Disaster driver should’ve been off

David Mitchell, the  train driver involved in Tay Rail Bridge Disaster
David Mitchell, the train driver involved in Tay Rail Bridge Disaster

A Glenrothes historian has discovered that the Leslie-born train driver involved in the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster should not have been working that fateful night, reports KEVIN QUINN.

David Mitchell was driving the train which was crossing the Tay Rail Bridge when it collapsed during a storm on 28 December, 1879. Local historian Ian Nimmo White recently traced Mr Mitchell’s living relatives and had a headstone placed on his unmarked grave at Leslie Cemetery.

Mr Nimmo White has now discovered that Mr Mitchell should not have been working that night.

He said: “I heard from a Gina Campbell, who is the widow of the great-grandson of a Wiliam Walker- a colleague of David Mitchell.

“She said that her husband told her that William had done David’s shift for him the week before, so he was returning the favour that fateful night.

“One of Mr Mitchell’s living relatives, David Leighton, had told me this story before but I didn’t pay much attention to it, because I already knew that the engine in the disaster shouldn’t have been running that night.

“So I had thought it was too much of a coincidence for both the driver and the engine to have been changed. But this confirms it.”

Mr Nimmo White is part of the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust, which was established to raise money for a memorial to the victims. He revealed that the group plan to expand their original plans for one memorial, adding that his talks on the subject are going well.

He said: “Fund-raising is going very well. We are thinking about having a memorial on each side of the river. The disaster touches both areas, as although most of those on the train lived in Dundee, a lot of them were from Fife, but had moved to Dundee for work.

“I held a talk in the CISWO and the Falkland Society recently, on average you get about 30 people at the talks, but we had 70 at the CISWO.

“This whole campaign for the memorial fund is about public support and things like this really help.”