. The writer, however, sprung upon deck, where he found 
the sailors busily employed in rigging out the bowsprit and in set- 
ting 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 unex- 
pected appearance, which gave an instantaneous alarm for the safety 
of things at the Bell Rock. 
Thursday, The wind still continued to blow very hard at E. by N., and the 
9th June. Sif j ose pjj ft an k s r0£ ie 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 Edin- 
burgh, some in very humble apparel, from having only the worst of 
their jackets with them, which, though quite suitable for their work, 

314 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

were hardly fit for public inspection, being not only tattered, but *8o8 
greatly stained with the red colour of the rock. 

To-day the wind was at S.E., with light breezes and foggy weather. Friday, 
At six a.m. the writer again embarked for the Bell Rock, when the Ioth J une 
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 
tbe coast of Fife, where we waited the return of the tide. 

At six a.m. the Sir Joseph got under weigh, and at eleven was again Saturday, 
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 torch-light, the 
work was left off at midnight. To the distant shipping the appear- 
ance 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 light- 
keeper, who also acted as master of the floating light during the work- 
ing months at the rock, described the appearance of the 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." 

From the difficulties attending the landing on the rock, owing to Monday, 
the breach of sea which had for days past been around it, the artificers IJt 
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, how- 
ever, 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 mat- 
ters where life is in danger it becomes necessary to treat even un- 
founded prejudices with tenderness, as an accident, under certain cir- 

3»5 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

>8o8 cumstances, would not only have been particularly painful to those 
giving directions, but have proved highly detrimental to the work, es- 
pecially in the early stages of its advancement. 

At four o'clock fifty-eight persons landed ; but the tides being ex- 
tremely 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 conve- 
niency 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 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 witli 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, 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 de- 
parture for that vessel, which lay about half a mile to the south-west- 
ward. 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 3. good way, when, fortu- 
nately, 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 

3 i6 



13rd June. 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

Landed on the rock with the three boats belonging to the tender at »8o8 
five p.m., and began immediately to bale the water out of the founda- 6th July, 
tion-pit with a number of buckets, while the pumps were also kept in 
action with relays of artificers and seamen. The work commenced up- 
on 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 com- 
menced 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 sharpened. At eight o'clock 
the sea broke in upon us and overflowed the foundation-pit, when the 
boats returned to the tender. 

The landing-master's bell rung this morning about four o'clock, and Thursday, 
at half-past five, the foundation being cleared, the work commenced 7 ' 
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 smiths 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 build- 
ing 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 conveni- 
ency 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 ac- 
cordingly employed, during the period of high-water, in making prep- 
arations 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. Hav- 

3'7 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1808 ing 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 row- 
ing-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, The site of the foundation-stone was very difficult to work, from its 

9 th Ju'y- 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 accord- 
ingly 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 occa- 
sion. 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 posi- 
tion while the boats towed the praam from her moorings and brought 
her immediately over tbe site of the building, where her grappling an- 
chors 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, 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, 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 

318 



10th July. 



26th July. 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

being upset. Upon extinguishing the torch-lights, about twelve in 180s 
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! 

In leaving the rock this evening, everything, after the torches were Wednesday* 
extinguished, had the same dismal appearance as last night, but so per- i?th Jaly ' 
fectly acquainted were the landing-master and his crew with the posi- 
tion of things at the rock, that comparatively little inconveniency was 
experienced on these occasions when the weather was moderate; such 
is the effect or 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 im- 
practicable and extravagant ; but this practice coming progressively 
upon the artificers, it was ultimately undertaken with the greatest alac- 
rity. 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 Light- 
house is fully prepared for the first entire course of the building. 

The artificers landed this morning at half-past ten, and after an hour Friday, 
and a half s work eight stones were laid, which completed the first en- I2th Aufr 
tire course of the building, consisting of 123 blocks, the last of which 
was laid with three hearty cheers. 

