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The Life of Thomas Telford
Chapter X. Caledonian and other Canals


The formation of a navigable highway through the chain of locks lying in the Great Glen of the Highlands, and extending diagonally across Scotland from the Atlantic to the North Sea, had long been regarded as a work of national importance. As early as 1773, James Watt, then following the business of a land-surveyor at Glasgow, made a survey of the country at the instance of the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates. He pronounced the canal practicable, and pointed out how it could best be constructed. There was certainly no want of water, for Watt was repeatedly drenched with rain while he was making his survey, and he had difficulty in preserving even his journal book. "On my way home," he says, "I passed through the wildest country I ever saw, and over the worst conducted roads."

Twenty years later, in 1793, Mr. Rennie was consulted as to the canal, and he also prepared a scheme: but nothing was done. The project was, however, revived in 1801 during the war with Napoleon, when various inland ship canals--such as those from London to Portsmouth, and from Bristol to the English Channel--were under consideration with the view of enabling British shipping to pass from one part of the kingdom to another without being exposed to the attacks of French privateers. But there was another reason for urging the formation of the canal through the Great Glen of Scotland, which was regarded as of considerable importance before the introduction of steam enabled vessels to set the winds and tides at comparative defiance. It was this: vessels sailing from the eastern ports to America had to beat up the Pentland Frith, often against adverse winds and stormy seas, which rendered the navigation both tedious and dangerous. Thus it was cited by Sir Edward Parry, in his evidence before Parliament in favour of completing the Caledonian Canal, that of two vessels despatched from Newcastle on the same day--one bound for Liverpool by the north of Scotland, and the other for Bombay by the English Channel and the Cape of Good Hope --the latter reached its destination first! Another case may be mentioned, that of an Inverness vessel, which sailed for Liverpool on a Christmas Day, reached Stromness Harbour, in Orkney, on the 1st of January, and lay there windbound, with a fleet of other traders, until the middle of April following! In fact, the Pentland Frith, which is the throat connecting the Atlantic and German Oceans, through which the former rolls its, long majestic waves with tremendous force, was long the dread of mariners, and it was considered an object of national importance to mitigate the dangers of the passage towards the western Seas.

As the lochs occupying the chief part of the bottom of the Great Glen were of sufficient depth to be navigable by large vessels, it was thought that if they could be connected by a ship canal, so as to render the line of navigation continuous, it would be used by shipping to a large extent, and prove of great public service. Five hundred miles of dangerous navigation by the Orkneys and Cape Wrath would thereby be saved, while ships of war, were this track open to them, might reach the north of Ireland in two days from Fort George near Inverness.

When the scheme of the proposed canal was revived in 1801, Mr. Telford was requested to make a survey and send in his report on the subject. He immediately wrote to his friend James Watt, saying, "I have so long accustomed myself to look with a degree of reverence at your work, that I am particularly anxious to learn what occurred to you in this business while the whole was fresh in your mind. The object appears to me so great and so desirable, that I am convinced you will feel a pleasure in bringing it again under investigation, and I am very desirous that the thing should be fully and fairly explained, so that the public may be made aware of its extensive utility. If I can accomplish this, I shall have done my duty; and if the project is not executed now, some future period will see it done, and I shall have the satisfaction of having followed you and promoted its success." We may here state that Telford's survey agreed with Watt's in the most important particulars, and that he largely cited Watt's descriptions of the proposed scheme in his own report.

Mr. Telford's first inspection of the district was made in 1801, and his report was sent in to the Treasury in the course of the following year. Lord Bexley, then Secretary to the Treasury, took a warm personal interest in the project, and lost no opportunity of actively promoting it. A board of commissioners was eventually appointed to carry out the formation of the canal. Mr. Telford, on being appointed principal engineer of the undertaking, was requested at once to proceed to Scotland and prepare the necessary working survey. He was accompanied on the occasion by Mr. Jessop as consulting engineer. Twenty thousand pounds were granted under the provisions of the 43 Geo. III. (chap. cii.), and the works were commenced, in the beginning of 1804, by the formation of a dock or basin adjoining the intended tide-lock at Corpach, near Bannavie.


Map of Caledonian Canal

The basin at Corpach formed the southernmost point of the intended canal. It is situated at the head of Loch Eil, amidst some of the grandest scenery of the Highlands. Across the Loch is the little town of Fort William, one of the forts established at the end of the seventeenth century to keep the wild Highlanders in subjection. Above it rise hills over hills, of all forms and sizes, and of all hues, from grass-green below to heather-brown and purple above, capped with heights of weather-beaten grey; while towering over all stands the rugged mass of Ben Nevis--a mountain almost unsurpassed for picturesque grandeur. Along the western foot of the range, which extends for some six or eight miles, lies a long extent of brown bog, on the verge of which, by the river Lochy, stand the ruins of Inverlochy Castle.

