Sir Walter Scott visits the Bell Rock
In the summer of 1814, Walter Scott (then aged 43) embarked
on a six-week voyage round Scotland - from Edinburgh to
Glasgow via the Northern Isles and the Hebrides - in the
company of the Commissioners of the Northern Lights and
their "Surveyor-Viceroy" Robert
the voyage Scott kept a Journal, first published in 1982,
and curiously titled "Northern Lights or a Voyage
in the Lighthouse Yacht to Nova Zembla and the Lord where
in the summer of 1814".
Early, on the morning of the 30th July, he was awakened
at 6am by the ship's steward to visit the Bell Rock.
He afterwards noted in his diary: Its dimensions
are well known; but no description can give the idea of
this slight, solitary, round tower, trembling amid the billows,
and fifteen miles from Arbroath, the nearest shore. The
fitting up within is not only handsome, but elegant. All
work of wood (almost) is wainscot; all hammer-work brass;
in short, exquisitely fitted up.
That same morning Scott had breakfast "in the parlour"
and was then asked to sign the Visitor's Book, where
he penned his famous "Pharos Loquitur". By
9am they were off again, this time to Aberbrothock "vulgarly
called Arbroath", a town with which he was not
unfamiliar . . . it was this third visit. He was glad to
be back on land again - everyone suffering from seasickness.
"God grant this occur seldom!"
As a direct result of Sir Walter's lighthouse tour, it
was Capt. Taylor who undertook the routine voyage to the
Western Lights that year. Stevenson instructs him on that
occasion to return via the Forth and Clyde canal
for quick access to the East.
The Pharos Loquitur written by Scott on his visit to the
Far in the bosom of the deep
O'er these wild shelves my watch I keep
A ruddy gem of changeful light
Bound on the dusky brow of Night
The Seaman bids my lustre hail
And scorns to strike his timorous sail