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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Inchkeithl HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE ISLAND. 29T ~~~~~ ~ ~~ land harbour, was repulsed in an attempt upon St. Minoe (St. Monance) by the Laird of Dun, ?? and so without glory or gain, returned to England.? The re-capture of Inchkeith during the French occupation of Leith has already been related; but the garrison there were in turn blockaded by Elizabeth?s squadron of sixteen ships under Admiral Winter, in 1560, which cut off their provisions and communication with the shore. The works erected by the English at first were thrown down by the French, who built a more regular castle, or work, and ?? upon a portion of the fort, which remained about the end of the last century,? says Fullarton?s ? Gazetteer,? ?? were the initials M. R and the date 1556 ;? but the exactness of the date given seems doubtful. During the French occupation the island was, as has been said, used as a grazing ground for the horses of the gendarmes, which could not with safety be pastured on Leith Links. To prevent the island from ever again being used by the English the fortifications were dismantled in 1567, and the guns thereon were brought to Ehinburgh. In the Act of Parliament ordaining this they are described as being ruinous and utterly decayed. In 1580, Inchkeith, with Inchgarvie, was made a place of exile for the plague-stricken by order of the Privy Council. After this we hear no more of the isie till 1652, when in the July of that year, as Admiral Blake at the head of sixty sail appeared off Dunbar in search of the Dutch under Van Tromp, the appearance of the latter off the mouth of the Firth, ? put the deputy-governor of Leith, called Wyilkes, in such a fright,? says Balfour, ?that he with speed sent men and cannon to fortifie Inchkeithe, that the enimey, if he come npe the Fyrthe, should have none of the freshe watter of that iyland.? . From this we may gather that Major Wilks (the same Cromwellian who shut up the church of South Leith and kept the keys thereof) was a prudent and active officer. At this time, probably, all intercourse between Leith and London by sea was cut 04 as Lamont in the August of this year, records that Lady Crawford departed from Leith to visit her husband, then a prisoner in the Tower of London; adding that she travelled ?in the journey coach that comes ordinarlie betwixt England and Scotland.? When Dr. Johnson visited Scotland in 1773, Lord Hailes mentioned to Boswell the historical anecdote of the Inch having been called U L?isk des Chaux ? by the soldiers of Mardchal Strozzi j )ut when the lexicographer and his satellite anded there, they found sixteen head of black cattle at pasture there. That the defensive works had not been so com- ?letely razed as the Parliament of 1567 ordained, s e a s apparent from the following passage in Boswell?s work :-? The fort with an inscription on it, MARIA RE 1504 (?), is strongly built.? Dr, Johnson examined it with much attention, I? He stalked like a giant among the luxuriant thistles and nettles. There are three wells in the island, but we could not find one in the fort. There must prdbably have been one, though now dlled up, as a garrisoxi could?not subsist without it . . . . When we got into our boat again, he called to me. ? Come, now, pay a classical compliment to the island on quitting it.? I happened, luckily, allusion to the beautiful Queen Mary, whose name is on the fort, to think of what Virgil makes fineas say on having left the? country of the charming Dido :- Invitus, regina, tu0 littore cessi.? ? Unhappy Queen, Unwilling I forsook your friendly state.? ? Boswell was in error about the date on the stone, and showed a strange ignorance of the history of his own country, as Mary was not born till 1542 j and there now remains, built into the wall of the courtyard round the lighthouse, and immediately above the gateway thereof, a stone bearing the royal arms of Scotland with the date 1564. There are now no other remains of the old fortifications, though no doubt all the stones and material of them were used in building the somewhat extensive range of houses, stores, and retaining walls connected with the light-house. If the fort was still strong, as Boswell asserts, in I 773, it is strange that the works were not turned to some account, when Admiral Fourbin was off the coast in 1708, and during the advent of Paul Jones in 1779. We first hear of the new channel adjoining the island in September, 1801, when the pewspapen relate that the Wnghts, armed ship of Leith, Captain Campbell, commander, and the Safguard, gun-vesseJunder Lieutenant Shields?the former with a convoy for Hamburg, and the latter with a convoy for the Baltic, in all one hundred sail, put to sea together, passing ?? through the new channel to the southward of the island, which has lately been buoyed and rendered navigable by order of Government, for the greater safety of His Majesty?s ships entering the Firth of Forth. This passage which is also found to be of the greatest utility to the trade of Leith, and ports higher up the Firth, has