The works at Corpach involved great labour, and extended over a long series of years. The difference between the level of Loch Eil and Loch Lochy is ninety feet, while the distance between them was less than eight miles. It was therefore necessary to climb up the side of the hill by a flight of eight gigantic locks, clustered together, and which Telford named Neptune's Staircase. The ground passed over was in some places very difficult, requiring large masses of embankment, the slips of which in the course of the work frequently occasioned serious embarrassment. The basin on Loch Eil, on the other hand, was constructed amidst rock, and considerable difficulty was experienced in getting in the necessary coffer-dam for the construction of the opening into the sea-lock, the entrance-sill of which was laid upon the rock itself, so that there was a depth of 21 feet of water upon it at high water of neap tides.

At the same time that the works at Corpach were begun, the dock or basin at the north-eastern extremity of the canal, situated at Clachnaharry, on the shore of Loch Beauly, was also laid out, and the excavations and embankments were carried on with considerable activity. This dock was constructed about 967 yards long, and upwards of 162 yards in breadth, giving an area of about 32 acres, --forming, in fact, a harbour for the vessels using the canal. The dimensions of the artificial waterway were of unusual size, as the intention was to adapt it throughout for the passage of a 32-gun frigate of that day, fully equipped and laden with stores. The canal, as originally resolved upon, was designed to be 110 feet wide at the surface, and 50 feet at the bottom, with a depth in the middle of 20 feet; though these dimensions were somewhat modified in the execution of the work. The locks were of corresponding large dimensions, each being from 170 to 180 feet long, 40 broad, and 20 deep.


Lock, Caledonian Canal

Between these two extremities of the canal--Corpach on the south-west and Clachnaharry on the north-east--extends the chain of fresh-water lochs: Loch Lochy on the south; next Loch Oich; then Loch Ness; and lastly, furthest north, the small Loch of Dochfour. The whole length of the navigation is 60 miles 40 chains, of which the navigable lochs constitute about 40 miles, leaving only about 20 miles of canal to be constructed, but of unusually large dimensions and through a very difficult country.

The summit loch of the whole is Loch Oich, the surface of which is exactly a hundred feet above high water-mark, both at Inverness and Fort William; and to this sheet of water the navigation climbs up by a series of locks from both the eastern and western seas. The whole number of these is twenty-eight: the entrance-lock at Clachnaharry, constructed on piles, at the end of huge embankments, forced out into deep water, at Loch Beady; another at the entrance to the capacious artificial harbour above mentioned, at Muirtown; four connected locks at the southern end of this basin; a regulating lock a little to the north of Loch Dochfour; five contiguous locks at Fort Augustus, at the south end of Loch Ness; another, called the Kytra Lock, about midway between Fort Angustus and Loch Oich; a regulating lock at the north-east end of Loch Oich; two contiguous locks between Lochs Oich and Lochy; a regulating lock at the south-west end of Loch Lochy; next, the grand series of locks, eight in number, called "Neptune's Staircase," at Bannavie, within a mile and a quarter of the sea; two locks, descending to Corpach basin; and lastly, the great entrance or sea-lock at Corpach.

The northern entrance-lock from the sea at Loch Beauly is at Clachnaharry, near Inverness. The works here were not accomplished without much difficulty as well as labour, partly from the very gradual declivity of the shore, and partly from the necessity of placing the sea-lock on absolute mud, which afforded no foundation other than what was created by compression and pile-driving. The mud was forced down by throwing upon it an immense load of earth and stones, which was left during twelve months to settle; after which a shaft was sunk to a solid foundation, and the masonry of the sea-lock was then founded and built therein.

