Article from Forth Sight - October 2008


The ‘Great Line of Communication between the North and South of Scotland’ were the words used by John Rennie - civil engineer - on the map he published for the Trustees of the Queensferry Passage after the first phase of construction had been carried out in 1812. The first image to approaching boats would have been the light tower at North Queensferry, designed in 1812 by Robert Stevenson, engineer to the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses and installed on top of the Signal (Tower) House staircase. Work had already been carried out to improve piers, landing places and roads on both sides of the river Forth.

John Rennie was not only a very talented engineer and designer, but a man of great foresight, and much of the legacy of his work is still in use today.

The principal landing piers of the Queensferry Passage were located at North and South Queensferry. On the north side was the Town pier, together with the East and West Battery piers with the Signal House acting as administration centre. On the south side was Newhalls pier, now known as Hawes pier, the pier at Port Edgar, the much smaller pier at Portnuick and, built in 1813, the Long Craig pier close to the Dalmeny estate.

Rennie was also responsible for much of the road network that linked the piers and neighbouring communities on both sides of the river.

When an Act of Parliament in 1809 was brought into force, the Trustees of the Queensferry Passage were empowered to formalise the ferry rights which were previously owned and operated by many individual boatmen.


It could be said that this Act of Parliament enabled three of the country’s finest engineers to play a part in developing ‘the Great Line of Communication’ at the Queensferry Passage.

“The Old Harbour Light at North Queensferry” from an original engraving in 1905 by Martin Hardie RSW now displayed in the Museum of Fine Arts - San Francisco