HC Deb 16 June 1836 vol 34 cc558-60
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

rose to present Petitions from the landholders and commissioners of supply of the stewartry, and from the merchants, shipowners, and mariners of the port of Kirkcudbright, complaining of the want of lighthouses on the Scotch side of the Solway Frith, whereby numerous shipwrecks and great loss of life were fre- quently occasioned on that coast. The matter complained of was a great and crying grievance in that part of the country. There was only a single lighthouse from the Mull of Cantyre to the coast of Dumfries, and the whole of that navigation was of the most perilous description, being along a rocky shore, upon which shipwrecks were extremely frequent. For the last thirty-five years those who were interested in the stewartry had endeavoured to obtain the erection of a lighthouse on the island of Little Ross, and since he had come into Parliament, he had made representations for that purpose to the Commissioners of Northern Lights, on grounds that he conceived it impossible to resist. They were resisted, however, and on grounds that it appeared to him impossible to sustain. The Commissioners took great credit to themselves for having established a lighthouse at the Mull of Galloway, but in consequence of an intervening headland, that light was not of any use to vessels navigating along the coast of Kirkcudbright. During the last year four vessels had been lost there, two of them with all hands on board, and of the crews of the other two a considerable portion were drowned. If there had been a light on Little Ross Island, this loss of life would not have occurred. There had been sixty-six vessels altogether lost on that part of the coast during the last thirty years, and he could state, on the best authority, that the establishment of a lighthouse on the spot he had named might have averted to a great extent, if not entirely, such a destruction of life and property. A lighthouse could be constructed there for l,400l., which was scarcely one-tenth of the amount of the cargoes of some of the ships lost there. He did not desire to cast any reflections on the Commissioners of the Northern Lights—they were all most respectable gentlemen; but he must question the constitution of that Board. Of course the House supposed that it was mainly composed of scientific persons and of mariners. There was not, however, a single individual of either class upon it. It was composed of Edinburgh lawyers, and of the sheriffs of certain maritime counties in Scotland, and the Commissioners were entirely led by the judgment of their engineer. That gentleman had not done his duty towards the county which he (Mr. Fergusson) represented. From 1820 up to the present time his consttuents had never been able to obtain an answer to their request that a lighthouse should be established on Little Ross Island. The reply to them now was, that the harbour there had been surveyed by the engineer of the Board, and that he had reported that it was dry at low water. Now what was the fact? In this very harbour King William rode for several days, with all his fleet, on his way to raise the siege of Drogheda. Hundreds of vessels have been seen riding there in safety, and if the engineer had consulted any manner on the spot, he would have told him that at the lowest ebb there were from three and a half to four fathoms water in the harbour. He had been informed by a most respectable resident in Kirkcudbright, that the engineer arrived there on a Sunday, went to Little Ross Island, merely looked at the harbour, and without asking a question of a single mariner there, and without taking soundings, left the place. The harbour was, in fact, one where vessels coasting from Ireland to Cumberland, Dumfries, and Kirkcudbrightshire, could ride with perfect safety, and the light was asked for it as a harbour of refuge. He might be asked what could the House do? It could legislate on the subject, and by a Bill compel the Commissioners to do their duty.

The Speaker

interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, and reminded him that it was one of the regulations of the House not to go into a discussion on a Petition relating to a matter that had been, or would be, made the subject of a specific motion.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that in that respect the regulations of the House were changed since he had come into it. He still thought that petitioners had a right to have their case stated, though they might not have a right to have a debate upon it. He now gave notice, that on Thursday next he would present these petitions, and move for papers on the subject.

the Speaker

said, that he was bound in duty to enforce that which had been laid down as the general understanding of the House.

Petition withdrawn.

Back to