Thursday, 29 November 2012

Building Bridges - Sepia Saturday

Back in 1955 I went to St Andrews University to start my studies there. My first trip, by train, took me over one of Britain's iconic bridges.

East Coast Express crossing the Forth Bridge (1928)
Alan's prompt this week is of a flimsier bridge.

Rough Wooden Bridge Over River, Group With Dog on the Shore
[The image  comes from the Phillips Glass Plate Negative Collection, at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia. The Museum provides no further information the location of the bridge but the brilliance of on-line communities is  such that information is soon forthcoming : the footbridge was in Mosman Bay on the north shore of Sydney Harbour. The location of the photograph is not the only question posed by the title - it takes a sharp eye to spot the reported dog.]

The route to St Andrews takes the train over the River Tay. At that stage in my journey I knew nothing about an ill-fated journey on 28 December 1879.

Original Tay Bridge - seen from the north
William McGonagall, claimed by some to have been the worst poet in history, began his 1880 poem, "The Tay Bridge Disaster" with the words:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

The whole poem and some notes about the disaster may be read  here  - 75 people lost their lives when the bridge collapsed and took their train with it.

River Tay Bridge, middle section collapse, - 1880
Aged 18, I knew nothing about this but I did wonder what it was I could see in the water.

Tay Bridge (1981)
If you look closely you will see, to the right of the bridge, the plinths on which the original bridge stood.

During my time at St Andrews I studied geology as a subsidiary subject. This involved a number of field trips. During Easter 1957 we visited the island of Raasay off the West Coast of Scotland.

The Isle of Skye (viewed from Raasay 1957)
We travelled to Raasay by boat but never got to Skye. These days,of course, there is no need for a boat to reach Skye.

The Skye Road Bridge
 I'm sure you all will have heard of the Scottish folk song recalling the escape of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) from Uist to Skye after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The song tells how Charles escaped in a small boat with the aid of Flora MacDonald, disguised as a serving maid.

I hope you will like this version:

While I was at St Andrews there was a debate in the Students' Union about the need (in those days) for a Forth Road Bridge. The English undergraduate who demanded to to know what had happened to the first three was howled down!

I've driven over the bridge that was built later and also over the suspension bridges over the River Humber and the River Severn. Not wanting to leave without a reference to dogs, this pair used to swim in the River Severn alongside their home.

Milly and Cara (Irish Water Spaniels)
But as this post has mainly been about Scotland perhaps this is more appropriate.

Poppy (West Highland Terrier)
I thought about ending with the theme from the Bridge over the River Kwai but settled for this instead.

Now it's up to you to march off to see who's on parade at sepia-saturday-154

  • LNER East Coast Express Photo by  L&NE Ry; scanned from Alan, Cecil J (1928) The Steel Highway; scanned by Andy Dingley
  • Original Tay Bridge before its collapse, seen from the north (between 1878-1879); scanned by Peterrhyslewis 2007.
  • River Tay Bridge, middle section collapsed, photographed by Valentines in 1880; scanned by Peterrhyslewis 2007.
  • Tay Bridge (1981) The bridge that replaced the ill-fated original; Anne Burgess for - CC BY-SA 2.0
  • The Skye Road Bridge connecting the Isle of Skye to mainland Scotland - 10 June 2005 - by J√∂rn Albring.
  •  Youtube - Paul Robeson - Skye Boat Song, Uploaded by Alberto Truffi on 11 Mar 2010
    From the compilation An Evening with Paul Robeson a famous Scottish folk song performed by the great singer and actor. Taken from an Emitape mono 3 3/4 ips of the early sixties.
  • Youtube - Music Video for The Movie The Devil's Brigade -  uploaded by Johnnyquest


Kristin said...

It must have been horrifying to be on the train that fell into the water when the bridge collapsed.

La Crona said...

Thanks Bob!

Very nice with that poem connected to a bridge like that.Inspirational places!

dakotaboo said...

