In 1785, the Council decided to light the Burgh with oil lamps and raised Public Subscription for ten lamps which were set at convenient places. The Earl of Rosebery supplied an additional two lamps to be placed at the West end of the town.
On the first evening of November, a Tuesday, they shone like beacons in the enveloping dark. Every evening, the new lamps were lit, except in the ten lightest nights of the month – five before and five after the full moon, until the coming of Spring. “Besides – oil cost one shilling a pint”!
The oil lamps were lit by a lamplighter, who had to climb his ladder, replenish the oil, and trim the wicks, daily.
For long the High Street had been lit by smoky oil lamps and the Wynds and closes lay in darkness serve where a chinking light stole from a window or door left ajar.
In 1847, the Council took a notion to light the Burgh with Gas. They agreed a site for a new Gas Works, at the west end of town, bounded by the sea (IMAge) on a 50 year lease at £5.00 per annum, to be managed by Queensferry Gas Light Company. The Town Council invested in twenty £1 shares. To meet the cost, a Public Subscription was raised so that when the Gas Works went into operation “the lieges of the Town enjoyed the benefit of the new light”. The street lights were extinguished at 11 o’clock except on Saturdays when “lights out” was at 11.30pm leaving the streets in darkness.
During the fishing season the harbour lights and those necessary for the fisherman were ablaze all night. This concession cost the local fishermen 6d a week per boat and strangers with boats coming from Fife and other ports were charged as follows
For each vessel under 40 tons…………………………………..6d.
“ “ “ between 40 – 100 tons……………………9d.
“ “ “ above 100 tons………………………………..1s. 0d
The account for street lighting during the Winter of 1848/49 amounted to £11.13s.0d.
A manager of the Gas Works was appointed to take charge of the street lamps at a salary of £4.00 a year. The first was a John Sheils. As Lamp-Lighter he lit the gasses with a rod which concealed a tiny flame at one end sheltered by a filigreed brass chamber. They gave off a yellow light with a blue centre.