In the 'Sixteenth Report of the Commissioners of the Caledonian Canal,' the following reference is made to this important work, which was finished in 1812:-- "The depth of the mud on which it may be said to be artificially seated is not less than 60 feet; so that it cannot be deemed superfluous, at the end of seven years, to state that no subsidence is discoverable; and we presume that the entire lock, as well as every part of it, may now be deemed as immovable, and as little liable to destruction, as any other large mass of masonry. This was the most remarkable work performed under the immediate care of Mr. Matthew Davidson, our superintendent at Clachnaharry, from 1804 till the time of his decease. He was a man perfectly qualified for the employment by inflexible integrity, unwearied industry, and zeal to a degree of anxiety, in all the operations committed to his care."*[1]

As may naturally be supposed, the execution of these great works involved vast labour and anxiety. They were designed with much skill, and executed with equal ability. There were lock-gates to be constructed, principally of cast iron, sheathed with pine planking. Eight public road bridges crossed the line of the canal, which were made of cast iron, and swung horizontally. There were many mountain streams, swollen to torrents in winter, crossing under the canal, for which abundant water-way had to be provided, involving the construction of numerous culverts, tunnels, and under-bridges of large dimensions. There were also powerful sluices to let off the excess of water sent down from the adjacent mountains into the canal during winter. Three of these, of great size, high above the river Lochy, are constructed at a point where the canal is cut through the solid rock; and the sight of the mass of waters rushing down into the valley beneath, gives an impression of power which, once seen, is never forgotten.

These great works were only brought to a completion after the labours of many years, during which the difficulties encountered in their construction had swelled the cost of the canal far beyond the original estimate. The rapid advances which had taken place in the interval in the prices of labour and materials also tended greatly to increase the expenses, and, after all, the canal, when completed and opened, was comparatively little used. This was doubtless owing, in a great measure, to the rapid changes which occurred in the system of navigation shortly after the projection of the undertaking. For these Telford was not responsible. He was called upon to make the canal, and he did so in the best manner. Engineers are not required to speculate as to the commercial value of the works they are required to construct; and there were circumstances connected with the scheme of the Caledonian Canal which removed it from the category of mere commercial adventures. It was a Government project, and it proved a failure as a paying concern. Hence it formed a prominent topic for discussion in the journals of the day; but the attacks made upon the Government because of their expenditure on the hapless undertaking were perhaps more felt by Telford, who was its engineer, than by all the ministers of state conjoined.

"The unfortunate issue of this great work," writes the present engineer of the canal, to whom we are indebted for many of the preceding facts, "was a grievous disappointment to Mr. Telford, and was in fact the one great bitter in his otherwise unalloyed cup of happiness and prosperity. The undertaking was maligned by thousands who knew nothing of its character. It became 'a dog with a bad name,' and all the proverbial consequences followed. The most absurd errors and misconceptions were propagated respecting it from year to year, and it was impossible during Telford's lifetime to stem the torrent of popular prejudice and objurgation. It must, however, be admitted, after a long experience, that Telford was greatly over-sanguine in his expectations as to the national uses of the canal, and he was doomed to suffer acutely in his personal feelings, little though he may have been personally to blame, the consequences of what in this commercial country is regarded as so much worse than a crime, namely, a financial mistake."*[2]

Mr. Telford's great sensitiveness made him feel the ill success of this enterprise far more than most other men would have done. He was accustomed to throw himself into the projects on which he was employed with an enthusiasm almost poetic. He regarded them not merely as so much engineering, but as works which were to be instrumental in opening up the communications of the country and extending its civilization. Viewed in this light, his canals, roads, bridges, and harbours were unquestionably of great national importance, though their commercial results might not in all cases justify the estimates of their projectors. To refer to like instances--no one can doubt the immense value and public uses of Mr. Rennie's Waterloo Bridge or Mr. Robert Stephenson's Britannia and Victoria Bridges, though every one knows that, commercially, they have been failures. But it is probable that neither of these eminent engineers gave himself anything like the anxious concern that Telford did about the financial issue of his undertaking. Were railway engineers to fret and vex themselves about the commercial value of the schemes in which they have been engaged, there are few of them but would be so haunted by the ghosts of wrecked speculations that they could scarcely lay their heads upon their pillows for a single night in peace.

While the Caledonian Canal was in progress, Mr. Telford was occupied in various works of a similar kind in England and Scotland, and also upon one in Sweden. In 1804, while on one of his journeys to the north, he was requested by the Earl of Eglinton and others to examine a project for making a canal from Glasgow to Saltcoats and Ardrossan, on the north-western coast of the county of Ayr, passing near the important manufacturing town of Paisley. A new survey of the line was made, and the works were carried on during several successive years until a very fine capacious canal was completed, on the same level, as far as Paisley and Johnstown. But the funds of the company falling short, the works were stopped, and the canal was carried no further. Besides, the measures adopted by the Clyde Trustees to deepen the bed of that river and enable ships of large burden to pass up as high as Glasgow, had proved so successful that the ultimate extension of the canal to Ardrossan was no longer deemed necessary, and the prosecution of the work was accordingly abandoned. But as Mr. Telford has observed, no person suspected, when the canal was laid out in 1805, "that steamboats would not only monopolise the trade of the Clyde, but penetrate into every creek where there is water to float them, in the British Isles and the continent of Europe, and be seen in every quarter of the world."