Land at nine a.m., and by a quarter-past twelve noon twenty-three Saturday, 
stones had been laid. The works being now somewhat elevated by Iot ept * 
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 contin- 
ual trouble of carrying the smith's bellows off the rock prior to the 
erection of the beacon. 

Mr. Thomas Macurich, mate of the Smeaton, and James Scott, one Wednesday 
of the crew, a young man about eighteen years of age, immediately * m Sept * 
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 

319 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

.808 W ere 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 in- 
stantly filled with water. Mr. Macurich, with much exertion, suc- 
ceeded 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 assist- 
ance, 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 rep- 
resenting 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 

320 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

Tock, and could not, till the return of the flood-tide, be worked up to »8°8 
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. 



Ill 

OPERATIONS OF 1809 

The last night was the first that the writer had passed in his old **°9 
quarters on board of the floating light for about twelve months, when 34th May. 
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 formei .busy aspect. 

321 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

I 8o9 The landing-master's bell, often no very favourite sound, rung at 

j ist May. ' six this morning; but on this occasion, it is believed, it was gladly re- 
ceived 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 uncom- 
monly 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 worjc 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 pre- 
caution or restraint. Under these circumstances, however, the writer 
not unfrequently felt considerable anxiety, of which this day's expe- 
rience will afford an example. 

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 

322 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

it shifted to E.N.E., accompanied with so heavy a swell of sea that the 1809 
Smeaton and tender struck their topmasts, launched in their boltsprits, 
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 other- 
wise received considerable damage. Night approached, but it was 
still found quite impossible to go near the rock. Consulting, there- 
fore, 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 
1o 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 

323 



and Jane. 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

,8o 9 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 dis- 
tance, 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, 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 some- 
what moderated; and, from certain appearances of the sky, he was of 
opinion that a change for the better would soon take place. He ac- 
cordingly 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 

324 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

situation of things in the course of the night, Mr. Logan emphatically 1809 
said: " That the beacon had an ill-faured * 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 in- 
troduce some of his exploits and hardships, in comparison with which 
the state of things at the beacon bore an aspect of comfort and happi- 
ness. Looking to their slender stock of provisions, and their perilous 
and uncertain chance of speedy relief, he would launch out into an ac- 
count of one of his expeditions in the North Sea, when the vessel, be- 
ing 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. 

At eight a.m. the artificers and sailors, forty-five in number, landed Saturday, 
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 arti- 

I Ill-formed— ugly. — [R. L. S.] 
3 2 5 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

, 8°9 ficers off the beacon, and they were accordingly left there all night, 
but in circumstances very different from those of the ist 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 shak- 
ing and tremulous motion of their house and by the plashing noise of 
the sea upon the 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 5 p.m. 
the writer caused a signal to be made from the tender for the Stneaton 
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, The weather having moderated to-day, the wind shifted to the west- 
18th June. war£ j ^ a quarter-past nine a.m. the artificers landed from the ten- 
der 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, Mr. Peter Logan, the foreman builder, and his squad, twenty-one in 
*4th June, ^^g^ i anc jed 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 
storeroom would admit. 

326 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

When as many stones were built as comprised this day's work, the '809 
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 their 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 mor- 
tar gallery, as the operations of Watt and his assistants trenched great- 
ly upon those of the smiths. Under these circumstances the boundary 
of the smiths was much circumscribed, and they were personally an- 
noyed, 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." 

The work being now about ten feet in height, admitted of a rope- Sunday, 
ladder being distended 1 between the beacon and the building. By this * 5t 
"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 fur- 
ther 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 mor- 
tar-buckets and other light articles between the beacon and the build- 
ing, 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. 

The artificers landed on the rock this morning at a quarter-past six, Friday, 
and remained at work five hours. The cooking apparatus being now Joth June 

1 This is an incurable illusion of my grandfather's ; he always writes " distended " for 
"extended." — [R. L. S.] 

327 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1809 }n 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 mus- 
tered 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 im- 
properly 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 fol- 
lowed, 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, The writer having come to Arbroath with the yacht, had an oppor- 

y ' tunity 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 

328 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

whose charge he had been placed, hopes were entertained that ampu- l8 °9 
tation 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. 

