Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Records of a Family of Engineers by Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download Records of a Family of Engineers pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

The river was to me a pretty and various spectacle; I could not
see--I could not be made to see--it otherwise. To my father it was
a chequer-board of lively forces, which he traced from pool to
shallow with minute appreciation and enduring interest. 'That bank
was being under-cut,' he might say. 'Why? Suppose you were to put
a groin out here, would not the filum fluminis be cast abruptly off
across the channel? and where would it impinge upon the other
shore? and what would be the result? Or suppose you were to blast
that boulder, what would happen? Follow it--use the eyes God has
given you--can you not see that a great deal of land would be
reclaimed upon this side?' It was to me like school in holidays;
but to him, until I had worn him out with my invincible triviality,
a delight. Thus he pored over the engineer's voluminous handy-book
of nature; thus must, too, have pored my grand-father and uncles.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[Sunday, 16th Aug.]

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

[Monday, 17th Aug.]

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

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

[Tuesday, 18th Aug.]

The weather had been very gentle all night, and, about four in the
morning of the 18th, the Smeaton anchored. Agreeably to an
arranged plan of operations, all hands were called at five o'clock
a.m., just as the highest part of the Bell Rock began to show its
sable head among the light breakers, which occasionally whitened
with the foaming sea. The two boats belonging to the floating
light attended the Smeaton, to carry the artificers to the rock, as
her boat could only accommodate about six or eight sitters. Every
one was more eager than his neighbour to leap into the boats and it
required a good deal of management on the part of the coxswains to
get men unaccustomed to a boat to take their places for rowing and
at the same time trimming her properly. The landing-master and
foreman went into one boat, while the writer took charge of
another, and steered it to and from the rock. This became the more
necessary in the early stages of the work, as places could not be
spared for more than two, or at most three seamen to each boat, who
were always stationed, one at the bow, to use the boat-hook in
fending or pushing off, and the other at the aftermost oar, to give
the proper time in rowing, while the middle oars were double-
banked, and rowed by the 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 commencing the work. This interval, however, did not pass
unoccupied. The first and last of all the principal operations at
the Bell Rock were accompanied by three hearty cheers from all
hands, and, on occasions like the present, the steward of the ship
attended, when each man was regaled with a glass of rum. As the
water left the rock about six, some began to bore the holes for the
great bats or holdfasts, for fixing the beams of the Beacon-house,
while the smith was fully attended in laying out the site of his
forge, upon a somewhat sheltered spot of the rock, which also
recommended itself from the vicinity of a pool of water for
tempering his irons. These preliminary steps occupied about an
hour, and as nothing further could be done during this tide towards
fixing the forge, the workmen gratified their curiosity by roaming
about the rock, which they investigated with great eagerness till
the tide overflowed it. Those who had been sick picked dulse
(Fucus palmatus), which they ate with much seeming appetite; others
were more intent upon collecting limpets for bait, to enjoy the
amusement of fishing when they returned on board of the vessel.
Indeed, none came away empty-handed, as everything found upon the
Bell Rock was considered valuable, being connected with some
interesting association. Several coins, and numerous bits of
shipwrecked iron, were picked up, of almost every description; and,
in particular, a marking-iron lettered JAMES--a circumstance of
which it was thought proper to give notice to the public, as it
might lead to the knowledge of some unfortunate shipwreck, perhaps
unheard of till this simple occurrence led to the discovery. When
the rock began to be overflowed, the landing-master arranged the
crews of the respective boats, appointing twelve persons to each.
According to a rule which the writer had laid down to himself, he
was always the last person who left the rock.

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

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

[Wednesday, 19th Aug.]

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

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

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

[Thursday, 20th Aug.]

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

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

[Friday, 21st Aug.]

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

[Saturday, 22nd Aug.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Sunday, 23rd Aug.]

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

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

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

[Monday, 24th Aug.]

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

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

[Tuesday, 25th Aug.]

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

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

[Wednesday, 26th Aug.]

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

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

[Thursday, 27th Aug.]

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

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

[Wednesday, 2nd Sept.]

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

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

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

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

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

Upon this fortunate change of circumstances, sixteen of the
artificers were sent, at two trips, in one of the boats, with
instructions for Spink to proceed with them to the floating light.
This being accomplished, the remaining sixteen followed in the two
boats belonging to the service of the rock. Every one felt the
most perfect happiness at leaving the Bell Rock this morning,
though a very hard and even dangerous passage to the floating light
still awaited us, as the wind by this time had increased to a
pretty hard gale, accompanied with a considerable swell of sea.
Every one was as completely drenched in water as if he had been
dragged astern of the boats. The writer, in particular, being at
the helm, found, on getting on board, that his face and ears were
completely coated with a thin film of salt from the sea spray,
which broke constantly over the bows of the boat. After much
baling of water and severe work at the oars, the three boats
reached the floating light, where some new difficulties occurred in
getting on board in safety, owing partly to the exhausted state of
the men, and partly to the violent rolling of the 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 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, 3rd Sept.]

