The Fifers who built the bridge

The Forth Road Bridge under construction
The Forth Road Bridge under construction

Carpenter Campbell (86) on a remarkable feat of engineering ...

As the country marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of one of the truly great Scottish engineering achievements this week, a carpenter from Leslie recalls his role in helping to build the iconic Forth Road Bridge.

Little did carpenter Campbell Morris know when he walked out of the gates of Kincardine Power Station having completed his construction contract, that he’d be sailing out into the middle of the Forth the following Monday to start work on what would soon become one of the most ambitious construction projects ever undertaken in Scotland.

Now 86, Campbell recalls his time on the road bridge project with the help of photographs he took during his two years as part of the construction team.

“My cousin Bob Sneddon worked with me and went along to see if he could secure any work as the very first aspects of the bridge work was about to start,” Campbell remembers.

“Next thing I knew I was joining around a dozen others from the Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy area as part of the Fife team to work on the north side of the project. That was 1961.”

For the next two years, he was employed to produce the huge shuttering required to allow the pouring of the concrete to produce the base the bridge would eventually sit upon.

In total, 115,000 cubic metres of concrete were poured, giving a sense of the sheer enormity of the job he was involved in.

Campbell often found himself in all weathers and the team had to overcome not just the elements, but a few unforeseen difficulties too.

He remembers one memorable occasion on Mackintosh Rock, a notorious and feared point in the Forth responsible for a number of ship wrecks in days gone by.

“Work had to stop because a wreck of a steam ship, the Telesilla which sunk on September 14, 1896, had been located and had to be dredged up, I still have a piece of it I kept as a souvenir,” he recalls.

Campbell and his colleagues laboured away on the northern base that would eventually hold the north tower.

“To see the first three 45 metre steel leg structures lowered onto the base and fit perfectly was a great relief for everyone concerned.”

As the bridge continued to take shape Campbell later worked on the huge anchorage structure which is designed to hold the bridge upright.

“That was probably the most important aspect of the construction I worked on in all my time there,” Campbell remembers.

“It basically takes the weight of the bridge from one side, otherwise it would collapse. I’d say that was pretty important.”

As work for the joiners and concreters came to an end and the time came for steel erectors to come to the fore, Campbell, headed north to Perth to work on the new whiskey plant.

Despite his two years on the bridge, Campbell missed the official opening conducted by the Queen on September 4, 1964 in front of an estimated 100,000 people.

“I was on holiday in Italy so missed it, but I was on one of the last ever ferry crossings a week before the bridge officially opened.”

In later years, Campbell has had the privilege to take in the stunning views from the top of both the north and south towers as well as take a flight over the iconic structure.

“I must be one of the few to have been at the foot of the bridge, the top of the bridge and above the bridge,” laughs Campbell today.

“It still fills me with pride to know I had a small part to play in building the bridge.”

And some of his photographic memories from that time also found their way into a book commemorating the 40th anniversary of the bridge’s construction back in 2004.