It was remarked to-day, with no small demonstration of joy, that Saturday, 

J J J 8th July. 

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 ciane 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. 

Besides laying, boring, trenailing, wedging, and grouting thirty-two Sunday, 
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 ap- 
pearance. 

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, 

329 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1809 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 ac- 
cident 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 the 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 lat- 
ter as rather a fortunate occurrence. 
Wednesday, The whole of the artificers, twenty-three in number, now removed 
19th July. f 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 cor- 
pulent. 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 suggest- 
ing 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 sup- 
posed 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 at- 
tained the height of sixteen feet, and the upper courses, and especially 

330 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

the imperfect one, were in the wash of the heaviest seas, an express i8<>9 
boat arrived at the rock with a letter from Mr. Kennedy, of the work- 
yard, stating that in consequence of the intended expedition to Wal- 
cheren, 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 Commis- 
sioners 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 em- 
braced 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. 

There being a considerable swell and breach of sea upon the rock Tuesday 
yesterday, the stones could not be got landed till the day following, Ist Aug 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1809 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 were augmented to twenty-four, including the land- 
ing-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, The wind was at S.E. on the 1 ith, and there was so very heavy a 
ug ' swell of sea upon the rock that no boat could approach it. 

Saturday, The gale still continuing from the S.E., the sea broke with great 
ug ' 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 esti- 
mate 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 al- 
though 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 had the men parcelled out in this manner, it be- 
came necessary to embrace the first opportunity of sending those who 
had left the beacon to the workyard, with as little appearance of in- 
tention 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. 

33* 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

The wind had fortunately shifted to the S.W. this morning, and 1809 
though a considerable breach was still upon the rock, yet the landing- 15th au& 
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. 

For some days past the weather had been occasionally so thick and Saturday, 
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 four- 
teen miles. The weather having cleared in the morning, the crew 
stood off again for the floating light, and got on board in a half-fam- 
ished and much exhausted state, having been constantly rowing for 
about sixteen hours. 

The weather being very favourable to-day, fifty-three stones were Sunday, 
landed, and the builders were not a little gratified in having built the aoth Aug * 
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 Bible. 

To-day the artificers laid forty-five stones, which completed the Friday, 
twenty-fourth course, reckoning above the first entire one, and the * 5t An& 
twenty-sixth above the rock. This finished the solid part of the build- 
ing, 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. Be- 
ing 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 cer- 
emonies. 

333 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1809 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 un- 
broken 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, con- 
taining about 1400 tons. 

Wednesday, The whole of the artificers left the rock at mid-day, when the tender 
joth Aug. '* 

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 con- 
gratulations 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 con- 
ducted themselves, on all occasions, in a sober and rational manner. 

334 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 
IV 

OPERATIONS OF 1810 

The wind had shifted to-day to W.N.W., when the writer, with »8io 
considerable difficulty, was enabled to land upon the rock for the first 10th May- 
time this season, at ten a.m. Upon examining the state of the build- 
ing, and apparatus in general, he had the satisfaction to find everything 
in %ood 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 sup- 
ported 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 sup- 
ply 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 soon as the weather permitted. An ar- 
rangement 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 ot the plaster-work had shaken loose, from its damp state, and 
the tremulous motion of the beacon in stormy weather. The writer 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 next ascended to the floor which was occupied by the cabins of him- 
self 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 mean- 
time, 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 ex- 
tremely simple, while the roadway 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, The wind was still easterly, accompanied with rather a heavy swell 
nth May. f sea f 0T ^ e p era tj ns 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 neces- 
sary 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 

336 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

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 the foremen of the 
works also took possession of their cabin, all heartily rejoiced at get- 
ting rid of the trouble of boating and the sickly motion of the tender. 

