The terrible gale which swept away
the first lighthouse that was built on the Eddystone
Rock, gave ample proof of the evils resulting from
the want of such a building. Just after the
structure fell, a vessel, named the “Winchelsea,”
homeward bound, approached the dreaded rock.
Trusting, doubtless, to the light which had been destroyed
so recently, she held on her course, struck, split
in two, and went down with every soul on board.
The necessity for building another
tower was thus made; as it were, urgently obvious;
nevertheless, nearly four years elapsed before any
one was found with sufficient courage and capacity
to attempt the dangerous and difficult enterprise.
During this period, our friend John
Potter, being a steady, able man, found plenty of
work at the docks of Plymouth; but he often cast a
wistful glance in the direction of “the Rock”
and sighed to think of the tower that had perished,
and the numerous wrecks that had occurred in consequence;
for, not only had some vessels struck on the Rock itself,
but others, keeping too far off its dreaded locality,
were wrecked on the coast of France. John Potter’s
sigh, it must be confessed, was also prompted, in
part, by the thought that his dreams of a retired and
peaceful life as a light-keeper were now destined never
to be realised.
Returning home one evening, somewhat
wearied, he flung his huge frame into a stout arm
chair by the fireside, and exclaimed, “Heigho!”
“Deary me, John, what ails you
to-night?” asked the faithful Martha, who was,
as of yore, busy with the supper.
“Nothin’ partikler, Martha;
only I’ve had a hard day of it, an I’m
glad to sit down. Was Isaac Dorkin here to-day?”
“No, ’e wasn’t.
I wonder you keep company with that man,” replied
Mrs Potter, testily; “he’s for ever quarrelling
with ’ee, John.”
“No doubt he is, Martha; but
we always make it up again; an’ it don’t
do for a man to give up his comrades just because
they have sharp words now and then. Why, old
girl, you and I are always havin’ a spurt o’
that sort off and on; yet I don’t ever talk
of leavin’ ye on that account.”
To this Martha replied, “Fiddlesticks;”
and said that she didn’t believe in the friendship
of people who were always fighting and making it up
again; that for her part she would rather have no friends
at all, she wouldn’t; and that she had a settled
conviction, she had, that Isaac Dorkin would come
to a bad end at last.
“I hope not, Martha; but in
the meantime he has bin the means of gettin’
me some work to do that is quite to my liking.”
“What may that be, John?” asked Mrs Potter
“I’ll tell you when we’re
at supper,” said John with a smile; for he knew
from experience that his better half was in a fitter
state to swallow unpleasant news when engaged in swallowing
her meals than at any other time.
“Where is Tommy?” he added,
looking round at the quantity of chips which littered
“Where is ’e?” repeated
Mrs Potter, in a tone of indignation. “Where
would you expect ’im to be but after mischief?
’E’s at the mod’l, of course; always
at it; never at hanythingk else a’most.”
“No!” exclaimed John,
in affected surprise. “Wasn’t he
at school to-day?”
“O yes, of course ’e was at school.”
“An’ did he git his lessons for to-morrow
after comin’ ’ome?”
“I suppose ’e did.”
“Ah then, he does something else sometimes,
Mrs Potter’s reply was interrupted
by Tommy himself emerging from a closet, which formed
his workshop and in which he was at that time busy
with a model of Winstanley’s lighthouse, executed
from the drawings and descriptions by his father,
improved by his own brilliant fancy.
Four years make a marked difference
on a boy in the early stage of life. He was now
nearly ten, and well grown, both intellectually and
physically, for his age.
“Well, Tommy, how d’ee git on wi’
the light-’ouse?” asked his father.
“Pretty well, faither:
but it seems to me that Mr Winstanley had too many
stickin’-out poles, an’ curlywurleys, an’
things o’ that sort about it.”
“Listen to that now,”
said Mrs Potter, with a look of contempt, as they
all sat down to supper: “what ever does
the boy mean by curlywurleys?”
