As soon as the catastrophe came to be known…

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Tay Bridge Disaster

from the Illustrated Police News for 17 January 1880

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known,

The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,

Over in Dundee, several groups of people who were watching the train cross the bridge saw its lights disappear.  In Tay Bridge Station, staff became increasingly worried; the train had not left the bridge and the telegraph was faulty.  Word spread rapidly.  The bridge was down.  A crowd started to gather outside the station and lights sprang from windows across the city as people opened their curtains to stare towards the bridge.  A ferryboat was sent to the bridge and put down a lifeboat to search for survivors.  Unsuccessful, they returned to the harbour about midnight.  Telegrams were sent, via Perth, to the North British Railway, to Sir Thomas Bouch and, from a reporter on the Dundee Advertiser, to the London press.  Few in Dundee slept that night.

On Monday, rumours spread and the crowd grew.  The news travelled across Britain by telegraph and all the later editions of the newspapers used the Tay Bridge disaster as their lead story.  Just before sunset, floating three miles downstream from the bridge, the first body was found.  By Wednesday, divers had found the train and its engine, but no more bodies.  Debris and personal effects started be washed up on the beach.  That evening, the Town Council called a public meeting and proposed that a disaster relief fund be set up.  They had already received £1,980 in donations, including £500 from the North British Railway, £500 from the directors of the company and £250 from Sir Thomas Bouch.

The week dragged on.  A Board of Trade Inquiry was convened.  No more bodies were found, but the crews of the whaling boats searching at the mouth of the river claimed that a drowned man would not rise to the surface until seven days had passed.

 On the Sunday, Sabbatarian ministers had a field day:

 “If there is one voice louder than others in this terrible event it is that o God! Determined to guard his Sabbath with jealous care.”

 “Is it not awful to think that they must have been carried away when many of them must have known that they were transgressing the lawof God?”

On Monday 5 January 1880, the eighth day after the disaster, a second body was found.

By the middle of the second week the bodies of 25 men, women and children had been recovered.  The search went on throughout January.  By the end of the month, 33 bodies had been found.  About four months after the disaster a body, identified as one of the passengers, was washed ashore in Caithness.

In total, 46 bodies were recovered.

from the Illustrated Police News for 17 January 1880

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