Section Index
The Builders
Seamen and Vessels
Lighthouse Keepers
Other People in Stevenson’s “Account”
The Map “deciphered”
An Historic Engineering

People in the “Account”

. . . not involved in the Lighthouse's construction, but mentioned
either in an historical or consultative capacity

Up to 1807

First sea-chart of England brought from Spain in 1489 by Bartholomew Columbus to illustrate his brother’s theory of the discovery of America

Voyage round Scotland in1540 by James V using the earliest applicable map to the coast of Scotland

Nicolay D’Arfiville, Chief Cosmographer to the King of France in 1588, whose chart was used by James V

John Adair, FRS, Geographer for Scotland, 1688 and 1705, early nautical charts of Scotland

Abbot of Aberbrothock, said to have constructed a Bell on the Rock to give warning to mariners Sir Ralph the Rover - See Robert Southey poem, “Inchcape Rock”

Capt. Joseph Brodie, RN, submitted an early plan for a cast-iron lighthouse, c.1800

Mr Joseph Couper, iron-founder at Leith, made a model for the above

Mr James Haldane, architect and friend of Robert Stevenson, and formerly principal assistant to the late Mr John Baxter, visit the rock

Sir William Pulteney takes an interest in forwarding a Bill in Parliament in 1803

Mr Thomas Telford, engineer, famous for the Caledonian Caledonian Canal, prepares a Design for a lighthouse

Mr Murdoch Downie, when making his Nautical Survey of the Eastern Coast of Scotland, also produces a drawing and estimate for erecting a lighthouse (£29,000)

Provost Duncan of Arbroath, of the Convention of the Royal Burghs, moves to take the subject under serious consideration

Lord Advocate Hope, one of the Commissioners and MP for the City of Edinburgh, prepares Bill for Parliament . . . but it has to be withdrawn due to opposition by City of London

Mr John Rennie, engineer, consulted on design, whether it should be cast-iron or stone; pillars or solid

Mr Hamilton, Sheriff of Lanarkshire, accompanied by Mr Rennie and RS visit the Rock

James Searth, Master; Wm. Mowbray, Assist.; Wm. Dougal, Assist.; Arch. Geddes, James Pillans, junior; appointed by the Incorporation of the Traders in Leith, submit a Report relative to the expediency of erecting a Lighthouse on the Cape or Bell Rock

Capt. Allardice had the misfortune of twice being wrecked on the Bell Rock

Finally on 19th February 1806 a meeting of the Commissioners finally resolved to put forward an Act of Parliament and a request for a loan to carry out the work. Those present were:
Mr James Clerk, Sheriff-Depute of Edinburghshire
Mr Robert Hamilton, Sheriff-Depute of Lanarkshire
Mr William Rae, Sheriff-Depute of Orkney and Shetland
Mr James Trail, Sheriff-depute of Caithness
Mr John Connell, Sheriff-Depute of Renfrewshire
Mr Edward M’Cormick, Sheriff-Depute of Ayrshire
Mr David Monypenny, Sheriff-Depute of Fife

Lord Howick (then head of the Admiralty) and Admiral Markham were still of the opinion that the undertaken was chiefly of a local nature, and that there would be little benefit to the Royal Navy

A further audience with Lord Grenville was sought, who declared himself convinced that the work was essential, and that the application for the loan would have his full support

Mr Longlands, solicitor for the Lighthouse Board in London, was left to draw up the necessary papers

The Hon. Henry Erskine, Lord Advocate of Scotland takes charge of the Bill in Parliament

Lord Auckland, President of the Board of Trade, was favourable to the proposal of the loan

Sir Joseph Banks, knowing from experience the horrors of sunken rocks, lends his support for the loan Lord Henry Petty, Chancellor of the Exchequer, expresses his doubts

In the second reading of the Bill, Mr Spencer Perceval, whilst agreeing the importance of the measure, though that “this was not a favourable time for granting loans of public money”.

Sir John Sinclair attends to the Bill, the Lord Advocate having taken ill

Two objections were overcome on the Bill’s third reading; Mr Vansittart, Secretary to the Treasury, though them to be improper. The Bill receives the Royal Assent late in July 1806

Capt Huddart, of the Trinity-House of London, advises on the type of vessel best suited for a situation like the Bell Rock

RS seeks the assistance of Mr Joseph Webb, from Yarmouth, who is expert in fitting up floating lights stationed off that coast.