“You’ve seed Isaac Dorkin’s nose,
“Of course I ’ave: what then?”
“Well, it goes in at the top
and out at the middle and curls up at the end:
that’s curlywurley,” said Tommy, with a
grin, as he helped himself to a large potato.
“The boy is right, Martha,”
said John, laughing, “for a lighthouse should
be as round an’ as smooth as a ship’s bow,
with nothin’ for wind or water to lay hold on.
But now I’ll tell ’ee of this noo situation.”
Both mother and son looked inquiringly
up, but did not speak, being too busy and hungry.
“Well, this is how it came about.
I met Isaac Dorkin on my way to the docks this mornin’,
an’ he says to me, says he, `John, I met a gentleman
who is makin’ very partikler inquiries about
the Eddystone Rock: his name he says is Rudyerd,
and he wants to hire a lot o’ first-rate men
to begin a new-’”
“A noo light’ouse!”
exclaimed Mrs Potter, with sudden energy, bringing
her fist down on the table with such force that the
dishes rattled again. “I know’d
it: I did. I’ve ’ad a settled
conviction that if ever they begun to put up another
’ouse on that there rock, you would ’ave
your finger in it! And now it’ll be the
old story over again: out in all weathers, gettin’
yer limbs bruised, if yer neck ain’t broke; comin’
’ome like a drownded rat, no regular hours or
meals! Oh John, John!”
Mrs Potter stopped at this point to
recover breath and make up her mind whether to storm
or weep. Heaving a deep sigh she did neither,
but went on with her supper in sad silence.
“Don’t take on like that,
duckey,” said John, stretching his long arm
across the table and patting his wife’s shoulder.
“It won’t be so bad as that comes to,
and it will bring steady work, besides lots o’
“Go on with the story, faither,”
said Tommy, through a potato, while his eyes glittered
“It ain’t a story, lad.
However, to make it short I may come to the pint
at once. Isaac got engaged himself and mentioned
my name to Mr Rudyerd, who took the trouble to ferret
me out in the docks and-and in fact engaged
me for the work, which is to begin next week.”
“Capital!” exclaimed Tommy.
“Oh, how I wish I was old enough to go too!”
“Time enough, lad: every
dog shall have his day, as the proverb says.”
Mrs Potter said nothing, but sighed,
and sought comfort in another cup of tea.
Meanwhile John continued his talk
in an easy, off hand sort of way, between bite.
“This Mr Rudyerd, you must know
(pass the loaf, Tommy: thank ’ee), is a
Cornish man-and fine, straightforward, go-ahead
fellows them Cornish men are, though I’m not
one myself. Ah, you needn’t turn up your
pretty nose, Mrs Potter; I would rather have bin born
in Cornwall than any other county in England, if I’d
had my choice. Howsever, that ain’t possible
now. Well, it seems that Mr Rudyerd is a remarkable
sort of man. He came of poor an’ dishonest
parents, from whom he runned away in his young days,
an’ got employed by a Plymouth gentleman, who
became a true father to him, and got him a good edication
in readin’, writin’, an’ mathematics.
Ah, Tommy, my son, many a time have I had cause for
to regret that nobody gave me a good edication!”
Mrs Potter, rousing up at this. “You’ve
got edication enough for your station in life, and
a deal more than most men in the same trade.
You oughtn’t for to undervally yourself, John.
I’d back you against all your acquaintance
in the matter of edication, I would, so don’t
talk any more nonsense like that.”
Mrs Potter concluded by emphatically
stabbing a potato with her fork, and beginning to
John smiled sadly and shook his head,
but he was too wise a man to oppose his wife on such
“However, Tommy,” he continued,
“I’ll not let you have the same
regrets in after life, my son: God helping me,
you shall have a good; edication. Well, as I
was sayin’, John Rudyerd the runaway boy became
Mister Rudyerd the silk-mercer on Ludgate Hill, London,
and now he’s goin’ to build a noo light’ouse
on the Eddystun.”
