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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


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,
Volume 6 Page 292
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