Smeaton followed; then Stevenson in his turn corrected such flaws as were left in Smeaton's design; and with his improvements, it is not too much to say the model was made perfect. Smeaton and Stevenson had between them evolved and finished the sea-tower. No subsequent builder has departed in anything essential from the principles of their design. It remains, and it seems to us as though it must remain for ever, an ideal attained. Every stone in the building, it may interest the reader to know, my grandfather had himself cut out in the model; and the manner in which the courses were fitted, joggled, trenailed, wedged, and the bond broken, is intricate as a puzzle and beautiful by ingenuity.

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

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

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

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

Records of a Family of Engineers Page 33

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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