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The Piazzi Blog

27th December 2015

The New Year

The New Year

The One o’ Clock Gun did not fire on New Year’s Day. It was the custom in the Scottish regiments to celebrate the arrival of the new year. Officers served dinner to the other ranks. Following the piping out of the old year through the barrack gates, the sentry on duty called out “Who goes there?” The new escort waiting to enter answered, “The New Year! All's well!” image credit Life in the Army.

20th December 2015

Leith Fort Gate

Leith Fort Gate

The One o’Clock Gun did not fire on Christmas Day. The gunners would have joined their mates at Leith Fort to enjoy a Christmas dinner served by the officers. In addition to evergreens, the barrack rooms would have been decorated with seasonal mottoes, swords, bayonets and ramrods. Barrels of beer would have been provided for the festive occasion.

13th December 2015


RA Volunteers

The figure on the left shows a Volunteer gunner of the 1860s equipped with a rammer. The wooden rammer was used to push the gunpowder charge down the gun barrel. RA gunners firing the time gun during the 19th century would have worn the same uniform as the Volunteers. The regulars wore a yellow band around the pillbox cap, while the shell jacket would have been fitted with brass buttons instead of silver metal. image credit The Scottish Volunteer Force

6th December 2015

Dixie Deans Exhibition

Dixie Deans Exhibition

The photograph taken by John Thomson shows a few of the exhibits on display at the Toun’s Time Exhibition held at the Museum of Edinburgh in 2002. The uniform worn by District Gunner Dixie Deans can be seen in the background. Battery Quartermaster Sergeant Deans maintained and loaded the One o’Clock Gun from 1972 till 1979. The model of the 19th century time gun can be seen in the One o'Clock Gun Exhibition at Edinburgh Castle.

29th November 2015

RA Badge

Royal Artillery Badge

The Scottish Artillery Historical Society has been reinstated as a Special Interest Group within the Royal Artillery Council of Scotland. The proposal was put to the members by Brigadier J R Thomson QVRM TD DL the society’s chairman at an extraordinary general meeting held at Artillery House, Colinton Road, Edinburgh on 16th November. One of the society's leading members Colonel Tony Guinan passed away earlier this year. Colonel Guinan's notes and advice on the history of the One o'Clock Gun were a great asset to John Thomson a founder member of the One o'Clock Gun Association when he was compiling information on the time gun for the One o'Clock Exhibition at Edinburgh Castle.

22nd November 2015

Inchkeith Lighthouse

Inchkeith Lighthouse

In 1803 workmen began building a lighthouse on the island of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth. The building which is 67 metres in height was designed by Thomas Smith and Robert Stevenson the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson. A revolving light was installed in 1815 which was replaced by a dioptic light in 1835. image credit Edinburgh Encyclopaedia 1818

15th November 2015

Toun Time

Toun Time Exhibition

The photograph taken by John Thomson shows two of the exhibits on display at the Toun’s Time Exhibition which was held at the Museum of Edinburgh in 2002. The model of the Nelson Monument was built by Nick Sanders a founder member of the One o’ Clock Gun Association. The other case contains the 1812 Transit Instrument which was installed in the original Transit House on calton Hill.

8th November 2015

Punch illustration

Crown presentation

Hobson-Jobson created by Hardeep Pandhal opens at the Collective Galley on 14th November. In addition to video the exhibition consists of drawings, sculpture and items of knitting to explore the use of words and terms used by British residents living in India to parody the culture and the languages spoken by the sub-continent’s inhabitants. A dictionary of Anglo- Indian words and terms compiled by Henry Yule who was born in East Lothian and Arthur Coke Burnell was published in 1886. The illustration from ‘Punch’ shows Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli presenting the crown of India to Queen Victoria.

