Crossing the Tay

Our current Searchroom exhibition showcases just some of the records we have relating to various efforts to cross the Tay. The display complements the Friends of Dundee City Archives (FDCA) conference on Saturday 7th October, entitled: Land, Sea and Air.

The River Tay is part of the identity of the City of Dundee. Over the years the river has brought trade, industry and supplies to the City. But she has also been a barrier. Travelling south to Fife either meant a journey by boat or a long trip via Perth. A rail ferry did cross between Tayport and Broughty Ferry for a period during the 19th century. But what was needed was a bridge.

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Building the First Tay Bridge c.1874

The first ill-fated bridge was finished in 1877 but lasted only 18 months. Her more successful replacement has been allowing trains to cross the Tay for 130 years. She’s both older and longer than her southern Forth cousin.

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Proposed Plans for a Road Bridge over the Tay, 1936

Growing road traffic in the 20th century meant a rise in demand for another bridge. A passenger bridge over the Tay was first suggested just before the First World War, and plans were drawn up for a new bridge using the base of the first rail bridge. In the 1920s the plan was suggested as a means to give work to the growing number of unemployed men in the city, but this fell through. A report from 1936 shows that the bridge was back on the agenda. At this time the plan was to erect the bridge between Woodhaven and the Esplanade (roughly where Tesco Riverside is now). After many changes to plans and the location, the bridge was finally built in the 1960s between the filled-in old docks and East Newport.

The B L Nairn
The B L Nairn, one of the “Fifies”

The 18th August 1966 not only marked the opening of the new Road Bridge it also marked the end for the “Fifies”. The team of hard working vessels that had ferried people, goods and vehicles over the Tay for over 140 years. By 1966 there were 3 boats left, the B L Nairn, the Abercraig and the Scotscraig.

MV Scotscraig and the MV Abercraig were sold and lived out the rest of their lives on Malta – quite a nice place to retire, I’m sure you’ll agree! The Scotscraig hit the silver screen when she was used in the 1980 Popeye film starring Robin Williams but later sank at the entrance to Anchor Bay. The Abercraig was scrapped. The B L Nairn, the larger boat, was by all accounts a reliable vessel. Sadly she could not find a new home and ended up being scrapped in Blyth, Northumberland.

Fifies in Malta
The Abercraig and Scotscraig resting up in Malta.

If you would like to view the items on display in the Searchroom, please feel free to pop in.

Find out more about the Friends of Dundee City Archives Conference: Land, Sea & Air.

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