We waited at the works until the usual time had arrived for letting out the molten iron which had been accumulating at the lower part of the blast-furnace. It was a fine sight to see the stream of white-hot iron flowing like water into the large gutter immediately before the opening. From this the molten iron flowed on until it filled the moulds of sand which branched off from the central gutter. The iron left in the centre, when cooled and broken up, was called sow metal, while that in the branches was called pig iron; the terms being derived from the appearance of a sow engaged in its maternal duties. The pig- iron is thus cast in handy-sized pieces for the purpose of being transported to other iron foundries; while the clumsy sow metal is broken up and passes through another process of melting, or is reserved for foundry uses at the works where it is produced. After inspecting with great pleasure the machinery connected with the foundry, we took our leave and returned to Edinburgh by steamer from Alloa.

Shortly after, I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Robert Bald, the well-known mining engineer. He was one of the most kind-hearted men I have ever known. He was always ready to communicate his knowledge to young and old. His sound judgment and long practical experience in regard to coal- mining and the various machinery connected with it, rendered him a man of great importance in the northern counties, where his advice was eagerly sought for. Besides his special knowledge, he had a large acquaintance with literature and science. He was bright, lively, and energetic. He was a living record of good stories, and in every circle in which he moved he was the focus of cheerfulness. In fact, there was no greater social favourite in Edinburgh than Robert Bald.

Bald was very fond of young people, and he became much attached to me. He used to come to my father's house, and often came in to see what I was about in the work-room. He was rejoiced to see the earnest and industrious manner in which I was employed, in preparing myself for my proposed business as an engineer. He looked over my tools, mostly of my own making, and gave me every encouragement. When he had any visitors he usually brought them and introduced them to me. In this way I had the happiness to make the acquaintance of Robert Napier, Nelson, and Cook, of Glasgow; and in after life I continued to enjoy their friendship. It would be difficult for me to detail the acts of true disinterested kindness which I continued to receive from this admirable man.

On several occasions he wished me to accompany him on his business journeys, in order that I might see some works that would supply me with valuable information. He had designed a powerful pumping engine to drain more effectually a large colliery district situated near Bannockburn -- close to the site of the great battle in the time of Robert the Bruce. He invited me to join him. It was with the greatest pleasure that I accepted his invitation; for there would be not only the pleasure of seeing a noble piece of steam machinery brought into action for the first time, but also the enjoyment of visiting the celebrated Carron Ironworks.

The Carron Ironworks are classic ground to engineers. They are associated with the memory of Roebuck, Watt, and Miller of Dalswinton. For there Roebuck and Watt began the first working steam-engine; Miller applied the steam-engine to the purposes of navigation, and invented the Carronade gun. The works existed at an early period in the history of British iron manufacture. Much of the machinery continued to be of wood. Although effective in a general way it was monstrously cumbrous. It gave the idea of vast power and capability of resistance, while it was far from being so in reality. It was, however, truly imposing and impressive in its effect upon strangers. When seen partially lit up by the glowing masses of white-hot iron, with only the rays of bright sunshine gleaming through a few holes in the roof, and the dark, black, smoky vaults in which the cumbrous machinery was heard rumbling away in the distance -- while the moving parts were dimly seen through the murky atmosphere, mixed with the sounds of escaping steam and rushes of water; with the half-naked men darting about with masses of red-hot iron and ladles full of molten cast-iron -- it made a powerful impression upon the mind.

I was afterwards greatly interested by a collection of old armour, dug up from the field of the Battle of Bannockburn close at hand. They were arranged on the walls of the house of the manager of the Carron Ironworks. There were swords, daggers, lances, battle-axes, shields, and coats of chain-armour. Some of the latter were whole, others in fragmentary portions. I was particularly interested with the admirable

  By PanEris using Melati.

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