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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] SHIPBUILDING. 281 put on board the privateer and landed at Calais, from whence we were ten days marching to Valenciennes ; were lodged in the most horrid jails by the way, and were allowed nothing but bread and water.? In the May of the following year, the brig CaZedonia, of Leith, and the Mary, of Kirkwall, were both captured, not far from Aberdeen, by a French privateer ; but when within three miles of the coast of France, they escaped to Yarmouth, on the appearance of the Ludy Anne, an armed lugger, commanded by Lieutenant Wright, R.N. On the 6th March, 1800, the Pox, Letter of Marque, of Leith, fought a sharp battle, which her captain, James Ogilvy, thus details in the report to his owners there :- ?Last night, at 11 p.m., Dungeness, NNW, three leagues, I observed a lugger lying on my lee-bow ; the moment he saw me he made sail and ran ahead to windward, and hove-to until I came up. I observed his motions, hoisted a light on my maintop, and hailed the Juno, of KirkcaIdy, Mr. James Condy, who came from Leith Roads along with me, and kept company all the way, to keep close by me, as he was under my convoy; which he immediately did-also two colliers. All my hands lay on deck, and were prepared to receive him (the enemy), being well loaded with round and grape shot from my small battery. He, with his great, or lug maimail, bore down on my quarter within pistol-shot. I immediately gave him our broadside, which, from the confusion and mourning cries, gave me every reason to suppose he must have had a number killed and wounded, and he lay-to, with all his sails shaking in the wind, as long as I could see him. I am truly happy that the Fox?s small force has been the means of saving herself, as well as thelunu and the two colliers, from a desperate set of thieves that so much infest this channeL We have fortunately arrived here (Ports mouth) safe today, with thejunu, in time to join the convoy for Gibraltar. Have got instructions fiom the Champion frigate, and sail to-morrow morning ? (Heralic and Chroa, 1800). Captain Ogilvy was presented by the underwriters with a handsome present for his valour and good conduct in saving and defending four ships. In the autumn of 1801, the whole of the ship carpenters, rope-makers, joiners, and block.makers, to the number of 250 men, employed in the little Government naval yard at Leith, ?? voluntarily offered to be trained to the use of the great guns and of pikes, in defence of the town and port 01 Leith,? refusing all pay. The enthusiasm spread at the same time to the fishermen of the Firth of 132 Forth, who, to the number of 1,243, made through Captain Clements an offer of their services in any way his Majesty might require, to defend the country from foreign invasion. To return briefly to the arts of peace, we may state that both at Leith and Newhaven an extensive trade in shipbuilding has been camed on at various periods; but for some generations past no ships have been launched at the latter place, yet within the recollection of many still alive shipbuilding was one of the most important branches of industry carried on at Leith. In 1840, two steamers, larger than any then afloat, were contracted for, and successfully launched from the building-yard of the Messrs. Menzies ; and much about the same time other ships of such a size were built, that many persons began fondly to suppose that the Port of Leith would keep the lead in this great branch of industry; but, contrary to expectation, the trade gradually declined, while the fame and well-known character of the celebrated Clyde-built ships and Aberdeen clippers drew it to the west and north of Scotland. Some amount of fresh impetus was given to it, however, by the establishment of several yards for the construction of iron ships, from which have been launched a number of first-class vessels, and also magnificent steam yachts for the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Eglinton, and others. But though the construction of new ships is not carried on to the extent it was formerly, a considerable number of shipcarpenters are employed in the port repairing vessels, some afloat and others in dry docks. In the winter and spring artisans of this class are most in demand, re-classing and overhauling vessels laid up during these seasons, after arriving from long voyages. It has more than once been observed that by fiu the worst circumstance which in modern times has damaged the port, and at one time seriously menaced its trade with ruin, was its predicament with regard to steam vessels. Some of the latter, built to ply from it, have been so constructed as, with a sacrifice of their speed and sailing powers, not to suffer much injury when seeking harbourage ; but others, such as are most serviceable and valuable to a great port, can barely enter it. This consideration will lead us naturally to the description of the several docks that have been built from time to time with a view to meet the growing requirements both as to traffic and increased size of vessels. One of these docks, the Prince of Wales?s Graving Dock, is capable of receiving the largest ship in the merchant service, except the Great Eastern.
