Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 6: ‘The Tay Bridge’ (4 September, 1880)

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.


Sir,—I have read all that has been printed in your paper about the unfortunate Tay Bridge, and have paid attention to the different plans proposed and the speeches of others who have no plans, but whose aim seems to be to pull the thing to pieces.

I am not aware of any one proposing to sink a new pier outside of each of the old ones, if the old ones are faulty, which I don’t believe. I think when those girders fell with the train in them the piers got such a test as I hope they never will again. The leverage was something awful. When they stood that I think it was proof enough, but by sinking a new pier outside of each old one they may go any depth they please and make sure of the outside being right. If there should be anything wrong let them sheet-pile it where the dotted lines are and fill with concrete. I don’t think many will want it. The foundations, I believe, are a good job, but the columns and girders have been shameful. They talked of an unholy alliance. What gentleman builds an addition to his house by first pulling down the old one? Who mends an old coat with an old rag? Such trash carried weight before the Committee.—I am, &c.,

Torbain, Kirkcaldy. W. Johnstone.

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