On the 28 December 1879, the Tay Rail Bridge designed by Thomas Bouch collapsed in a terrible storm. The disaster claimed the lives of all 75 passengers (although only 60 bodies were found). Naturally the tragedy featured heavily in ‘The People’s Journal’ and large features on the inquests were regularly found in the paper throughout 1880. Amongst the reporting there were also letters from readers published about the events. This collection of letters sent by the solicitors of Bouch to ‘The People’s Journal’ throw doubt on the operation of the inquiry surrounding their client. Thomas Bouch’s reputation as one of the worlds leading engineers was ruined by Tay Rail Bridge. He would die on 30 October 1880, less than a year after the disaster.
Sir,—We beg to send you copy of a correspondence which we, as solicitors for Sir Thomas Bouch, have had with Colonel Yolland and Mr Barlow, two of the members of the Court of Inquiry on the Tay Bridge disaster, in reference to the separate Report made by their colleague, Mr Rothery, to the Board of Trade. We shall feel obliged by your giving publicity to this correspondence, on which it is unnecessary for us to comment, as it speaks for itself.—We are, &c.,
A.J. & J. Dickson.
2 Queen Street, Edinburgh,
14th July 1880.
1. Letter—Messrs A.J. & J. Dickson, W.S., Edinburgh, to Colonel Yolland, R.E., Board of Trade.
Edinburgh, 9th July 1880.
Sir,—On perusing Mr Rothery’s Report, we find that it contains several most injurious (and, as we think, unjust) statements and charges reflecting on Sir Thomas Bouch, which appear to us to be inconsistent with the opinions and findings contained in the Joint Report of yourself and Mr Barlow, and which certainly are not countenanced by anything therein contained. Had these statements and charges been put forward simply as the opinions of Mr Rothery alone we should have said nothing, but Mr Rothery, at §137 of his Report, makes the following statement:—“The points on which we are not agreed are as to whether some facts which have come out in the course of the inquiry ought or ought not to be mentioned,” thereby implying, that you agree with him as to the truth of the facts. Again, at §142 Mr Rothery implies that you concur in the justice of his censures, although not thinking it your duty to say so. And in the closing words of his Report Mr Rothery states explicitly—“Although my colleagues have not thought fit to join in this Report they do not differ, except perhaps on very minor points, from the conclusions at which I have arrived.”
It is manifest that Mr Rothery has thereby represented that all the findings and censures of his Report, with some very minor exceptions, are concurred in by yourself and Mr Barlow, and entitled to the great additional weight which such concurrence would necessarily give.
Sir Thomas Bouch’s position in relation to this matter is, under any circumstances, sufficiently painful, and we think that, as his solicitors, we are entitled to ask you to state, in justice to him, whether Mr Rothery was warranted in so representing your opinions as concurring with his in matters not referred to in your Report.
We have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient servants, A.J. & J. Dickson.
2. Letter—Messrs Dickson to W.H. Barlow, Esq., C.E., London.
[In similar terms to the preceding letter to Colonel Yolland.]
3. Joint Letter—Colonel Yolland and Mr Barlow to Messrs Dickson.
Whitehall Gardens, 13h July 1880.
Gentlemen,—We have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 9th instant, and in reply to the inquiry contained in the last paragraph of your letter we beg to say that Mr Rothery was not warranted in representing our opinions as concurring with his own in matters not referred to in our Report,—We remain, gentlemen, your most obdt. Servants, W. Yolland, W.H. Barlow.
Messrs A.J. & J. Dickson.