MEMORIAL FOR FORFAR BRIDGE VICTIMS

The descendant of a Forfar woman killed in the Tay Rail Bridge disaster has launched a public appeal for a memorial to the victims.

Stuart Morris of Balgonie is the great, great, great grandson of Elizabeth Mann (52) who was killed, along with her sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth Brown, when the central spans of the bridge collapsed during a fierce storm in 1879.

Mrs Mann had been visiting her brother in Leuchars. She and her granddaughter caught the last train home, with her brother joining them until the final stop before the bridge – St Fort - where he waved the pair off and settled into the waiting room to await the return train to Leuchars.

At around 7.15 pm he witnessed a commotion of people running around the platform before a shout of "The bridge is down!" went up. Taking the ferry, he immediately travelled to Dundee to break the news to the family in the city.

The family would have lost a third member had it not been for the bad behaviour of William, Mrs Mann's grandson and Elizabeth's six-year-old brother. He was spared by virtue of being locked in his bedroom for some earlier misdeed.

Born in Montrose, Mrs Mann, the widow of a crofter, resided in Prior Road, Forfar, at the time of her death.

The day after the disaster the local press reported that her body had been found. The day after that they were forced to print a retraction as the only trace of Elizabeth and her granddaughter recovered from the Tay was a handbag.

There were no survivors of the disaster and like many of the victims, the bodies of Stuart's ancestors have never been found and thus they have no grave.

This fact has proved to be the driving force in Stuart's campaign: "There are a few with graves," he said, "but many have no stones because they are either missing or there was never one there to begin with.

"Only 45% of the victims have some form of memorial, which is a frightening percentage when you consider how major a disaster it was."

One of the few victims to have a grave is David McBeth (44). While he lived in Dundee, his family lived at Canmore Street in Forfar.

He is buried alongside his brother James in section K of Newmonthill Cemetery.

The Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust aims to raise 50,000 to build two memorials.

Stuart proposes to erect a memorial to the victims on the Dundee side of the bridge, with a smaller one on the Fife side.

The memorial will consist of an octagonal stone plinth topped with bronze metalwork to represent the pillars of the bridge and a wreath comprising of lilies, to represent Dundee, flax, to represent Fife, and thistles, symbolising Scotland as a whole.

A plaque will bear the names of all the victims who perished in the disaster, deduced from tickets collected at St Fort station before the train set off on its fateful crossing.

Mr Morris launched the campaign at the McManus galleries in Dundee last week. He said: "I have always known the story of the disaster and the connection with my family.

"It was a major tragedy for the whole of Scotland and this appeal will give us a chance to put up a proper memorial to those who lost their lives.

"It will also give descendents of the victims some place to pay their respects."

Mr Morris said the campaign had had a lot of support with many people unable to believe that there has been no memorial before now.

Provost Ruth Leslie Melville, who was at the launch said: "It was very poignant to part of that movement to get a memorial established and I think it's long overdue.

"I am aware that there were people from Lintrathen, Montrose and Forfar on the train that night and that makes it all the more relevant to Angus."

For more information on the disaster and to view the memorial design go to www.thetaymemorial.co