HISTORY LESSON – 8

The Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge was built by Sir William Arrol & Co. between 1883 and 1890. Sir Benjamin Baker – “one of the most remarkable civil engineers Britain ever produced” – and his colleague Allan Stewart, received the major credit for it’s design and were responsible for overseeing the building work. During its construction, over 450 workers were injured and 98 lost their lives.

Much less is known about the First, Second and Third Bridges – until now.

A contemporary portrait of Mrs Shamus McDuff.

The First bridge was built in the Bronze age by Shamus McDuff. He cast his eye round his village on the south side of the river and couldn’t see any maidens to his liking. Being afraid of boats he decided to contrive a way of getting to the North bank to see what the talent was like on the other side. Using only locally grown sustainable timber, and home made string he started on the task. It took him longer than he thought and he eventually stepped onto dry land at the age of 86. Unfortunately he was so old and ugly by then that the maidens just laughed at him. He got very depressed, set fire to the bridge and settled down with a haggis for company. He died soon after dinner – having eaten his chosen partner.

The Second Bridge was built of stone by the Picts – very quickly and very efficiently – during the time the Romans were cavorting around most of the rest of Great Britain.
The Romans, a short race (vertically challenged, Peabrain, tut. Lo,TG Ed), had just finished building Hadrian’s Wall. After the ‘Topping Out’ ceremony they all got very drunk for several days, to celebrate. During this time of debauchery the Picts stole the two top layers of stone from the wall, and in a manoeuvre that present day MPs would have been proud of, carried it away and built the Second bridge within weeks.
When the Romans came round from their revelries they didn’t notice the missing stone and just assumed that they’d all grown taller. They were very pleased and extended their party for another fortnight.
This bridge was destroyed during the global warming scare of 1739, when a confused iceberg made it’s way up the Forth river.

Contrary to popular belief there was no Third Bridge. The radical Presbyterians, a singularly powerful force in Scotland, banned the number 3 as it was and is considered rather vulgar. To this day, if you walk down any street in Scotland you will notice there no houses numbered 3 – the numbering always jumps from 2 to 4.

And so we come to the bridge we know today ……. built partly to guarantee work for painters and decorators.

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(Not any more, Peabrain; they’re going to be using special paint from now on – it lasts for 25 years. Lo,TG Ed)

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