Dec 232010

Karl Marx and the Tay Bridge Disaster – A Dundee Myth? Voice’s Dave Watt Investigates.

On the evening of Sunday the 28th of December 1878 the Edinburgh train, approaching Dundee on Sir Thomas Bouch’s new bridge was plunged into the icy waters of the River Tay when the whole section of the bridge nearest the city collapsed in the high winds.

Seventy five passengers and rail crew drowned in the resultant crash which shocked the entire nation and raised some extremely cogent questions about the design, engineering and fabrication of the bridge. Sir Thomas Bouch, who at the time of the disaster was, rather worryingly, designing another bridge, to cross the River Forth, came very badly out of the subsequent enquiry and died shortly afterwards, a broken man.

Obviously, disasters of these magnitude generate a certain amount of urban myths and an ongoing one in Dundee was that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had tickets for the doomed train but for some reason didn’t go. It is a possibility as Marx (convalescing after an illness) and his daughter Eleanor were believed to have spent at least part of the year in Scotland around this time.

So, if this isn’t just an urban myth from Bonnie Dundee then why did Karl and Fred not get the train?

Possible suggestions :

  • As it was a Sunday in Edinburgh Engels and the Great Man decided to anaesthetise themselves against a day of Presbyterian dullness by polishing off a liquid lunch and thence departing to several hostelries in Rose Street for ‘Just one more quick pint before we get the train”. Cue: the usual result.
  • Marx thought, “Stuff me. Dundee‘s such a total consumer paradise that there’s absolutely no chance of starting a revolution there”.
  • Rather perceptively spotting that privatised railway systems run on the cheap were an elaborate method of killing people, Marx went by the completely unionised Edinburgh-Dundee Peoples Collective Charabanc Company and lived for another four years.

Oh! ill-fated Communist, dead in the Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your principles of collectivism and the abolition of private ownership would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side by the lumpenproletariat,
At least many sensible men say that:
For the stronger we our politics do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

by Danvers Carew (with apologies to William Topaz McGonagall – Poet and Tragedian)

PS For any hapless souls out there thinking of travelling to Easter Road or Tynie by rail in future to watch Our Brave Boys getting bent over the kitchen table and given a hearty dry rogering, I would remind you that many of the girders from the old bridge were used in the construction of the present one. Still fancy it?

Oct 012010

By Dave Watt.

Ever wonder how a city council of one of the most prosperous regions of Britain contrived to find itself £55 million in debt in 2007? Aberdeen Voice – courtesy of its home made time machine fearlessly delves into the newspapers of the past/future and brings you those stories that never quite made the front pages.

14th April 1746Council Defends Investing This Year’s Entire Pauper’s Budget in a civic reception for Bonnie Prince Charlie.

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Amidst an outcry from distressed Aberdeen Citizens Lord Provost Erasmus Stephen defended the council’s decision of spending the annual Pauper’s Fund on a Banquet for Bonnie Prince Charlie and his court. Lord Provost Stephen said that the money was well spent as His Royal Highness’s army would undoubtedly defeat the government forces during tomorrow’s battle at Culloden and that the prince’s gratitude would ensure that the city would be Scotland’s main port for trade with the continent.

Replying to those critics who pointed out that the Duke of Cumberland’s forces had the Jacobite army out numbered two to one and that the Prince had all the tactical awareness of a brain damaged tadpole, the Provost said that he would have actually backed Cumberland’s army but he ‘was afraid that people would laugh at him’.

July 13th 1789Council Delighted With Purchase in French Property Market Boom

Lord Provost Bampfylde Stephen assured Aberdeen citizens that cash spent in acquiring the Bastille in Paris as a hotel in the city centre is money well spent and pointed out that the fortress is in good repair, is on a major trade route and ‘is very handy for the shops’. He said the council expects a large return on their investment next year when crowds will be flocking into Paris for popular monarch Louis XVI’s jubilee.

January 29th 1843Council Invests Yearly Budget on Oak Plantation for Shipbuilding Futures

Provost Diggory Stephen says future of wooden ships are the way to go and dismisses hare brained schemes for iron ships. Council passed motion of censure on local shipbuilders AJ Hall and J Lewis for being led astray by crackpot inventors like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and derided the ludicrous notion that iron ships can float on water.

December 27th 1879Council Denies Financial Outlay in Railway Stock is Rash Move

The city council, fresh from their Yuletide festivities, were involved in an unseemly disturbance this morning as hundreds of outraged citizens objected to the 1880 Fund for Widows and Orphans being invested in the North British Railway Company. Lord Provost Siegfried Stephen, however, dismissed the complaint saying that there were only a few troublemaking protestors and that the money invested was as safe as Sir Thomas Bouch’s railway bridge over the Tay – recently built for the North British Railway Company.

October 28th 1929“We’re In The Money”, says Lord Provost

Council leader says ‘Happy days are here again’ as investing of entire Social Welfare Fund floats huge share portfolio on Wall Street. Lord Provost Rufus T. Firefly Stephen lit a huge cigar as he told assembled journalists this morning that the city’s financial future was assured now that Aberdeen’s wealth was there up on the big board on Wall Street. He dismissed complaints from impoverished citizens as being  the work of a few disgruntled Bolsheviks and malcontents.

Jan 3rd 1972Oil Finds off Aberdeen ‘Just Pie In The Sky’ says Provost

Consequently the city had been on the edge of total bankruptcy with only twenty thousand pounds left in the kitty

Aberdeen’s Provost Hiram J Stephen yesterday dismissed the notion of the city becoming a centre for the oil industry in the North Sea and assured citizens that rumours of large oil finds off the Scottish coast were ‘just so much moonshine’.

In addition, he congratulated the council on its perspicacious decision to invest the Community Welfare Budget on potato recycling. ‘There are vast deposits of tatties in the Grampian Region just waiting to be turned into fossil fuels’ he said.

And now – back to the future…..

September 30th 2020Granite City Saved from Destitution At Last Minute

Aberdeen Provost, head honcho and big enchilada, John Moonchild Fifi Trixibelle Stephen III and his ruling junta gave a collective sigh of relief as he announced that the apparently doomed city had saved by a last minute financial deal. To the angry and increasingly desperate crowds outside the Town House he declared that despite the concreting over of Union Terrace Gardens, the Duthie Park, and the construction of a golf course on the site of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, visitors to the Granite City just hadn’t appeared in the hoped for numbers. Consequently the city had been on the edge of total bankruptcy with only twenty thousand pounds left in the kitty. Fortunately, however, he had that very morning received an e-mail from a multi-millionaire in Nigeria who wished to clear all his vast funds through a bank in the UK and only needed all of the city’s bank details whereupon which he would immediately send the city fifty percent of his account. Provost Stephen stated that our future was therefore assured…..