1st November 2015

John Hewat

John Hewat

Edinburgh businessman John Hewat proposed that a time gun should be added to the time ball signal which operates from the Nelson Monument after seeing a small time gun firing during a business trip to Paris. Although the Paris noon day gun still stands in the Palais Royal Gardens, it probably fires only on Wednesdays. Check out Colleen's Paris for further details. Image credit Major Hewat.

25th October 2015

Royal Regiment of Scotland

Royal Regiment of Scotland

Major General Mike Riddell-Webster was installed as Governor of Edinburgh Castle on Monday 19th October. The photograph taken by Alan Watson shows the military band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland who took part in the ceremony. The new governor’s grandfather was General Sir Thomas Sheridan Riddell-Webster GCB DSO, Quartermaster-General to the Forces during the Second World War. General Riddell-Webster who served in the Black Watch wore his grandfather’s ceremonial sword during the installation ceremony.

18th October 2015

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Work has begun to build a new wall along base of Edinburgh Castle to protect the public from falling rock. Replacing the safety barrier which was erected two years ago, the new structure will consist of a one-metre-high stone boundary wall surmounted by 1.5 metre high metal railings creating a permanent barrier and gravel blanket along the side of the pavement running parallel with Johnston Terrace.

11th October 2015

Pets Blessing Service

Pets Blessing Service

The third annual Pets Blessing Service which took place at Greyfriars Kirk proved to be a great success. The photo shows the Reverend Lezley Stewart who took the service and led the Pets Parade consisting of every breed of dog from Pomeranians to Greyhounds around the kirkyard. Members from the Skye Terrier Club were also present with their pets.

7th October 2015

The Collective Gallery's presentation for the development of the City Observatory was approved by the City Council today. Lori Anderson the Collective Gallery's public relations officer and Dr Bruce Vickery were present at the meeting held in the Dean of Guild Room in the City Chambers.

4th October 2015

Anniversary Gun

50th Anniversary Gun

The photograph shows the One o’Clock Gun firing in July 1911 the year of the time gun’s fiftieth anniversary. Although the time had been supplied from the Royal Observatory on the Blackford Hill since 1896, many of the townspeople believed that the signal was sent from Greenwich Observatory. image credit Edinburgh Evening News

27th September 2015

The City Observatory’s Doors Open Day proved to be a great success. 2,000 visitors from all over the world climbed the Calton Hill steps to view the capital’s most fascinating building. In addition to staff from the Collective Gallery, Dr Bruce Vickery was on hand to tell the story of the astronomers who calculated the time and sent the signal to the city’s public clocks and mariners on the Firth of Forth.

20th September 2015

Doors Open Day takes place on the 26th and 27th of this month. The Collective Gallery will be opening the grounds of the City Observatory to the public on both days from 12 till 4 pm. Don't miss the chance to view the Collective Gallery's current exhibition before taking a walk round the observatory grounds.

13th September 2015

Lori Anderson the Collective Gallery’s Project Co-ordinator and Fundraiser gave a first class presentation on the future of the City Observatory project at St Augustine’s Church, George IV Bridge on Friday 11th September. The plans include the building of an underground gallery on the north side of the compound which will also contain the Collective Gallery’s administration centre. In addition to the restoration of the transit house, the main building containing the telescopes and scientific instruments will be open to the public.

6th September 2015

Open Day

A City Observatory Open Day

Lori Anderson from the Collective Gallery will be giving a presentation at St Augustine’s Church, George IV Bridge on Friday 11th September at 8.00 pm. Lori, the Collective Gallery’s Capital Project Co-ordinator and Fundraiser will outline the plans to develop the City Observatory on the Calton Hill. The photograph shows Lori with the members of the One o’Clock Gun Association.