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

The weather still continues boisterous, although the barometer has Sunday, 
all the while stood at about 30 inches. Towards evening the wind IJth May ° 
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 Smea- 
ton 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. 

The wind continued to blow so fresh, and the Smeaton rode so Monday, 
heavily with her cargo, that at noon a signal was made for her getting I4 ay " 
under weigh, when she stood towards Arbroath; and on board of the 

337 



17th May. 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 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, 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 1 ith, 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 bal- 
ance-crane and apparatus was all in readiness. Under these circum- 
stances 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 pe- 
riod 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, 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 land- 
ing 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 

338 



1 8th May. 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

to the top of the building by means of the tackle suspended from the i8«o 
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 com- 
plete 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 arti- 
ficers 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. 

The wind was southerly to-day, but there was much less sea than Sunday, 
yesterday, and the landing-master's crew were enabled to discharge *° l Majr ' 
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. 

This being the birthday of our much-revered Sovereign King George Monday, 
hi., now in the fiftieth year of his reign, the shipping of the Light- 4th June * 
house 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 shipping. 

As the lighthouse advanced in height, the cubical contents of the Tuesday, 
stones were less, but they had to be raised to a greater height; and the sth Jun& 
walls, being thinner, were less commodious for the necessary machin- 

339 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 ery 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 ren- 
dered 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. 
Thursday, To-day twelve stones were landed on the rock, being the remainder 

7th June. 

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, work- 
ing the landing apparatus on the rock, and dragging the stone waggons 
along the railways. 
Friday, 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 

340 



8th June. 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

easily be conceived, it was doubly so to people stuck, as it were, upon *8i° 
a pinnacle in the middle of the ocean. 

One of the praam-boats had been brought to the rock with eleven Sunday, 
stones, notwithstanding the perplexity which attended the getting of ° un *" 
those formerly landed taken up to the building. Mr. Peter Logan, the 
foreman builder, interposed, and prevented this cargo from being de- 
livered ; 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. 

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

To-day twenty-seven stones and eleven joggle-pieces were landed, Thursday, 

14th June 

part of which consisted of the forty-seventh course, forming the store- 
room 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 lift- 
ing 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 in- 
tended 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 

34 1 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

«8io had his writing-desk set upon the storeroom floor, when he wrote to Mrs. 
Stevenson — certainly the first letter dated from the Bell Rock Light- 
bouse — 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 morn- 
ing 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. iod. 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-mas- 
ter 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 occa- 
sionally 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 

342 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

set they should find ; and, after much patient application, they sue- »8io 
ceeded 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. 

The landing-master having this day discharged the Smeaton and Saturday, 
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 ventur- 
ing 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 argu- 
ments 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 trou- 
sers, 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 ser- 
vice, 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 

343 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 would have greatly retarded the work. For the greater safety in en- 
tering 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 water. 
Sunday, 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 in- 
stant 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 dif- 
ferent 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 ap- 
pearance 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 

344 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

waves might be ten or twelve feet in height, and about 250 feet in »8io 
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. 

The 19th was a very unpleasant and disagreeable day, both for the Tuesday, 
seamen and artificers, as it rained throughout with little intermission 
from four a.m. till eleven p.m., accompanied with thunder and light- 
ning, during which period the work nevertheless continued unremit- 
tingly, 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 consist- 
ency, 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 princi- 
pal charge of the mortar, was a most active worker, but, being some- 
what of an irascible temper, the builders occasionally amused them- 
selves 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 per- 
form, either in working the crane or in laying the stones, it required 

345 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 the closest application and attention, not only on the part of Mr. Petei 
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 in- 
trusted 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. od. of extra pay, while the foremen had 
7s. 6d. over and above their stated pay and board. Although, there- 
fore, the work was both hazardous and fatiguing, yet, the encourage- 
ment 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 un- 
frequently 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 light- 
keeper of the floating light, to the Bell Rock Lighthouse as his princi- 

346 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

pal assistant. The writer had a wish to be of service to this man, as i*»o 
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. 

