Forth Bridge Memorials
to the men who died
constructing the bridge, and
also to celebrate all Forth Bridge
workers, have been placed at
South Queensferry and North
Queensferry and were unveiled
on 18th May 2012 by
First Minister Alex Salmond.
We are based in South Queensferry.
Len Saunders, Frank Hay and
Tom Martin are available
to give talks about
If you are interested, please
contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can contact the team at:
Featured in the November issue
of the BBC magazine,
Who Do You Think You Are
The Story of the Men Who Built the Forth Bridge
For the first time, more than a century after its opening, The Briggers gives the Forth Bridge a human voice. It tells the story of the Briggers, the name given to the thousands of men who built the bridge – who they were, where they came from, what working and living conditions were like, what their impact was on the sleepy communities below the immense structure.
Imagine being in a rivet cage hanging from a work platform hundreds of feet above the icy Forth. Teenage rivet boys and sixty year old ex-shipyard workers faced these conditions every day. The book describes the dangers that the Briggers faced from caisson disease and painter’s colic to simply being in the wrong place when scaffolding collapsed or a hammer dropped from above.
The Briggers reveals the intriguing incidentals of everyday life that make the story much more than the construction of one of the world’s great engineering feats, from the daily commute from Edinburgh by workers’ train and boat to the 200 pints lined up on the bar of the Hawes Inn at the end of a shift. The book tells of Saturday night brawls and Sunday shebeens and of the countless visitors from the Shah of Persia to pleasure steamer trippers.
For the first time the faces of individual Briggers emerge from the shadow of their bridge, thanks to the latest digital technology and the collection, recently acquired by the National Archives of Scotland, of the work of engineer Evelyn Carey, the only person officially allowed to take photographs on the bridge.
Most remarkably of all the book not only demonstrates that, with at least 73 fatalities, the death toll was significantly higher than the ‘official’ record of 57 but identifies the names and what is known of the lives of the men who died. The painstaking research by four local historians to uncover the names was the inspiration for this book. It arose from an apparently simple request from the Forth Bridge Memorial Committee who sought to give the men who died permanent recognition by erecting monuments to them on either side of the Forth.
A search through official records for a list of names drew a blank. The team then spent years of their spare time scouring contemporary newspaper accounts, death certificates and other sources to compile the first-ever list of the names of the individuals who died. During their trawl they amassed the wealth of detail about life and death on the bridge that is the basis for this book.
One day the men who died will be recognised in stone as the quest for funding to erect a memorial continues. The team’s research endeavours will not stop with this publication which they hope will persuade other descendents of the Briggers to come forward with their stories. Already they have had responses from as far away as Japan and the United States.
The Briggers team
Frank Hay - researcher
Frank has lived in Queensferry for over two decades. After 30 years as an engineer in the electronics industry and ten years running his own website design business, Canny Publishing, he is now enjoying retirement. Frank is particularly interested in the engineering aspects of the bridge, the medical conditions experienced by the workforce and the maritime history of the Forth.
Jenni Meldrum - researcher
Jenni’s earliest memory of the bridge is of sitting on top of her uncle's aged Austin car watching the filming of ‘The 39 Steps’. Following 20 years in local government Jenni opened an antique shop, Sea Kist, with a view of the bridge from its window. As a sociology graduate and founder member of the Queensferry History Group she has a keen interest in local and family heritage and social history.
Len Saunders - researcher
Len has been fascinated by the bridge since reading Victories of the Engineers as a boy. Now health and safety manager for Burton’s Foods Ltd, Len has lived in Queensferry since 1983. He has a strong commitment to local affairs and is a member of the Forth Bridge Memorial Committee. Len gives guided walks on the history of Queensferry, and is a partner with Jenni in the Ferrie Scarie ghost walks.
Jim Walker - researcher
Growing up within its shadow gave retired engineer Jim Walker a passionate interest in all aspects of the history of his bridge. His enthusiasm inspired the other members of the team to join him. He has campaigned tirelessly to win public recognition for the workers who died, leading to the setting up of the Forth Bridge Memorial Committee. A long-standing committee member of the Queensferry History Group Jim has taken part in radio broadcasts and gives talks on the construction of the rail and road bridges. He is the team’s expert on local history as well as being knowledgeable on all aspects of the bridge.
Elspeth Wills – writer
A history graduate Elspeth has spent her career as a researcher, interpreter and writer within advertising, marketing, economic development and visitor attraction environments. She first worked with the team as members of the Queensferry History Group helping them to produce interpretation panels and a guided walk for the town. They approached her to help them turn their research into The Briggers, The Story of the Men Who Built the Forth Bridge
Gordon Muir - designer
After studying at the Central School of Art and London College of Printing and a post-graduate semester at the University of New Mexico, Gordon spent a period working with a woodblock artist in Tokyo. In 1984 he became a founding partner of Border Image, a graphics/arts based company working on a wide range of both 3-D and printed design projects. Recent work in association with the Queensferry based landscape design consultancy TPHC has included the design and delivery of interpretative strategies for the cities of Stirling and Derry. An accomplished artist, sculptor and model-maker, Gordon lives in Queensferry.
Tom Martin - presenter
After service in the RAF, where he was a flight engineer on Shackleton and Nimrod aircraft, Tom settled with his family in South Queensferry. He then worked as manager of the Stirling Thistle Shopping Centre until he retired. He has since then been active in local community groups, and is the latest recruit to join the team which gives talks on ‘The Briggers – The Men Who Built The Forth Bridge’