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THE PAGEANT OF
THE FIRTH AND ITS SHORES
BEFORE history began, Nature herself had ordained that the Firth of Forth should play an all-important part in Scottish history. A glance at the map will show us, that just as the Thames is the one important break in the east coast of England, so the Forth-the “Scots Firth” as it used to be called-is the main estuary on the east coast of Scotland. The Humber and the Tay, shallow and dangerous to navigation, are but of secondary importance; while the Moray Firth to the north is hardly an estuary at all, but, like the Bay of Biscay, lies open to the full force of the incoming sea.
The Firth of Forth on the other hand forms a magnificent haven, well sheltered from all but the east winds, and in its upper reaches completely land-locked. To find its rival, we have to go to the west, where the Firth of Clyde now surpasses it in commercial importance, but the development of the Clyde belongs to a later period. The age of steam and the opening up of the new continents to the west were the making of Glasgow, yet it is hardly too much to say that to the Firth of Forth was due a large share in the making of Scotland.
Could we set it, and play it fitly, the pageant of the Forth would form a pictorial history of Scotland; and where could we find a finer stage or more beautiful scenery for tales of romance or deeds of chivalry?
Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson have both sung the praises of the glorious prospect from the high ground beyond Edinburgh, where the Forth lies spread out “like a blue floor," bordered by golden sands and green fields, with a background of purple hills. From the north also the view has a
beauty of its own worthy to compare with this. Lacking the brilliance of colouring seen from the southern shore, the prospect from the shores of Fife to the Lothians is a harmony of beautiful greys, for looking towards the sun, we exchange for the bright colouring of the northern aspect, blazing like a coronet of jewels in the sunshine, a fainter and more mysterious lighting. The tints are luminous and opalescent, glowing with warm light, and fading into dim distances where the towns do not stand out clear and sparkling, but lie hidden in the tender haze which covers the coast. In dull weather indeed the south coast shows clear, but with an inky quality that still hides detail from the eye. And when you stand on the May Island and cast an eye first to the north and then to the south, there are two distinct schemes of colour: the northern, a vista of flashing blue waves and blue mountains, fairylike, but clear and substantial; the southern, from the long point of St. Abbs to the Bass and Berwick Law, and the distant Lammermoors, all shrouded in dim haze—the dimness of excess of light, while