The building operations had for some time proceeded more slowly, Friday, 
from the higher parts of the lighthouse requiring much longer time " nd Junc 
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 em- 
ployed 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, 

347 \ 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

181° and there is no beer for us before to-morrow morning, to which a suffi- 
cient 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-bouse, 22nd 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 unex- 
pected and most unnecessary demand for an additional allowance of 
beer. In the enclosed you will not find any alteration from the orig- 
inal 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. 

"To Captain Wilson." 

" Beacon House, 22nd June 18 10. — Schedule of the daily allowance 
of provisions to be served out on board of the Sir Joseph Banks tender: 
" \}4 lb. beef; 1 lb. bread ; 8 oz. oat meal ; 2 oz. barley ; 2 oz. but- 
ter ; 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, when the work com- 
mences 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, 

348 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

and the schedule was afterwards stuck up in the tender's galley. >»io 
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 gal- 
ley 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 al- 
teration on the allowance, on which he was immediately ordered into 
the SmeatorCs 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 col- 
lected 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 con- 
duct, 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 con- 
nected with the best interests of navigation ; yet this would be but of 
a temporary nature, while the injury to themselves might be irrepar- 

349 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 able. It was now, therefore, required of any man who, in this dis- 
graceful manner, chose to leave the service, that he should instantly 
make his appearance on deck while the Smeaton 1 s boat was alongside. 
But those below having expressed themselves satisfied with their sit- 
uation — 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 Ar- 
broath Bay, and land the two men he had on board, and to deliver 
the following letter at the office of the workyard : — 

"On hoard of the Tender off the Bell Rock, 
22nd June, 1 8 10, 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 un- 
reasonable than the conduct of the seamen on this occasion, as the 
landing-master's crew not only had their own 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, 

11 Robert Stevenson. 
" To Mr. Lachlan Kennedy, 

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 bea- 
con 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 abettors. 

350 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

At the rock, the landing of the materials and the building operations 1810 
of the light-room store went on successfully, and in a way similar to 4th June 
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. 

Last night the wind had shifted to north-east, and, blowing fresh, Thursday, 
was accompanied with a heavy surf upon the rock. Towards high- Junc " 
water it had a very grand and wonderful appearance. Waves of con- 
siderable 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 occa- 
sionally interrupted, in their operations on the top of the walls. These 
appearances were in a great measure new at the Bell Rock, there hav- 
ing till of late been no building to conduct the seas, or object to com- 
pare 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, 
felt upon the face and hands more like a dry powder than a liquid 
substance. The effects 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. 

The writer had now been at the Bell Rock since the latter end of Sunday, 
May, or about six weeks, during four of which he had been a constant m July " 

35 » 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 inhabitant of the beacon without having been once off the rock. After 
witnessing the laying of the sixty-seventh or second course of the bed- 
room 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 habi- 
tation 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 bea- 
con, it widened towards the top, yet it did not admit of the full exten- 
sion 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, calcu- 
lated 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 exclu- 
sion, one were reduced to a single book, the Sacred Volume — whe- 
ther 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, 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 

35* 



tnd July. 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

last; a dispute had arisen between the magistrates of that burgh and 1810 
the Regulating Officer as to his right of impressing Dall, who was 
bona 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 be- 
fore 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 ten- 
der, and had in his possession one of the Protection Medals. Unfortu- 
nately, however, for Dall, the Regulating Officer thought proper to 
disregard these documents, as, according to the strict and literal inter- 
pretation of the Admiralty regulations, a seaman does not stand pro- 
tected 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 con- 
sideration of the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses, they 
authorized 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. 

