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The Sheer-legs

For lifting heavy blocks, ‘sheer-legs’ have proved a valuable tool for centuries. This was a tripod of long timbers, tied at the top, from which the lifting tackle was suspended. It could be moved around with ease and positioned over a stone to lift it high enough to be loaded into position. A hoisting apparatus made from poles joined at or near the top and separated at the bottom, used for masting ships, installing engines, boilers and lifting other heavy objects


Sheer Legs, Waterloo Quay (Victoria Dock), Under Construction 1910 and Demolished in 1970 - This would appear to be in transit or assembly circa 1910– is that the old ‘Customs House?’ This would appear to be looking up Wellington Street. 

Horse, men, barrels, pulleys, tarpaulins and excavations to inspect here probably before final  erection at the bottom of Wellington Street / Waterloo Quay.

Day, Summers and Co of Southampton were makers of steam engines for marine use.  They were based in Northam, Southampton, England. Initially establishing its reputation as a builder of large mail steamers in the 1850s up to the 1870s when the North-east Coast and Clydeside yards took over the market. Day, Summers and Co. then moved into developing compound steam engines and built its business from there.

  • 1872 100-ton sheer legs for Chatham Dockyard
  • 1870s The yard won orders from P&O for mail steamers, this was followed by similar orders from Royal Mail Line and then a series of re-engining orders. The yard then concentrated on building paddle steamers, coasters, yachts, Itchen floating chain bridges, Hythe ferries and sheerlegs.
  • 1874 75-ton sheer legs for Aberdeen.
  • 1882 150-ton sheer legs for the Russian Government
  • 1905 Sheer legs for Chatham Dockyard. Tested with a load of 180 tons. Front legs 160 ft high. Back leg moved in and out by a leadscrew 11.5" diameter, 85 ft long, powered by its own steam engine.]
  • 1911 100-ton Sheer legs for Aberdeen. Powered by electrical equipment from J. J. Holmes and Co of Newcastle. Delivered and tested within 5 months of date of order. This was the 89th set of sheer legs built by the firm, and the second for Aberdeen (see 1874 above)
  • 1987 The company ceased trading.

Aye – bonnie legs there were too - worthy of 15 denier Stockings.

Born of ancient stone age lifting techniques and lasted  a fair time as a working tool – and yet the pinion only ever failed in a 100mph gale when leaning against the wind  – falling down in 3 directions and crushing some poor night watchman asleep in his hut.  Such is the power of the wind in Aberdeen – tae turn us a’ blue wi the cauld.






Rails run in all directions and yet the Horse and Cart was the mainstay of transportation on the Quaysides,  The rhyming slang would define itself when the Clydesdale Horse strained to get up the braes and the kids would push when it tired.  In exchange we got a wee hurl or a wee hang on the tailboard



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Last modified: 01/09/2013