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The Life and Work of James Abernethy, C.E., F.R.S.E
Portpatrick, 1858-64


DURING the same period—1855-61—he was also engaged in improving the harbours of Watchett in Somersetshire, Lossiemouth in Elgin, and Stranraer and Portpatrick in the Rhirns of Galloway on the south west corner of Scotland. At Stranraer he made the acquaintance of Sir John Ross, the celebrated Arctic navigator, and used to visit him at his house called “North-West Castle,” where he had a dining room fitted to represent the interior of a ship’s cabin. His friendship with Sir James and his brother Alexander Caird also began while these last-named works were in progress.

The improvements at Portpatrick were undertaken in the month of July, 1858, on appointment by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, with the view of establishing a short sea passage between Scotland and Ireland, in connection with the railways at that time in course of construction towards that port. The works proposed, which were sufficient to meet the requirements of the contemplated service to Donaghadec in Ireland, comprised the formation of a channel 120 feet in width, with a depth of 10 feet at low water, spring tides, requiring 9,789 cubic yards of excavation, and a tidal basin of one and one eighth of an acre, including the excavation of 65,000 cubic yards, with an entrance 75 feet in width, and of a corresponding depth to the entrance channel, at a cost of 19,490, and a pier extension formed of large blocks of masonry at a further sum of 16,943. The undertaking was successfully completed at the end of 1864, and although, as will be gathered from the dimensions given, it was comparatively small: it was, nevertheless, one of considerable difficulty in execution in consequence of the very exposed situation of the port, and the heavy seas to which the works were constantly subjected while in course of progression, while much of the deepening had to be effected through hard rock.


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