Did your ancestor die in the Tay Bridge disaster?

This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Tay Bridge Disaster
From the Illustrated Police News for 10 January 1880

On Sunday 28 December 1879, a 1,060 yard stretch of the Tay Bridge, the longest railway bridge in the world, collapsed killing 75 men, women and children.

The UK TV series Find My Past featured a programme about the disaster which prompted me to dust off this research which I carried out several years ago and post it here together with a short series of posts telling the story of the disaster.

Sixty victims were identified but only 45 victims’ bodies were recovered.  The known victims are listed below – where no town is given in the address then the victim lived in Dundee.

Name   Occupation Address
Anderson, Joseph 21 Compositor 13 South Ellen Street
Annan, Thomas 20 Iron turner 48 Princes Street
Bain, Archibald 26 Farmer Mains of Balgay
Bain, Jessie 22 Sister of the above Mains of Balgay
Benyon William + 1 Photographer Cheltenham
Brown, Lizzie 14 Tobacco spinner 28 Arbroath Road
Cheap, Mrs 51 Domestic servant 121 High Street, Lochee
Crichton, James Ploughman Mains of Fintry
Cruickshank, Annie 54 Domestic servant Moray Place, Edinburgh
Culross, Robert Carpenter Newport
Cunningham, David 21 Mason 23 Pitalpin Street, Lochee
Davidson, Thomas 28 Farm servant Linlathen
Easton, Mrs Widow
Fowlis, Robert 21 Mason 23 Pitalpin Street, Lochee
Graham, David 37 Teacher Stirling
Hamilton, John 32 Grocer 16 North Ellen Street
Henderson, James 22 Labourer 3 Church Street
Hendry, Elizabeth 62 Prior Road, Forfar
Jobson, David 39 Oil & colour merchant 3 Airlie Place
Johnston, David 24 Railway guard Edinburgh
Johnston, George 25 Mechanic
Jack, William Grocer 57 Mains Road
Kinnear, Margaret 17 Domestic servant 6 Shore Terrace
Leslie, James 22 Clerk Boffin Street
Lawson, John 25 Plasterer 39 Lilybank Road
McBeath, David 44 Railway guard 46 Castle Street
Mackdonald, William 41 Sawmiller 70 Blackness Road
Mackdonald, David 11 Schoolboy 70 Blackness Road
Mitchell, David 37 Engine driver 89 Peddie Street
Marshall, John 24 Stoker 18 Hunter Street
Murray, Donald 49 Mail guard 13 South Ellen Street
Milne, Elisabeth Dressmaker
Murdoch, James 21 Engineer 1 Thistle Street
Millar, James Flax dresser Dysart
McIntosh, George 43 Goods guard 25 Hawkhill
Neish, David 37 Teacher & registrar 51 Couper Street, Lochee
Neish, Bella 5 Daughter of the above 51 Couper Street, Lochee
Ness, Walter 24 Saddler 4 Bain Square, Wellgate
Ness, George
Neilson, William 31 53 Monk Street, Gateshead
Nicoll, Mrs Elisabeth 24 46 Bell Street
Paton, James 42 Mechanic Edinburgh
Peebles, William 30-40
Peebles, James 15 Apprentice grocer Newport
Robertson, William 21 Labourer 100 Foundry Lane
Robertson, Alexander 23 Labourer 100 Foundry Lane
Salmond, Peter 43 Blacksmith 50 Princes Street
Scott, David 26 Goods guard 7 Yeaman Shore
Scott, John 30 Pipe maker
Sharp, John 35 Joiner 76 Commercial Street
Smart, Eliza 22 Domestic servant Union Mount, Perth Road
Spence, Annie 21 Weaver 62 Kemback Street
Syme, David 22 Clerk Royal Hotel, Nethergate
Taylor, George 25 Mason 56 Union Street
Threlfell, William 18 Confectioner 9 Union Street
Veitch, William 18 Cabinet maker 39 Church Street
Watson, David Commission agent Newport
Watson, Robert 34 Moulder 12 Lawrence Street
Watson, David 9 Son of the above 12 Lawrence Street
Watson, Robert 6 Son of R Watson 12 Lawrence Stree




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54 thoughts on “Did your ancestor die in the Tay Bridge disaster?”

  1. Only just accessed this site (March 2014). My Mother (b 1908 ) often spoke to us of a relative who was killed in this disaster. On my Mother’s side, my Great Grandfather was James Hamilton and, my Great Grandmother was Eliza, they lived in Scotland. I think the relative must have been the John Hamilton (Grocer) mentioned in this listing.

  2. Just found your site.
    My g. grandmother told a story to my uncle that one of their relatives, was on the train but got off the station before the bridge to relieve himself and the train went off and left him. Can’t find any stories of lucky escapes but there was a George Johnston who got on the train the stop before, maybe my uncle got it mixed up but I can’t find any connection. Her husband’s family lived in Dundee.