Being now within twelve courses of being ready for building the cor- Wednesday 
nice, measures were taken for getting the stones of it and the parapet- 
wall of the light-room brought from Edinburgh, where, as before no- 
ticed, 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 

353 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 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 a 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 north-western 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 con- 
founded 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, The weather cleared up in the course of the night, but the wind 
Sth July, shifted t th e n e. and blew very fresh. From the force of the wind, 
being now the period of spring-tides, a very heavy swell was expe- 
rienced at the rock. At two o'clock on the following morning the peo- 
ple 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 

354 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

alarm-bell being rung, all hands were called to render what assistance »8*o 
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 Ar- 
broath 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, col- 
lected their sweethearts and friends, and concluded their labours with 
a dance. It was remarked, however, that their happiness on this oc- 
casion was not without alloy. The consideration of parting and leav- 
ing 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. 

While the writer was at Edinburgh he was fortunate enough to meet Friday, 
with Mrs. Dickson, only daughter of the late celebrated Mr. Smeaton, 6th July 
whose works at the Eddystone Lighthouse had been of such essential 
consequence to the operations at the Bell Rock. Even her own ele- 
gant accomplishments are identified with her father's work, she having 
herself made the drawing of the vignette on the title-page of the Nar- 
rative 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 at- 
tached to his reports, published, in three volumes quarto, by the So- 
ciety 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 

355 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 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 ex- 
tremely 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 over- 
come 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 spon- 
taneously, 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 sat- 
isfaction which he this day felt in witnessing the pleasure it afforded to 
the only representative of this great man's family. 
Friday, 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 
here be 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 cen- 
tre 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 
Bassey 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 Cor- 
poration made his appearance dressed in his uniform, with his staff of 
office; and when it reached the harbour, the shipping in the different 

356 



aoth July. 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

tiers where the Smeaton lay hoisted their colours, manifesting by these i*»o 
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. 

The artificers had finished the laying of the balcony course, except- Friday, 
ing the centre-stone of the light-room floor, which, like the centres of z?t July * 
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. 

Captain Wilson and his crew had made preparations for landing the Sunday, 
last stone, and, as may well be supposed, this was a day of great in- ** J y * 
terest 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 depart- 
ment. 

The ninetieth or last course of the building having been laid to-day, Monday, 
which brought the masonry to the height of one hundred and two feet Joth July 
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." 

357 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 At three p.m., the necessary preparations having been made, the 

jrd Aug! artificers commenced the completing of the floors of the several apart- 
ments, 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 Brit- 
ish commerce, erected through the spirited measures of the Commis- 
sioners of the Northern Lighthouses by means of the able assistance of 
those who now surrounded him. He then took an opportunity of stat- 
ing that toward those connected with this arduous work he would ever 
retain the most heartfelt regard in all their interests. 
Saturday, When the bell was rung as usual on the beacon this morning, every 
4t ug " 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, foreman, counting in all twenty- 
five ; and matters were arranged for proceeding to Arbroath this after- 
noon with all hands. The Sir Joseph Banks tender had by this time 
been afloat, with little intermission, for six months, during the 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 descrip- 
tion. 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, atten- 
tion, and abilities of Mr. Peter Logan and Mr. Francis Watt, foremen ; 
Captain James Wilson, landing-master ; and Captain David Taylor, 

358 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

commander of the tender, who, in their several departments, had so *8io 
faithfully discharged the duties assigned to them, often under circum- 
stances 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. 

The author has formerly noticed the uniformly decent and orderly Sunday, 
deportment of the artificers who were employed at the Bell Rock Light- s ug * 
house, 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. 

The Smeaton sailed to-day at one p.m., having on board sixteeen Tuesday 
artificers, with Mr. Peter Logan, together with a supply of provisions l4 ug ' 
and necessaries, who left the harbour pleased and happy to find them- 
selves 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 com- 
menced. 

