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The Life and Work of James Abernethy, C.E., F.R.S.E

ONE more harbour work of importance remains to be mentioned, and that is Fraserburgh, the chief Scottish port of the herring fishery, some fifty miles north of Aberdeen.

It is just forty years since the engineer whose career has been given in this Biography, was first consulted with reference to Fraserburgh Harbour, and although this long association would naturally suggest the propriety of an earl er mention, it appears to occupy a more appropriate place in the book as last on the special list, inasmuch as the advice given in 1857 has only within the past two years been fully carried out, and also because it was the last work upon which he was actually engaged.

In the year 1857 he recommended to the Harbour Commissioners an extension of the Balaclava East Pier, built in 1851, in an easterly direction, by forming a breakwater 720 feet in length, reaching to the further edge of the Outer Bush Rock, with a view to sheltering the Balaclava and North Harbours. Sixteen years later, in 1873 a Provisional Order was obtained in order to carry out the recommendations of the report, and a loan of £60,000 was granted by the Public Works’ Loan Commission for the construction of the works. These comprised a breakwater, extending east-south-e^st for 680 feet, and then turning south-east for 180 feet, and terminating on the outer Bush Rock, and the widening of the Balaclava East Pier, on the sea side, to the extent of i6| feet along its entire length of 1400 feet, so as to give width for a roadway to convey materials to the breakwater without encroaching upon the quay space or reducing the area of the basin. As the breakwater was to be exposed to the heavy seas raised by north and north-east gales, it was designed to be formed of a solid mass of concrete in position above low water, 30 feet wide, and having its quay 10 feet above high water protected by a parapet feet high. Mr. J. H. Bostock, M.I.C.E., carried out the work, as resident engineer. The widening of the Balaclava Pier, the first of the two works executed under the loan, was commenced at the end of 1875, and completed in October, 1877, and contains 15,300 cubic yards of concrete. The breakwater, begun in the spring of 1878, was completed in the autumn of 1882. It consisted of 15,274 cubic yards of concrete :n bags, and 25,106 cubic yards of concrete in position, or a total of 40,380 cubic yards, and the total cost of the works amounted to £69,000. Thus a good deal had bean done to give the harbour better protection, but much that had been advised, had to remain undone until the Harbour Commissioners could see their way to apply for a fresh loan. This came to pass in 1894, when extensive works were undertaken, embracing, not only deepening the large area of harbour four feet in the hard rock, and the erection of jetties, but also the deepening of the entrance to the channel, the formation of a new breakwater at the south side, the strengthening of Balaclava Breakwater, and the building of a dry dock, three and a half acres, the largest of its kind in Scotland, and intended for wintering the large local fleet of tirst class fishing boats. These boats have hitherto been drawn up in winter on the piers, a process which frequently strained them, and the Harbour Commissioners by making this provision for their fishermen, have shown a timely consideration for them on the first occasion when :1 has been in their power to do so.

At the time of Mr. Abernethy’s death, a portion only of these additional works had been regarded as likely to be carried out in the near future, but all of them have since been undertaken and completed after considerable difficulties in the early stage, owing to extensive “blows” through the North Pier, well within the estimate, and the surplus of the money advanced by the Public Loan Commissioners on the security of the rates, which remained over after their completion, has been devoted to building the dry dock. Some four years since he took his two elder sons into partnership, and Mr. G. N. Abernethy has continued to carry on this work to its successful termination. Mr. G. Fitzgibbon has, since operations began in 1894, acted as the resident engineer at Fraserburgh, and has most ably superintended the carrying out of a difficult engineering work. The harbour space is now thirty-eight acres, with a mile and a half of quays, and all the necessary factories for the landing and curing of fish. The navigation and harbour works may be pronounced complete, but the fish market so much required remains to bę built. This the inhabitants of Fraserburgh, who have done so much for their harbour during the past twenty years, and are now deservedly benefiting by the increased trade resulting from their enterprise, have decided to erect as soon as possible.

The Aberdeen Journal of April 12th of this year, in speaking of the work nearly finished, said:—

“The scheme of improvement planned forty years ago, by the late Mr. James Abernethy, is now nearing completion, and the work has already been fully justified by the results, both from an engineering and a financial point of view. The scheme projected by the eminent engineer has produced the desired effect, and the growth of the portal revenue by 100 per cent, within twenty years, may be regarded as a further proof of the well known principle, that where facilities are provided traffic will certainly follow.”

The cost of the last built works has been £82,000. Messrs. Price and Wills, of Westminster, undertook the contract, and executed it within the engineers’ estimate, and in a manner which has given universal satisfaction. The accompanying plate shows a portion of the Balaclava Harbour laid dry, and certain of their staff in possession of the premises. The harbour entrance has been enclosed by a cofferdam in the autumn of each of the past years till the following July, the water pumped out, and operations continued ; while in July of each year the cofferdam has been removed, the sea admitted, and the herring fishery briskly carried on as usual, and with the advantage each season of the deepened portions of the harbour which had been effected before the re-admission of water.



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