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The Briggers: The Story of the Men Who Built the Forth Bridge Paperback – 1 Jan 2009
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'Beautifully presented' --Scots magazine
'a wealth of photographs puts faces on the long-forgotten navvies, engineers, divers and others' --The Scotsman
'Beautifully presented' --Scots magazine
About the Author
After graduating from St Andrews University with an honours degree in history in 1970, Elspeth Wills has spent her career as a researcher, interpreter and writer within advertising, marketing, economic development and visitor attraction environments. She has written over a dozen books on subjects as varied as natural history, new town development and Scottish innovation.
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Or perhaps, as one of the army of boy riveters working on the construction of the Forth Bridge as the 19th century drew to a close, he'd just seen too much of adult life and death to manage a cheeky grin.
Sadly, his name isn't recorded, just his job - as a rivet catcher his tasks would have included grabbing red-hot metal pins heated on portable stoves below as they were hurled up to the various sections of the bridge to be hammered into the bridge's supports.
Perhaps he is even Thomas Shannon, one rivet catcher whose name is recorded - because he was just 13 when he lost his balance at the peak of the Inchgarvie cantilever and landed with a fatal thud 140ft below on December 9, 1888.
The boy riveters had often been recruited as part of a family team and young Thomas was no exception - it was at the feet of his father, Patrick, a girder worker, that he landed.
Thomas is thought to be the youngest of more than 70 who died while working on the construction of the Forth Bridge. His story is told for the first time in a new book researched by a group of historians based in South Queensferry, living under the iconic structure which was completed two years after Thomas' death.
The Briggers , released this week, tells the tales of boys and men who built the bridge and the dangers they faced.
Some lost their lives in falls or fires, or were crushed or struck by falling equipment, but there were many more left disabled, with missing limbs, fingers and toes or whose health was broken by long periods spent in underwater caissons. One man suffering from "the bends", was too embarrassed to join the official bridge opening because of his bone deformities.
Others would be haunted by the images seen as they worked to build what became, and remains, one of the world's finest engineering feats.
Using new digital photographic scanning techniques on the original glass plate negatives, a whole crop of new information has emerged about the bridge builders, the Briggers of the book's title, and the hardships endured in creating what was arguably the most impressive engineering feat of the Victorian age. It contained three times the amount of steel as the Eiffel Tower and carried railway trains across a major river. It was also the marvel of the age and was visited by the crowned heads of the world soon after its opening.
This is a 'must have' book for anyone interested in railways, Scotland or indeed industrial archaeology, and is a marvelous read.
There is an excellent text plus remarkable pictures and illustrations.
The 6 chapters are 1)water,steam and steel 2)briggers,bosses and the black squad 3)breaks,burns and the bends 4)crushed,slipped and drowned 5)residents,royals and revellers and 6)days,years and decades.
A truely remarkable book collated by amateurs.Highly recommended.
Is there any record of names who worked on the construction and were not killed ??
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