GEORGE III.—ABOUT A GREATER CONQUEROR
When Prince Charlie led his army to Derby and back
again, the men walked all the way, and it took two
months to go and come. Now, if any one wished, he
could go to Derby and back again in one day—by rail.
But in the days of Prince Charlie, and for long after,
there were no railways, and to walk was the only way in
which an army could move from place to place.
But as Prince Charlie marched northward, a little boy
of ten, with his head full of stories of Bruce and Wallace,
watched eagerly for a sight of the gallant Prince, and all
his life he remembered the time of ‘ the forty-five.’
This little boy was called James Watt. He was not
very strong, so he had not been sent to school as other
little boys are. He spent most of his time at home with
his mother, who taught him to read. And as soon as he
could read, he devoured every book that he could lay
hands on. As James could not play about like other
boys, his mother gave him paper and pencil, and he
would spend hours amusing himself by drawing. Often
too, he would pull his toys to pieces and make them up
again into other things. And often he would spend
hours seemingly doing nothing.
‘I never saw such an idle boy as you are,’ said his
aunt, one day, as he sat by the fire watching the kettle
412 SCOTLAND’S STORY
boil. ‘Take a book, or employ yourself usefully. For
the last hour you have not spoken a word, and have done
nothing but take off the lid of the kettle and put it on
again, or hold a spoon over the steam, watching how it
rises from the spout, and catching the drops as they fall.’
But James was not idle. He felt that there was
power in the steam, but how to make use of it he did not
know, and his childish brain was trying to find out.
When Watt grew up, he tried to earn a living by making
mathematical instruments—that is rules, compasses, and
other things which are required for making very careful
measurements. But many people did not buy these
things, and Watt did not make much money. So he
began to think of making money in other ways, and all
his spare time was spent in trying to find out what steam
could be made to do. At last he came very near invent
ing a steam engine which would work and be of some use.
Watt became so excited and interested about it that
he neglected his real business, and at last gave it up
altogether. He was poor, ill, and in debt, but kind friends
helped him and lent him money so that he might go on
making his models and experiments. By this time he
was married, and he began to be very unhappy because
he was so poor and could not give his wife everything
to make her comfortable. But she was a brave woman.
‘ Do not make yourself uneasy,’ she said, ‘ though things
should not succeed as you wish. If this engine will not
do, something else will. Never despair.’
And Watt did not despair, and after twenty years of
work and failure and disappointment, he at last succeeded.
Watt has been called the improver of the steam
engine, but he might almost be called the inventor of it.
The steam engines which were known before Watt‘s were
clumsy things, and of little use. It was Watt who
A GREATER CONQUEROR THAN KINGS 413
showed people that steam could be made to hammer iron,
cut steel, pump water, drive the weaver‘s loom and the
spinner’s wheel, and later, it was people working with
Watt‘s ideas who laid down rails and sent trains to
thunder from one end of the kingdom to the other, and
ships to sail up and down our rivers and across the far
seas, heedless of wind and tide.
There never was a greater conqueror than steam. It
changed the face of the whole world, and time and
distance took a new meaning. It was the power of steam
which brought the lonely Highlands into touch with all
the busy life of towns. It gave work to millions of men ;
it brought comfort and wealth to thousands more ; it did
more than anything else to break down the boundaries
between Englishman and Scotsman, and not only between
Englishman and Scotsman, but between Britons and the
people of all the world beyond our island shores.
James Watt himself did not dream of all the wonder
ful things steam would do, but before he died the first
steamboat had been launched upon the Clyde. This boat
was called the Comet It was invented by another
Scotsman called Henry Bell, and was launched in 1812
a.d., more than a hundred years ago. But even before
that, a little pleasure steamboat had been tried on
Dalswinton Loch, in Dumfriesshire, when all the country
folk came crowding to see the wonderful new sight of a
boat driven by ‘reek.’ Now all day long the hammer
echoes along the shores of Clyde, and from there, great
battleships, or monster floating cities, glide out to carry
the thunders of war or the gifts of peace the world over.
But first, if you want to come back to Scotland's History and Legends again, just add www.historyandlegends.com to your bookmarks or favorites now! Then you'll find it easy!
Also, please consider sharing our Scottish History and Legends website with your online friends.
Copyright © 2000-present Donald Urquhart. All Rights Reserved. Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners. Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of our legal disclaimer.