30th August 2015

Gun 1971

Gun placement 1971

The foundations of the Half Moon Battery were damaged as the result of an explosion which took place during a performance of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August 1971. The 25 pounder was moved to the Mills Mount Battery in December and fired at 11.00 am and 11.05 am to find out if the new location was suitable for the time signal. image credit Edinburgh Evening News

23rd August 2015

Maudslay in Lambeth

Maudslay in Lambeth

Based in Lambeth, London, Maudslay, Sons and Field was founded by Henry Maudslay in 1798. The engineering company was reorganised into Maudslay, Sons and Field in 1833 when Henry’s sons Thomas and Joseph and Joshua Field joined the company which specialised in building marine steam engines. The company also built the machinery which operated the time ball on the Nelson Monument.

16th August 2015

Port Chalmers Time Ball

Port Chalmers Time Ball

A time ball was set up on the signal staff at Flagstaff Hill, Port Chalmers, New Zealand in 1862. The ball was dropped once a week at 12.30 GMT. The time service ceased in 1931. Founded in 1844, the port was named after Dr William Chalmers of the Free Church of Scotland. image credit Illustrated New Zealand Herald

9th August 2015

1 o'Clock Gun 1911

1 o'Clock Gun 1911

Edinburgh City Council took over the responsibility for firing the One o’clock Gun just before the First World War. The photograph shows the civilian gunners dragging the 18 pounder back from the gun port after it has been fired. Note the rammer lying on the apron. The rammer was used to ram the powder bag down the barrel. It was also used to clean the gun after firing. image credit The True Story of Greyfriars Bobby by Henry T. Hutton

2nd August 2015

78th Highlanders

78th Highlanders

The 78th Highlanders were stationed at Edinburgh Castle during the trials carried out to find out the most suitable spot to site the time gun. The first shots were fired from the 24 pounder standing next to the flagstaff on the Half Moon Battery on 28th January 1861. The clock designed to fire the time gun was set up next to the 24 pounder early in May. A trial was held on the 9th at four o'clock. Only two shots were needed to establish that the electric clock designed by Frederick James Ritchie was in perfect working order. The 78th left the Castle before the One o' clock Gun began firing officially in June.

26th July 2015

Colonel Boxer

Colonel Boxer

The fuse or friction tube used for firing the One o’ clock Gun was invented by Colonel Edward Mournier Boxer the superintendent of the Laboratory at the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. The cord attached to the mechanism inside the clock’s case was hooked to the friction tube in the vent of the barrel. When the weight inside the electric clock dropped at one the fuse was activated. Colonel Boxer also invented the short chamber Boxer-Henry .45 calibre cartridge used by the British Army during the Zulu War.

19th July 2015


Katikiro in Edinburgh

Although the caption on the postcard states that the photograph shows the King of Uganda, it’s likely that the figure in the foreground wearing ceremonial robes is Apolo Kagwa the Katikiro or Prime Minister. Accompanied by his secretary Ham Mukasa the politician paid a visit to the UK in 1902 to attend the coronation of Edward VII. In addition to visiting Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood, the politician and his secretary visited Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow. The One o’ clock Gun can be seen in the background. image credit One o’ Clock Gun Association

12th July 2015

Bute Battery

Bute Battery

Although the One o’ clock Gun was not fitted with an aiming sight the eighteen pounder was sent to ‘C’ Troop 241/61 (H) Bute Anti Tank Battery to be used as a coastal defence anti tank gun in 1941. The gunners were not issued with ammunition. Nicknamed ‘Gunna Dubh a Mhi-fhortain’ or the Black Gun of Misfortune by a Gaelic speaking bombardier after the weapon which killed Campbell of Glenure, the eighteen pounder was withdrawn after a few months service. image credit Mrs Jan Ritchie

5th July 2015

Wojtek the Bear

Wojtek the Bear

A statue of Corporal Wojtek who served with 22nd Supply Company of the Polish 11 Corps during the Second World War is to be set up in West Princes Street Gardens later this year. On active service, the bear either shared a tent with his comrades or slept in a special wooden crate, which was transported by truck. Wojtek distinguished himself during the Battle of Monte Cassino, by carrying crates of ammunition to the front line. image credit Wikimedia Commons.

