Monday, June 7, 2010

John Rennie

On June 7, 1761, the civil engineer John Rennie was born.  Rennie had a facility for mechanical work, and as a youth spent time in Andrew Meikle's (inventor of threshing machine) workshop.  Rennie attended Edinburgh University between 1780 and 1783.  In 1784, he visited James Watt, who offered him a position.  Rennie accepted, moving to London to work on a steam engine being built by Boulton & Watt.

Rennie worked on several projects in London, including canals (Kennet and Avon), docks (London docks), harbors (Holyhead harbor), and bridges (London bridge).  He is also credited with designing and building the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

Rennie received early schooling in Prestonkirk.  Walter Scott drew upon this area, including Haddington for some of his character inspiration.  Some of these are detailed in "Reminiscences of the royal burgh of Haddington and old East Lothian agriculturists".  For example (West Port):

...Witches of old were burned in the Gallows Green. Sir Walter Scott had no doubt these atrocious events in his eye when, in his novel of the Bride of Lammermoor, he describes an interview betwixt old Alice, Ravenswood, Henry and Lucy Ashton, in the following words :

— ** * They think,' said Henry Ashton, who came up at that moment, and whispered into Ravenswood's ear,
* that she is a witch that should have been burnt with them that suffered at Haddington.'

" ' What is that you say,' said Alice, turning towards the boy, her sightless visage inflamed with passion ;

* that I am a witch, and ought to have suffered with the helpless old wretches who were murdered at Haddington.?'" ...


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