A report from "The Times", 1880


The Tay Bridge Disaster
Some bodies are found

Dundee, Tuesday night

Today the North British Company made a trawl of a considerable portion of the bed of the river to the eastward of the fallen girders. The tug Unity was employed for the purpose, and attached to a spar, 40ft long, were 15 heavy grappling irons. The result of the trawiling operations was the recovery of one body about 300 yards east of the first broken pier. It was identified as that of William Veitch, a cabinet-maker, 18 years of age. The deceased, who was the son of Nathaniel Veitch, gas inspecter, Dundee, went on a visit to his grandfather, who resides at Cuper, on the Saturday evening, and was returning home when he met his death. His left leg had been broken, and decomposition had made some progress. A few small boats were again engaged in the search, and they were successful in getting hold of two bodies in the late afternoon. The first was found about 300 yards east of the second broken pier, and was brought ashore by a whale boat under the charge of David Wood. It was identified as that of David MacBeth, the guard of the ill-fated train. MacBeth's eyes were fixed and staring, and his features were firmly set, as if he had met with instantaneous death while at his post in the van. In none of the other bodies recovered were the eyes open. The deceased, who was 44 years of age, was unmarried, and lived in lodgings in Castle-street, Dundee. He had been a guard between Dundee and Edinburgh for many years, and was well known and highly esteemed. The exact time the accident happened is shown by his watch, which stopped at 7 15. The second body, that of George Ness, was found by a boat under the charge of James Cummings, about 400 yards east of the second broken pier. Ness, who was a cleaner in the locomotive shed at the Tay-bridge station, had been staying over the Sunday with his family at St. Andrew's. He has left a widow and one child. He joined the train at Leuchars, and travelled on the engine. Twenty nine bodies have now been recovered.

Today the tide was very low, and it was possible to walk on the fallen girders from south to north for a distance of some 600ft or 700ft. Diving operations were carried on at the bridge to ascertain the exact position of the remainder of the submerged girders.

Those lying at the south end have already been surveyed, and the divers are proceeding northward along the line of the gap. Half a dozen pontoons, which are to be used in raising the girders, are to be brought round from Queensferry tomorrow, and divers have been engaged to assist in the work of raising the iron work and getting it towed to the shore at the south end of the bridge. Workmen were engaged today shoring up the last of the standing girders on the north end, as the iron pillars have been so much shattered that it is a marvel how they have continued to support the superincumbent mass of ironwork. The damaged iron pillars will ultimately be taken down and a brick pier erected in their place for the support of the girders.

The bodies of David Cunningham and Robert Fowlis were interred today in Kilmany churchyard, Fifeshire. The two young men were of the same age, were companions in boyhood, served their apprenticeship together as masons, worked and lodged together, died together, and have now been buried beside each other. The funeral of William Peebles, late land steward in Inverness-shire, also took place today. A lady's umbrella was taken from the river this afternoon.

The Times, Wednesday, January 14th, 1880