Greta post. I've never been over the Forth Rail Bridge, let alone by steam train.

Unknown said...

Bridges and dogs! There is a bridge in the Florida keys, the "bridge to nowhere" that your post reminded me of, . It makes for a thrilling bike ride, especially when there is a strong breeze.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

William McGonagall's poem I think lived up to the rest of his oeuvre. That last line sort of sticks in the craw. According to Wiki, the man sounds very amusing, "Knight of the White Elephant of Burmah"indeed. I enjoyed the whole post including the dogs.

Wendy said...

I'm not really scared of bridges per se, but that curved one would make me think twice about whether I really needed to go to the other side.

DougVernX said...

Amazing pieces of construction those bridges are. Nice post!

Postcardy said...

We had a freeway bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapse during rush hour about five years ago. It was hard to believe that something like that could happen.

21 Wits said...

Bob great bridges- and how lovely the area around Skye is, but of course my heart belongs to all the darling dogs. I jsut knew you'd pick up on the dog- you are a true dog lover as I am!

Unknown said...

That Skye Road bridge is just beautiful -- seems to float up over the water!

Peter said...

Can I ask a stupid question? Why is there a curve in the original Tay Bridge? And the elevated part in the middle? The Skye Road Bridge looks very impressive, what a span between those pillars!

Bob Scotney said...

Peter - I've spent a fairly long time reading about the disaster and the design of the bridge I can nothing about the curve. The line of the bridge is approximately N-S. Whether the curve is due to the bottom conditions in the River I dont't know. It may just be due to the layout of the land, lines and station on the Dundee side. I'm guessing though.

Alan Burnett said...

I am not sure what the collective noun for bridges is - but this is a great collection (a blog of bridges, perhaps). I never realised that the original Tay Bridge looked so flimsy.

Unknown said...

What a great array of bridges, BUT, oh huh, the Tay disaster confirms there was a reason for my fear of the things...dangerous things those flimsy bridges.... closing with the pups, a tail end, is fun too...

Little Nell said...

Oh thanks for the reminder of the Mc Gonagal poem - so bad, it was good! It really made me smile again, even though the subect matter was no laughing matter. Fine set of photos too.

North County Film Club said...

I have a terrible fear of bridges. And do you wonder why? After seeing the collapse of the Tay bridge. I rest my case.

Unknown said...

My daughter has a Westie she calls Poppy. That is a whole lot of bridge. Living near the Ohio River there is bridge talk all the time. There are about 4 from Louisville to Indiana side and all can be see from the others. I still don't see a dog in Alan's photo. Great post here.

Mike Brubaker said...

A terrific post , Bob. Lots of details to spark the imagination. I made it to Skye once but by ferry which is slow enough to make one appreciate the place.

And even I recognized the Paul Robeson tune.

Jana Iverson Last said...

The collapse of the Tay Bridge sounds so tragic! It must have been simply terrifying for the passengers on that train.

But on a lighter note, those dogs are so cute. Especially Poppy, the West Highland Terrier. Am I correct in assuming that they are your dogs?

Bob Scotney said...

Jana - they are not my dogs. Milly and Cara once belonged to my younger son; Poppy is one of the dogs in the Village where I live. I wrote a number of blog posts (North Yorkshire Village Dogs) about them; Poppy appears at

ScotSue said...

Loved the Scottish theme, especailly the dogs. We used to live between Edinburgh and South Queensferry, and it was a favourite Sunday outing for my father to take us to watch the building of the new Forth Road Bridge in the early 1960's. He had an archive of slides on its construction - the pillars, cables, roads etc watching them come to the point where both south and north ends met.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Bob ... what a great selection of bridge stories. That train bridge falling apart is an impressive sad story. What a long bridge that was, and winding too.

Enjoyed the songs and the cute pictures of the dogs. Two of Cary's kids families have Westies.

Thanks for stopping by to visit me.

Kathy M.

Bruno Laliberté said...

The Skye Road bridge does have a certain appeal.