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

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

[Saturday, 5th Sept.]

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

[Sunday, 6th Sept.]

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

About eleven o'clock, the writer with some difficulty got out of
bed, but, in attempting to dress, he was thrown twice upon the
floor at the opposite end of the cabin. In an undressed state he
made shift to get about half-way up the companion-stairs, with an
intention to observe the state of the sea and of the ship upon
deck; but he no sooner looked over the companion than a heavy sea
struck the vessel, which fell on the quarter-deck, and rushed
downstairs in the officers' cabin in so considerable a quantity
that it was found necessary to lift one of the scuttles in the
floor, to let the water into the limbers of the ship, as it dashed
from side to side in such a manner as to run into the lower tier of
beds. Having been foiled in this attempt, and being completely
wetted, he again got below and went to bed. In this state of the
weather the seamen had to move about the necessary or indispensable
duties of the ship with the most cautious use both of hands and
feet, while it required all the art of the landsman to keep within
the precincts of his bed. The writer even found himself so much
tossed about that it became necessary, in some measure, to shut
himself in bed, in order to avoid being thrown upon the floor.
Indeed, such was the motion of the ship that it seemed wholly
impracticable to remain in any other than a lying posture. On deck
the most stormy aspect presented itself, while below all was wet
and 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 vessel being thus suddenly deadened or checked, and from the
flowing in of the water above, it is believed there was not an
individual on board who did not think, at the moment, that the
vessel had foundered, and was in the act of sinking. The writer
could withstand this no longer, and as soon as she again began to
range to the sea he determined to make another effort to get upon
deck. In the first instance, however, he groped his way in
darkness from his own cabin through the berths of the officers,
where all was quietness. He next entered the galley and other
compartments occupied by the artificers. Here also all was shut up
in darkness, the fire having been drowned out in the early part of
the gale. Several of the artificers were employed in prayer,
repeating psalms and other devotional exercises in a full tone of
voice; others protesting that, if they should fortunately get once
more on shore, no one should ever see them afloat again. With the
assistance of the landing-master, the writer made his way, holding
on step by step, among the numerous impediments which lay in the
way. Such was the creaking noise of the bulk-heads or partitions,
the dashing of the water, and the whistling noise of the winds,
that it was hardly possible to break in upon such a confusion of
sounds. In one or two instances, anxious and repeated inquiries
were made by the artificers as to the state of things upon deck, to
which the captain made the usual answer, that it could not blow
long in this way, and that we must soon have better weather. The
next berth in succession, moving forward in the ship, was that
allotted for the seamen. Here the scene was considerably
different. Having reached the middle of this darksome berth
without its inmates being aware of any intrusion, the writer had
the consolation of remarking that, although they talked of bad
weather and the cross accidents of the sea, yet the conversation
was carried on in that sort of tone and manner which bespoke an
ease and composure of mind highly creditable to them and pleasing
to him. The writer immediately accosted the seamen about the state
of the ship. To these inquiries they replied that the vessel being
light, and having but little hold of the water, no top-rigging,
with excellent ground-tackle, and everything being fresh and new,
they felt perfect confidence in their situation.

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

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

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

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

[Monday, 7th Sept.]

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

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

[Tuesday, 15th Sept.]

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

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

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

[Wednesday, 16th Sept.]

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

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

[Thursday, 17th Sept.]

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

[Friday, 18th Sept.]

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

[Saturday, 19th Sept.]

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

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

[Sunday, 20th Sept.]

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

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

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

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

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

[Monday, 21st Sept.]

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

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

[Tuesday 22nd, Sept.]

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

[Wednesday, 23rd Sept.]

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

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

[Thursday, 24th Sept.]

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

[Friday, 25th Sept.]

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

[Saturday, 26th Sept.]

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

[Saturday, 3rd Oct.]

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

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

[Sunday, 4th Oct.]

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

[Monday, 5th Oct.]

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

[Tuesday, 6th Oct.]

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


[Monday, 29th Feb.]

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

[Tuesday, 1st March]

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

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

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

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

[Wednesday, 25th May]

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

[Thursday, 26th May]

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

[Friday, 27th May]

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

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

[Saturday, 28th May]

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

[Sunday, 29th May]

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

[Monday, 30th May]

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

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

[Tuesday, 31st May]

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

[Tuesday, 7th June]

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

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

The Bell Rock this morning presented by far the most busy and
active appearance it had exhibited since the erection of the
principal beams of the beacon. The surface of the rock was crowded
with men, the two forges flaming, the one above the other, upon the

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest