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    "The useful arts are but reproductions or new combinations by the art of man, of the same natural benefactors.  He no longer waits for favouring gales, but by means of steam he realises the fable of Æolus's bag, and carries the two-and-thirty winds in the boiler of his boat."—EMERSON.

    "The most exquisite and the most expensive machinery is brought into play where operations on the most common materials are to be performed, because these are executed on the widest scale.  This is the meaning of the vast and astonishing prevalence of machine work in this country: that the machine, with its million fingers, works for millions of purchasers, while in remote countries, where magnificence and savagery stand side by side, tens of thousands work for one.  There Art labours for the rich alone; here she works for the poor no less.  There the multitude produce only to give splendour and grace to the despot or the warrior, whose slaves they are, and whom they enrich; here the man who is powerful in the weapons of peace, capital, and machinery, uses them to give comfort and enjoyment to the public, whose servant he is, and thus becomes rich while lie enriches others with his goods."—W

I WAS born at Scarborough in May, 1831, the sixth of a family of eight.  My father was a native of Rosedale, half-way between Whitby and Pickering: his nurse was the sister of Captain Scoresby, celebrated as an Arctic explorer.  Arrived at manhood, he studied medicine, graduated at Edinburgh, and practised in Scarborough until nearly his death in 1866.  He was thrice Mayor and a Justice of the Peace for the borough.  Dr. Harland was a man of much force of character, and displayed great originality in the treatment of disease.  Besides exercising skill in his profession, he had a great love for mechanical pursuits.  He spent his leisure time in inventions of many sorts; and, in conjunction with the late Sir George Cayley of Brompton, he kept an excellent mechanic constantly at work.

    In 1827 he invented and patented a steam-carriage for running on common roads.  Before the adoption of railways, the old stage coaches were found slow and insufficient for the traffic.  A working model of the steam-coach was perfected, embracing a multitubular boiler for quickly raising high-pressure steam, with a revolving surface condenser for reducing the steam to water again, by means of its exposure to the cold draught of the atmosphere through the interstices of extremely thin laminations of copper plates.  The entire machinery, placed under the bottom of the carriage, was borne on springs; the whole being of an elegant form.  This model steam-carriage ascended with perfect ease the steepest roads.  Its success was so complete that Dr. Harland designed a full-sized carriage; but the demands upon his professional skill were so great that he was prevented going further than constructing the pair of engines, the wheels, and a part of the boiler,—all of which remnants I still preserve, as valuable links in the progress of steam locomotion.

    Other branches of practical science—such as electricity, magnetism, and chemical cultivation of the soil—received a share of his attention.  He predicted that three or four powerful electric lamps would yet light a whole city.  He was also convinced of the feasibility of an electric cable to New York, and calculated the probable cost.  As an example to the neighbourhood, he successfully cultivated a tract of moorland, and overcame difficulties which before then were thought insurmountable.

    When passing through Newcastle, while still a young man, on one of his journeys to the University at Edinburgh, and being desirous of witnessing the operations in a coal-mine, a friend recommended him to visit Killingworth pit, where he would find one George Stephenson, a most intelligent workman, in charge.  My father was introduced to Mr. Stephenson accordingly; and after rambling over the underground workings, and observing the pumping and winding engines in full operation, a friendship was made, which afterwards proved of the greatest service to myself, by facilitating my being placed as a pupil at the great engineering works of Messrs. Robert Stephenson and Co., at Newcastle.

    My mother was the daughter of Gawan Pierson, a landed proprietor of Goathland, near Rosedale.  She, too, was surprisingly mechanical in her tastes; and assisted my father in preparing many of his plans, besides attaining considerable proficiency in drawing, painting, and modelling in wax.  Toys in those days were poor, as well as very expensive to purchase.  But the nursery soon became a little workshop under her directions; and the boys were usually engaged, one in making a cart, another in carving out a horse, and a third in cutting out a boat; while the girls were making harness, or sewing sails, or cutting out and making perfect dresses for their dolls—whose houses were completely furnished with everything, from the kitchen to the attic, all made at home.

    It was in a house of such industry and mechanism that I was brought up.  As a youth, I was slow at my lessons; preferring to watch and assist workmen when I had an opportunity of doing so, even with the certainty of having a thrashing from the schoolmaster for my neglect.  Thus I got to know every workshop and every workman in the town.  At any rate I picked up a smattering of a variety of trades, which afterwards proved of the greatest use to me.  The chief of these was wooden shipbuilding, a branch of industry then extensively carried on by Messrs. William and Robert Tindall, the former of whom resided in London; he was one of the half-dozen great shipbuilders and owners who founded "Lloyd's."  Splendid East Indiamen, of some 1,000 tons burden, were then built at Scarborough; and scarcely a timber was moulded, a plank bent, a spar lined off, or launching ship-ways laid, without my being present to witness them.  And thus, in course of time, I was able to make for myself the neatest and fastest of model yachts.

    At that time, I attended the Grammar School.  Of the rudiments taught, I was fondest of drawing, geometry, and Euclid.  Indeed, I went twice through the first two books of the latter before I was twelve years old.  At this age I was sent to the Edinburgh Academy, my eldest brother William being then a medical student at the University.  I remained at Edinburgh two years.  My early progress in mathematics would have been lost in the classical training which was then insisted upon at the academy, but for my brother who was not only a good mathematician but an excellent mechanic.  He took care to carry on my instruction in that branch of knowledge, as well as to teach me to make models of machines and buildings, in which he was himself proficient.  I remember, in one of my journeys to Edinburgh, by coach from Darlington, that a gentleman expressed his wonder what a screw propeller could be like; for the screw, as a method of propulsion, was then being introduced.  I pointed out to him the patent tail of a windmill by the roadside, and said, "It is just like that!"

    In 1844 my mother died; and shortly after, my brother having become M.D., and obtained a prize gold medal, we returned to Scarborough.  It was intended that he should assist my father; but he preferred going abroad for a few years.  I may mention further, with relation to him, that after many years of scientific research and professional practice, he died at Hong Kong in 1858, when a public monument was erected to his memory, in what is known as the "Happy Valley."

    I remained for a short time under the tuition of my old master.  But the time was rapidly approaching when I too must determine what I was "to be" in life.  I had no hesitation in deciding to be an engineer, though my father wished me to be a barrister.  But I kept constant to my resolution; and eventually he succeeded, through his early acquaintance with George Stephenson, in gaining for me an entrance to the engineering works of Robert Stephenson and Co., at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  I started there as a pupil on my fifteenth birthday, for an apprenticeship of five years.  I was to spend the first four years in the various workshops, and the last year in the drawing-office.

    I was now in my element.  The working hours, it is true, were very long,—being from six in the morning until 8.15 at night; excepting on Saturday, when we knocked off at four.  However, all this gave me so much the more experiences; and, taking advantage of it, I found that, when I had reached the age of eighteen, I was intrusted with the full charge of erecting one side of a locomotive.  I had to accomplish the same amount of work as my mate on the other side, one Murray Playfair, a powerful, hard-working Scotchman.  My strength and endurance were sometimes taxed to the utmost, and required the intervals of my labour to be spent in merely eating and sleeping.

    I afterwards went through the machine-shops.  I was fortunate enough to get charge of the best screw-cutting and brass-turning lathe in the shop; the former occupant, Jack Singleton, having just been promoted to a foreman's berth at the Messrs. Armstrong's factory.  He afterwards became superintendent of all the hydraulic machinery of the Mersey Dock Trust at Liverpool.  After my four years had been completed, I went into the drawing-office, to which I had looked forward with pleasure; and, having before practised lineal as well as free-hand drawing, I soon succeeded in getting good and difficult designs to work out, and eventually finished drawings of the engines.  Indeed, on visiting the works many years after, one of these drawings was shown to me as a "specimen;" the person exhibiting it not knowing that it was my own work.

    In the course of my occasional visits to Scarborough, my attention was drawn to the imperfect design of the lifeboats of the period; the frequent shipwrecks along the coast indicating the necessity for their improvement.  After considerable deliberation, I matured a plan for a metal lifeboat, of a cylindrico-conical or chrysalis form, to be propelled by a screw at each end, turned by sixteen men inside, seated on water-ballast tanks; sufficient room being left at the ends inside for the accommodation of ten or twelve shipwrecked persons; while a mate near the bow, and the captain near the stern in charge of the rudder, were stationed in recesses in the deck about three feet deep.  The whole apparatus was almost cylindrical, and watertight, save in the self-acting ventilators, which could only give access to the smallest portion of water.  I considered that, if the lifeboat fully manned were launched into the roughest seas, or off the deck of a vessel, it would, even if turned on its back, immediately right itself, without any of the crew being disturbed from their positions, to which they were to have been strapped.

    It happened that at this time (the summer of 1850) his Grace the late Duke of Northumberland, who had always taken a deep interest in the Lifeboat Institution, offered a prize of one hundred guineas for the best model and design of such a craft; so I determined to complete my plans and make a working model of my lifeboat.  I came to the conclusion that the cylindrico-conical form, with the frames to be carried completely round and forming beams as well, and the two screws, one at each end, worked off the same power, by which one or other of them would always be immersed, were worth registering in the Patent Office.  I therefore entered a caveat there; and continued working at my model in the evenings.  I first made a wooden block model, on the scale of an inch to the foot.  I had some difficulty in procuring sheets of copper thin enough, so that the model should draw only the correct amount of water; but at last I succeeded, through finding the man at Newcastle who had supplied my father with copper plates for his early road locomotive.

    The model was only 52 inches in length, and 8 inches in beam; and in order to fix all the internal fittings, of tanks, seats, crank handles, and pulleys, I had first to fit the shell plating, and then, by finally securing one strake of plates on, and then another, after all inside was complete, I at last finished for good the last outside plate.  In executing the job, my early experience of all sorts of handiwork came serviceably to my aid.  After many a whole night's work—for the evenings alone were not sufficient for the purpose—I at length completed my model; and triumphantly and confidently took it to sea in an open boat; and then cast it into the waves.  The model either rode over them or passed through them; if it was sometimes rolled over, it righted itself at once, and resumed its proper attitude in the waters.  After a considerable trial I found scarcely a trace of water inside.  Such as had got there was merely through the joints in the sliding hatches; though the ventilators were free to work during the experiments.

    I completed the prescribed drawings and specifications, and sent them, together with the model, to Somerset House.  Some 280 schemes of lifeboats were submitted for competition; but mine was not successful.  I suspect that the extreme novelty of the arrangement deterred the adjudicators from awarding in its favour.  Indeed, the scheme was so unprecedented, and so entirely out of the ordinary course of things, that there was no special mention made of it in the report afterwards published, and even the description there given was incorrect.  The prize was awarded to Mr. James Beaching, of Great Yarmouth, whose plans were afterwards generally adopted by the Lifeboat Society.  I have preserved my model just as it was; and some of its features have since been introduced with advantage into shipbuilding. [p.295]

    The firm of Robert Stephenson and Co. having contracted to build for the Government three large iron caissons for the Keyham Docks, and as these were very similar in construction to that of an ordinary iron ship, draughtsmen conversant with that class of work were specially engaged to superintend it.  The manager, knowing my fondness for ships, placed me as his assistant at this new work.  After I had mastered it, I endeavoured to introduce improvements, having observed certain defects in laying down the lines—I mean by the use of graduated curves cut out of thin wood.  In lieu of this method, I contrived thin tapered laths of lancewood, and weights of a particular form, with steel claws and knife edges attached, so as to hold the lath tightly down to the paper, yet capable of being readily adjusted, so as to produce any form of curve, along which the pen could freely and continuously travel.  This method proved very efficient, and it has since come into general use.

    The Messrs. Stephenson were then also making marine engines, as well as large condensing pumping engines, and a large tubular bridge to be erected over the river Don.  The splendid high-level bridge over the Tyne, of which Robert Stephenson was the engineer, was also in course of construction.  With the opportunity of seeing these great works in progress, and of visiting, during my holidays and long evenings, most of the manufactories and mines in the neighbourhood of Newcastle, I could not fail to pick up considerable knowledge, and an acquaintance with a vast variety of trades.  There were about thirty other pupils in the works at the same time with myself; some were there either through favour or idle fancy; but comparatively few gave their full attention to the work, and I have since heard nothing of them.  Indeed, unless a young fellow takes a real interest in his work, and has a genuine love for it, the greatest advantages will prove of no avail whatever.

    It was a good plan adopted at the works, to require the pupils to keep the same hours as the rest of the men, and, though they paid a premium on entering, to give them the same rate of wages as the rest of the lads.  Mr. William Hutchinson, a contemporary of George Stephenson, was the managing partner.  He was a person of great experience, and had the most thorough knowledge of men and materials, knowing well how to handle both to the best advantage.  His son-in-law, Mr. William Weallans, was the head draughtsman, and very proficient, not only in quickness but in accuracy and finish.  I found it of great advantage to have the benefit of the example and the training of these very clever men.

    My five years apprenticeship was completed in May 1851, on my twentieth birthday.  Having had but very little "black time," as it was called, beyond the half-yearly holiday for visiting my friends, and having only "slept in" twice during the five years, I was at once entered on the books as a journeyman, on the "big" wage of twenty shillings a week.  Orders were, however, at that time very difficult to be had.  Railway trucks, and even navvies' barrows, were contracted for in order to keep the men employed.  It was better not to discharge them, and to find something for them to do.  At the same time it was not very encouraging for me, under such circumstances, to remain with the firm.  I therefore soon arranged to leave; and first of all I went to see London.  It was the Great Exhibition year of 1851.  I need scarcely say what a rich feast I found there, and how thoroughly I enjoyed it all.  I spent about two months in inspecting the works of art and mechanics in the Exhibition, to my own great advantage.  I then returned home; and, after remaining in Scarborough for a short time, I proceeded to Glasgow with a letter of introduction to Messrs. J. and G. Thomson, marine engine builders, who started me on the same wages which I had received at Stephenson's, namely twenty shillings a-week.

    I found the banks of the Clyde splendid ground for gaining further mechanical knowledge.  There were the ship and engine works on both sides of the river, down to Govan; and below there, at Renfrew, Dumbarton, Port Glasgow, and Greenock—no end of magnificent yards—so that I had plenty of occupation for my leisure time on Saturday afternoons.  The works of Messrs. Robert Napier and Sons were then at the top of the tree.  The largest Cunard steamers were built and engined there.  Tod and Macgregor were the foremost in screw steamships—those for the Peninsular and Oriental Company being splendid models of symmetry and works of art.  Some of the fine wooden paddle-steamers built in Bristol for the Royal Mail Company were sent round to the Clyde for their machinery.  I contrived to board all these ships from time to time, so as to become well acquainted with their respective merits and peculiarities.

    As an illustration of how contrivances, excellent in principle, but defective in construction, may be discarded, but again taken up under more favourable circumstances, I may mention that I saw a Hall's patent surface-condensor thrown to one side from one of these steamers, the principal difficulty being in keeping it tight.  And yet, in the course of a very few years, by the simplest possible contrivance—inserting an indiarubber ring round each end of the tube (Spencer's patent)—surface condensation in marine engines came into vogue; and there is probably no ocean-going steamer afloat without it, furnished with every variety of suitable packings.

    After some time, the Messrs. Thomson determined to build their own vessels, and an experienced naval draughtsman was engaged, to whom I was "told off" whenever he needed assistance.  In the course of time, more and more of the ship work came in my way.  Indeed, I seemed to obtain the preference.  Fortunately for us both, my superior obtained an appointment of a similar kind on the Tyne, at superior pay, and I was promoted to his place.  The Thomsons had now a very fine shipbuilding-yard, in full working order, with several large steamers on the stocks.  I was placed in the drawing-office as head draughtsman.  At the same time I had no rise of wages; but still went on enjoying my twenty shillings a week.  I was, however, gaining information and experience, and knew that better pay would follow in due course of time.  And without solicitation I was eventually offered an engagement for a term of years, at an increased and increasing salary, with three months' notice on either side.

    I had only enjoyed the advance for a short time, when Mr. Thomas Toward, a shipbuilder on the Tyne, being in want of a manager, made application to the Messrs. Stephenson for such a person.  They mentioned my name, and Mr. Toward came over to the Clyde to see me.  The result was, that I became engaged, and it was arranged that I should enter on my enlarged duties on the Tyne in the autumn of 1853.  It was with no small reluctance that I left the Messrs. Thomson.  They were first-class practical men, and had throughout shown me every kindness and consideration.  But a managership was not to be had every day; and being the next step to the position of a master, I could not neglect the opportunity for advancement which now offered itself.

    Before leaving Glasgow, however, I found that it would be necessary to have a new angle and plate furnace provided for the works on the Tyne.  Now, the best man in Glasgow for building these important requisites for shipbuilding work was scarcely ever sober; but by watching and coaxing him, and by a liberal supply of Glenlivat afterwards, I contrived to lay down on paper, from his directions, what he considered to be the best class of furnace; and by the aid of this I was afterwards enabled to construct what proved to be the best furnace on the Tyne.

    To return to my education in shipbuilding.  My early efforts in ship-draughting at Stephensons' were further developed and matured at Thomsons' on the Clyde.  Models and drawings were more carefully worked out on the ¼-in. scale than heretofore.  The stern frames were laid off and put up at once correctly, which before had been first shaped by full-sized wooden moulds.  I also contrived a mode of quickly and correctly laying off the frame-lines on a model, by laying it on a plane surface, and then, with a rectangular block traversing it—a pencil in a suitable holder being readily applied over the curved surface.  This method is now in general use.

    Even at that time, competition as regards speed in the Clyde steamers was very keen.  Foremost among the competitors was the late Mr. David Hutchinson, who, though delighted with the Mountaineer, built by the Thomsons in 1853, did not hesitate to have her lengthened forward to make her sharper, so as to secure her ascendency in speed during the ensuing season.  The results were satisfactory; and his steamers grew and grew, until they developed into the celebrated Iona and Cambria, which were in later years built for him by the same firm.  I may mention that the Cunard screw steamer Jura was the last heavy job with which I was connected while at Thomsons'.

    I then proceeded to the Tyne, to superintend the building of ships and marine boilers.  The shipbuilding yard was at St. Peter's, about two and a-half miles below Newcastle.  I found the work, as practised there, rough and ready; but by steady attention to all the details, and by careful inspection when passing the "piece-work" (a practice much in vogue there, but which I discouraged), I contrived to raise the standard of excellence, without a corresponding increase of price.  My object was to raise the quality of the work turned out; and, as we had orders from the Russian Government, from China, and the Continent, as well as from shipowners at home, I observed that quality was a very important element in all commercial success.  My master, Mr. Thomas Toward, was in declining health; and, being desirous of spending his winters abroad, I was consequently left in full charge of the works.  But as there did not appear to be a satisfactory prospect, under the circumstances, for any material development of the business, a trifling circumstance arose, which again changed the course of my career.

    An advertisement appeared in the papers for a manager to conduct a shipbuilding yard in Belfast.  I made inquiries as to the situation, and eventually applied for it.  I was appointed, and entered upon my duties there at Christmas, 1854.  The yard was a much larger one than that on the Tyne, and was capable of great expansion.  It was situated on what was then well known as the Queen's Island; but now, like the Isle of Dogs, it has been attached by reclamation.  The yard, about four acres in extent, was held by lease from the Belfast Harbour Commissioners.  It was well placed, alongside a fine patent slip, with clear frontage, allowing of the largest ships being freely launched.  Indeed, the first ship built there, the Mary Stenhouse, had only just been completed and launched by Messrs. Robert Hickson and Co., then the proprietors of the undertaking.  They were also the owners of the Eliza Street Iron Works, Belfast, which were started to work up old iron materials.  But as the works were found to be unremunerative, they were shortly afterwards closed.

    On my entering the shipbuilding yard I found that the firm had an order for two large sailing ships.  One of these was partly in frame; and I at once tackled with it and the men.  Mr. Hickson, the acting partner, not being practically acquainted with the business, the whole proceeding connected with the building of the ships devolved upon me.  I had been engaged to supersede a manager summarily dismissed.  Although he had not given satisfaction to his employers, he was a great favourite with the men.  Accordingly, my appearance as manager in his stead was not very agreeable to the employed.  On inquiry I found that the rate of wages paid was above the usual value, whilst the quantity as well as quality of the work done were below the standard.  I proceeded to rectify these defects, by paying the ordinary rate of wages, and then by raising the quality of the work done.  I was met by the usual method—a strike.  The men turned out.  They were abetted by the former manager; and the leading hands hung about the town unemployed, in the hope of my throwing up the post in disgust.

    But, nothing daunted, I went repeatedly over to the Clyde for the purpose of enlisting fresh hands.  When I brought them over, however, in batches, there was the greatest difficulty in inducing them to work.  They were intimidated, or enticed, or feasted, and sent home again.  The late manager had also taken a yard on the other side of the river, and actually commenced to build a ship, employing some of his old comrades; but beyond laying the keel, little more was ever done.  A few months after my arrival, my firm had to arrange with its creditors, whilst I, pending the settlement, had myself to guarantee the wages to a few of the leading hands, whom I had only just succeeded in gathering together.  In this dilemma, an old friend, a foreman on the Clyde, came over to Belfast to see me.  After hearing my story, and considering the difficulties I had to encounter, he advised me at once to "throw up the job!"  My reply was, that "having mounted a restive horse, I would ride him into the stable."

    Notwithstanding the advice of my friend, I held on.  The comparatively few men in the works, as well as those out, no doubt observed my determination.  The obstacles were no doubt great; the financial difficulties were extreme; and yet there was a prospect of profit from the work in hand, provided only the men could be induced to settle steadily down to their ordinary employment.  I gradually gathered together a number of steady workmen, and appointed suitable foremen.  I obtained a considerable accession of strength from Newcastle.  On the death of Mr. Toward, his head foreman, Mr. William Hanston, with a number of the leading hands, joined me.  From that time forward the works went on apace; and we finished the ships in hand to the perfect satisfaction of the owners.

    Orders were obtained for several large sailing ships as well as screw vessels.  We lifted and repaired wrecked ships, to the material advantage of Mr. Hickson, then the sole representative of the firm.  After three years thus engaged, I resolved to start somewhere as a shipbuilder on my own account.  I made inquiries at Garston, Birkenhead, and other places.  When Mr. Hickson heard of my intentions, he said he had no wish to carry on the concern after I left, and made a satisfactory proposal for the sale to me of his holding of the Queen's Island Yard.  So I agreed to the proposed arrangement.  The transfer and the purchase were soon completed, through the kind assistance of my old and esteemed friend Mr. G. C. Schwabe, of Liverpool; whose nephew, Mr. G. W. Wolff, had been with me for a few months as my private assistant.

    It was necessary, however, before commencing for myself, that I should assist Mr. Hickson in finishing off the remaining vessels in hand, as well as to look out for orders on my own account.  Fortunately, I had not long to wait; for it had so happened that my introduction to the Messrs. Thomson of Glasgow had been made through the instrumentality of my good friend Mr. Schwabe, who induced Mr. James Bibby (of J. Bibby, Sons & Co., Liverpool) to furnish me with the necessary letter.  While in Glasgow, I had endeavoured to assist the Messrs. Bibby in the purchase of a steamer; so I was now intrusted by them with the building of three screw steamers—the Venetian, Sicilian, and Syrian, each 270 feet long, by 34 feet beam, and 22 feet 9 inches hold; and contracted with Macnab and Co., Greenock, to supply the requisite steam-engines.


The Sicilian, Bibby Line, 1860 [p.304]
Picture: Internet Text Archive.

    This was considered a large order in those days.  It required many additions to the machinery, plant, and tools of the yard.  I invited Mr. Wolff, then away in the Mediterranean as engineer of a steamer, to return and take charge of the drawing office.  Mr. Wolff had served his apprenticeship with Messrs. Joseph Whitworth and Co., of Manchester, and was a most able man, thoroughly competent for the work.  Everything went on prosperously; and, in the midst of all my engagements, I found time to woo and win the hand of Miss Rosa Wann, of Wilmont, Belfast, to whom I was married on the 26th of January, 1860, and by her great energy, soundness of judgment, and cleverness in organization, I was soon relieved from all sources of care and anxiety, excepting those connected with business.


Picture: Wikipedia

    The steamers were completed in the course of the following year, doubtless to the satisfaction of the owners, for their delivery was immediately followed by an order for two larger vessels.  As I required frequently to go from home, and as the works must be carefully attended to during my absence, on the 1st of January, 1862, I took Mr. Wolff in as a partner; and the firm has since continued under the name of Harland and Wolff.  I may here add that I have throughout received the most able advice and assistance from my excellent friend and partner, and that we have together been enabled to found an entirely new branch of industry in Belfast.

    It is necessary for me here to refer back a little to a screw steamer which was built on the Clyde for Bibby and Co. by Mr. John Read, and engined by J. and G. Thomson while I was with them.  That steamer was called the Tiber.  She was looked upon as of an extreme length, being 235 feet, in proportion to her beam, which was 29 feet.  Serious misgivings were thrown out as to whether she would ever stand a heavy sea.  Vessels of such proportions were thought to be crank, and even dangerous.  Nevertheless, she seemed to my mind a great success.  From that time, I began to think and work out the advantages and disadvantages of such a vessel, from an owner's as well as from a builder's point of view.  The result was greatly in favour of the owner, though entailing difficulties in construction as regards the builder.  These difficulties, however, I thought might easily be overcome.

    In the first steamers ordered of me by the Messrs. Bibby, I thought it more prudent to simply build to the dimensions furnished, although they were even longer than usual.  But, prior to the precise dimensions being fixed for the second order, I with confidence proposed my theory of the greater carrying power and accommodation, both for cargo and passengers, that would be gained by constructing the new vessels of increased length, without any increase of beam.  I conceived that they would show improved qualities in a sea-way, and that, notwithstanding the increased accommodation, the same speed with the same power would be obtained, by only a slight increase in the first cost.  The result was, that I was allowed to settle the dimensions; and the following were then decided on: Length, 310 feet; beam, 34 feet; depth of hold, 24 feet 9 inches; all of which were fully compensated for by making the upper deck entirely of iron.

    In this way, the hull of the ship was converted into a box girder of immensely increased strength, and was, I believe, the first ocean steamer ever so constructed.  The rig too was unique.  The four masts were made in one continuous length, with fore-and-aft sails, but no yards,—thereby reducing the number of hands necessary to work them.  And the steam winches were so arranged as to be serviceable for all the heavy hauls, as well as for the rapid handling of the cargo.

    In the introduction of so many novelties, I was well supported by Mr. F. Leyland, the junior partner of Messrs. Bibby's firm, and by the intelligent and practical experience of Captain Birch, the overlooker, and Captain George Wakeham, the Commodore of the company.  Unsuccessful attempts had been made many years before to condense the steam from the engines by passing it into variously formed chambers, tubes, &c., to be there condensed by surfaces kept cold by the circulation of sea-water round them, so as to preserve the pure water and return it to the boilers free of salt.  In this way, "salting up" was avoided, and a considerable saving of fuel and expenses in repairs was effected.  Mr. Spencer had patented an improvement on Hall's method of surface condensation, by introducing indiarubber rings at each end of the tubes.  This had been tried as an experiment on shore, and we advised that it should be adopted in one of Messrs. Bibby's smallest steamers, the Frankfort.  The results were found perfectly satisfactory.  Some 20 per cent. of fuel was saved; and, after the patent right had been bought, the method was adopted in all the vessels of the company.

    When these new ships were first seen at Liverpool, the "old salts" held up their hands.  They were too long! they were too sharp! they would break their backs!  They might, indeed, get out of the Mersey, but they would never get back!  The ships, however, sailed; and they made rapid and prosperous voyages to and from the Mediterranean.  They fulfilled all the promises which had been made.  They proved the advantages of our new build of ships; and the owners were perfectly satisfied with their superior strength, speed, and accommodation.  The Bibbys were wise men in their day and generation.  They did not stop, but went on ordering more ships.  After the Grecian and the Italian had made two or three voyages to Alexandria, they sent us an order for three more vessels.  By our advice, they were made twenty feet longer than the previous ones, though of no greater beam; in other respects, they were almost identical.  This was too much for "Jack."  "What!" he exclaimed, "more Bibby's coffins?"  Yes, more and more; and in the course of time, most shipowners followed our example.

    To a young firm, a repetition of orders like these was a great advantage,—not only because of the novel design of the ships, but also because of their constructive details.  We did our best to fit up the Egyptian, Dalmatian, and Arabian, as first-rate vessels.  Those engaged in the Mediterranean trade finding them to be serious rivals, partly because of the great cargos which they carried, but principally from the regularity with which they made their voyages with such surprisingly small consumption of coal.  They were not, however, what "Jack" had been accustomed to consider "dry ships."  The ship built Dutchman fashion, with her bluff ends, is the driest of all ships, but the least steady, because she rises to every sea.  But the new ships, because of their length and sharpness, precluded this; for, though they rose sufficiently to an approaching wave for all purposes of safety, they often went through the crest of it, and, though shipping a little water, it was not only easier for the vessel, but the shortest road.

    Nature seems to have furnished us with the finest design for a vessel in the form of the fish: it presents such fine lines—is so clean, so true, and so rapid in its movements.  The ship, however, must float; and to hit upon the happy medium of velocity and stability seems to me the art and mystery of shipbuilding.  In order to give large carrying capacity, we gave flatness of bottom and squareness of bilge.  This became known in Liverpool as the "Belfast bottom;" and it has been generally adopted.  This form not only serves to give stability, but also increases the carrying power without lessening the speed.

    While Sailor Jack and our many commercial rivals stood aghast and wondered, our friends gave us yet another order for a still longer ship, with still the same beam and power.  The vessel was named the Persian; she was 360 feet long, 34 feet beam, 24 feet 9 inches hold.  More cargo was thus carried, at higher speed.  It was only a further development of the fish form of structure.  Venice was an important port to call at.  The channel was difficult to navigate, and the Venetian class (270 feet long) was supposed to be the extreme length that could be handled there.  But what with the straight stem,—by cutting the forefoot away, and by the introduction of powerful steering-gear, worked amidships,—the captain was able to navigate the Persian, 90 feet longer than the Venetian, with much less anxiety and inconvenience.

    Until the building of the Persian, we had taken great pride in the modelling and finish of the old style of cutwater and figurehead, with bowsprit and jib-boom; but in urging the advantages of greater length of hull, we were met by the fact of its being simply impossible in certain docks to swing vessels of any greater length than those already constructed.  Not to be beaten, we proposed to do away with all these overhanging encumbrances, and to adopt a perpendicular stem.  In this way the hull might be made so much longer; and this was, I believe, the first occasion of its being adopted in this country in the case of an ocean steamer; though the once celebrated Collins Line of paddle steamers had, I believe, such stems.  The iron decks, iron bulwarks, and iron rails, were all found very serviceable in our later vessels, there being no leaking, no caulking of deck-planks or waterways, nor any consequent damaging of cargo.  Having found it impossible to combine satisfactorily wood with iron, each being so differently affected by temperature and moisture, I secured some of these novelties of construction in a patent, by which filling in the spaces between frames, &c., with Portland cement, instead of chocks of wood, and covering the iron plates with cement and tiles, came into practice, and this has since come into very general use.

    The Tiber, already referred to, was 235 feet in length when first constructed by Read, of Glasgow, and was then thought too long; but she was now placed in our hands to be lengthened 39 feet, as well as to have an iron deck added, both of which greatly improved her.  We also lengthened the Messrs. Bibby's Calpe—also built by Messrs. Thomson while I was there—by no less than 93 feet.  The advantage of lengthening ships, retaining the same beam and power, having become generally recognised, we were intrusted by the Cunard Company to lengthen the Hecla, Olympus, Atlas, and Marathon, each by 63 feet. The Royal Consort P.S., which had been lengthened first at Liverpool, was again lengthened by us at Belfast.

    The success of all this heavy work, executed for successful owners, put a sort of backbone into the Belfast shipbuilding yard.  While other concerns were slack, we were either lengthening or building steamers as well as sailing-ships for firms in Liverpool, London, and Belfast.  Many acres of ground were added to the works.  The Harbour Commissioners had now made a fine new graving-dock, and connected the Queen's Island with the mainland.  The yard, thus improved and extended, was surveyed by the Admiralty, and placed on the first-class list.  We afterwards built for the Government the gun vessels Lynx and Algerine, as well as the store and torpedo ship Hecla, of 3,360 tons.

    The Suez Canal being now open, our friends the Messrs. Bibby gave us an order for three steamers of very large tonnage, capable of being adapted for trade with the antipodes if necessary.  In these new vessels there was no retrograde step as regards length, for they were 390 feet keel by 37 feet beam, square-rigged on three of the masts, with the yards for the first time fitted on travellers, as to enable them to be readily sent clown; thus forming a unique combination of big fore-and-aft sails, with handy square sails.  These ships were named the Istrian, Iberian, and Illyrian, and in 1868 they went to sea; soon after to be followed by three more ships—the Bavarian, Bohemian, and Bulgarian—in most respects the same, though ten feet longer, with the same beam.  They were first placed in the Mediterranean trade, but were afterwards transferred to the Liverpool and Boston trade, for cattle and emigrants.  These, with three smaller steamers for the Spanish cattle trade, and two larger steamers for other trades, made together twenty steam-vessels constructed for the Messrs. James Bibby & Co.'s firm; and it was a matter of congratulation that, after a great deal of heavy and constant work, not one of them had exhibited the slightest indication of weakness,—all continuing in first-rate working order. [p.312]

    The speedy and economic working of the Belfast steamers, compared with those of the ordinary type, having now become well known, a scheme was set on foot in 1869 for employing similar vessels, though of larger size, for passenger and goods accommodation between England and America.  Mr. T. H. Ismay, of Liverpool, the spirited shipowner, then formed, in conjunction with the late Mr. G. H. Fletcher, the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, Limited; and we were commissioned by them to build six large Transatlantic steamers, capable of carrying a heavy cargo of goods, as well as a full complement of cabin and steerage passengers, between Liverpool and New York, at a speed equal, if not superior, to that of the Cunard and Inman lines.  The vessels were to be longer than any we had yet constructed, being 400 feet keel and 41 feet beam, with 32 feet hold.


T. H. ISMAY (1837-99) [p.313]
Picture: Internet Text Archive.

    This was a great opportunity, and we eagerly embraced it. The works were now up to the mark in point of extent and appliances. The men in our employment were mostly of our own training: the foremen had been promoted from the ranks; the manager, Mr. W. A. Wilson, and the head draughtsman, Mr. W. J. Perrie (since become partners), having, as pupils, worked up through all the departments, and ultimately won their honourable and responsible positions by dint of merit only—by character, perseverance, and ability.  We were therefore in a position to take up an important contract of this kind, and to work it out with heart and soul.

    As everything in the way of saving of fuel was of first-rate importance, we devoted ourselves to that branch of economic working.  It was necessary that buoyancy or space should be left for cargo, at the same time that increased speed should be secured, with as little consumption of coal as possible.  The Messrs. Elder and Co., of Glasgow, had made great strides in this direction with the paddle steam-engines which they had constructed for the Pacific Company on the compound principle.  They had also introduced them on some of their screw steamers, with more or less success.  Others were trying the same principle in various forms, by the use of high-pressure cylinders, and so on; the form of the boilers being varied according to circumstances, for the proper economy of fuel.  The first thing absolutely wanted was, perfectly reliable information as to the actual state of the compound engine and boiler up to the date of our inquiry.  To ascertain the facts by experience, we dispatched Mr. Alexander Wilson, younger brother of the manager—who had been formerly a pupil of Messrs. Macnab and Co., of Greenock, and was thoroughly able for the work—to make a number of voyages in steam vessels fitted with the best examples of compound engines.



    The result of this careful inquiry was the design of the machinery and boilers of the Oceanic [p.314] and five sister-ships.  They were constructed on the vertical overhead "tandem" type, with five-feet stroke (at that time thought excessive), oval single-ended transverse boilers, with a working pressure of sixty pounds.  We contracted with Messrs. Maudslay, Sons, and Field, of London, for three of these sets, and with Messrs. George Forrester and Co., of Liverpool, for the other three; and as we found we could build the six vessels in the same time as the machinery was being constructed; and, as all this machinery had to be conveyed to Belfast to be there fitted on board, whilst the vessels were being otherwise finished, we built a little screw-steamer, the Camel, of extra strength, with very big hatchways, to receive these large masses of iron; and this, in course of time, was found to work with great advantage; until eventually we constructed our own machinery.

    We were most fortunate in the type of engine we had fixed upon, for it proved both economical and serviceable in all ways; and, with but slight modifications, we repeated it in the many subsequent vessels which we built for the White Star Company.  Another feature of novelty in these vessels consisted in placing the first-class accommodation amidships, with the third-class aft and forward.  In all previous ocean steamers, the cabin passengers had been berthed near the stern, where the heaving motion of the vessel was far greater than in the centre, and where that most disagreeable vibration inseparable from proximity to the propeller was ever present.  The unappetising smells from the galley were also avoided.  And last, but not least, a commodious smoking-saloon was fitted up amidships, contrasting most favourably with the scanty accommodation provided in other vessels.  The saloon, too, presented the novelty of extending the full width of the vessel, and was lighted from each side.  Electric bells were for the first time fitted on board ship.  The saloon and entire range of cabins were lighted by gas, made on board, though this has since given place to the incandescent electric light.  A fine promenade deck was provided over the saloon, which was accessible from below in all weathers by the grand staircase.

    These, and other arrangements, greatly promoted the comfort and convenience of the cabin passengers; while those in the steerage found great improvements in convenience, sanitation, and accommodation.  "Jack" had his forecastle well ventilated and lighted, and a turtle-back over his head when on deck, with winches to haul for him, and a steam-engine to work the wheel; while the engineers and firemen berthed as near their work as possible, never needing to wet a jacket or miss a meal.  In short, for the first time perhaps, ocean-voyaging, even in the North Atlantic, was made not only less tedious and dreadful to all, but was rendered enjoyable and even delightful to many.  Before the Oceanic, the pioneer of the new line, was even launched, rival companies had already consigned her to the deepest place in the ocean.  Her first appearance in Liverpool was therefore regarded ,with much interest.  Mr. Ismay, during the construction of the vessel, took every pains to suggest improvements and arrangements with a view to the comfort and convenience of the travelling public.  He accompanied the vessel on her first voyage to New York in March, 1871, under command of Captain, now Sir Digby Murray, Brt.  Although severe weather was experienced, the ship made a splendid voyage, with a heavy cargo of goods and passengers.  The Oceanic thus started the Transatlantic traffic of the Company, with the house-flag of the White Star proudly flying on the main.

    It may be mentioned that the speed of the Oceanic was at least a knot faster than had been heretofore accomplished across the Atlantic.  The motion of the vessel was easy, without any indication of weakness or straining, even in the heaviest weather.  The only inducement to slow was when going head to it (which often meant head through it), to avoid the inconvenience of shipping a heavy body of "green sea" on deck forward.  A turtle-back was therefore provided to throw it off, which proved so satisfactory, as it had done on the Holyhead and Kingston boats, that all the subsequent vessels were similarly constructed.  Thus, then, as with the machinery, so was the hull of the Oceanic, a type of the succeeding vessels, which after intervals of a few months took up their stations on the Transatlantic line.


Picture: Wikipedia.

    Having often observed, when at sea in heavy weather, how the pitching of the vessel caused the weights on the safety-valves to act irregularly, thus letting puffs of steam escape at every heave, and as high pressure steam was too valuable a commodity to be so wasted, we determined to try direct-acting spiral springs, similar to those used in locomotives in connection with the compound engine.  But as no such experiment was possible in any vessels requiring the Board of Trade certificate, the alternative of using the Camel as an experimental vessel was adopted.  The spiral springs were accordingly fitted upon the boiler of that vessel, and with such a satisfactory result that the Board of Trade allowed the use of the same contrivance on all the boilers of the Oceanic and every subsequent steamer, and the contrivance has now come into general use.


Picture: Wikipedia

    It would be too tedious to mention in detail the other ships built for the White Star line.  The Adriatic and Baltic were made 37 feet 6 inches longer than the Oceanic, and a little sharper, being 437 feet 6 inches keel, 41 feet beam, and 32 feet hold.  The success of the Company had been so great under the able management of Ismay, Imrie and Co., and they had secured so large a share of the passengers and cargo, as well as of the mails passing between Liverpool and New York, that it was found necessary to build two still larger and faster vessels—the Britannic and Germanic: these were 455 feet in length; 45 feet in beam; and of 5,000 indicated horse-power.  The Britannic was in the first instance constructed with the propeller fitted to work below the line of keel when in deep water, by which means the "racing" of the engines was avoided.  When approaching shallow water, the propeller was raised by steam-power to the ordinary position without any necessity for stopping the engines during the operation.  Although there was an increase of speed by this means through the uniform revolutions of the machinery in the heaviest sea, yet there was an objectionable amount of vibration at certain parts of the vessel, so that we found it necessary to return to the ordinary fixed propeller, working in the line of direction of the vessel.  Comfort at sea is of even more importance than speed; and although we had succeeded in four small steamers working on the new principle, it was found better to continue in the larger ships to resort to the established modes of propulsion.  It may happen that at some future period the new method may yet be adopted with complete success.

    Meanwhile competition went on with other companies.  Monopoly cannot exist between England and America.  Our plans were followed; and sharper boats and heavier power became the rule of the day.  But increase of horse-power of engines means increase of heating surface and largely increased boilers, when we reach the vanishing point of profit, after which there is nothing left but speed and expense.  It may be possible to fill a ship with boilers, and to save a few hours in the passage from Liverpool to New York by a tremendous expenditure of coal; but whether that will answer the purpose of any body of shareholders must be left for the future to determine.  "Brute force" may be still further employed.  It is quite possible that recent "large strides," towards a more speedy transit across the Atlantic may have been made "in the dark."

    The last ships we have constructed for Ismay, Imrie and Co. have been of comparatively moderate dimensions and power—the Arabic and Coptic, 430 feet long; and the Ionic and Doric, 440 feet long, all of 2700 indicated horse-power.  These are large cargo steamers, with a moderate amount of saloon accommodation, and a large space for emigrants.  Some of these are now engaged in crossing the Pacific, whilst others are engaged in the line from London to New Zealand; the latter being specially fitted up for carrying frozen meat.

    To return to the operations of the Belfast shipbuilding yard.  A serious accident occurred in the autumn of 1867 to the mail paddle-steamer the Wolf, belonging to the Messrs. Burns, of Glasgow.  When passing out of the Lough, about eight miles from Belfast, she was run into by another steamer.  She was cut down and sank, and there she lay in about seven fathoms of water; the top of her funnel and masts being only visible at low tide.  She was in a dangerous position for all vessels navigating the entrance to the port, and it was necessary that she should be removed, either by dynamite, gunpowder, or some other process.  Divers were sent down to examine the ship, and the injury done to her being found to be slight, the owners conferred with us as to the possibility of lifting her and bringing her into port.  Though such a process had never before been accomplished, yet knowing her structure well, and finding that we might rely upon smooth water for about a week or two in summer, we determined to do what we could to lift the sunken vessel to the surface.

    We calculated the probable weight of the vessel, and had a number of air-tanks expressly built for her floatation.  These were secured to the ship with chains and hooks, the latter being inserted through the side lights in her sheer strake.  Early in the following summer everything was ready.  The air-tanks were prepared and rafted together.  Powerful screws were attached to each chain, with hand-pumps for emptying the tanks, together with a steam tender fitted with cooking appliances, berths and stores, for all hands engaged in the enterprise.  We succeeded in attaching the hooks and chains by means of divers; the chains being ready coiled on deck.  But the weather, which before seemed to be settled, now gave way.  No sooner had we got the pair of big tanks secured to the after body, than a fierce north-north-easterly gale set in, and we had to run for it, leaving the tanks partly filled, in order to lessen the strain on everything.

    When the gale had settled, we returned again, and found that no harm had been done.  The remainder of the hooks were properly attached to the rest of the tanks, the chains were screwed tightly up, and the tanks were pumped clear.  Then the tide rose; and before high water we had the great satisfaction of getting the body of the vessel under way, and towing her about a cable's length from her old bed.  At each tide's work she was lifted higher and higher, and towed into shallower water towards Belfast; until at length we had her, after eight days, safely in the harbour, ready to enter the graving dock,—not more ready, however, than we all were for our beds, for we had neither undressed nor shaved during that anxious time.  Indeed, our friends scarcely recognised us on our return home.

    The result of the enterprise was this.  The clean cut made into the bow of the ship by the collision was soon repaired.  The crop of oysters with which she was incrusted gave place to the scraper and the paintbrush.  The Wolf came out of the dock to the satisfaction both of the owners and underwriters; and she was soon "ready for the road," nothing the worse for her ten months' immersion. [p.320]

    Meanwhile the building of new iron ships went on in the Queen's Island.  We were employed by another Liverpool Company—the British Shipowners' Company, Limited—to supply some large steamers.  The British Empire, of 3,361 gross tonnage, was the same class of vessel as those of the White Star line, but fuller, being intended for cargo.  Though originally intended for the Eastern trade, this vessel was eventually placed on the Liverpool and Philadelphia line; and her working proved so satisfactory that five more vessels were ordered like her, which were chartered to the American Company.

    The Liverpool agents, Messrs. Richardson, Spence, and Co., having purchased the Cunard steamer Russia, sent her over to us to be lengthened 70 feet, and entirely refitted—another proof of the rapid change which owners of merchant ships now found it necessary to adopt in view of the requirements of modern traffic.

    Another Liverpool firm, the Messrs. T. and J. Brocklebank, of world-wide repute for their fine East Indiamen, having given up building for themselves at their yard at Whitehaven, commissioned us to build for them the Alexandria and Baroda, which were shortly followed by the Candahar and Tenasserim.  And continuing to have a faith in the future of big iron sailing ships, they further employed us to build for them two of yet greater tonnage, the Belfast and the Majestic.

    Indeed, there is a future for sailing ships, notwithstanding the recent development of steam power.  Sailing ships can still hold their own, especially in the transport of heavy merchandise for great distances.  They can be built more cheaply than steamers; they can be worked more economically, because they require no expenditure on coal, nor on wages of engineers; besides the space occupied by machinery is entirely occupied by merchandise, all of which pays its quota of freight.  Another thing may be mentioned: the telegraph enables the fact of the sailing of a vessel, with its cargo on board, to be communicated from Calcutta or San Francisco to Liverpool, and from that moment the cargo becomes as marketable as if it were on the spot.  There are cases, indeed, where the freight by sailing ship is even greater than by steamer, as the charge for warehousing at home is saved, and in the meantime the cargo while at sea is negotiable.

    We have accordingly, during the last few years, built some of the largest iron and steel sailing ships that have ever gone to sea.  The aim has been to give them great carrying capacity and fair speed, with economy of working; and the use of steel, both in the hull and the rigging, facilitates the attainment of these objects.  In 1882 and 1883, we built and launched four of these steel and iron sailing ships—the Walter H. Wilson, the W. J. Pirrie, the Fingal, and the Lord Wolseley—each of nearly 3,000 tons register, with four masts,—the owners being Mr. Lawther, of Belfast; Mr. Martin, of Dublin; and the Irish Shipowners Company.

    Besides these and other sailing ships, we have built for Messrs. Ismay, Imrie and Co. the Garfield, of 2,347 registered tonnage; for Messrs. Thomas Dixon and Son, the Lord Downshire (2,322); and for Messrs. Bullock's Bay Line, the Bay of Panama (2,365).

    In 1880 we took in another piece of the land reclaimed by the Belfast Harbour Trust; and there, in close proximity to the ship-yard, we manufacture all the machinery required for the service of the steamers constructed by our firm.  In this way we are able to do everything "within ourselves"; and the whole land now occupied by the works comprises about forty acres, with ten building slips suitable for the largest vessels.

    It remains for me to mention a Belfast firm, which has done so much for the town.  I mean the Messrs. J. P. Corry and Co., who have always been amongst our best friends.  We built for them their first iron sailing vessel, the Jane Porter, in 1860, and since then they have never failed us.  They successfully established their "Star" line of sailing clippers from London to Calcutta, all of which were built here.  They subsequently gave us orders for yet larger vessels, in the Star of France and the Star of Italy.  In all, we have built for that firm eleven of their well-known "Star" ships.

    We have built five ships for the Asiatic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, each of from 1,650 to 2,059 tons gross; and we are now building for them two ships, each of about 3,000 tons gross.  In 1883 we launched thirteen iron and steel vessels, of a registered tonnage of over 30,000 tons.  Out of eleven ships now building, seven are of steel.

    Such is a brief and summary account of the means by which we have been enabled to establish a new branch of industry in Belfast.  It has been accomplished simply by energy and hard work.  We have been well-supported by the skilled labour of our artisans; we have been backed by the capital and the enterprise of England; and we believe that if all true patriots would go and do likewise, there would be nothing to fear for the prosperity and success of Ireland.





    "I first learnt to read when the masons were at work in your house.  I approached them one day, and observed that the architect used a rule and compass, and that he made calculations.  I inquired what might be the meaning and use of these things, and I was informed that there was a science called Arithmetic.  I purchased a book of arithmetic, and I learned it.  I was told there was another science called Geometry; I bought the necessary books, and I learned Geometry.  By reading, I found there were good books in these two sciences in Latin; I bought a dictionary, and I learned Latin.  I understood, also, that there were good books of the same kind in French; I bought a dictionary, and I learned French.  It seems to me that one does not need to know anything more than the twenty-four letters to learn everything else that one wishes."—Edmund Stone to the Duke of Argyll. ('Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties.')

    "The British Census proper reckons twenty-seven and a half million in the home countries.  What makes this census important is the quality of the units that compose it.  They are free forcible men, in a country where life is safe, and has reached the greatest value.  They give the bias to the current age; and that not by chance or by mass, but by their character, and by the number of individuals among them of personal ability."—E
MERSON: English Traits.

FROM Belfast to the Highlands of Scotland is an easy route by steamers and railways.  While at Birnam, near Dunkeld, I was reminded of some remarkable characters in the neighbourhood.  After the publication of the 'Scotch Naturalist' and 'Robert Dick,' I received numerous letters informing me of many self-taught botanists and students of nature, quite as interesting as the subjects of my memoirs.  Among others, there was Edward Duncan, the botanist weaver of Aberdeen, whose interesting life has since been done justice to by Mr. Jolly; and John Sim of Perth, first a shepherd boy, then a soldier, and towards the close of his life a poet and a botanist, whose life, I was told, was "as interesting as a romance."

    There was also Alexander Croall, Custodian of the Smith Institute at Stirling, an admirable naturalist and botanist.  He was originally a hard-working parish schoolmaster, near Montrose.  During his holiday wanderings he collected plants for his extensive herbarium.  His accomplishments having come under the notice of the late Sir William Hooker, he was selected by that gentleman to prepare sets of the Plants of Braemar for the Queen and Prince Albert, which he did to their entire satisfaction.  He gave up his school-mastership for an ill-paid but more congenial occupation, that of Librarian to the Derby Museum and Herbarium.  Some years ago, he was appointed to his present position of Custodian to the Smith Institute—perhaps the best provincial museum and art gallery in Scotland.

    I could not, however, enter into the history of these remarkable persons; though I understand there is a probability of Mr. Croall giving his scientific recollections to the world.  He has already brought out a beautiful work, in four volumes, 'British Seaweeds, Nature-printed;' and anything connected with his biography will be looked forward to with interest [p.325].  Among the other persons brought to my notice, years ago, were Astronomers in humble life.  For instance, I received a letter from John Grierson, keeper of the Girdleness Lighthouse, near Aberdeen, mentioning one of these persons as "an extraordinary character."  "William Ballingall," he said, "is a weaver in the town of Lower Largo, Fifeshire; and from his early days he has made astronomy the subject of passionate study.  I used to spend my school vacation at Largo, and have frequently heard him expound upon his favourite subject.  I believe that very high opinions have been expressed by scientific gentlemen regarding Ballingall's attainments.  They were no doubt surprised that an individual with but a very limited amount of education, and whose hours of labour were from five in the morning until ten or eleven at night, should be able to acquire so much knowledge on so profound a subject.  Had he possessed a fair amount of education, and an assortment of scientific instruments and books, the world would have heard more about him.  Should you ever find yourself," my correspondent concludes, "in his neighbourhood, and have a few hours to spare, you would have no reason to regret the time spent in his company."  I could not, however, arrange to pay the proposed visit to Largo; but I found that I could, without inconvenience, visit another astronomer in the neighbourhood of Dunkeld.

    In January 1879 I received a letter from Sheriff Barclay, of Perth, to the following effect:

    "Knowing the deep interest you take in genius and merit in humble ranks, I beg to state to you an extraordinary case.  John Robertson is a railway porter at Coupar Angus station.  From early youth he has made the heavens his study.  Night after night he looks above, and from his small earnings he has provided himself with a telescope which cost him about £30.  He sends notices of his observations to the scientific journals, under the modest initials of 'J. R.'  He is a great favourite with the public; and it is said that he has made some observations in celestial phenomena not before noticed.  It does occur to me that he should have a wider field for his favourite study.  In connection with an observatory, his services would be invaluable."

    Nearly five years had elapsed since the receipt of this letter, and I had done nothing to put myself in communication with the Coupar Angus astronomer.  Strange to say, his existence was again recalled to my notice by Professor Grainger Stewart, of Edinburgh.  He said that if I was in the neighbourhood I ought to call upon him, and that he would receive me kindly.  His duty, he said, was to act as porter at the station, and to shout the name of the place as the trains passed.  I wrote to John Robertson accordingly, and received a reply stating that he would be glad to see me, and inclosing a photograph, in which I recognised a good, honest, sensible face, with his person inclosed in the usual station porter's garb, "C.R. 1446."

    I started from Dunkeld, and reached Coupar Angus in due time.  As I approached the station, I heard the porter calling out, "Coupar Angus! change here for Blairgowrie!" [p.327]  It was the voice of John Robertson.  I descended from the train, and addressed him at once; after the photograph there could be no mistaking him.  An arrangement for a meeting was made, and he called upon me in the evening.  I invited him to such hospitality as the inn afforded; but he would have nothing.  "I am much obliged to you," he said; "but it always does me harm."  I knew at once what the "it" meant.  Then he invited me to his house in Causewayend Street.  I found his cottage clean and comfortable, presided over by an evidently clever wife.  He took me into his sitting-room, where I inspected his drawings of the sun-spots, made in colour on a large scale.  In all his statements he was perfectly modest and unpretending.  The following is his story, so far as I can recollect, in his own words:—

    "Yes; I certainly take a great interest in astronomy, but I have done nothing in it worthy of notice.  I am scarcely worthy to be called a day labourer in the science.  I am very well known hereabouts, especially to the travelling public; but I must say that they think a great deal more of me than I deserve.

    "What made me first devote my attention to the subject of astronomy?  Well, if I can trace it to one thing more than another, it was to some evening lectures delivered by the late Dr. Dick, of Broughty Ferry, to the men employed at the Craigs' Bleachfield Works, near Montrose, where I then worked, about the year 1848.  Dr. Dick was an excellent lecturer, and I listened to him with attention.  His instructions were fully impressed upon our minds by Mr. Cooper, the teacher of the evening school, which I attended.  After giving the young lads employed at the works their lessons in arithmetic, he would come out with us into the night—and it was generally late when we separated—and show us the principal constellations, and the planets above the horizon.  It was a wonderful sight; yet we were told that these hundreds upon hundreds of stars, as far as the eye could see, were but a mere vestige of the creation amidst which we lived.  I got to know the names of some of the constellations—the Greater Bear, with 'the pointers' which pointed to the Pole Star, Orion with his belt, the Twins, the Pleiades, and other prominent objects in the heavens.  It was a source of constant wonder and surprise.

    "When I left the Bleachfield Works, I went to Inverury, to the North of Scotland Railway, which was then in course of formation; and for many years, being immersed in work, I thought comparatively little of astronomy.  It remained, however, a pleasant memory.  It was only after coming to this neighbourhood in 1854, when the railway to Blairgowrie was under construction, that I began to read up a little, during my leisure hours, on the subject of astronomy.  I got married the year after, since which time I have lived in this house.

    "I became a member of a reading-room club, and read all the works of Dr. Dick that the library contained: his 'Treatise on the Solar System,' his 'Practical Astronomer,' and other works.  There were also some very good popular works to which I was indebted for amusement as well as instruction: Chambers's 'Information for the People,' Cassell's 'Popular Educator,' and a very interesting series of articles in the 'Leisure Hour,' by Edwin Dunkin of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.  These last papers were accompanied by maps of the chief constellations, so that I had a renewed opportunity of becoming a little better acquainted with the geography of the heavens.

    "I began to have a wish for a telescope, by means of which I might be able to see a little more than with my naked eyes.  But I found that I could not get anything of much use, short of £20.  I could not for a long time feel justified in spending so much money for my own personal enjoyment.  My children were then young and dependent upon me.  They required to attend school—for education is a thing that parents must not neglect, with a view to the future.  However, about the year 1875, my attention was called to a cheap instrument advertised by Solomon—what he called his '£5 telescope.'  I purchased one, and it tantalised me; for the power of the instrument was such as to teach me nothing of the surface of the planets.  After using it for about two years, I sold it to a student, and then found that I had accumulated enough savings to enable me to buy my present instrument.  Will you come into the next room and look at it?"

    I went accordingly into the adjoining room, and looked at the new telescope.  It was taken from its case, put upon its tripod, and looked in beautiful condition.  It is a refractor, made by Cooke and Sons of York.  The object glass is three inches; the focal length forty-three inches; and the telescope, when drawn out, with the pancratic eyepiece attached, is about four feet.  It was made after Mr. Robertson's directions, and is a sort of combination of instruments.

    "Even that instrument," he proceeded, "good as it is for the money, tantalises me yet.  A look through a fixed equatorial, such as every large observatory is furnished with, is a glorious view.  I shall never forget the sight that I got when at Dunecht Observatory, to which I was invited through the kindness of Dr. Copeland, the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres' principal astronomer.

    "You ask me what I have done in astronomical research?  I am sorry to say I have been able to do little except to gratify my own curiosity; and even then, as I say, I have been much tantalised.  I have watched the spots on the sun from day to clay through obscured glasses, since the year 1878, and made many drawings of them.  Mr. Rand Capron, the astronomer, of Guildown, Guilford, desired to see these drawings, and after expressing his satisfaction with them, he sent them to Mr. Christie, Astronomer Royal, Greenwich.  Although photographs of the solar surface were preferred, Mr. Capron thought that my sketches might supply gaps in the partially cloudy days, as well as details which might not appear on the photographic plates.  I received a very kind letter from Mr. Christie, in which he said that it would be very difficult to make the results obtained from drawings, however accurate, at all comparable with those derived from photographs; especially as regards the accurate size of the spots as compared with the diameter of the sun.  And no doubt he is right.

    "What, do I suppose, is the cause of these spots in the sun?  Well, that is a very difficult question to answer.  Changes are constantly going on at the sun's surface, or, I may rather say, in the sun's interior, and making themselves apparent at the surface.  Sometimes they go on with enormous activity; at other times they are more quiet.  They recur alternately in periods of seven or eight weeks, while these again are also subject to a period of about eleven years—that is, the short recurring outbursts go on for some years, when they attain a maximum, from which they go on decreasing.  I may say that we are now (August 1883) at, or very near, a maximum epoch.  There is no doubt that this period has an intimate connection with our auroral displays; but I don't think that the influence sun-spots have on light or heat is perceptible.  Whatever influence they possess would be felt alike on the whole terrestrial globe.  We have wet, dry, cold, and warm years, but they are never general.  The kind of season which prevails in one country is often quite reversed in another—perhaps in the adjacent one.  Not so with our auroral displays.  They are universal on both sides of the globe; and from pole to pole the magnetic needle trembles during their continuance.  Some authorities are of opinion that these eleven-year cycles are subject to a larger cycle, but sun-spot observations have not existed long enough to determine this point.  For myself, I have a great difficulty in forming an opinion.  I have very little doubt that the spots are depressions on the surface of the sun.  This is more apparent when the spot is on the limb. I have often seen the edge very rugged and uneven when groups of large spots were about to come round on the east side.  I have communicated some of my observations to 'The Observatory,' the monthly review of astronomy, edited by Mr. Christie, now Astronomer Royal, [p.332-1] as well as to The Scotsman, and some of our local papers. [p.332-2]

    "I have also taken up the observation of variable stars in a limited portion of the heavens.  That, and 'hunting for comets' is about all the real astronomical work that an amateur can do nowadays in our climate, with a three-inch telescope.  I am greatly indebted to the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, who regularly sends me circulars of all astronomical discoveries, both in this and foreign countries.  I will give an instance of the usefulness of these circulars.  On the morning of the 4th of October, 1880, a comet was discovered by Hartwig, of Strasburg, in the constellation of Corona.  He telegraphed it to Dunecht Observatory, fifteen miles from Aberdeen.  The circulars announcing the discovery were printed and despatched by post to various astronomers.  My circular reached me by 7 P.M., and, the night being favourable, I directed my telescope upon the part of the heavens indicated, and found the comet almost at once—that is, within fifteen hours of the date of its discovery at Strasburg.

    "In April, 1878, a large meteor was observed in broad daylight, passing from south to north, and falling it was supposed, about twenty miles south of Ballater.  Mr. A. S. Herschel, Professor of Physics in the College of Science, Newcastle-on-Tyne, published a letter in The Scotsman, intimating his desire to be informed of the particulars of the meteor's flight by those who had seen it.  As I was one of those who had observed the splendid meteor flash northwards almost under the face of the bright sun (at 10.25 A.M.), I sent the Professor a full account of what I had seen, for which he professed his strong obligations.  This led to a very pleasant correspondence with Professor Herschel.  After this, I devoted considerable attention to meteors, and sent many contributions to 'The Observatory ' on the subject. [p.334]

    "You ask me what are the hours at which I make my observations?  I am due at the railway station at six in the morning, and I leave at six in the evening; but I have two hours during the day for meals and rest.  Sometimes I get a glance at the heavens in the winter mornings when the sky is clear, hunting for comets.  My observations on the sun are usually made twice a day during my meal hours, or in the early morning or late at evening in summer, while the sun is visible.  Yes, you are right; I try and make the best use of my time.  It is much too short for all that I propose to do.  My evenings are my own.  When the heavens are clear, I watch them; when obscured, there are my books and letters.

    "Dr. Alexander Brown, of Arbroath, is one of my correspondents.  I have sent him my drawings of the rings of Saturn, of Jupiter's belt and satellites.  Dr. Ralph Copeland, of Dunecht, is also a very good friend and adviser.  Occasionally, too, I send accounts of solar disturbances, comets within sight, eclipses, and occultations, to The Scotsman, the Dundee Evening Telegraph and Evening News, or to the Blairgowrie Advertiser.  Besides, I am the local observer of meteorology, and communicate regularly with Mr. Symons.  These things entirely fill up my time.

    "Do I intend always to remain a railway porter?  Oh, yes; I am very comfortable!  The company are very kind to me, and I hope I serve them faithfully.  It is true Sheriff Barclay has, without my knowledge, recommended me to several well-known astronomers as an observer.  But at my time of life changes are not to be desired.  I am quite satisfied to go on as I am doing.  My young people are growing up, and are willing to work for themselves.  But come, sir," he concluded, "come into the garden, and look at the moon through my telescope."

    We went into the garden accordingly, but a cloud was over the moon, and we could not see it.  At the top of the garden was the self-registering barometer, the pitcher to measure the rainfall, and the other apparatus necessary to enable the "Diagram of barometer, thermometer, rain, and wind" to be conducted, so far as Coupar Angus is concerned.  This Mr. Robertson has done for four years past.  As the hour was late, and as I knew that my entertainer must be up by six next morning, I took my leave.

    A man's character often exhibits itself in his amusements.  One must have a high respect for the character of John Robertson, who looks at the manner in which he spends his spare time.  His astronomical work is altogether a labour of love.  It is his hobby; and the working man may have his hobby as well as the rich.  In his case he is never less idle than when idle.  Some may think that he is casting his bread upon the waters, and that he may find it after many days.  But it is not with this object that he carries on his leisure-hour pursuits.  Some have tried—Sheriff Barclay among others [p.336-1]—to obtain appointments for him in connection with astronomical observation; others to secure advancement for him in his own line.  But he is a man who is satisfied with his lot—one of the rarest things on earth.  Perhaps it is by looking so much up to the heavens that he has been enabled to obtain his portion of contentment.

    Next morning I found him busy at the station, making arrangements for the departure of the passenger train for Perth, and evidently upon the best of terms with everybody.  And here I leave John Robertson, the contented Coupar Angus astronomer.

    Some years ago I received from my friend Mr. Nasmyth a letter of introduction to the late Mr. Cooke of York, while the latter was still living.  I did not present it at the time; but I now proposed to visit, on my return homewards, the establishment which he had founded at York for the manufacture of telescopes and other optical instruments.  Indeed, what a man may do for himself as well as for science, cannot be better illustrated than by the life of this remarkable man.


Scottish engineer and inventor. [p.336-2]
Picture: Wikipedia

    Mr. Nasmyth says that he had an account from Cooke himself of his small beginnings.  He was originally a shoemaker in a small country village.  Many a man has risen to distinction from a shoemaker's seat.  Bulwer, in his 'What will He do with It?' has discussed the difference between shoemakers and tailors.  The one is thrown upon his own resources, the other works in the company of his fellows: the one thinks, the other communicates. [p.337]

    Cooke was a man of natural ability, and he made the best use of his powers.  Opportunity, sooner or later, comes to nearly all who work and wait, and are duly persevering.  Shoemaking was not found very productive; and Cooke, being fairly educated as well as self-educated, opened a village school.  He succeeded tolerably well.  He taught himself geometry and mathematics, and daily application made him more perfect in his studies.  In course of time an extraordinary ambition took possession of him: no less than the construction of a reflecting telescope of six inches diameter.  The idea would not let him rest until he had accomplished his purpose.  He cast and polished the speculum with great labour; but just as he was about to finish it, the casting broke!.  What was to be done?  About one-fifth had broken away, but still there remained a large piece, which he proceeded to grind down to a proper diameter.  His perseverance was rewarded by the possession of a 3½-inch speculum, which by his rare skill he worked into a reflecting telescope of very good quality.

    He was, however, so much annoyed by the treacherously brittle nature of the speculum metal that he abandoned its use, and betook himself to glass.  He found that before he could make a good achromatic telescope it was necessary that he should calculate his curves from data depending upon the nature of the glass.  He accordingly proceeded to study the optical laws of refraction, in which his knowledge of geometry and mathematics greatly helped him.  And in course of time, by his rare and exquisite manipulative skill, he succeeded in constructing a four-inch refractor, or achromatic telescope, of admirable defining power.

    The excellence of his first works became noised abroad.  Astronomical observers took an interest in him; and friends began to gather round him, amongst others the late Professor Phillips and the Rev. Vernon Harcourt, Dean of York.  Cooke received an order for a telescope like his own; then he received other orders.  At last he gave up teaching, and took to telescope making.  He advanced step by step; and like a practical, thoughtful man, he invented special tools and machinery for the purpose of grinding and polishing his glasses.  He opened a shop in York, and established himself as a professed maker of telescopes.  He added to this the business of a general optician, his wife attending to the sale in the shop, while he himself attended to the workshop.

    Such was the excellence of his work that the demand for his telescopes largely increased.  They were not only better manufactured, but greatly cheaper than those which had before been in common use.  Three of the London makers had before possessed a monopoly of the business; but now the trade was thrown open by the enterprise of Cooke of York.  He proceeded to erect a complete factory—the Buckingham Street works.  His brother took charge of the grinding and polishing of the lenses, while his sons attended to the mechanism of the workshop; but Cooke himself was the master spirit of the whole concern.  Everything that he did was good and accurate.  His clocks were about the best that could be made.  He carried out his clock-making business with the same zeal that he devoted to the perfection of his 'achromatic telescopes.  His work was always first-rate.  There was no scamping about it.  Everything that he did was thoroughly good and honest.  His 4¼-inch equatorials are perfect gems; and his admirable achromatics, many of them of the largest class, are known all over the world.  Altogether, Thomas Cooke was a remarkable instance of the power of Self-Help.


THOMAS COOKE (1807-68):
English instrument maker.
Picture: Wikipedia

    Such was the story of his life, as communicated by Mr. Nasmyth.  I was afterwards enabled, through the kind assistance of his widow, Mrs. Cooke, whom I saw at Saltburn, in Yorkshire, to add a few particulars to his biography.

    "My husband," she said, "was the son of a working shoemaker at Pocklington, in the East Riding.  He was born in 1807.  His father's circumstances were so straitened that he was not able to do much for him, but he sent him to the National school, where he received some education.  He remained there for about two years, and then he was put to his father's trade.  But he greatly disliked shoemaking, and longed to get away from it.  He liked the sun, the sky, and the open air.  He was eager to be a sailor, and, having heard of the voyages of Captain Cook, he wished to go to sea.  He spent his spare hours in learning navigation, that he might be a good seaman.  But when he was ready to set out for Hull, the entreaties and tears of his mother prevailed on him to give up the project; and then he had to consider what he should do to maintain himself at home.

    "He proceeded with his self-education, and with such small aids as he could procure, he gathered together a good deal of knowledge.  He thought that he might be able to teach others.  Everybody liked him, for his diligence, his application, and his good sense.  At the age of seventeen he was employed to teach the sons of the neighbouring farmers.  He succeeded so well that in the following year he opened a village school at Beilby.  He went on educating himself, and learnt a little of everything.  He next removed his school to Kirpenbeck, near Stamford Bridge; and it was there," proceeded Mrs. Cooke, "that I got to know him, for I was one of his pupils."

    "He first learned mathematics by buying an old volume at a bookstall, with a spare shilling.  That was before he began to teach.  He also got odd sheets, and read other books about geometry and mathematics, before he could buy them; for he had very little to spare.  He studied and learnt as much as he could.  He was very anxious to get an insight into knowledge.  He studied optics before he had any teaching.  Then he tried to turn his knowledge to account.  While at Kirpenbeck he made his first object-glass out of a thick tumbler bottom.  He ground the glass cleverly by hand; then he got a piece of tin and soldered it together, and mounted the object-glass in it so as to form a telescope.

    "He next got a situation at the Rev. Mr. Shapkley's school in Micklegate, York, where he taught mathematics.  He also taught in ladies' schools in the city, and did what he could to make a little income.  Our intimacy had increased, and we had arranged to get married.  He was twenty-four, and I was nineteen, when we were happily united.  I was then his pupil for life.

    "Professor Phillips saw his first telescope, with the object-glass made out of the thick tumbler bottom, and he was so much pleased with it that my husband made it over to him.  But he also got an order for another, from Mr. Gray, solicitor, more by way of encouragement than because Mr. Gray wanted it, for he was a most kind man.  The object-glass was of four-inch aperture, and when mounted the defining power was found excellent.  My husband was so successful with his telescopes that he went on from smaller to greater, and at length he began to think of devoting himself to optics altogether.  His knowledge of mathematics had led him on, and friends were always ready to encourage him in his pursuits.

    "During this time he had continued his teaching at the school in the day-time; and he also taught on his own account the sons of gentlemen in the evening: amongst others the sons of Dr. Wake and Dr. Belcomb, both medical men.  He was only making about £100 a year, and his family was increasing.  It was necessary to be very economical, and I was careful of everything.  At length my uncle Milner agreed to advance about £100 as a loan.  A shop was taken in Stonegate in 1836, and provided with optical instruments.  I attended to the shop, while my husband worked in the back premises.  To bring in a little ready money, I also took in lodgers.

    "My husband now devoted himself entirely to telescope making and optics.  But he took in other work.  His pumps were considered excellent; and he furnished all those used at the pump-room, Harrogate.  His clocks, telescope-driving [p.341] and others, were of the best.  He commenced turret-clock making in 1852, and made many improvements in them.  We had by that time removed to Coney Street; and in 1855 the Buckingham Works were established, where a large number of first-rate workmen were employed.  A place was also taken in Southampton Street, London, in 1868, for the sale of the instruments manufactured at York."

    Thus far Mrs. Cooke.  It may be added that Thomas Cooke revived the art of making refracting telescopes in England.  Since the discovery by Dollond, in 1758, of the relation between the refractive and dispersive powers of different kinds of glass, and the invention by that distinguished optician of the achromatic telescope, the manufacture of that instrument had been confined to England, where the best flint glass was made.  But through the short-sighted policy of the Government, an exorbitant duty was placed upon the manufacture of flint glass, and the English trade was almost entirely stamped out.  We had accordingly to look to foreign countries for the further improvement of the achromatic telescope, which Dollond had so much advanced.

    A humble mechanic of Brenetz, in the Canton of Neufchatel, Switzerland, named Guinaud, having directed his attention to the manufacture of flint glass towards the close of last century, at length succeeded, after persevering efforts, in producing masses of that substance perfectly free from stain, and therefore adapted for the construction of the object-glasses of telescopes.  Frauenhofer, the Bavarian optician, having just begun business, heard of the wonderful success of Guinaud, and induced the Swiss mechanic to leave Brenetz and enter into partnership with him at Munich in 1805.

    The result was perfectly successful; and the new firm turned out some of the largest object-glasses which had until then been made.  With one of these instruments, having an aperture of 9.9 inches, Struve, the Russian astronomer, made some of his greatest discoveries.  Frauenhofer was succeeded by Merz and Mahler, who carried out his views, and turned out the famous refractors of Pulkowa Observatory in Russia and of Harvard University in the United States.  These last two telescopes contained object-glasses of fifteen inches aperture.

    The pernicious impost upon flint glass having at length been removed by the English Government, an opportunity was afforded to our native opticians to recover the supremacy which they had so long lost.  It is to Thomas Cooke, more than to any other person, that we owe the recovery of this manufacture.  Mr. Lockyer, writing in 1878, says: "The two largest and most perfectly mounted refractors on the German form at present in existence are those at Gateshead and Washington, U.S.  The former belongs to Mr. Newall, a gentleman who, connected with those who were among the first to recognise the genius of our great English optician, Cooke, did not hesitate to risk thousands of pounds in one great experiment, the success of which will have a most important bearing upon the astronomy of the future." [p.343]

    The progress which Mr. Cooke made in his enterprise was slow but steady.  Shortly after he began business as an optician, he became dissatisfied with the method of hand-polishing, and made arrangements to polish the object-glasses by machinery worked by steam power.  By this means he secured perfect accuracy of figure.  He was also able to turn out a large quantity of glasses, so as to furnish astronomers in all parts of the world with telescopes of admirable defining power, at a comparatively moderate price.  In all his works he endeavoured to introduce simplicity.  He left his mark on nearly every astronomical instrument.  He found the equatorial comparatively clumsy; he left it nearly perfect.  His beautiful "dividing machine," for marking divisions on the circles, four feet in diameter and altogether self-acting—which divides to five minutes and reads off to five seconds—is not the least of his triumphs.

    The following are some of his more important achromatic telescopes.  In 1850, when he had been fourteen years in business, he furnished his earliest patron, Professor Phillips, with an equatorial telescope of 6¼ inches aperture.  His second (of 6⅛) was supplied two years later, to James Wigglesworth of Wakefield.  William Gray, Solicitor, of York, one of his earliest friends, bought a 6½-inch telescope in 1853.  In the following year, Professor Pritchard of Oxford was supplied with a 6½-inch.  The other important instruments were as follows: in 1854, Dr. Fisher, Liverpool, 6 inches; in 1855, H. L. Patterson, Gateshead, 7¼ inches; inches; 1858, J. G. Barclay, Layton, Essex, 7¼ inches; in 1857, Isaac Fletcher, Cockermouth, 9¼ inches; in 1858, Sir W. Keith Murray, Ochtertyre, Crieff, 9 inches; in 1859, Captain Jacob, 9 inches; in 1860, James Nasmyth, Penshurst, 8 inches; in 1861, another telescope to J. G. Barclay, 10 inches; in 1864, the Rev. W. R. Dawes, Haddenham, Berks, 8 inches; and in 1867, Edward Crossley, Bermerside, Halifax, 9⅜ inches.

    In 1855 Mr. Cooke obtained a silver medal at the first Paris Exhibition for a six-inch equatorial telescope. [p.344]  This was the highest prize awarded.  A few years later he was invited to Osborne by the late Prince Albert, to discuss with his Royal Highness the particulars of an equatorial mounting with a clock movement, for which he subsequently received the order.  On its completion he superintended the erection of the telescope, and had the honour of directing it to several of the celestial objects for the Queen and the Princess Alice, and answered their many interesting questions as to the stars and planets within sight.

    Mr. Cooke was put to his mettle towards the close of his life.  A contest had long prevailed among telescope makers as to who should turn out the largest refractor instrument.  The two telescopes of fifteen inches aperture, prepared by Merz and Mahler, of Munich, were the largest then in existence.  Their size was thought quite extraordinary.  But in 1846, Mr. Alvan Clark, of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, U.S., spent his leisure hours in constructing small telescopes. [p.345]  He was not an optician, nor a mathematician, but a portrait painter.  He possessed, however, enough knowledge of optics and of mechanics, to enable him to make and judge a telescope.  He spent some ten years in grinding lenses, and was at length enabled to produce objectives equal in quality to any ever made.

    In 1853, the Rev. W. R. Dawes—one of Mr. Cooke's customers—purchased an object-glass from Mr. Clark.  It was so satisfactory that he ordered several others, and finally an entire telescope.  The American artist then began to be appreciated in his own country.  In 1860 he received an order for a refractor of eighteen inches aperture, three inches greater than the largest which had up to that time been made.  This telescope was intended for the Observatory of Mississippi; but the Civil War prevented its being removed to the South; and the telescope was sold to the Astronomical Society of Chicago and mounted in the Observatory of that city.

    And now comes in the rivalry of Mr. Cooke of York, or rather of his patron, Mr. Newall of Gateshead.  At the Great Exhibition of London, in 1862, two large circular blocks of glass, about two inches thick and twenty-six inches in diameter, were shown by the manufacturers, Messrs. Chance of Birmingham.  These discs were found to be of perfect quality, and suitable for object-glasses of the best kind.  At the close of the Exhibition, they were purchased by Mr. Newall, and transferred to the workshops of Messrs. Cooke and Sons at York.  To grind and polish and mount these discs was found a work of great labour and difficulty.  Mr. Lockyer says, "such an achievement marks an epoch in telescopic astronomy, and the skill of Mr. Cooke and the munificence of Mr. Newall will long be remembered."

    When finished, the object-glass had an aperture of nearly twenty-five inches, and was of much greater power than the eighteen-inch Chicago instrument.  The length of the tube was about thirty-two feet.  The cast-iron pillar supporting the whole was nineteen feet in height from the ground, and the weight of the whole instrument was about six tons.  In preparing this telescope, nearly everything, from its extraordinary size, had to be specially arranged. [p.346]  The great anxiety involved in these arrangements, and the constant study and application told heavily upon Mr. Cooke, and though the instrument wanted only a few touches to make it complete, his health broke down, and he died on the 19th of October, 1868, at the comparatively early age of sixty-two.

    Mr. Cooke's death was felt, in a measure, to be a national loss.  His science and skill had restored to England the prominent position she had held in the time of Dollond; and, had he lived, even more might have been expected from him.  We believe that the Gold Medal and Fellowship of the Royal Society were waiting for him; but, as one of his friends said to his widow, "neither worth nor talent avails when the great ordeal is presented to us."  In a letter from Professor Pritchard, he said:

    "Your husband has left his mark upon his age.  No optician of modern times has gained a higher reputation; and I for one do not hesitate to call his loss national; for he cannot be replaced at present by any one else in his own peculiar line.  I shall carry the recollection of the affectionate esteem in which I held Thomas Cooke with me to my grave.  Alas! that he should be cut off just at the moment when he was about to reap the rewards due to his un-rivalled excellence.  I have said that F.R.S. and medals were to be his.  But he is, we fondly trust, in a better and higher state than that of earthly distinction.  Rest assured, your husband's name must ever be associated with the really great men of his day.  Those who knew him will ever cherish his memory."

    Mr. Cooke left behind him the great works which he founded in Buckingham Street, York.  They still give employment to a large number of skilled and intelligent artizans.  There I found many important works in progress,—the manufacture of theodolites, of prismatic compasses (for surveying), of Bolton's range finder, and of telescopes above all.  In the factory yard was the commencement of the Observatory for Greenwich, to contain the late Mr. Lassell's splendid two feet Newtonian reflecting telescope, which has been presented to the nation.  Mr. Cooke's spirit still haunts the works, which are carried on with the skill, the vigour, and the perseverance, transmitted by him to his sons.

    While at York, I was informed by Mr. Wigglesworth, the partner of Messrs. Cooke, of an energetic young astronomer at Bainbridge, in the mountain-district of Yorkshire, who had not only been able to make a telescope of his own, but was an excellent photographer.  He was not yet thirty years of age, but had encountered and conquered many difficulties.  This is a sort of character which is more often to be met with in remote country places than in thickly-peopled cities.  In the country a man is more of an individual; in a city he is only one of a multitude.  The country boy has to rely upon himself, and has to work in comparative solitude, while the city boy is distracted by excitements.  Life in the country is full of practical teachings; whereas life in the city may be degraded by frivolities and pleasures, which are too often the foes of work.  Hence we have usually to go to out-of-the-way corners of the country for our hardest brain-workers.  Contact with the earth is a great restorer of power; and it is to the country folks that we must ever look for the recuperative power of the nation as regards health, vigour, and manliness.

    Bainbridge is a remote country village, situated among the high lands or Fells on the north-western border of Yorkshire.  The mountains there send out great projecting buttresses into the dales; and the waters rush down from the hills, and form waterfalls or Forces, which Turner has done so much to illustrate.  The river Bain runs into the Yore at Bainbridge, which is supposed to be the site of an old Roman station.  Over the door of the Grammar School is a mermaid, said to have been found in a camp on the top of Addleborough, a remarkable limestone hill which rises to the south-east of Bainbridge.  It is in this grammar-school that we find the subject of this little autobiography.  He must be allowed to tell the story of his life—which he describes as 'Work: Good, Bad, and Indifferent'—in his own words:

    "I was born on November 20th, 1853.  In my childhood I suffered from ill-health.  My parents let me play about in the open air, and did not put me to school until I had turned my sixth year.  One day, playing in the shoemaker's shop, William Farrel asked me if I knew my letters.  I answered 'No.'  He then took down a primer from a shelf, and began to teach me the alphabet, at the same time amusing me by likening the letters to familiar objects in his shop.  I soon learned to read, and in about six weeks I surprised my father by reading from an easy book which the shoemaker had given me.

    "My father then took me into the school, of which he was master, and my education may be said fairly to have begun.  My progress, however, was very slow—partly owing to ill-health, but more, I must acknowledge, to carelessness and inattention.  In fact, during the first four years I was at school, I learnt very little of anything, with the exception of reciting verses, which I seemed to learn without any mental effort.  My memory became very retentive.  I found that by attentively reading half a page of print, or more, from any of the school-books, I could repeat the whole of it without missing a word.  I can scarcely explain how I did it; but I think it was by paying strict attention to the words as words, and forming a mental picture of the paragraphs as they were grouped in the book.  Certain, I am, that their sense never made much impression on me, for, when questioned by the teacher, I was always sent to the bottom of the class, though apparently I had learned my exercise to perfection.

    "When I was twelve years old, I made the acquaintance of a very ingenious boy, who came to our school.  Samuel Bridge was a born mechanic.  Though only a year older than myself, such was his ability in the use of tools, that he could construct a model of any machine that he saw.  He awakened in me a love of mechanical construction, and together we made models of colliery winding-frames, iron-rolling mills, trip-hammers, and water-wheels.   Some of them were not mere toys, but constructed to scale, and were really good working models.  This love of mechanical construction has never left me, and I shall always remember with affection Samuel Bridge, who first taught me to use the hammer and file.  The last I heard of him was in 1875, when he passed his examination as a schoolmaster, in honours, and was at the head of his list.

    "During the next two years, when between twelve and fourteen, I made comparatively slow progress at school.  I remember having to write out the fourth commandment from memory.  The teacher counted twenty-three mistakes in ten lines of my writing.  It will be seen from this, that, as regards learning, I continued heedless and backward.  About this time, my father, who was a good violinist, took me under his tuition.  He made me practice on the violin about an hour and a half a day.  I continued this for a long time.  But the result was failure.  I hated the violin, and would never play unless compelled to do so.  I suppose the secret was that I had no 'ear.'

    "It was different with subjects more to my mind.  Looking over my father's books one day, I came upon Gregory's 'Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry,' and began reading it.  I was fascinated with the book, and studied it morning, noon, and night—in fact, every time when I could snatch a few minutes.  I really believe that at one time I could have repeated the whole of the book from memory.  Now I found the value of arithmetic, and set to work in earnest on proportion, vulgar and decimal fractions, and, in fact, everything in school work that I could turn to account in the science of chemistry.  The result of this sudden application was that I was seized with an illness.  For some months I had incessant headache; my hair became dried up, then turned grey, and finally came off.  Weighing myself shortly after my recovery, at the age of fifteen, I found that I just balanced fifty-six pounds.  I took up mensuration, then astronomy, working at them slowly, but giving the bulk of my spare time to chemistry.

    "In the year 1869, when I was sixteen years old, I came across Cuthbert Bede's book, entitled 'Photographic Pleasures.'  It is an amusing book, giving an account of the rise and progress of photography, and at the same time having a good-natured laugh at it.  I read the book carefully, and took up photography as an amusement, using some apparatus which belonged to my father, who had at one time dabbled in the art.  I was soon able to take fair photographs.  I then decided to try photography as a business.  I was apprenticed to a photographer, and spent four years with him—one year at Northallerton, and three at Darlington.  When my employer removed to Darlington, I joined the School of Art there.

    "Having read an account of the experiments of M. E. Becquerel, a French savant, on photographing in the colours of nature, my curiosity was awakened.  I carefully repeated his experiments, and convinced myself that he was correct.  I continued my experiments in heliochromy for a period of about two years, during which time I made many photographs in colours, and discovered a method of developing the coloured image, which enabled me to shorten the exposure to one-fortieth of the previously-required time.  During these experiments, I came upon some curious results, which, I think, might puzzle our scientific men to account for.  For instance, I proved the existence of black light, or rays of such a nature as to turn the rose-coloured surface of the sensitive-plate black—that is, rays reflected from the black paint of drapery, produced black in the picture, and not the effect of darkness.  I was, like Becquerel, unable to fix the coloured image without destroying the colours; though the plates would keep a long while in the dark, and could be examined in a subdued, though not in a strong light.  The coloured image was faint, but the colours came out with great truth and delicacy.

    "I began to attend the School of Art at Darlington on the 6th of March, 1872.  I found, on attempting to draw, that I had naturally a correct eye and hand; and I made such progress, that when the students' drawings were examined, previously to sending them up to South Kensington, all my work was approved.  I was then set to draw from the cast in chalk, although I had only been at the school for a month.  I tried for all the four subjects at the May examination, and was fortunate enough to pass three of them, and obtained as a prize Packett's 'Sciography.'  I worked hard during the next year, and sent up seventeen works; for one of these, the 'Venus de Milo,' I gained a studentship.

    "I then commenced the study of human anatomy, and began water-colour painting, reading all the works upon art on which I could lay my hand.  At the May examination of 1873, I completed my second-grade certificate, and at the end of the year of my studentship, I accepted the office of teacher in the School of Art.  This art-training created in me a sort of disgust for photography, as I saw that the science of photography had really very little genuine art in it, and was more allied to a mechanical pursuit than to an artistic one.  Now, when I look back on my past ideas, I clearly see that a great deal of this disgust was due to my ignorance and self-conceit.

    "In 1874, I commenced painting in tempera, and then in oil, copying the pictures lent to the school from the South Kensington Art Library.  I worked also from still life, and began sketching from nature in oil and water-colours, sometimes selling my work to help me to buy materials for art-work and scientific experiments.  I was, however, able to do very little in the following year, as I was at home suffering from sciatica.  For nine months I could not stand erect, but had to hobble about with a stick.  This illness caused me to give up my teachership.

    "Early in 1876 I returned to Darlington.  I went on with my art studies and the science of chemistry; though I went no further in heliochromy.  I pushed forward with anatomy.  I sent about fifteen works to South Kensington, and gained as my third-grade prize in list A the 'Dictionary of Terms used in Art' by Thomas Fairholt, which I found a very useful work.  Towards the end of the year, my father, whose health was declining, sent for me home to assist him in the school.  I now commenced the study of Algebra and Euclid in good earnest, but found it tough work.  My father, though a fair mathematician, was unable to give me any instruction; for he had been seized with paralysis, from which he never recovered.  Before he died, he recommended me to try for a schoolmaster's certificate; and I promised him that I would.  I obtained a situation as master of a small village school, not under Government inspection; and I studied during the year, and obtained a second class certificate at the Durham Diocesan College at Christmas, 1877.  Early in the following year, the school was placed under Government inspection, and became a little more remunerative.

    "I now went on with chemical analysis, making my own apparatus.  Requiring an intense heat on a small scale, I invented a furnace that burnt petroleum oil.  It was blown by compressed air.  After many failures, I eventually succeeded in bringing it to such perfection that in 7½ minutes it would bring four ounces of steel into a perfectly liquefied state.  I next commenced the study of electricity and magnetism; and then acoustics, light, and heat, I constructed all my apparatus myself, and acquired the art of glass-blowing, in order to make my own chemical apparatus, and thus save expense.

    "I then went on with Algebra and Euclid, and took up plane trigonometry; but I devoted most, of my time to electricity and magnetism.  I constructed various scientific apparatus—a syren, telephones, microphones, an Edison's megaphone, as well as an electrometer, and a machine for covering electric wire with cotton or silk.  A friend having lent me a work on artificial memory, I began to study it; but the work led me into nothing but confusion, and I soon found that if I did not give it up, I should be left with no memory at all.  I still went on sketching from Nature, not so much as a study, but as a means of recruiting my health, which was far from being good.  At the beginning of 1881 I obtained my present situation as assistant master at the Yorebridge Grammar School, of which the Rev. W. Balderston, M.A., is principal.

    "Soon after I became settled here, I spent some of my leisure time in reading Emerson's 'Optics,' a work I bought at an old bookstall.  I was not very successful with it, owing to my deficient mathematical knowledge.  On the May Science Examinations of 1881 taking place at Newcastle-on-Tyne, I applied for permission to sit, and obtained four tickets for the following subjects:—Mathematics, Electricity and Magnetism, Acoustics, Light and Heat, and Physiography.  During the preceding month I had read up the first three subjects, but, being pressed for time, I gave up the idea of taking physiography.  However, on the last night of the examinations, I had some conversation with one of the students as to the subjects required for physiography.  He said, 'You want a little knowledge of everything in a scientific way, and nothing much of anything.'  I determined to try, for nothing much of anything' suited me exactly.  I rose early next morning, and as soon as the shops were open I went and bought a book on the subject, 'Outlines of Physiography,' by W. Lawson, F.R.G.S.  I read it all day, and at night sat for the examination.  The results of my examinations were, failure in mathematics, but second class advanced grade certificates in all the others.  I do not attach any credit to passing in physiography, but merely relate the circumstance as curiously showing what can be done by a good 'cram.'

    "The failure in mathematics caused me to take the subject 'by the horns,' to see what I could do with it.  I began by going over quadratic equations, and I gradually solved the whole of those given in Todhunter's larger 'Algebra.'  Then I re-read the progressions, permutations, combinations; the binomial theorem, with indices and surds; the logarithmic theorem and series, converging and diverging.  I got Todhunter's larger 'Plane Trigonometry,' and read it, with the theorems contained in it; then his 'Spherical Trigonometry;' his 'Analytical Geometry, of Two Dimensions,' and 'Conics.'  I next obtained De Morgan's Differential and Integral Calculus,' then Woolhouse's, and lastly, Todhunter's.  I found this department of mathematics difficult and perplexing to the last degree; but I mastered it sufficiently to turn it to some account.  This last mathematical course represents eighteen months of hard work, and I often sat up the whole night through.  One result of the application was a permanent injury to my sight.

    "Wanting some object on which to apply my newly-acquired mathematical knowledge, I determined to construct an astronomical telescope.  I got Airy's 'Geometrical Optics,' and read it through.  Then I searched through all my English Mechanic (a scientific paper that I take), and prepared for my work by reading all the literature on the subject that I could obtain.  I bought two discs of glass, of 6½ inches diameter, and began to grind them to a spherical curve 12 feet radius.  I got them hollowed out, but failed in fining them through lack of skill.  This occurred six times in succession; but at the seventh time the polish came up beautifully, with scarcely a scratch upon the surface.  Stopping my work one night, and it being starlight, I thought I would try the mirror on a star.  I had a wooden frame ready for the purpose, which the carpenter had made for me.  Judge of my surprise and delight when I found that the star disc enlarged nearly in the same manner from each side of the focal point, thus making it extremely probable that I had accidentally hit on a new approach to the parabola in the curve of my mirror.  And such proved to be the case.  I have the mirror still, and its performance is very good indeed.
    "I went no further with this mirror, for fear of spoiling it.  It is very slightly grey in the centre, but not sufficiently so as to materially injure its performance.  I mounted it in a wooden tube, placed it on a wooden stand, and used it for a time thus mounted; but getting disgusted with the tremor and inconvenience I had to put up with, I resolved to construct for it an iron equatorial stand.  I made my patterns, got them cast, turned and fitted them myself, grinding all the working parts together with emery and oil, and fitted a tangent-serer; motion to drive the instrument in right ascension.  Now I found the instrument a pleasure to use; and I determined to add to it divided circles, and to accurately adjust it to the meridian.  I made my circles of well-seasoned mahogany, with slips of paper on their edges, dividing them with my drawing instruments, and varnishing them to keep out the wet.  I shall never forget that sunny afternoon upon which I computed the hour-angle for Jupiter, and set the instrument so that by calculation Jupiter should pass through the field of the instrument at 1h. 25m. 15s.  With my watch in my hand, and my eye to the eye-piece, I waited for the orb.  When his glorious face appeared, almost in a direct line for the centre of the field, I could not contain my joy, but shouted out as loudly as I could,—greatly to the astonishment of old George Johnson, the miller, who happened to be in the field where I had planted my stand!

    "Now, though I had obtained what I wanted—a fairly good instrument,—still I was not quite satisfied; as I had produced it by a fortunate chance, and not by skill alone.  I therefore set to work again on the other disc of glass, to try if I could finish it in such a way as to excel the first one.  After nearly a year's work I found that I could only succeed in equalling it.  But then, during this time, I had removed the working of mirrors from mere chance to a fair amount of certainty.  By bringing my mathematical knowledge to bear on the subject, I had devised a method of testing and measuring my work which, I am happy to say, has been fairly successful, and has enabled me to produce the spherical, elliptic, parabolic, or hyperbolic curve in my mirrors, with almost unvarying success.  The study of the practical working of specula and lenses has also absorbed a good deal of my spare time during the last two years, and the work involved has been scarcely less difficult.  Altogether, I consider this last year (1882-3) to mark the busiest period of my life.

    "It will be observed that I have only given an account of those branches of study in which I have put to practical test the deductions from theoretical reasoning.  I am at present engaged on the theory of the achromatic object-glass, with regard to spherical chromatism—a subject upon which, I believe, nearly all our text-books are silent, but one nevertheless of vital importance to the optician.  I can only proceed very slowly with it, on account of having to grind and figure lenses for every step of the theory, to keep myself in the right track; as mere theorizing is apt to lead one very much astray, unless it be checked by constant experiment.  For this particular subject, lenses must be ground firstly to spherical, and then to curves of conic sections, so as to eliminate spherical aberration from each lens; so that it will be observed that this subject is not without its difficulties.

    "About a month ago (September, 1883), I determined to put to the test the statement of some of our theorists, that the surface of a rotating fluid is either a parabola or a hyperbola.  I found by experiment that it is neither, but an approximation to the tractrix (a modification of the catenary), if anything definite; as indeed one, on thinking over the matter, might feel certain it would be—the tractrix being the curve of least friction.

    "In astronomy, I have really done very little beyond mere algebraical working of the fundamental theorems, and a little casual observation of the telescope.  So far, I must own, I have taken more pleasure in the theory and construction of the telescope, than in its use."

    Such is Samuel Lancaster's history of the growth and development of his mind.  I do not think there is anything more interesting in the 'Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties.'  His life has been a gallant endeavour to win further knowledge, though too much at the expense of a constitution originally delicate.  He pursues science with patience and determination, and wooer truth with the ardour of a lover.  Eulogy of his character would here be unnecessary; but, if he takes due care of his health, we shall hear more of him. [p.360]

    More astronomers in humble life!  There seems to to be no end of them.  There must be a great fascination in looking up to the heavens, and seeing those wondrous worlds careering in the far-off infinite.  Let me look back to the names I have introduced in this chapter of autobiography.  First, there was my worthy porter friend at Coupar Angus station, enjoying himself with his three-inch object-glass.  Then there was the shoemaker and teacher, and eventually the first-rate maker of achromatic instruments.  Look also at the persons whom he supplied with his best telescopes.  Among them we find princes, baronets, clergymen, professors, doctors, solicitors, manufacturers, and inventors.  Then we come to the portrait painter, who acquired the highest supremacy in the art of telescope making; then to Mr. Cassell, the retired brewer, who left his great instrument to the nation; and, lastly, to the extraordinary young schoolmaster of Bainbridge, in Yorkshire.  And now, before I conclude this last chapter, I have to relate perhaps the most extraordinary story of all—that of another astronomer in humble life, in the person of a slate counter at Port Penrhyn, Bangor, North Wales.

    While at Birnam, I received a letter from my old friend the Rev. Charles Wicksteed, formerly of Leeds, calling my attention to this case, and inclosing an extract from the letter of a young lady, one of his correspondents at Bangor.  In that letter she said: "What you write of Mr. Christmas Evans reminds me very much of a visit I paid a few evenings ago to an old man in Upper Bangor.  He works on the Quay, but has a very decided taste for astronomy, his leisure time being spent in its study, with a great part of his earnings.  I went there with some friends to see an immense telescope, which he has made almost entirely without aid, preparing the glasses as far as possible himself, and sending them away merely to have their concavity changed.  He showed us all his treasures with the greatest delight, explaining in English, but substituting Welsh when at a loss.  He has scarcely ever been at school, but has learnt English entirely from books.  Among other things he showed us were a Greek Testament and a Hebrew Bible, both of which he can read.  His largest telescope, which is several yards long, he has named 'Jumbo,' and through it he told us he saw the snowcap on the pole of Mars.  He had another smaller telescope, made by himself, and had a spectroscope in process of making.  He is now quite old, but his delight in his studies is still unbounded and unabated.  It seems so sad that he has had no right opportunity for developing his talent."

    Mr. Wicksteed was very much interested in the case, and called my attention to it, that I might add the story to my repertory of self-helping men.  While at York I received a communication from Miss Grace Ellis, the young lady in question, informing me of the name of the astronomer—John Jones, Albert Street, Upper Bangor—and intimating that be would be glad to see me any evening after six.  As railways have had the effect of bringing places very close together in point of time—making of Britain, as it were, one great town—and as the autumn was brilliant, and the holiday season not at an end, I had no difficulty in diverging from my journey, and taking Bangor on my way homeward.  Starting from York in the morning, and passing through Leeds, Manchester, and Chester, I reached Bangor in the afternoon, and had my first interview with Mr. Jones that very evening.

    I found him, as Miss Grace Ellis had described, active, vigorous, and intelligent; his stature short, his face well-formed, his eyes keen and bright.  I was first shown into his little parlour downstairs, furnished with his books and some of his instruments; I was then taken to his tiny room upstairs, where he had his big reflecting telescope, by means of which he had seen, through the chamber window, the snowcap of Mars.  He is so fond of philology that I found he had no fewer than twenty-six dictionaries, all bought out of his own earnings.  "I am fond of all knowledge," he said—"of Reuben, Dan, and Issachar; but I have a favourite, a Benjamin, and that is Astronomy.  I would sell all of them into Egypt, but preserve my Benjamin." His story is briefly as follows:—

    "I was born at Bryngwyn Bach, Anglesey, in 1818, and I am sixty-five years old.  I got the little education I have, when a boy.  Owen Owen, who was a cousin of my mother's, kept a school at a chapel in the village of Dwyrain, in Anglesey.  It was said of Owen that he never had more than a quarter of a year's schooling, so that he could not teach me much.  I went to his school at seven, and remained with him about a year.  Then he left; and some time afterwards I went for a short period to an old preacher's school, at Brynsieneyn chapel.  There I learnt but little, the teacher being negligent.  He allowed the children to play together too much, and he punished them for slight offences, making them obstinate and disheartened.  But I remember his once saying to the other children, that I ran through my little lesson 'like a coach.'  However, when I was about twelve years old, my father died, and in losing him I lost almost all the little I had learnt during the short periods I had been at school.  Then I went to work for the farmers.

    "In this state of ignorance I remained for years until the time came when on Sunday I used to saddle the old black mare for Cadwalladr Williams, the Calvinist Methodist preacher, at Pen Ceint, Anglesey; and after he had ridden away, I used to hide in his library during the sermon, and there I learnt a little that I shall not soon forget.  In that way I had many a draught of knowledge, as it were, by stealth.  Having a strong taste for music, I was much attracted by choral singing; and on Sundays and in the evenings I tried to copy out airs from different books, and accustomed my hand a little to writing.  This tendency was, however, choked within me by too much work with the cattle, and by other farm labour.  In a word, I had but little fair weather in my search for knowledge.  One thing enticed me from another, to the detriment of my plans; some fair Eve often standing with an apple in hand, tempting me to taste of that.

    "The old preacher's books at Pen Ceint were in Welsh.  I had not yet learned English, but tried to learn it by comparing one line in the English New Testament with the same line in the Welsh.  This was the Hamiltonian method, and the way in which I learnt most languages.  I first got an idea of astronomy from reading 'The Solar System,' by Dr. Dick, translated into Welsh by Eleazar Roberts of Liverpool.  That book I found on Sundays in the preacher's library; and many a sublime thought it gave me.  It was comparatively easy to understand.

    "When I was about thirty I was taken very ill, and could no longer work.  I then went to Bangor to consult Dr. Humphrys.  After I found better I got work at the Port at 12s. a week.  I was employed in counting the slates, or loading the ships in the harbour from the railway trucks.  I lodged in Fwn Deg, near where Hugh Williams, Gatehouse, then kept a navigation school for young sailors.  I learnt navigation, and soon made considerable progress.  I also learnt a little arithmetic.  At first nearly all the young men were more advanced than myself; but before I left matters were different, and the Scripture words became verified—"the last shall be first."  I remained with Hugh Williams six months and a-half.  During that time I went twice through the 'Tutor's Assistant,' and a month before I left I was taught mensuration.  That is all the education I received, and the greater part of it was during my by-hours.

    "I got to know English pretty well, though Welsh was the language of those about me.  From easy books I went to those more difficult.  I was helped in my pronunciation of English by comparing the words with the phonetic alphabet, as published by Thomas Gee of Denbigh, in 1853.  With my spare earnings I bought books, especially when my wages began to rise.  Mr. Wyatt, the steward, was very kind, and raised my pay from time to time at his pleasure.  I suppose I was willing, correct, and faithful.  I improved my knowledge by reading books on astronomy.  I got, amongst others, 'The Mechanism of the Heavens,' by Denison Olmstead, an American; a very understandable book.  Learning English, which was a foreign language to me, led me to learn other languages.  I took pleasure in finding out the roots or radixes of words, and from time to time I added foreign dictionaries to my little library.  But I took most pleasure in astronomy.

    "The perusal of Sir John Herschel's 'Outlines of Astronomy,' and of his 'Treatise on the Telescope,' set my mind on fire.  I conceived the idea of making a telescope of my own, for I could not buy one.  While reading the Mechanics' Magazine I observed the accounts of men who made telescopes.  Why should not I do the same?  Of course it was a matter of great difficulty to one who knew comparatively little of the use of tools.  But I had a willing mind and willing willing hands.  So I set to work.  I think I made my first telescope about twenty years ago.  It was thirty-six inches long, and the tube was made of pasteboard.  I got the glasses from Liverpool for 4s. 6d.  Captain Owens, of the ship Talacra, bought them.  He also bought for me, at a bookstall, the Greek Lexicon and the Greek New Testament, for which he paid 7s. 6d.  With my new telescope I could see Jupiter's four satellites, the craters on the moon, and some of the double stars.  It was a wonderful pleasure to me.

    "But I was not satisfied with the instrument.  I wanted a bigger and a more perfect one.  I sold and got new glasses from Solomon of London, who was always ready to trust me.  I think it was about the year 1868 that I began to make a reflecting telescope.  I got a rough disc of glass, from St. Helens, of ten inches diameter.  It took me from nine to ten days to grind and polish it ready for parabolising and silvering.  I did this by hand labour with the aid of emery, but without a lathe.  I finally used rouge instead of emery in grinding down the glass, until I could see my face in the mirror quite plain.  I then sent the 8 3/16-inch disc to Mr. George Calvers, of Chelmsford, to turn my spherical curve to a parabolic curve, and to silver the mirror, for which I paid him £5.  I mounted this in my timber tube; the focus was ten feet.  When everything was complete I tried my instrument on the sky, and found it to have good defining power.  The diameter of the other glass I have made is a little under six inches.

    "You ask me if their performance satisfies me?  Well; I have compared my six-inch reflector with a 4¼-inch refractor, through my window, with a power of 100 and 140.  I can't say which was the best.  But if out on a clear night I think my reflector would take more power than the refractor.  However that may be, I saw the snowcap on the planet Mars quite plain; and it is satisfactory to me so far.  With respect to the 8 3/16-inch glass, I am not quite satisfied with it yet; but I am making improvements, and I believe it will reward my labour in the end."

    Besides these instruments John Jones has an equatorial which is mounted on a tripod stand, made by himself.  It contains the right ascension, declination, and azimuth index, all neatly carved upon slate.  In his spectroscope he makes his prisms out of the skylights used in vessels.  These he grinds down to suit his purpose.  I have not been able to go into the complete detail of the manner in which he effects the grinding of his glasses.  It is perhaps too technical to be illustrated in words, which are full of focuses, parabolas, and convexities.  But enough may be gathered from the above account to give an idea of the wonderful tenacity of this agèd student, who counts his slates into the ships by day, and devotes his evenings to the perfecting of his astronomical instruments.

    But not only is he an astronomer and a philologist; he is also a bard, and his poetry is much admired in the district.  He writes in Welsh, not in English, and signs himself "Ioan, of Bryngwyn Bach," the place where he was born.  Indeed, he is still at a loss for words when he speaks in English.  He usually interlards his conversation with passages in Welsh, which is his mother-tongue.  A friend has, however, done me the favour to translate two of John Jones's poems into English.  The first is 'The Telescope':—

"To Heaven it points, where rules the Sun
     In golden gall'ries bright;
And the pale Moon in silver rays
     Makes dalliance in the night.

"It sweeps with eagle glances
     The sky, its myriad throng,
That myriad throng to marshal
     And bring to us their song.

"Orb upon orb it follows
     As oft they intertwine,
And worlds in vast processions
     As if in battle line.

"It loves all things created,
     To follow and to trace;
And never fears to penetrate
     The dark abyss of space."

    The next is to 'The Comet':—

"A maiden fair, with light of stars bedecked,
 Starts out of space at Jove's command;
 With visage wild, and long dishevelled hair,
 Speeds she along her starry course;
 The hosts of heaven regards she not,
 Fain would she scorn them all except her father Sol,
 Whose mighty influence her headlong course doth
        all control."

    The following translation may also be given: it shows that the bard is not without a spice of wit.  A fellow-workman teased him to write some lines; when John Jones, in a seemingly innocent manner, put some questions, and ascertained that he had once been a tailor.  Accordingly this epigram was written, and appeared in the local paper the week after: "To a quondam Tailor, now a Slate-teller":—

"To thread and needle now good-bye,
     With slates I aim at riches;
The scissors will I ne'er more ply,
     Nor make, but order, breeches." [p.369]

    The bi-lingual speech is the great educational difficulty of Wales.  To get an entrance into literature and science requires a knowledge of English; or, if not of English, then of French or German.  But the Welsh language stands in the way.  Few literary or scientific works are translated into Welsh.  Hence the great educational difficulty continues, and is maintained from year to year by patriotism and Eisteddfods.

    Possibly the difficulties to be encountered may occasionally evoke unusual powers of study; but this can only occur in exceptional cases.  While at Bangor Mr. Cadwalladr Davies read to me the letter of a student and professor, whose passion for knowledge is of an extraordinary character.  While examined before the Parliamentary Committee appointed to inquire into the condition of intermediate and higher education in Wales and Monmouthshire, Mr. Davies gave evidence relating to this and other remarkable cases, of which the following is an abstract, condensed by himself:

    "The night schools in the quarry districts have been doing a very great work; and, if the Committee will allow me, I will read an extract from a letter which I received from Mr. Bradley Jones, master of the Board Schools at Llanarmon, near Mold, Flintshire, who some years ago kept a very flourishing night school in the neighbourhood.  He says: 'During the whole of the time (fourteen years) that I was at Carneddi, I carried on these schools, and I believe I have had more experience of such institutions than any teacher in North Wales.  For several years about 120 scholars used to attend the Carneddi night school in the winter months, four evenings a week.  Nearly all were quarrymen, from fourteen to twenty-one years of age, and engaged at work from 7A.M. to 5.30 P.M.  So intense was their desire for education that some of them had to walk a distance of two or even three miles to school.  These, besides working hard all day, had to walk six miles in the one case and nine in the other before school-time, in addition to the walk home afterwards.  Several of them used to attend all the year round, even coming to me for lessons in summer before going to work, as well as in the evening.  Indeed, so anxious were some of them, that they would often come for lessons as early as five o'clock in the morning.  This may appear almost incredible, but any of the managers of the Carneddi School could corroborate the statement.'

    "I have now in my mind's eye," continues Mr. Bradley, "several of these young men, who, by dint of indefatigable labour and self-denial, ultimately qualified themselves for posts in which a good education is a sine quâ non.  Some of them are to-day quarry managers, professional men, certificated teachers, and ministers of the Gospel.  Five of them are at the present time students at Bala College.  One got a situation in the Glasgow Post Office as letter-carrier.  During his leisure hours he attended the lectures at one of the medical schools of that city, and in course of time gained his diploma.  He is now practising as a surgeon, and I understand with signal success.  This gentleman worked in the Penrhyn Quarry until he was twenty years old.  I could give many more instances of the resolute and self-denying spirit with which the young quarrymen of Bethesda sought to educate themselves.  The teachers of the other schools in that neighbourhood could give similar examples, for during the winter months there used to be no less than 300 evening scholars under instruction in the different schools.  The Bethesda booksellers could tell a tale that would surprise our English friends.  I have been informed by one of them that he has sold to young quarrymen an immense number of such works as Lord Macaulay's, Stuart Mill's, and Professor Fawcett's; and it is no uncommon sight to find these and similar works read and studied by the young quarrymen during the dinner hour."

    "I can give," proceeds Mr. Cadwalladr Davies, "one remarkable instance to show the struggles which young Welshmen have to undertake in order to get education.  The boy in question, the son of 'poor but honest parents,' left the small national school of his native village when he was 12½ years of age, and then followed his father's occupation of shoemaking until he was 16½ years of age.  After working hard at his trade for four years, he, his brother, and two fellow apprentices, formed themselves into a sort of club to learn shorthand, the whole matter being kept a profound secret.  They had no teachers, and they met at the gas-works, sitting opposite the retorts on a bench supported at each end with bricks.  They did not penetrate far into the mysteries of Welsh shorthand; they soon abandoned the attempt, and induced the village schoolmaster to open a night school.

    "This, however, did not last long.  The young Crispin was returning late one night from Llanrwst in company with a lad of the same age, and both having heard much of the blessings of education from a Scotch lady who took a kindly interest in them, their ambition was inflamed, and they entered into a solemn compact that they would thenceforward devote themselves body and soul to the attainment of an academical degree.  Yet they were both poor.  One was but a shoemaker's apprentice, while the other was a pupil teacher earning but a miserable weekly pittance.  One could do the parts of speech; the other could not.  One had struggled with the pons asinorum; the other had never seen it.  I may mention that the young pupil teacher is now a curate in the Church of England.  He is agraduate of Cambridge University and a prizeman of Clare College.  But to return to the little shoemaker.

    "After returning home from Llanrwst, he disburthened his heart to his mother, and told her that shoemaking, which until now he had pursued with extraordinary zest, could no longer interest him.  His mother, who was equal to the emergency, sent the boy to a teacher of the old school, who had himself worked his way from the plough.  After the exercise of considerable diplomacy, an arrangement was arrived at whereby the youth was to go to school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and make shoes during the remaining days of the week.  This suited him admirably.  That very night he seized upon a geography, and began to learn the counties of England and Wales.  The fear of failure never left him for two hours together, except when he slept.  The plan of work was faithfully kept, though by this time shoemaking had lost its charms.  He shortened his sleeping hours, and rose at any moment that he awoke—at two, three, or four in the morning.  He got his brother, who had been plodding with him over shorthand, to study horticulture, and fruit and vegetable culture; and that brother shortly after took a high place in an examination held by the Royal Horticultural Society.  For a time, however, they worked together; and often did their mother get up at four o'clock in the depth of winter, light their fire, and return to bed after calling them up to the work of self-culture.  Even this did not satisfy their devouring ambition.  There was a bed in the workshop, and they obtained permission to sleep there.  Then they followed their own plans.  The young gardener would sit up till one or two in the morning, and wake his brother, who had gone to bed as soon as he had given up work the night before.  Now he got up and studied through the small hours of the morning until the time came when he had to transfer his industry to shoemaking, or go to school on the appointed days after the distant eight o'clock had come.  His brother had got worn out.  Early sleep seemed to be the best.  They then both went to bed about eight o'clock, and got the policeman to call them up before retiring himself.

    "So the struggle went on, until the faithful old schoolmaster thought that his young pupil might try the examination at the Bangor Normal College.  He was now eighteen years of age; and it was eighteen months since the time when he began to learn the counties of England and Wales.  He went to Bangor, rigged out in his brother's coat and waistcoat, which were better than his own; and with his brother's watch in his pocket to time himself in his examinations.  He went through his examination, but returned home thinking he had failed.  Nevertheless, he had in the meantime, on the strength of a certificate which he had obtained six months before, in an examination held by the Society of Arts and Sciences in Liverpool, applied for a situation as teacher in a grammar-school at Ormskirk in Lancashire.  He succeeded in his application, and had been there for only eight days when he received a letter from Mr. Rowlands, Principal of the Bangor Normal College, informing him that he had passed at the head of the list, and was the highest non-pupil teacher examined by the British and Foreign Society.  Having obtained permission from his master to leave, he packed his clothes and his few books.  He had not enough money to carry him home; but, unasked, the master of the school gave him 10s.  He arrived home about three o'clock on a Sunday morning, after a walk of eleven miles over a lonely road from the place where the train had stopped.  He reeled on the way, and found the country reeling too.  He had been sleeping eight nights in a damp bed.  Six weeks of the Bangor Session passed, and during that time he had been delirious, and was too weak to sit up in bed.  But the second time he crossed the threshold of his home he made for Bangor and got back his "position," which was all important to him, and he kept it all through.

    "Having finished his course at Bangor he went to keep a school at Brynaman; he endeavoured to study but could not.  After two years he gave up the school, and with £60 saved he faced the world once more.  There was a scholarship of the value of £40 a year, for three years, attached to one of the Scotch Universities, to be competed for.  He knew the Latin Grammar, and had, with help, translated one of the books of Cæsar.  Of Greek he knew nothing, save the letters and the first declension of nouns; but in May he began to read in earnest at a farmhouse.  He worked every day from 6 A.M. to 12 P.M. with only an hour's intermission.  He studied the six Latin and two Greek books prescribed; he did some Latin composition unaided; brushed up his mathematics; and learnt something of the history of Greece and Rome.  In October, after five months of hard work, he underwent an examination for the scholarship, and obtained it; beating his opponent by twenty-eight marks in a thousand.  He then went up to the Scotch University and passed all the examinations for his ordinary M.A. degree in two years and a half.  On his first arrival at the University he found that he could not sleep; but he wearily yet victoriously plodded on; took a prize in Greek, then the first prize in philosophy, the second prize in logic, the medal in English literature, and a few other prizes.

    "He had £40 when he first arrived in Scotland; and he carried away with him a similar sum to Germany, whither he went to study for honours in philosophy.  He returned home with little in his pocket, borrowing money to go to Scotland, where he sat for honours and for the scholarship.  He got his first honours, and what was more important at the time, money to go on with.  He now lives on the scholarship which he took at that time; is an assistant professor; and, in a fortnight, will begin a course of lectures for ladies in connection with his university.  Writing to me a few days ago, [p.376] he says, 'My health, broken down with my last struggle, is quite restored, and I live with the hope of working on.  Many have worked more constantly, but few have worked more intensely.  I found kindness on every hand always, but had I failed in a single instance I should have met with entire bankruptcy. The failure would have been ruinous .... I thank God for the struggle, but would not like to see a dog try it again.  There are droves of lads in Wales that would creep up but they cannot.  Poverty has too heavy a hand for them.'"

    The gentleman whose brief history is thus summarily given by Mr. Davies, is now well known as a professor of philosophy; and, if his health be spared, he will become still better known.  He is the author of several important works on 'Moral Philosophy,' published by a leading London firm; and more works are announced from his pen.  The victorious struggle for knowledge which we have recounted might possibly be equalled, but it could not possibly be surpassed.

    There are, however, as Mr. Davies related to the Parliamentary Committee, many instances of Welsh students—most of them originally quarrymen—who keep themselves at school by means of the savings effected from manual labour, "in frequent cases eked out and helped by the kindness of friends and neighbours," who struggle up through many difficulties, and eventually achieve success in the best sense of the term.  "One young man"—as the teacher of a grammar-school, within two miles of Bangor, related to Mr. Davies—"who came to me from the quarry some time ago, was a gold medallist at Edinburgh last winter;" and contributions are readily made by the quarrymen to help forward any young man who displays an earnest desire for knowledge in science and literature.

    It is a remarkable fact that the quarrymen of Caernarvonshire have voluntarily contributed large sums of money towards the establishment of the University College in North Wales—the quarry districts in that county having contributed to that fund, in the course of three years, mostly in half-crown subscriptions, not less than £508 4s. 4d.—"a fact," says Mr. Davies, "without its parallel in the history of the education of any country;" the most striking feature being, that these collections were made in support of an institution from which the quarrymen could only very remotely derive any benefit.

    While I was at Bangor, on the 24th of August, 1883, the news arrived that the Committee of Selection had determined that Bangor should be the site for the intended North Wales University College.  The news rapidly spread, and great rejoicings prevailed throughout the borough, which had just been incorporated.  The volunteer band played through the streets; the church bells rang merry peals; and gay flags were displayed from nearly every window.  There never was such a triumphant display before in the cause of University education.

    As Mr. Cadwalladr Davies observed at the banquet, which took place on the following day: "The establishment of the new institution will mark the dawn of a new era in the history of the Welsh people.  He looked to it, not only as a means of imparting academical knowledge to the students within its walls, but also as a means of raising the intellectual and moral tone of the whole people.  They were fond of quoting the saying of a great English writer, that there was something Grecian in the Celtic race, and that the Celtic was the refining element in the British character; but such remarks, often accompanied as they were with offensive comparisons from Eisteddfod platforms, would in future be put to the test, for they would, with their new educational machinery, be placed on a footing of perfect equality with the Scotch and the Irish people."

    And here must come to an end the character history of my autumn tour in Ireland, Scotland, Yorkshire, and Wales.  I had not the remotest intention when setting out of collecting information and writing down collecting my recollections of the journey.  But the persons I met, and the information I received, were of no small interest—at least to myself; and I trust that the reader will derive as much pleasure from perusing my observations as I have had in collecting and writing them down.  I do think that the remarkable persons whose history and characters I have endeavoured, however briefly, to sketch, will be found to afford many valuable and important lessons of Self-Help; and to illustrate how the moral and industrial foundations of a country may be built up and established.




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