Tay Bridge disaster memorials unveiled

Picture:  Alan Richardson
Picture: Alan Richardson
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TWO memorials to commemorate the people who died in the Tay Bridge disaster have been unveiled to mark the 134th anniversary of the tragedy.

The identical 8ft-tall granite memorials were erected on either side of the River Tay yesterday. They name the 59 people known to have died when the bridge collapsed during a violent storm on the evening of 28 December, 1879.

The train in which they were travelling plunged in to the Tay, killing everyone on board. The Tay Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust unveiled the first of the £35,000 memorials at Wormit Bay, in Fife. Historian David Swinfen, former vice-principal of Dundee University and chair of the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust, paid tribute to the people killed in the tragedy.

The memorial was unveiled by David Leighton, the great-grandson of train driver David Mitchell, and Jim Marshall, the grand-nephew of the train’s fireman, John Marshal. They were among 30 descendants of the victims who attended the event.

A second ceremony was held at Dundee’s Riverside Drive, where the second granite memorial was unveiled.

Ian Nimmo-White, secretary of the trust, got involved after becoming interested in tracking down descendants of train driver David Mitchell, from Leslie, in Fife. He said last night: “We wanted to erect memorials on both sides of the river, as the impact was just as great for Fife as it was for Tayside and Angus.

“This much-praised railway bridge, which had only been up for a short time, came crashing down with a train full of people inside and nobody survived, yet there has never been a memorial to remember those who died.”

The final death toll has been disputed, with claims that as many as 75 were killed in the disaster and, as a result, the memorials bear the words “those known to have died”, with 59 names.

The memorials read: “Deep waters can not douse, The enduring flame, That burned for those thus blighted, Now let them stand as one, Properly remembered, And in part, righted.”

The original Tay Bridge was designed by noted railway engineer Thomas Bouch. It collapsed after its central spans gave way during gales. After the accident the engine, Number 224, was recovered, dried out, reconditioned and put back in to service until 1917. It was known thereafter as “The Diver”.