Another of the navigations on which Mr. Telford was long employed was that of the river Weaver in Cheshire. It was only twenty-four miles in extent, but of considerable importance to the country through which it passed, accommodating the salt-manufacturing districts, of which the towns of Nantwich, Northwich, and Frodsham are the centres. The channel of the river was extremely crooked and much obstructed by shoals, when Telford took the navigation in hand in the year 1807, and a number of essential improvements were made in it, by means of new locks, weirs, and side cuts, which had the effect of greatly improving the communications of these important districts.

In the following year we find our engineer consulted, at the instance of the King of Sweden, on the best mode of constructing the Gotha Canal, between Lake Wenern and the Baltic, to complete the communication with the North Sea. In 1808, at the invitation of Count Platen, Mr. Telford visited Sweden and made a careful survey of the district. The service occupied him and his assistants two months, after which he prepared and sent in a series of detailed plans and sections, together with an elaborate report on the subject. His plans having been adopted, he again visited Sweden in 1810, to inspect the excavations which had already been begun, when he supplied the drawings for the locks and bridges. With the sanction of the British Government, he at the same time furnished the Swedish contractors with patterns of the most improved tools used in canal making, and took with him a number of experienced lock-makers and navvies for the purpose of instructing the native workmen.

The construction of the Gotha Canal was an undertaking of great magnitude and difficulty, similar in many respects to the Caledonian Canal, though much more extensive. The length of artificial canal was 55 miles, and of the whole navigation, including the lakes, 120 miles. The locks are 120 feet long and 24 feet broad; the width of the canal at bottom being 42 feet, and the depth of water 10 feet. The results, so far as the engineer was concerned, were much more satisfactory than in the case of the Caledonian Canal. While in the one case he had much obloquy to suffer for the services he had given, in the other he was honoured and feted as a public benefactor, the King conferring upon him the Swedish order of knighthood, and presenting him with his portrait set in diamonds.

Among the various canals throughout England which Mr. Telford was employed to construct or improve, down to the commencement of the railway era, were the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal, in 1818; the Grand Trunk Canal, in 1822; the Harecastle Tunnel, which he constructed anew, in 1824-7; the  irmingham Canal, in 1824; and the Macclesfield, and Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canals, in 1825. The Gloucester and Berkeley Canal Company had been unable to finish their works, begun some thirty years before; but with the assistance of a loan of 160,000L. from the Exchequer Bill Loan Commissioners, they were enabled to proceed with the completion of their undertaking. A capacious canal was cut from Gloucester to Sharpness Point, about eight miles down the Severn, which had the effect of greatly improving the convenience of the port of Gloucester; and by means of this navigation, ships of large burden can now avoid the circuitous and difficult passage of the higher part of the river, very much to the advantage of the trade of the place.

The formation of a new tunnel through Harecastle Hill, for the better accommodation of the boats passing along the Grand Trunk Canal, was a formidable work. The original tunnel, it will be remembered,*[3] was laid out by Brindley, about fifty years before, and occupied eleven years in construction. But the engineering appliances of those early days were very limited; the pumping powers of the steam-engine had not been fairly developed, and workmen were as yet only half-educated in the expert use of tools. The tunnel, no doubt, answered the purpose for which it was originally intended, but it was very soon found too limited for the traffic passing along the navigation. It was little larger than a sewer, and admitted the passage of only one narrow boat, seven feet wide, at a time, involving very heavy labour on the part of the men who worked it through. This was performed by what was called legging. The Leggers lay upon the deck of the vessel, or upon a board slightly projecting from either side of it, and, by thrusting their feet against the slimy roof or sides of the tunnel-walking horizontally as it were -- they contrived to push it through. But it was no better than horsework; and after "legging" Harecastle Tunnel, which is more than a mile and a half long, the men were usually completely exhausted, and as wet from perspiration as if they had been dragged through the canal itself. The process occupied about two hours, and by the time the passage of the tunnel was made, there was usually a collection of boats at the other end waiting their turn to pass. Thus much contention and confusion took place amongst the boatmen--a very rough class of labourers-- and many furious battles were fought by the claimants for the first turn "through." Regulations were found of no avail to settle these disputes, still less to accommodate the large traffic which continued to keep flowing along the line of the Grand Trunk, and steadily increased with the advancing trade and manufactures of the country. Loud complaints were made by the public, but they were disregarded for many years; and it was not until the proprietors were threatened with rival canals and railroads that they determined on--what they could no longer avoid if they desired to retain the carrying trade of the district the enlargement of the Harecastle Tunnel.