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292 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Inchkeith. greatly enhanced the beauty and grandeur of this interesting prospect by bringing the ships so much nearer to this coast, and consequently so much more within the immediate view of the metropolis and its environs.? From this it would appear that,prior to 1801, all vessels leaving the Firth from Leith and above it, must have taken the other channel, north of Inchkeith. With the exception of erecting the now almost useless Martello tower, Government never made any effort of consequence to defend Leith or any other port in Scotland; thus it was said that Napoleon I., aware of the open and helpless condition of the entire Scottish coast, projected at one time the landing of an invading army in Aberlady Bay ; but in defiance of the recommendation and urgent entreaty of many eminent engineers and military officers, that Inchkeith, the natural bulwark of the Forth, and more particularly of the port of Leith, should be fortified, the British Government let a hundred years, from the time of the pitiful Paul Jones scare, elapse, ?? leaving,? as the Scofsman of 1878 has it, ?the safety of the only harbour of refuge on the east coast, and the wealthiest and most commanding cities and towns of Scotland ?to the effectual fervent prayers ? of ?longshore parish ministers.? For five and twenty years the Corporations of Edinburgh and Leith, the Merchant Company, the Chambers of Commerce and other public bodies, urged the necessary defence of Leith in vain. Shortly before the Crimean war, the apathetic authorities were temporarily roused by the number of petitions that poured in upon them, and by iiequent deputations from Fifeshire as well as Midlothian, and slowly and unwillingly they agreed to proceed with the fortification of Inchkeith. Colonel John Yerbury Moggridge, of the Royal Engineers in Scotland, was instructed to visit the island and prepare plans, in 1878, based upon sketches and suggestions, furnished some twenty years before, and a commencement was made in the summer of that year, the work being entrusted to Messrs. Hill and Co., of Gosport, the contractors who built most of the powerful fortifications at Portsmouth and Spithead. In shape Inchkeith may be described as an irregular triangle, with its longest side parallel to the shore at Leith. Three jutting promontories form the angles-one looking up the Firth at the west end is above a hundred feet in height; another faces the direction of Kinghorn, and is fifty feet less in altitude; the third, facing the south or Leith (Herald and Chronicle.) quarter, shows a more rounded outline than the other two. On these it was suggested the forts should be built, and connected together by a military road a mile and a half long. The workmen, at first 120 in number, were hutted on the island for the week, and only came back to Leith on Saturday night to return to their labour on the Monday morning. The August of 1878 saw Colonel Moggridge fairly at work, and the little cove or landing-place at the south-west quarter of the island, encumbered with piles of rails, tools, tackling, and all the paraphernalia of the contractor, while the operations for cutting the military road, in face of the cliff, ninety feet high, overhead, were at once proceeded with. The huts of the workmen were double lined wooden houses, covered with felt, like those in Aldershot camp, and were situated in the hollow between the lighthouse hill and the west promontory. Around the interior of the huts were sleeping bunks for the men, ranged in three tiers, and in the centre were tables on each +de of a cooking stove. No spirituous liquor was allowed to be landed. The old wells were all cleaned out and deepened, and as the work proceeded the aspect of the whole western face of, the island changed rapidly. The men worked from six in the morning till eight in the evening, with two hours interval for dinner and -tea, and were paid extra for the two hours between six and eight o?clock in the evening. In the formation of the military road, two objects had to be kept in view-easy gradients, and. as much cover as possible from the long range guns of an enemy coming up the Firth. Thus, the path commences at the north emplacement, and bends westward from the lighthouse hill, which completely shelters it from the north and west. A short branch diverges towards the western battery, but the main road, eighteen feet wide, is carried under and partly along the face of the cliffs, which overlook the cove, where alone a landing could be effected by an armed force ; and there, no doubt, it was that Strozzi was slain, when the island was stormed by the French. Trending then southwards, the road passes along a small plateau facing Leith; and beyond it, the steep face of the hill has been cut into, and the road built up, till it emerges on the comparatively level southern point. The whinstone and conglomerate blasted from the cuttings were utilised in the formation of seaward parapets, and in making the foundation of the road solid and dry to bear the heaviest traffic,
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