The Tay Bridge Disaster

Original Text: 
William McGonagall, Poetic Gems (1890; Trowbridge and Esher: Trowbridge, 1975): 42-43. PR 4970 .M45 P6 1975 St. Michael's College Library
2Alas! I am very sorry to say
3That ninety lives have been taken away
4On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
5Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
6'Twas about seven o'clock at night,
7And the wind it blew with all its might,
8And the rain came pouring down,
9And the dark clouds seem'd to frown,
10And the Demon of the air seem'd to say --
11"I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay."
12When the train left Edinburgh
13The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
15Which made their hearts for to quail,
16And many of the passengers with fear did say --
17"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay."
19Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
20And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
21On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
22Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
23So the train sped on with all its might,
24And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
25And the passengers' hearts felt light,
26Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
27With their friends at home they lov'd most dear,
28And wish them all a happy New Year.
29So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
30Until it was about midway,
31Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
32And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
34Because ninety lives had been taken away,
35On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
36Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
37As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
38The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
39And the cry rang out all o'er the town,
40Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
41And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
42Which fill'd all the people' hearts with sorrow,
43And made them for to turn pale,
44Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
45How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
46Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
47It must have been an awful sight,
48To witness in the dusky moonlight,
49While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
50Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
51Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
52I must now conclude my lay
53By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
54That your central girders would not have given way,
55At least many sensible men do say,
56Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
57At least many sensible men confesses,
58For the stronger we our houses do build,
59The less chance we have of being killed.


1] On Dec. 28, 1879, at about 7:15 pm, the central spans of the Tay Bridge (completed 1877) succumbed to gale-force winds and fell into the Firth of Tay at Dundee. A six-carriage train crossing the Bridge then, carrying 75 persons from Edinburgh, followed the bridge sections into the water. None survived the worst structural failure in the history of British engineering. A court of inquiry blamed the designer, Sir Thomas Bouch, for not bracing the central spans strongly enough to bear wind-loads expected in the Firth. The Bridge was replaced in 1887. Back to Line
14] Boreas: Greek god of the north wind. Back to Line
18] Wormit Bay: on the south side of the Firth of Tay, at the point of the entrance to the bridge over the Ray River to Dundee. Back to Line
33] Fiend: Field (1890). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
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