In the year 1817 Lord Rosebery was well aware of the unsatisfactory nature of the town’s wells and the inhabitants longing for a supply of soft water and the desire for a bleaching green by the housewives for their laundry. He decided, out of concern for the health and well - being of the inhabitants, to provide a reservoir.
Lord Rosebery owned Nivens Green which held a suitable natural reservoir and from its elevated situation, was in the best position to supply the town consistently with water of the best quality, due to the rivulet which ran into it.
On the above map you can see 'Jock's Hole' circled in dark blue, to the left of this is the Bowling Green in green (to give bearings and perspective), the Reservoirs are below the Bowling Green in light blue.
The council, agreed that the Earl of Rosebery’s crest and the burgh coat of arms with a suitable inscription be set above the well. A lions head was to be placed above the other two wells.
(Hover cursor over images to read description).
Thomas Orrock, in his book ‘Forthas Lyrics and Other Poems’ published in 1880, tells that the summer of 1842 was very hot and dry. The town of Queensferry, like many other towns was badly off for water. The inhabitants had to carry it for miles and often bought it by the bucketful.
A number of old wells that had been closed since 1817 were opened. A very deep one was opened in an old brewery. When cleaned out the skeletons of two infants were found, this of course stopped the supply of water from that source.
Another well was opened at the west end of East Terrace and a pump put in to it.
Wilhelm Westhofen in his book “The Forth Bridge”, dated 1890, claims that during the construction of the Forth Bridge, water was drawn from the pits of Dalmey Shale Works for the boilers and other general purposes, but it proved too dirty, and some rough filter beds of gravel had to be constructed to pass it through. It was then forced by pumps to an overhead tank set about 60 feet above the level of the works and shops. This water was conducted in pipes down the incline to the jetty and in various leads, all over the works. For drinking purposes, another supply pumped from the sandstone was available, but it proved unreliable and often failed altogether.
In the Summers of 1886 and 1887 a drought occurred in South Queensferry and this was met by the contractors placing large iron tanks at the harbour and filling them with a clean supply of water brought up by barge from Starleyburn in Burntisland. This could be used by everyone free of charge.
In 1887 Kirkliston, Dalmeny and Queensferry arranged for a supply of water from the Pentland Hills and this supply is both plentiful and of first rate quality, and has been running since the summer of 1888. (Wikisource)
“The Reservoir and Jocks Hole by Jimmie Boner”
“When the reservoir was planned in the early 1800’s, the Ferryburn had to be diverted. It originally ran right down the Loan. When Samuel Wilson had built Plewlands House ( see archive’ Queensferry History’ September 2015, below Brewery Close info) he had built it west of the burn to evade him from paying taxes to the burgh.
At Burnshangie House the burn was piped up to the reservoir.
When the burn flowed over Lovers Lane it was always at least two or three inches deep in the summer time and anyone going there for a walk had to use the stepping stones at the side of the road. It was like that until they built Moubray Grove where the burn now runs under the small bridge.
The other burn crossed Lovers Lane and came down through the wood at the old fever hospital where it was piped under-ground down to the glen at Ashburnum Lodge, where it ran down to the shore at the promenade.
When the railway line was built and part of it built up, a culvert was made so that the burn still ran well beneath the line down to the shore. If one walks down the glen the red brick wall can easily be seen. No-one knows how but it has always been called Jocks Hole.
The overflow from the reservoir comes under the bowling green path over the waterfalls and joins the other burn there.
Most of my news came from old timers who were Pat Duffy, Jimmy Ford (Caber La), Johnny Bone (Tiger), Peter Bone (Baseoe), Jock Phair (Barrow), Jock Wilson, Auld Adam Urquhart and Jock Wood.
"A girl was observed to disappear on Thursday afternoon in one of the reservoirs originally used in connection with the water supply of South Queensferry. On information being lodged with the local police, dragging operations were carried out, and eventually the body of Mary Airlie, seventeen years of age, who resided at Dalmeny Rows, and who had been until recently in domestic service in the neighbourhood, was recovered".
Her death certifiate states she was 16 years of age, and was a Domestic Servant at Butlaw Naval Hospital, with this stated as her usual address. She drowned in the reservoir on July 30th 1914 at 6.30 pm. Her brother James, who notified the death, lived in Church Row, Dalmeny. It is unknown if her parents also lived there.