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282 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Leith. C H A P T E R X X X I I I . LEITH-TIIE DOCKS. New Docks proposed-Apathy of the Government-First Graving Dock, 1710-Two more Docks constructed-Shellycoat?s Rock-The Contract-The Dock of &-The King?s Bastion-The Queen?s Dock-New Piers-The Victoria Dock-The Albert Dock-The Edinburgh Dock-Its &tent-Ceremony of Opening-A Glance at the Trade of Leith, IN theyear when the first stone pier was built (1710) steps were taken towards building a regular dock in Leith, when the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council of Edinburgh, petitioned Queen Anne, praying her to establish at Leith, ? the port of her ancient and loyal city of Edinburgh, a wet and dry dock, for the commencing of building, fitting, and repairing her Majesty?s ships of war and trading vessels, which would greatly conduce to the interests of trade in general.? Every Scottish project in those days, and for long after, was doomed to be blighted by the loss of the national legislature ; so this petition had not the slightest effect, Time went on, and another was presented, and ultimately, under instructions issued by the Earl of Pembroke, then Lord High Admiral, some naval officers surveyed the Firth of Forth, and were pleased to report that Leith was the most suitable port, and two docks were eventually formed on the west side of the old harbour, the first, a pving dock, being constructed in 1720, in front of the Sand Port, where now the Custom House stands. The west quay, which now takes its name from that edifice, was built in 1777, but the accommodation still being inadequate for the requirements of the growing trade of the port, the magistrates of Edinburgh obtained, in I 788, an Act of Parliament empowering them to borrow the sum of &30,000 for the purpose of constructing a basin, or wet dock, of seven English acres, above the dam of the saw-mills at Leith, a lock at the Sheriff Brae, and a communication between the latter and the basin. This plan, however-one by Mr. Robert Whitworth, engineer-was abandoned, and the magistrates applied again to Parliament, and in 1799 obtained an Act authorising them to borrow ~160,000 to execute a portion of John Rennie?s magnificent and more extensive design, which embraced the idea?bf a vast range of docks, stretching from the north pier of Leith to Newhaven, with an entrance at each of these places. The site chosen for these new docks was parallel with what was known as the Short Sand, or from the Sand Port, at the back of the north pier westward, to nearly the east flank of the old battery; and here, for the last time, we may refer to one of the many superstitions for which Leith was famous of old and perhaps the most quaint of these was connected with a large rock, which lay on the site of these new docks, and not far from the citadel, which was supposed to be the seat, or abode, of a demon called Shellycodt, a kind of spirit of the waters, who, in the ?Traditions and Antiquities of Leith:? has been described as ?ra sort of monster fiend, gigantic, but undefinable, who possessed powers almost infinite ; who never undertook anything, no matter how great, which he failed to accomplish ; his swiftness was that of a spirit, and he delighted in deeds of blood and devastation.? Stiellycoat, so named from his skin or gamient of shells, was long the bugbear of the urchins of Leith, and even of their seniors; but in the new dock operations his half-submerged rock was blown up or otherwise removed, and Shellycoat, like the Twelve o?clock Coach, the Green Lady, and the Fairy Drummer, is now a thing of the past. In March, 1800, appeared in the Edinburgh papers the advertisement for contractors for the works at Leith thus :- ?All persons willing to contract for quarrying stones, at the quarry now opened near Rosythe Castle, westward of North Queensferry, and putting them on board a vessel, and also for the carriage and delivery at Leith, for the purpose of constructing a WET DOCK there, are desired, on or before the first Monday in April next, to send to John Gray, Town Clerk, proposals sealed, containing-First, the price per ton for which they are willing to quarry such stones and put them on board a vessel ; and secondly, for the carriage and delivery of them at Leith. ?There will be wanted for the Sea Wall about two hundred and fifty thousand cubic feet of ashlar, and in the Quay Walls about one hundred and seventy thousand cubic feet, besides a quantity of rubble stones. A specification of the dimensions and shape of the stones, and the conditions of the contract, will be shown by Charles Cunningham, at the Dean of Guild?s office, St Giles?s Church. ? Edinburgh, March I zth, 1800.? These details are not without interest now; but it is remarkable that the materials should have been brought from the coast of Fife, when the quarries at Granton had been known for ages.
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