Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The 125th Anniversary of the Forth Bridge

To coincide with the 125 anniversary of the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890 Tom Martin gave a very interesting talk at the National Library of Scotland last night about the building of the bridge and the men who worked on it. Built between 1882 and 1890, the Forth Railway Bridge is regarded as a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. It was designed by the engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, and the contractor for the construction was Tancred, Arrol & Co. At the peak of the construction there were over 4,500 men employed on the bridge. They worked twelve hour shifts, twenty four hours a day, 6 days a week. The risks to the mens safety were great. As well as the many injuries that occurred as a result of their work there were at least 73 fatalities. It was compulsory for the men to join the Sick and Accident Club which was established in 1883. One of the benefits of the Club was that “funerals would be paid for within reason” During 1883-1890 there were 28 quarterly inspections undertaken on the bridge. These can be found in the Parliamentary Papers collection in the National Library of Scotland or can be viewed digitally on the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database. If you have a library card and are resident in Scotland this database can be viewed remotely. The National Library of Scotland’s treasures display ‘The Forth Bridge: building of an icon’ runs until the 21st June. Digital images of the construction of the bridge can be viewed in the NLS’s digital gallery Further information on the men who built the bridge can be found on the ‘Briggers’ web site.