  3. Charles Stewart father to great grandmother died when bridge collapsed He was married to Lady Garraway and lived in Seafield House Seafield Road Dundee. Would welcome any information about his life.

  4. This is going to sound strange but I think I died on that train. I have had over 30 years of vivid dreams about this crash, I new I was 5 and my name was Isabella, when I found the list of names I found Bella (above). Obviously I can’t be sure but there you go.

    1. My great.great Grandfather was killed when Tay. Bridge collapsed. His
      surname was Stewart. His daughter was Mary married to Andrew Wallace. My great great Grandfather was married to a Lady Garawy but I have no further info. Can you help

    2. Hi there my mum believes she died on the train and that she sitting there and next minute she hears screaming for help and children crying and then next she gasping for breath and she see the water and it’s getting darker she doesn’t know what her name is and age but we’re looking
      And my mum doesn’t like going on trains or over bridges and she hate water and drowning

      1. Holly – I can honestly believe what your Mum is saying. Have researched a lot about such investigations into past lives, especially from children. I always keep an open mind, as I feel a connection to the accident myself, although I’m not sure exactly how. Just ignore rude comments from people like Amy. They’re only showing their own ignorance with their use of foul language, rather than evidence to the contrary x

    3. Oh my god, that’s why I am researching. I’m the same, I think I was Eliza Smart, I also had dreams and can feel it clearly. I showed all my family the memorial stones and they were all drawn to that name and I also read read that she had one leg shorter than the other and so do I. Thank god im not the only one.

    4. Fascinating! My grandmother, Wilhelmina McCullough, born in Edinburgh in 1860’s, insisted her father was somehow connected to the design of the bridge and the collapse of the bridge led to a family tragedy, causing her and her siblings to be placed in an orphanage or a workhouse. A Sir Thomas Kouch actually designed the bridge and I’ve never found any family connection to the disaster. So, another mystery – your vivid dreams and my grandmother’s curious story.

    5. OMG I only found out about this disaster about a month ago. I was researching why I am terrified of trains, especially train bridges, and rivers. I thought about it for a bit and I could picture 6 cars, the bridge build, who I was with (a relative, distant but close enough, and a lover) After reading the names of the Dead, the two that stood out the most are Eliza Smart, and Mrs. Crookshanks. I think I may have been on that train too.

      1. The Elizabeth Milne who died, was related to my Grandmother, both she and her sister were named after Elizabeth, and I have lived with Elizabeth for nearly 70 years

        1. Elizabeth Milne was the neice of my gg grandmother Mary Milne (she came to New Zealand and it is written in our family bible). Elisabeth the younger being the daughter of John Milne and Joanna Robertson.

    6. If you mean Bella Neish, book sources and I think the gravestone, list Isabella as her full name.

      1. I checked Findagrave for the family gravestone, which is listed under Bella’s father, David. The epitaph just says Bella.

      2. Nothing is strange, it’s quite possible. I didn’t die in the accident but I accepted the spirit of Elizabeth Milne who died there. I know it sounds weird, but recently I have written about her. The mind is a strange thing, think of it as a super computer; your brain uses electrical impulses to record information and sometimes it can sometimes pick up signals that at the time makes no sense, until you study the information. However, this modern world and the pace you move at, doesn’t allow you time to think about the information, most people would shrug it off. Some of us can’t do that and that is where you find the truth about your dream/nightmare.

    1. My great great grandfather surname a stewart died on Tay bridge disaster. He lived in Dundee with his wife Lady Garraway in Seafield House. His mother was Mary Wallace nee Stewart.More info would be welcome

    1. ,my great great grandfather surname Stewart was killed when bridge collapsed. Married to Lady Garraway lived in Seafield House Dundee. His daughter Mary Wallace nee Stewart

    2. I think there are Johnston’s in the family tree but I need to rebuild the family tree. Lost original when wildfire burned house, shop, barn and other out buildings.

  5. I’m a distant relative of Peter Salmond. His body wasn’t found until 7 February 1880 at Monifieth. He was originally from Kinnoull, Perth area. His uncle and cousins emigrated to Wisconsin USA in 1857. Three of the cousins crossed the Missouri River in 1867 in a covered wagon, lived in a dug out before building a log cabin and were one of the first settlers in Stockham, Nebraska. Peter’s son emigrated to Eastern Canada in 1911.

  6. I was told by my father that one of our relatives was killed in this disaster, and i have seen all the tickets that were collected from all the victims, did not see it then but, john lawson was one of the victims. I was just playing on the pc and i remembered was dad said and i thought i would google it and, hey presto, john lawson. Most of tbe lawson family were in volved in the railways namely John ,Captain jack, Lawson was apprenticed to robert stephenson and took the first steam locomotive to America, the Herald and was quite a celebrity , So if anybody has ant info on the john lawson in the tay bridge disaster please email me.