Mr Thomas Grindlay, master of the Trinity-house of Leith, with Mr John Hay, and Mr Thomas Ritchie, Assistant-Masters, sail to the Bell Rock to give advice on best where to situate the Floating Light

Mr George Sinclair, captain of the Pharos, also departed for the Bell Rock A committee from Arbroath, Mr David Balfour, Mr Andrew Duncan, Mr David Cargill, Mr John Fleming and Mr William Kidd also left for the Rock

Mr John Smeaton - The sloop specially built for Bell Rock service was called after this gentleman, “a name which the writer had great pleasure in suggesting, as a mark of respect for the memory of the celebrated engineer of the Eddystone Lighthouse, whose narrative was to become a kind of text-book for the Bell Rock operations.”

The Rev. Mr Gleg, minister of the parish [Arbroath] was in the constant habit of enquiring into the success and safety of the works.

The Rev. Dr Brunton, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, composed “a Prayer for the use of those Employed at the Erection of the Bell Rock Light-house”

In October 1807, Mr John Rennie and his son Mr George visited the Bell Rock and discussed the progress of the Bell Rock works, on which he was consulted as chief engineer

Prof. Playfair, of Edinburgh, a much-respected friend of RS, discusses the merits of demerits of the screw as opposed riveting. It was decided that riveting was the securer method of bolting two pieces of metal together


“The Sir Joseph Banks”, the vessel built by Mr Thomas Fernie in Arbroath exclusively to house the artificers during the works, was launched in January 1808

Mr John Baird of Shotts Iron Works made the railways, which would eventually surround the site of the lighthouse and project into different landing places

Mr Mylne, the proprietor of Mylnfield Quarry, gives his views on jack-machines for lifting blocks of stones.

Mr Allan manager of the above works

Mention of Sir Christopher Wren, builder of St Paul’s Cathedral, in connection with mortar; also Drs Black (1754) and Higgins (1780) who pioneered mortars and water cements.

Mr Tolsher, agent for the Eddystone, tells RS that the lighthouse never required repointing after 42 years explosure to the elements

“Roman Cement” was patented by Mr Parker of London

At Aberdeen, Mr Alexander Gildowie, stone agent, used every exertion to procure additional supplies from Rubislaw - in short supply

Mr Skene, who owned the Aberdeen quarries, found himself at a financial loss in supplying the granite.

Mr Kennedy, advocate, Aberdeen, agrees and a further payment is made to Mr Skene

Saturday, 4th June 1808, the birthday of King George III, who now entered the 70th year of his age, and the 50th of his reign Mr John Hutchison, whose granite quarries near Peterhead, produced many fine blocks of granite

A friend of RS, Mr Patrick Neill, lands at the rock to examine the “fuci and animals”

On Thursday, 12th August 1808, a boat arrived at the rock from Leith with eight gentlemen on board. In trying to effect a landing, the boat tilted and all were thrown into the water. Although all were rescued, a Mr Strachan spent longer in the water and was very lucky to survive


Mr Solicitor-General Boyle arbitrates on the unseaworthy condition of the Patriot. Former owner has to pay repairs

Mr Ramsay, port officer at Arbroath, does not allow any vessels to leave the harbour. This order affects all shipping around the coast. In all probability due to the war with France

Mr Adam Duff, Sheriff of Forfarshire, applies for exemption for the Bell Rock. Submitted to the Lords of the Treasury for a decision

The embargo is taken off the Bell Rock vessels. Mr Charles Cunningham, Secretary to the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses, writes to RS that the order to release the vessels is being sent to the Collector at Montrose, Mr Paton

Regarding the velocity of winds, Mr Andrew Waddell, in Leith, has conducted experiments on the subject. RS regrets the lack of an efficient anemometer. Lind and others have not yet come up with a proper scale for measuring the force of the wind

RS off to Bridlington to meet Mr Benjamin Mills, Collector of Customs there. Together they visit Flamborough-head Lighthouse. Mr Mills is accredited with suggesting the use of coloured glass to distinguish lights


Mr Thomas Smith in Edinburgh (RS’s predecessor and step-father) oversees the materials required for the Light-room

