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Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland Blog

Tay Road Bridge Commemoration

DSC 0013Dundee City Council chaplain Chic Lidstone, who is also the Regional Organiser for WPCS in the East of Scotland, gave a poignant address during the recent Tay Road Bridge 50th Anniversary celebrations.

He conducted the Workers’ Commemoration Ceremony at the Memorial Stone in the Tay Road Bridge Car Park on the Fife side of the river, paying respect to those who lost their lives building the bridge, in addition to those who have worked and continue to work on the bridge. (Chic is pictured, third from left, with some of those who attended)

Here below are his words:

“We choose to stop for a moment as we celebrate 50 years of this bridge connecting the land and the lives, the communities and the businesses of Scotland. We see the concrete and steel but we want to reflect on the human dimension, the flesh and the blood, of this bridge: past, present and future.

“It didn’t ‘just happen’, doesn’t ‘just happen’ and won’t ‘just happen’. But first of all we must stop and pause as we recall the five men who died during the construction. Not just five men, but five families affected.
“In one incident on 11th November 1965, three men died: John McQueen (25) from Dundee who was married with a young daughter; Donald Ross (25) from Dundee had been a lorry driver in Newtonmore; James Lennie (50) from Abernethy who was married with a son and daughter. 
And in two other incidents on April 27th 1964 and March 13th 1965: Benjamin Bowness (27)  and from Dundee -  a Liverpudlian who had married a Forfar lass who was left to raise their young son and Archibald Keir (20) and from Cowdenbeath,  married for just five months.

“I also want to remember Willie Logan, who died in an air accident during the winter of 1966. Willie Logan, of Duncan Logan, the main contractor.  His grave, near Dingwall, is in the shape of the cross section of this bridge. So, in many ways, the bridge itself is a best and most lasting memorial.

“I need to confess at this point that I am a Civil Engineer and a bridge builder, as was my father who actually worked on this bridge as Contracts Manager in the final stages of its construction. I clearly remember dad coming back at night tired after struggling with the challenges of building a lasting structure, and in particular for him, the problems associated with the removal of the temporary bridge used to construct the main bridge - people  working together to unite lives, connect business and bond communities.

“From the designers, including William Fairhurst himself, to the engineers, construction crew and all the suppliers and support workers who made it happen those 50 years ago, to the maintenance guys, the management and the board who keep it going for us today; managing, night and day, for our safety and convenience. And of course, the guys who, in years to come, will be stewards of this bridge as it continues to connect lives, business and communities.

“A tribute to these, is that most of the time, except when something is wrong, or the wind is too strong, we take it for granted. 

Following a moment’s silent reflection, Chic closed the ceremony with a short prayer, adding: “If you are someone who does not pray, I am sure you will agree with the sentiments expressed. I suggest that you look at the bridge as part of this prayer or reflection.”

Here is that prayer:

“Father God,

“We are grateful for this bridge, as our lives are easier and the connections made are the richer for its construction. We take it so much for granted and often don’t even think of what’s really involved and what it represents.

“We are mindful of the lives lost during the construction and the families affected, not forgotten or taken for granted, but valued.

“We are mindful of the people who have worked on it in the past, those who continue to work on it, keeping it safe and operational and those in the years to come.

“We ask for their wisdom, safety, protection and wellbeing.

“We thank you for this bridge, what it brings to us and in particular the many  lives woven in to its story. In Jesus name,  Amen.”

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