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Graham Donachie's Stories
The Tay Bridge Disaster

Here is another gem from the master of the awful... Although William's poems were ill conceived, he did stick to certain true and precise facts when composing them. He often narrated what was topical at the tyme and... well ..he added a bit of frivolity to an otherwise dreadful disaster....

On the 1st of June, in the year of 1878, the Tay Rail Bridge was opened. There was great pomp and ceremony. Hundreds of guests, including the Emperor of Brazil and the former US President Ulysses S. Grant were present. The following year Queen Victoria herself crossed the bridge on a return trip from Balmoral... The designer of the Bridge.. Thomas Bouch was later knighted for his achievement. At
the tyme it was the longest bridge the world had ever seen. It was two miles long. It had cost the lives of twenty men in the six years of construction . On 28th December 1879 it was to claim another seventy five lives. The evening train from Edinburgh to Dundee plunged into the icy waters of the freezing river. The engine and six carriages and all the passengers fell to their deaths as winds of more than seventy miles an hour blew through the girders of the broken bridge. For months after the disaster, bodies were still being washed up along the banks of the river. A strange and bizarre story from the disaster... The morning after the event, the Post Office sent men to the beach at Carnoustie . There were several bags of mail from the train washed up on the beach...These items were taken to Dundee Head Office and were duly dried and delivered on the second delivery that day...with an apology from the G.P.O. for the lateness of the delivery. I have seen some of these letters.

However...the poem.......

The Tay Bridge Disaster

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.

'Twas about seven o'clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem'd to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem'd to say-
"I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay."

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers' hearts were light andfelt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay."

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sught,
And the passengers' hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov'd most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.

So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o'er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill'd all the peoples hearts with sorrow,

And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight, To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,

That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

Read other stories from Graham Donachie


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