Mr. Telford was requested to advise the Company what course was most proper to be adopted in the matter, and after examining the place, he recommended that an entirely new tunnel should be constructed, nearly parallel with the old one, but of much larger dimensions. The work was begun in 1824, and completed in 1827, in less than three years. There were at that time throughout the country plenty of skilled labourers and contractors, many of them trained by their experience upon Telford's own works, where as Brindley had in a great measure to make his workmen out of the rawest material. Telford also had the advantage of greatly improved machinery and an abundant supply of money--the Grand Trunk Canal Company having become prosperous and rich, paying large dividends. It is therefore meet, while eulogising the despatch with which he was enabled to carry out the work, to point out that the much greater period occupied in the earlier undertaking is not to be set down to the disparagement of Brindley, who had difficulties to encounter which the later engineer knew nothing of.

The length of the new tunnel is 2926 yards; it is 16 feet high and 14 feet broad, 4 feet 9 inches of the breadth being occupied by the towing-path--for "legging" was now dispensed with, and horses hauled along the boats instead of their being thrust through by men. The tunnel is in so perfectly straight a line that its whole length can be seen through at one view; and though it was constructed by means of fifteen different pitshafts sunk to the same line along the length of the tunnel, the workmanship is so perfect that the joinings of the various lengths of brickwork are scarcely discernible. The convenience afforded by the new tunnel was very great, and Telford mentions that, on surveying it in 1829, he asked a boatman coming; out of it how he liked it? "I only wish," he replied, "that it reached all the way to Manchester!"


Cross Section of Harecastle Tunnel.

At the time that Mr. Telford was engaged upon the tunnel at Harecastle, he was employed to improve and widen the Birmingham Canal, another of Brindley's works. Though the accommodation provided by it had been sufficient for the traffic when originally constructed, the expansion of the trade of Birmingham and the neighbourhood, accelerated by the formation of the canal itself, had been such as completely to outgrow its limited convenience and capacity, and its enlargement and improvement now became absolutely necessary. Brindley's Canal, for the sake of cheapness of construction--money being much scarcer and more difficult to be raised in the early days of canals--was also winding and crooked; and it was considered desirable to shorten and straighten it by cutting off the bends at different places. At the point at which the canal entered Birmingham, it had become "little better than a crooked ditch, with scarcely the appearance of a towing-path, the horses frequently sliding and staggering in the water, the hauling-lines sweeping the gravel into the canal, and the entanglement at the meeting of boats being incessant; whilst at the locks at each end of the short summit at Smethwick crowds of boatmen were always quarrelling, or offering premiums for a preference of passage; and the mine-owners, injured by the delay, were loud in their just complaints."*[4]

Mr. Telford proposed an effective measure of improvement, which was taken in hand without loss of time, and carried out, greatly to the advantage of the trade of the district. The numerous bends in the canal were cut off, the water-way was greatly widened, the summit at Smethwick was cut down to the level on either side, and a straight canal, forty feet wide, without a lock, was thus formed as far as Bilston and Wolverhampton; while the length of the main line between Birmingham and Autherley, along the whole extent of the "Black country," was reduced from twenty-two to fourteen miles. At the same time the obsolete curvatures in Brindley's old canal were converted into separate branches or basins, for the accommodation of the numerous mines and manufactories on either side of the main line. In consequence of the alterations which had been made in the canal, it was found necessary to construct numerous large bridges. One of these--a cast iron bridge, at Galton, of 150 feet span--has been much admired for its elegance, lightness, and economy of material. Several others of cast iron were constructed at different points, and at one place the canal itself is carried along on an aqueduct of the same material as at Pont-Cysylltau. The whole of these extensive improvements were carried out in the short space of two years; and the result was highly satisfactory, "proving," as Mr. Telford himself observes, "that where business is extensive, liberal expenditure of this kind is true economy."


Galton Bridge, Birmingham Canal.

