It was in the year 1817 that I had the pleasure, never to be forgotten, of seeing the great engineer, James Watt. He was then close upon his eighty-second year. His visit to Edinburgh was welcomed by the most distinguished scientific and literary men of the city. My father had the honour of meeting him at a dinner given by the Earl of Buchan, at his residence in George Street. There were present, Sir James Hall, President of the Royal Society; Francis Jeffrey, Editor of the Edinburgh Review; Walter Scott, still the Great Unknown; and many other distinguished notabilities. The cheerful old man delighted them with his kindly talk, as well as astonished them with the extent and profundity of his information.

On the following day Mr. Watt paid my father a visit he carefully examined his artistic and other works. Having inspected with great pleasure some landscape paintings of various scenes in Scotland executed by my sisters, who were then highly efficient artists, he purchased a specimen of each, as well as three landscapes painted by my father, as a record of his pleasant visit to the capital of his native country. I well remember the sight I then got of the Great Engineer. I had just returned from the High School when he was leaving my father's house. It was but a glimpse I had of him. But his benevolent countenance and his tall but bent figure made an impression on my mind that I can never forget. It was even something to have seen for a few seconds so truly great and noble a man.

I did not long continue my passion for the collection of coins, I felt a greater interest in mechanical pursuits. I have a most cherished and grateful remembrance of the happy hours and days that I spent in my father's workroom. When the weather was cold or wet ,he took refuge with his lathe and tools, and there I followed and watched him. He took the greatest pleasure in instructing me. Even in the most humble mechanical job he was sure to direct my attention to the action of the tools and to the construction of the work he had in hand, and pointed out the manipulative processes requisite for its being effectually carried out. My hearty zeal in assisting him was well rewarded by his implanting in my mind the great fundamental principles on which the practice of engineering in its grandest forms is based. But I did not learn this all at once. It came only gradually, and by dint of constant repetition and inculcation. In the meantime I made a beginning by doing some little mechanical work on my own account.

While attending the High School, from 1817 to 1820, there was the usual rage amongst boys for spinning- tops, "peeries," and "young cannon." By means of my father's excellent foot-lathe I turned out the spinning- tops in capital style, so much so that I be came quite noted amongst my school companions. They all wanted to have specimens of my productions. They would give any price for them. The peeries were turned with perfect accuracy, and the steel shod, or spinning pivot, was centred so as to correspond exactly with the axis of the top. They could spin twice as long as the bought peeries. When at full speed they would "sleep," that is, revolve without the slightest waving. This was considered high art as regarded top-spinning.

Flying-kites and tissue paper balloons were articles that I was somewhat famed for producing. There was a good deal of special skill required for the production of a flying-kite. It must be perfectly still and steady when at its highest flight in the air . Paper messengers were sent up to it along the string which held it to the ground. The top of the Calton Hill was the most favourite place for enjoying this pleasant amusement.

Another article for which I became equally famous was the manufacture of small brass cannon. These I cast and bored, and mounted on their appropriate gun-carriages. They proved very effective, especially in the loudness of the report when fired. I also converted large cellar-keys into a sort of hand-cannon. A touch-hole was bored into the barrel of the key, with a sliding brass collar that allowed the key-guns to be loaded and primed and ready for firing. The principal occasion on which the brass cannon and hand- guns were used was on the 4th of June -- King George the Thirds birthday. This was always celebrated with exuberant and noisy loyalty. The guns of the Castle were fired at noon, and the number of shots corresponded with the number of years that the king had reigned. The grand old Castle was enveloped in smoke, and the discharges reverberated along the streets and among the surrounding hills. Everything was in holiday order. The coaches were hung with garlands, the shops were ornamented, the troops were reviewed on Bruntsfield Links, and the citizens drank the king's health at the Gross, throwing the

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.