Harbour Street Fountain

Location: Portmahomack, Easter Ross, Scotland

In the fishing village of Portmahomack a drinking fountain and trough was erected to celebrate the arrival of piped water to the town in 1887.

The fountain was presented by Peter Macdonald, a native of Portmahomack, and a “rectifier and wine merchant” in Glasgow. It was opened on 27th October, 1892, with full Masonic honours in front of a large crowd.

Drinking fountain number 3 from George Smith & Co.’s Sun Foundry is 9 feet 10 inches high. The structure consists of four columns with obelisk finials rising from a double plinth to support a domed canopy. The interior column connectors to the dome are adorned with descending alligators and leafy decoration. Alligators were considered a symbol of evil and were hung from the ceilings of cabinets as a reminder of the mortality of humanity.

Arch faceplates offer a flat surface for inscriptions in raised metal letters; a dedication displays the Gaelic phrase, Uisce Tobar Na Baistaid, and is roughly translated as Water Wells of Baptism. Civic virtues such as temperance were extolled on many drinking fountains. Over each arch, cartouches within each lunette offer commemorative dedication or crests. A medallion contains a memorial inscription Gravitation Water Introduced Into Portmahomack in 1887.

The solid dome with a finial covers the fluted pedestal and wide basin containing a putto holding an oar, seated on an upturned urn (casting number 8). A small basin at ground level is accessible for animals.

It was listed a category B historic building in 1971 and has since been restored.


  • Cartouche, a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Finial, A sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Fluted, A long rounded groove decorating the shaft of a column
  • Obelisk, A tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top
  • Plinth, Flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
  • Putto, A figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude

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Fountain, Harbour Street, Portmahomack


Posted on August 19, 2013, in Architecture, BrItish Listed Building, Cast Iron, Memorial Drinking Fountain, Scotland, Sun Foundry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hamish J Mackenzie

    The fountain was presented by Peter Macdonald, a native of Portmahomack, and a “rectifier and wine merchant” in Glasgow. It was opened not in 1877 but on 27th October, 1892, with full Masonic honours and in front of a large crowd. It commemorates the introduction of gravitational water five years previously. See Inverness Courier, 28th October, 1892.

    • Thank you for bringing to my attention the incorrectly typed date. The additional information you have provided is also greatly appreciated. I have updated the post.

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