Little was yielded on the 8th Day – Ink in a small Watercolour Moleskine

This is copied from a contemporary photograph of the aftermath of the Tay Bridge Disaster. The centre section of the structure, known as “The High Girders”, collapsed on the 28th December 1879 during a terrific storm. A train was passing through this section, at the time, and 75 souls plunged their deaths.

This entry for November’s Challenge – “The end of the Line”, shows the centre section – over 1,000 yards where the High Girders had stood, completely gone . By the time the photograph, I mentioned, was taken; the storm had passed and efforts were being made to recover the dead. It is said, in these parts, that the sea gives up her dead on the 8th day but this was not to be. Many bodies were never recovered adding to the complete shock felt by Victorian society. This was not the “End of the Line” – as far as the railway was concerned. A new bridge was built but would take some years to construct, incredibly using some of the salvaged materials from the damaged one.( Opened July 1887). The train was also recovered but many railwaymen refused to operate it. They, macabrely nicknamed it “The Diver”. The bridge’s designer, Sir Thomas Bouch – recently given a knighthood for his achievement, was saddled with most of the blame for the tragedy. He retired from public life and was dead within18months, some say from shame. He is buried in Edinburgh’s Dean Cemetery. The “End of his line?” Some say the biggest loss was the “loss of confidence” felt by Victorian engineers. Although they continued to erect bigger structures, such as the famous Forth Railway Bridge just down the coast, their designs tended to be “over engineered” from then on and other countries began to overtake them as world leaders. The “End of the Line” for them perhaps? Almost certainly!

As a footnote, if you ever visit Dundee, go down to the edge of the Tay and look at the “new” railway bridge. Along side the supports remain the stumps of the old bridge, piercing the water like rotten teeth, a testament to man over stretching himself in the face of nature.

Also read “The High Girders” by John Prebble ISBN 0-14-004590-2 He describes the great storm, the people of the day, the tragedy and the enquiry – brilliantly!