A visit from Mr Murdoch, Jun, of Messrs Boulton and Watt’s works of Soho, suppliers of some of the Light-room material

July 3 - Magistrates of Arbroath visit the Bell Rock - Provost Airth; former Chief-Magistrates Balfour and Milne; and Baillies Duncan, Fleming, Anson, Wightman and Kid; Mr John Colville, town Clerk; Messrs Bruce, Bell, Balfour, Johnston, Christie and Lindsay, etc; sixteen in all

James Craw, and his horse, Bassey, were now removed to Edinburgh to cart stones from Edinburgh to Leith

Doubts about the delivery of the coloured glass for the Light-room; Mr Okey of London was rather “an irregular correspondent”

Mrs Dickson, only daughter of the celebrated builder of the Eddystone, Mr John Smeaton, visits Leith, where by coincidence the boat called after her father was there loading material for the Bell Rock

Mr John Gibson, plumber of Leith, attends personally to the installation of a flat-bar of best Swedish iron into the 81st course

Many visitors come to the Rock to see the state of works, including Messrs Gellatly and Macpherson, accountants from the Greenside works, Edinburgh

The Smeaton left the Rock for Lord Elgin’s works at Charlestown to load limestone for the lightkeepers’ houses to be built at Arbroath

August 3 - Visitation by the Earl of Kellie, the Hon. Mr Methven Erskine, Mr David Monypenny, Sheriff of Fifeshire (now Lord Pitmilly), and His Lordship’s brother, Mr Alexander Monypenny.

Mr John Nicol, writer in Arbroath, purchases on behalf of the Lighthouse Board the ground for the Signal Tower

Reference to Colonel Mudge’s “Account of the Trigonometrical Survey of England and Wales”

Visits from Sir William Rae, Lord Advocate of Scotland and Mr Adam Duff, Sheriff of Forfar, now of Edinburgh. The party further consisted of General Brown, Captain Harry Stuart of the Royal Navy, Mr James Dickson of Leith, and Mr Charles Cuningham.

RS embarks from Greenock with his friends, Dr John Barclay, Mr Charles Oliphant, and Mr Patrick Neill, on a tour of the Northern Lighthouses

RS receives word from a Mr Andrew Roger, merchant of St Monance, that some fishermen had picked up a timber raft some nine miles west of the Isle of May. Part of the Western Wharf which had drifted from the Rock some time previously


Another visit to the lighthouse by friends of RS: Rev. Dr Fleming of Flisk; Dr Leach of the British Museum; and Mr Patrick Neill, Secretary to the Wernerian Society

May - Lord Justice-Clerk Hope, Lord Boyle, Dr Hope, Mr Hamilton, Mr James Spreull, besides Lady Charlotte Hope and Mrs Hamilton embark at Leith on the Lighthouse Yacht to visit the Bell Rock

Mr James Bruce, of the Naval Yard establishment at Leith, designed a special boat for use in landing at the Bell Rock. It was called “Bruce’s Two-half Boat”

Aug. 21 - Sir William Rae, Lord Chief-Baron Dundas, General Francis Dundas, Mr Jardine of the Exchequer, and Mr Russell, accountant to the Board, visit the Lighthouse. Also Mr Duff, accompanied by Mr Foulerton, one of the Elder Brethern of Trinity House, Mr Menzies of Pitfoddels and Mr Taylor of Kirktonhill

1814 - A thunder rod or electrical conductor was fixed to the lighthouse. RS consulted Profs. Playfair and Leslie, and Dr Brewster. Mr Adie, optician, prepared a rod 2¼ inches in width and 1 inch in thickness. It was composed of 1½ oz tin to 1 lb pure copper, and it weighed about ¼ ton

Mr Morton of Leith builds the Pharos of 1816. Capt. Taylor takes command

Mr Macdonald, a painter from Arbroath, makes sketches of the effects of the sea on the Lighthouse during storms. These drawings afforded useful hints to the artist who furnished the draught from which the frontispiece of the book is taken

1822 - RS visited the Wolf Rock off Lands End with Captain Smith, on the Orestes sloop of war

1823 - Captain Samuel Brown of the Royal Navy presents a pair of carrier-pigeons to the Signal Tower. The time taken by these birds between the Lighthouse and Tower is approx. 11 mins (ie 1 mile per minute)

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