28th June 2015

Register House Clock

Register House Clock

In the 1870s the electric clocks inside the Nelson Monument, the Museum of Science and Art, the City Chambers, the Waverley Station, the British Linen Bank and the General Post Office were linked to the time circuit which fired the One o’ clock Gun. The public clocks at Edinburgh University, the University Medical Department and Register House were also linked to the circuit. The photograph taken by John Thomson shows the clock which stood in a case outside Register House.

21st June 2015

Captain Sharp

Captain Sharp

Captain Lori Sharp the adjutant of 105 Regt RA (Vols) has suggested that the One o’Clock Gun Exhibition at Edinburgh Castle be brought up to date. The request has been sent to Historic Scotland. The photograph taken by Alan Morton shows Captain Sharp during the Royal Salute which took place last Saturday.

14th June 2015

Royal Salute

Royal Salute

1st Regt RHA fired a twenty one gun salute from the Mills Mount Battery, Edinburgh Castle at noon to mark the Queen's Official Birthday. The band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland played for the event which took place on Saturday 13th June. image credit Alan Morton.

7th June 2015

1 o'Clock Gun on Calton Hill

1 o'Clock Gun on Calton Hill

One o'Clock Gun Day proved to be a success despite the wet and windy weather conditions on the Calton Hill. Jennifer Hutcheon the One o'Clock Gun Association's piper piped RSM Groves from the observatory to the Nelson Monument. As the time ball dropped and the One o'Clock Gun fired from Edinburgh Castle, the gunners of 105 Regt RA (Vols) fired a salute in the direction of the Firth of Forth.

31st May 2015

1 o'Clock Gun Message

1 o'Clock Gun Announcement

One o’Clock Gun Day takes place on Saturday 6th June at 12.30pm at the Nelson Monument on the Calton Hill. 105 Regt RA (Vols) will be bringing a 105mm Light Gun to the event. If you’re in the area we’d be glad to see you.

24th May 2015

Major Guinan

Major Guinan

Major Tony Guinan presented the casing of the shell fired to mark the 100th anniversary of the One o’Clock Gun to the president of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce who fired the time gun. Mr A.D. Foulis who was then a major (on the right of the photograph) serving with 278 (Lowland) Field Regiment, The City of Edinburgh Artillery, R.A. (T.A.) was also present at the 150th anniversary in 2011. Major Guinan was unable to be present due to ill health. image credit Edinburgh Evening News

17th May 2015

The clock which stood in the transit house window had two faces. In addition to the front face, the wooden case was fitted with a face at the rear which was used to by the astronomer to check that the clock was running on time. Although the Royal Observatory was completed by 1820, the clock in the transit house continued to supply the time to mariners and the townspeople. Originally hand wound, the transit house clock was converted into an electric clock by James Ritchie & Son.

10th May 2015

Calton Hill

Calton Hill

The illustration shows the planned layout of the City Observatory designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects from the south. The bushes and trees will be removed. In addition to an exhibition gallery built under the observatory, a new pavilion will be erected at the north west corner of the compound. For further details check out wwwcollectivegallery.net. image credit Malcolm Fraser Architects.

3rd May 2015

Dr Bruce Vickery’s talks at the Nelson Monument proved to be a great success. A tour of the observatory grounds will take place on One o’Clock Gun on 6th June. Professor Piazzi Smyth invented a range finder for artillery. Although a protoype was made by Cooke’s of York, he decided to abandon the project as he was not satisfied with the instrument’s performance.

26th April 2015

Dr Bruce Vickery’s Calton Hill walking tours got off to a flying start despite mixed weather conditions during the weekend. Two midweek tours are scheduled for Wednesday 29th April at 10.30 am and 2.00pm. The tours which start and finish at the Nelson Monument last approximately one hour. Weekend tours will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of May starting at 10:30 am and 2 pm on the 2nd and at 2 pm on the 3rd.

