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Tay Bridge disaster
Tay Bridge disaster

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Myths persist

Many myths still surround the Tay Bridge disaster, the most pervasive being it was brought down by wind action alone. Rothery's report (see Paper 3) should dispel that particular myth, in addition to the numerous examples shown in this unit of the way the structure had deteriorated by the time of the storm in late 1879.

Click 'View document' below to open Paper 3 (35 pages, 39 MB).

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Another myth is the role of Noble as inspector of the finished structure. He maintained in his testimony that he was not instructed by Bouch to inspect the ironwork. During Bouch's testimony, later in the enquiry, the many reports Noble made to Bouch were read out to the court. It is absolutely clear he was so instructed from his many references in those reports to the ironwork and piers. Significantly, there is no reference at all to chattering of the joints, and why he did not mention it to Bouch remains a mystery to this day. He should have been recalled to answer questions posed by this telling evidence to the court. Public opinion, however, wanted a fast enquiry, and definitive recommendations.

Another myth involved David Kirkaldy. He maintained he had not tested the materials of construction before the disaster, although it is clear from the testimony of Bouch that he had instructed Kirkaldy to test the wrought iron tie bars. Samples of the cast-iron were tested at the Wormit foundry. The crucial point is that Kirkaldy was never asked to test the composite lug, tie bar and cottered joint. If he had been asked, the weakness of the system would have quickly become evident.