    Iai. Lawson

  7. My girlfriend says that she remembers dying in a train crash along with two children, in a past life. This was either 1847 or 1879. I have memories of being a Scottish lord or a wealthy man and my wife and children dying in a train crash. Now, my girlfriend vividly remembers drowning following the crash, because the train fell into a river.

    What I would like to know if if any woman with her two children died in a train crash, either in 1847 or 1879. Because every time my girlfriend and I see each other, these old past-life memories come back to both of us. Any help would be appreciated.

  8. My grandmother told me her mother or grandmother I can’t remember which drowned when the bridge collapsed. Yet, I don’t see the surname Calder among the passengers known to have drown that fateful night. Ironically he normally took an earlier train home. However he had stayed late that night to finish upside work. So that he could spend more time at home with his family during the holiday.

  9. Good Afternoon I have just found this site, fantastic information.
    When I was small I remember my grandad (he died in 1975) that his uncle died on the disaster, I believe this to be George Taylor. If you have any further information that will be fantastic.

  10. My great-grandfather, police officer Henry Martin, was in charge of the mortuary and wrote the official list of those persons whose bodies were found. This list was in a safe at the Dundee Public Library. I was shown it on the 100th anniversary on December 28 1979. Apart from the names, addresses and ages of the victims, it also lists every item found on the bodies. I am sure that the Trust must have access to this document – but I cannot find any mention of it in the Internet.

  11. My husband is related to Willim Peebles. He was 35-39 when he died on the train. He lived up north, worked for the Forestry Commission and was at home in Dundee for Christmas. He was also a lay preacher and was coming back home from a service in Fife when the disaster struck.

    1. Greetings G. Amderson! William Peebles was my 4x Great Grandfather. He was on his way home to his father-in-law Charles Norrie’s funeral in Broughty Ferry. William had been working in Inverness when he heard the news that Charles Norrie had died.

  12. I am doing my family ancestry and recently found out that my mums g.g grandmother Elizabeth mann and her granddaughter Elizabeth (lizzie) Brown were both killed in the disaster, both bodies were never recovered

  13. I had a nightmare at the age of 7, in 1953 of standing on the sandbanks looking at the train wreck. Elizabeth Milne age 21 and a dressmaker, was the name of the one who died, Somehow my grandmother was related to the Milnes; she always talked about her, both she and her sister are named after Elizabeth. My grandmother Ethel Milne Whyte 1893 and her sister Elizabeth Whyte 1892 born in Barnhill or Monifieth nr Dundee.
    I still at 73 get flashbacks and one thing that connects me to Elizabeth is dressmaking, I made a dress for my daughter’s doll and it is the only one that I ever made and I have that feeling that I was Elizabeth.

  14. does anyone have a list of where the people are buried/laid to rest? I was sure i seen a grave at barnhill cemetery Dundee but cant remember who, and would love to know

    1. I haven’t seen any. With so many from different areas of Dundee and the surrounds, it would be almost impossible to locate them. Also, was the train heading out the East coast or into the interior after Dundee. If it was, then the graves could be anywhere. My relation, Elizabeth Milne, was never found; her grave is the Tay. Burial records from the 29th Dec would have to be searched, and when did they finish the Dead presumed Drowned list for the accident? Records of Deaths would show some information.

      1. Hi have just had a family reunion and found out that a relative of ours Margaret Kinnear (17) died and was only identified by the clothes she was wearing (so sad) I am trying to find her death certificate on Scotlands people and thought it would be easy considering I had her date of death (well assuming they are using the date of the tragedy, she was found sometime after the day. Nothing showing up as yet.

        1. I’m sure there was a delay in officially recording deaths like that. So there could be a long delay, remember evertthing was hand written, no computors back then.

    1. I still have nightmares about the disaster. Elizabeth Milne was related to me through my grandmother. I have carried the spirit of Elizabeth within me for the last 70 years. My nightmare occurred in 1952 when I was 5.

  15. Is there a list anywhere of the names for the bodies recovered. I’m interested to know if Elizabeth Milne’s body was one of the ones recovered..

    1. There are many who lie in unmarked graves from that tradgedy. Elizabeth Milne is one, Elizabeth was related to my Grandmother’s side of the family, her body was never found. I hope this year to research into the Whyte/Milne connection.

  16. I sometimes still get past-life memories about that 1879 disaster. As I said in an earlier post, my girlfriend in this life was my wife in a past life. Would like to see a list of all who died in the disaster.

    My girlfriend said two children died with her.

    1. The list of the dead are on the Memorial Stones on both sides of the River Tay. Pictures of the stones are on Google; My vision was at the age of 5 and I was Elizabeth Milne. Over the years, I have written about Elizabeth. The next anniversary which coincides with the day and date is Sunday 28th December 2025.

  17. My name is Robert Henderson born 1962 My great great grandfather was James Henderson of #3 Church st Cupar fife born 1845. His brother Alexander Henderson was Killed in the disaster. Not James.

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