19th April 2015

Dr Bruce Vickery’s Calton Hill walking tours start on 25th and 26th April. The tours which start and finish at the Nelson Monument last approximately one hour. Tours start at 10.30 am and 2 pm. Don’t miss this opportunity to find out about the fascinating work carried out by the astronomers on the Calton Hill. If the weather proves unsuitable for walking, the talk will take place inside the monument. For further details check out: www.collectivegallery.net

12th April 2015

Trinity Church

Trinity Church

The Trinity Church which stood at the foot of the Calton Hill was demolished in 1848 under the supervision of architect David Bryce to make way for the building of the Waverley Station. The North British Railway Company provided £16,000 to preserve the historic building. Each piece of masonry was numbered so that the church could be rebuilt on an alternative site. image credit Old and New Edinburgh.

5th April 2015

The Collective Gallery will be holding open days in the City Dome at the Calton Hill observatory on the 17th and 18th April from 12-4pm. Members of the public are invited to discuss the project with the staff after viewing the plans on the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Portal. Further information and progress reports on the project will be posted on the Collective Gallery's website from 17th April.

29th March 2015

Admiral Sir David Milne was born in Musselburgh, East Lothian in 1763. Joining the Royal Navy as midshipman he saw action in the Caribbean during the American Revolutionary War and was present at the siege of Gibraltar. He returned to the UK in 1819. A member of the Edinburgh Astronomical Institution in 1839 he proposed that a time ball be placed on the top of the Nelson Monument to save mariners climbing the Calton Hill to the transit house to check their chronometers with the ‘Politicians Clock’. When the naval officer died in 1845 he was buried in the churchyard at Inveresk.

22nd March 2015

Dr Bruce Vickery’s talk on the work carried out in the Calton Hill Observatory was well received by the enthusiastic audience who packed the George Washington Browne Room in the Central Library. Bruce compared the calculations made by Thomas Henderson to the work carried out by the English astronomer James Bradley. Carol Marr who arranges the talks is hoping that Bruce will give another talk on the history of the observatory at some point in the near future.

15th March 2015

Dr Bruce Vickery's talk on the work carried out at the Calton Hill observatory during the early 19th takes place in the Central Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh on Wednesday 18th March at 2.30. Dr Vickery has carried out a lot of research during the past few years on the history of the observatory which is scheduled to open to the public next year. Members of the One o’ Clock Gun Association will be at the Nelson Monument next month to supply visitors with details on the the history of the city’s time service

8th March 2015

Returning to Edinburgh at the end of 1737 having been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, James resumed work as an optical lens and telescope maker. During the time he had spent working as a tutor down south he had come in contact with a number of influential people including astronomer James Douglas the Earl of Morton who was a close friend of Professor McLaurin. In 1740 James accompanied the earl to Orkney to survey his estates and to measure a degree of latitude. Deciding to return south with the earl after the survey had been completed, James opened a workshop at Surrey Street just off the Strand in London.

1st March 2015

James Short was born in Edinburgh in 1710. His brother Thomas was born the following year. Orphaned at an early age, James was educated at Heriot’s. Highly intelligent and good at maths, James was also a skilled woodworker like his father who had earned his living as a joiner. At the age of twelve he was transferred to the city’s High School before going on to University where he studied to become a minister. Impressed by his abilities, his mathematics teacher Professor McLaurin encouraged him to opt for a career in the field of science. In 1736 James was engaged by Queen Caroline to tutor her son Prince William, Duke of Cumberland.

22nd February 2015

One o'Clock Gun

One o'Clock Gun

The One o’ Clock Gun Association and the City of Edinburgh Council are organising a One o’clock Gun Day on 6th June 2015 at the Calton Hill. The ceremony commences at 12.45. If you’re visiting Edinburgh at that time we’d be glad to see you. The photograph shows the gun team from 105 Regt. RA (Vols) who took part in the 150th anniversary of the city’s time service on the Half Moon Battery in June 2011.