The barometer for some days past had been falling from 20.90, 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 

359 



. A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

»8»o fathoms from the ship's 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 ascer- 
tained to have risen to the 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 had now 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 dead-lights, 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 door. 
Thursday, The gale continues with unabated violence to-day, and the sprays 
ug ' 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 per- 
sonal 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 

Thursday, 0fthe li g ht - r00m ' 

zjrd Aug. The wind being at W.S.W., and the weather more moderate, both 

360 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

the tender and the Smeaton got to their moorings on the 23rd, when 1810 
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. 

The sash-frames of the light-room, eight in number, and weighing Monday, 
each 254 pounds, having been got safely up to the top of the building, a?t u& 
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 un- 
screwed and lowered, to use the landing-master's phrase, " in mourn- 
ful silence." 

The steps of the stair being landed, and all the weightier articles of Sunday, 
the light-room got up to the balcony, the wooden bridge was now to zn ep 
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 op- 
posite extremity, inserted a few inches into the building. The frame 
was then gently lowered into the water, and floated off to the Smea- 
ton 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 bea- 
con-house and building had both a naked look to those accustomed to 
their former appearance; a curious optical deception was also re- 
marked, by which the lighthouse seemed to incline from the perpendicu- 
lar 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 man- 
ner 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 

361 



19th Oct. 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 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 con- 
cluded 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 bea- 
con and railways, Mr. Robert Selkirk with the building, with a few 
artificers to fit the temporary windows to render the house habitable. 

Sunday, 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. 

F™jay,^ The light-room work had proceeded, as usual, to-day under the direc- 
tion 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-shutters 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 conver- 
sation with each other till they came to the rope-ladder distended be- 
tween 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 arti- 
ficers 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 unfortu- 

362 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

nately fallen through the rope-ladder, and been washed into the deep 1810 
water. 

The deceased had passed along this rope-ladder many hundred 
times, both by day and night, and the operations in which he was em- 
ployed being nearly finished, he was about to leave the rock when this 
melancholy catastrophe took place. The unfortunate loss of Hender- 
son 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. 

The wind had shifted in the night to N.W., and blew a fresh gale, Tuesday, 
while the sea broke with violence upon the rock. It was found impos- 
sible to land, but the writer, from the boat, hailed Mr. Dove, and di- 
rected 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 bois- 
terous 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 lightroom. 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. 

On reaching the rock it was found that a very heavy sea still ran Tuesday, 
upon it; but the writer having been disappointed on two former occa- Jot 0ct ' 
sions, and, as the erection of the house might now be considered com- 
plete, 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 

3*3 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

1810 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 mo- 
tions, 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' work- 
shop, 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 bal- 
cony was only as yet fitted with a temporary rail, consisting of a few 
iron stanchions, connected with ropes; and in this state it was neces- 
sary 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 un- 
toward accident in the landing of the machinery could prevent the ex- 
hibition 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 prin- 
cipal keeper; Mr. James Slight had charge of the operations of the arti- 
ficers, while Mr. James Dove and the smiths, having finished the frame 
of the light-room, left the rock for the present. With these arrange- 
ments 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 shel- 
ter for the boats at the rock, they had to be pulled through the breach 

364 



THE BUILDING OF THE BELL ROCK 

of sea, which came on board in great quantities, and it was with ex- »8io 
treme 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. 

On Monday, the 5th, the yacht again visited the rock, when Mr. JS^S* 
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 light-keepers. 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 regu- 
larity from long service on board of a man-of-war, while Mr. Fortune 
had one of the most happy and contented dispositions imaginable. 

From Saturday the 10th till Tuesday the 13th, the wind had been Tuesday v 
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 emo- 
tions which, he emphatically observed, " made a man look back upon 
his former life." 

365 



A FAMILY OF ENGINEERS 

t*« The day, long wished for, on which the mariner was to see a light 

ittFeb. 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 
i st of February ; but the moment that the light appeared on the rock, 
the crew, giving three cheers, lowered them, and finally extinguished 
the lights. 



366 



V.IE 



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