In 1825 Mr. Telford was called upon to lay out a canal to connect the Grand Trunk, at the north end of Harecastle Tunnel, with the rapidly improving towns of Congleton and Macclesfield. The line was twenty-nine miles in length, ten miles on one level from Harecastle to beyond Congleton; then, ascending 114 feet by eleven locks, it proceeded for five miles on a level past Macclesfield, and onward to join the Peak Forest Canal at Marple. The navigation was thus conducted upon two levels, each of considerable length; and it so happened that the trade of each was in a measure distinct, and required separate accommodation. The traffic of the whole of the Congleton district had ready access to the Grand Trunk system, without the labour, expense, and delay involved by passing the boats through locks; while the coals brought to Macclesfield to supply the mills there were carried throughout upon the upper level, also without lockage. The engineer's arrangement proved highly judicious, and furnishes an illustration of the tact and judgment which he usually displayed in laying out his works for practical uses. Mr Telford largely employed cast iron in the construction of this canal, using it in the locks and gates, as well as in an extensive aqueduct which it was necessary to construct over a deep ravine, after the plan pursued by him at, Pont-Cysylltau and other places.

The last canal constructed by. Mr. Telford was the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction, extending from the Birmingham Canal, near Wolverhampton, in nearly a direct line, by Market Drayton, Nantwich, and through the city of Chester, by the Ellesmere Canal, to Ellesmere Port on the Mersey. The proprietors of canals were becoming alarmed at the numerous railways projected through the districts heretofore served by their water-ways; and among other projects one was set on foot, as early as 1825, for constructing a line of railway from London to Liverpool. Mr. Telford was consulted as to the best means of protecting existing investments, and his advice was to render the canal system as complete as it could be made; for he entertained the conviction, which has been justified by experience, that such navigations possessed peculiar advantages for the conveyance of heavy goods, and that, if the interruptions presented by locks could be done away with, or materially reduced, a large portion of the trade of the country must continue to be carried by the water roads. The new line recommended by him was approved and adopted, and the works were commenced in 1826. A second complete route was thus opened up between Birmingham and Liverpool, and Manchester, by which the distance was shortened twelve miles, and the delay occasioned by 320 feet of upward and downward lockage was done away with.

Telford was justly proud of his canals, which were the finest works of their kind that had yet been executed in England. Capacious, convenient, and substantial, they embodied his most ingenious contrivances, and his highest engineering skill. Hence we find him writing to a friend at Langholm, that, so soon as he could find "sufficient leisure from his various avocations in his own unrivalled and beloved island," it was his intention to visit France and Italy, for the purpose of ascertaining what foreigners had been able to accomplish, compared with ourselves, in the construction of canals, bridges, and harbours. "I have no doubt," said he, "as to their inferiority. During the war just brought to a close, England has not only been able to guard her own head and to carry on a gigantic struggle, but at the same time to construct canals, roads, harbours, bridges--magnificent works of peace--the like of which are probably not to be found in the world. Are not these things worthy of a nation's pride?"

Footnotes for Chapter X.

*[1] Mr. Matthew Davidson, above referred to, was an excellent officer, but a strange cynical humourist in his way. He was a Lowlander, and had lived for some time in England, at the Pont Cysylltau works, where he had acquired a taste for English comforts, and returned to the North with a considerable contempt for the Highland people amongst whom he was stationed. He is said to have very much resembled Dr. Johnson in person and was so fond of books, and so well read in them, that he was called 'the Walking Library.' He used to say that if justice were done to the inhabitants of Inverness, there would be nobody left there in twenty years but the Provost and the hangman. Seeing an artist one day making a sketch in the mountains, he said it was the first time he had known what the hills were good for. And when some one was complaining of the weather in the Highlands, he looked sarcastically round, and observed that the rain certainly would not hurt the heather crop.

*[2] The misfortunes of the Caledonian Canal did not end with the life of Telford. The first vessel passed through it from sea to sea in October, 1822, by which time it had cost about a million sterling, or double the original estimate. Notwithstanding this large outlay, it appears that the canal was opened before the works had been properly completed; and the consequence was that they very shortly fell into decay. It even began to be considered whether the canal ought not to be abandoned. In 1838, Mr. James Walker, C.E., an engineer of the highest eminence, examined it, and reported fully on its then state, strongly recommending its completion as well as its improvement. His advice was eventually adopted, and the canal was finished accordingly, at an additional cost of about 200,000L., and the whole line was re-opened in 1847, since which time it has continued in useful operation. The passage from sea to sea at all times can now be depended on, and it can usually be made in forty-eight hours. As the trade of the North increases, the uses of the canal will probably become much more decided than they have heretofore, proved.

*[3] 'Brindley and the Early Engineers,' p. 267.

*[4] 'Life of Telford,' p. 82, 83.


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