15th February 2015

Sea Fencibles

Sea Fencibles

The Sea Fencibles were recruited mainly from fishermen. Raised in 1798 to provide a local defence force, each unit was armed with muskets and boarding pikes and commanded by a naval officer. The Society of Free Fishermen of Newhaven volunteered to defend the Firth of Forth without payment or reward. The Leith unit consisted of two vessels and a fleet of fishing boats armed with single 12 pounder or 18 pounder carronades. The Lord Provost presented the Newhaven naval volunteers with a set of colours while the Duke of Buccleuch awarded the unit a silver medal in recognition of its services. The Sea Fencibles were disbanded in 1810. image credit John Thomson

8th February 2015

Leith Harbour

Leith Harbour

When war resumed with France in 1803, Admiral Richard Rodney Bligh was appointed naval commander at Leith. The squadron belonging to the North Sea Fleet consisted of five ships. The 44 gun warship Roebuck and the 36 gun frigate Chiffone which had been captured from the French. The sloop Diligence was used for patrolling between the Firth of Forth and the River Tyne while the 38 gun Amethyst patrolled the coast of Norway. The Prince of Wales which was a cutter was used by the Customs. The admiral’s new flagship the 56 gun Glatton arrived in the Forth at the end of December.

1st February 2015

Signal Station

Signal Station

In 1795 signal stations were set up on prominent points along the coast to warn merchant vessels of enemy shipping. Signal flags were flown from a mast fitted with a gaff. Eight stations were set up in Scotland, extending from Downlaw in Berwickshire to the Calton Hill and Mill Stairs. The Calton Hill station was situated on Telegraph Knowe behind the Old observatory. In addition to the stations, a beacon system consisting of bonfires made from faggots, furze and straw were set up on high points along the coast, ready to be lit should enemy ships be spotted. Image credit Old and New Edinburgh

25th January 2015

Sir William Herschel

Sir William Herschel

An octagonal shaped observatory consisting of two storeys supporting a dome was erected not far from the tower designed by James Craig. James Short's 12 foot long reflecting telescope was installed. Sir William Herschel the astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus paid a visit to the new observatory owned by Thomas Short's grandson James Douglas in July 1792.

18th January 2015

Short's Gothic Building

Short's Gothic Building, 1776

In 1776 scientific instrument maker Thomas Short decided to build an observatory which would be open to the public on the Calton Hill. Using money from an existing fund, the observatory designed by James Craig was intended to resemble a mediaeval castle surrounded by a wall with towers at each corner. Although the City Council was also involved in the observatory project, funds ran out and only one tower was built. Thomas Short moved into the building, installed a 12 foot long reflecting telescope which had been built by his brother James and ran the observatory until he died in 1788.

11th January 2015

Central Library

The Central Library

Tickets for an illustrated talk on the work carried out by the astronomer and his assistant at the Calton Hill observatory during the early 19th century are going fast. The talk by Dr Bruce Vickery takes place in the Central Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh on Wednesday 18th March at 2.30. Tickets can be booked online. For details on obtaining tickets check out http://talesofonecity.wordpress.com/

4th January 2015

Tam the Gun

Tam the Gun

Staff Sergeant Thomas McKay maintained and loaded the One o'Clock Gun from 1979 until 2005. The District Gunner was also the first chairman of the One o’Clock Gun Association. Formed to record the history of the city’s time service in 1998, the association was instrumental in setting up the One o' Clock Gun Exhibition at Edinburgh Castle. Working closely in collaboration with Edinburgh City Council, Historic Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage, the association raised funding to refurbish the time ball on the Nelson Monument and the Black Watch Memorial on the Mound. In addition to organising the first Greyfriars Bobby Day ceremony, the association also suggested that a lamp post should be set up to illuminate the terrier's drinking fountain