“He’d do better to mind his shop,”
said Mrs Potter.
“He must be a strange man,”
observed Tommy, “to be both a silk-mercer and
Tommy was right: Mr Rudyerd was
indeed a strange man, for the lighthouse which he
ultimately erected on the Eddystone Rock proved that,
although not a professional engineer, and although
he never attempted any other great work of the kind,
he nevertheless possessed engineering talent of the
highest order: a fact which must of course have
been known to Captain Lovet, the gentleman who selected
him for the arduous undertaking.
The corporation of the Trinity House,
who managed the lighthouses on the English coast,
had let the right to build on the Eddystone, for a
period of 99 years, to this Captain Lovet, who appointed
Mr Rudyerd to do the work.
It was a clear calm morning in July
1706 when the boat put off for the first time to “the
Rock,” with the men and materials for commencing
the lighthouse. Our friend John Potter sat at
the helm. Opposite to him sat his testy friend,
Isaac Dorkin, pulling the stroke oar. Mr Rudyerd
and his two assistant engineers sat on either hand,
conversing on the subject that filled the thoughts
of all. It was a long hard pull, even on a calm
day, but stout oars and strong arms soon carried them
out to the rock. Being low water at the time,
a good deal of it was visible, besides several jagged
peaks of the black forbidding ridge of which the Eddystone
forms a part.
But calm though it was, the party
could plainly see that the work before them would
be both difficult and dangerous. A slight swell
from the open sea caused a long smooth glassy wave
to roll solemnly forward every minute or two, and
launch itself in thunder on the weather side, sending
its spray right over the rock at times, so that a landing
on that side would have been impossible. On
the lee side, however, the boat found a sort of temporary
harbour. Here they landed, but not altogether
without mishap. Isaac Dorkin, who had made himself
conspicuous, during the row out, for caustic remarks,
and a tendency to contradict, slipped his foot on
a piece of seaweed and fell into the water, to the
great glee of most of his comrades.
“Ah, then, sarves you right,”
cried Teddy Maroon, a little Irishman, one of the
The others laughed, and so did John
Potter; but he also stretched out a helping hand and
pulled Dorkin out of the sea.
This little incident tended to increase
the spirits of the party as they commenced preliminary
The form of the little mass of rock
on which they had to build was very unfavourable.
Not only was it small-so small that the
largest circle which it was possible to draw on it
was only twenty-five feet six inches in diameter,
but its surface sloped so much as to afford a very
insecure foundation for any sort of building, even
if the situation had been an unexposed one.
The former builder, Winstanley, had
overcome this difficulty by fastening a circle of
strong iron posts into the solid rock, but the weight
of his building, coupled with the force of the sea,
had snapped these, and thus left the structure literally
to slide off its foundation. The ends of these
iron posts, and a bit of chain firmly imbedded in
a cleft of the rock, were all that the new party of
builders found remaining of the old lighthouse.
Rudyerd determined to guard against a similar catastrophe,
by cutting the rock into a succession of flat steps
or terraces, so that the weight of his structure should
rest perpendicularly on its foundation.
Stormy weather interrupted and delayed
him, but he returned with his men again and again
to the work, and succeeded in advancing it very considerably
during the first year-that is to say, during
the few weeks of the summer of that year, in which
winds and waves permitted the work to go on.
Many adventures, both ludicrous and
thrilling, had these enterprising men while they toiled,
by snatches as it were, sometimes almost under water,
and always under difficulties; but we are constrained
to pass these by, in silence, in order to devote our
space to the more important and stirring incidents
in the history of this the second lighthouse on the
Eddystone,-one of which incidents bade fair
to check the progress of the building for an indefinite
period of time, and well-nigh brought the career of
our hero, John Potter, and his mates to an abrupt close.