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Editorial (1870-02-17)

PMP

The Tay Bridge – a Victory. Dundee Courier, Thursday 17 February 1870, p.2 col.4 (pdf image)

An editorial in the Dundee Courier reporting on the proceedings of a meeting of the Trustees of Dundee Harbour, it which it was voted by a majority of one to support the proposed Tay Bridge scheme. The editorial approves of this decision, noting that “the vast proportion of the public, including the greater part of our monied men,” believed the bridge would bring prosperity to the town.

The editorial pours scorn on the flimsy and illogically-constructed arguments put forward by the dissenters to the scheme, and notes that Matthew’s arguments, in a “letter in our columns some time ago”, were at least forceful, even if fanciful in their foreboding of “impossible” events:

For a genuine and enthusiastic opponent to the bridge commend us to Mr Patrick Matthew, a dozen lines of whose letter in our columns some time ago contained more deterrent portentous warnings and gloomy forebodings on the subject than all the objections made by the dissentient Trustees yesterday put together. In that gentleman’s opinion any other “impossibility” would not be half so difficult. We should not wonder though we hear from him next that a conclave of the monsters of the deep had been held on the subject, at which it had been decided by a large majority to oppose the erection of the proposed structure, supposing the bill be obtained. Certainly a flip from the tail of such a creature as the Longniddrie whale would play terrible havoc with the rising piers.

The full text follows:

THE TAY BRIDGE — A VICTORY.

“I don’t think that this is a matter for making mirth over. The minority must give way to the majority.” Such was the lugubrious reproof given yesterday at the meeting of the Dundee Harbour Trustees by Bailie Brownlee to Bailie Buchan when the latter showed an unbecoming levity at the result of the vote on the Tay Bridge scheme — Bailie Brownlee being in the minority. Yet Bailie Buchan was not so far wrong in the observation which proved au offence in the eyes of the junior and generally jubilant — because victorious — Bailie. No doubt Messrs Cutlar and Mudie were determined to show posterity what side they took in the matter. We think they should have courted oblivion in the case. Bailie Buchan’s approval being recorded twice would have done about as much good as the entry on the books of the dissent of Messrs Cutlar and Mudie, and himself much more credit than the course of the two last named gentlemen would do them. “All’s well that end’s well!” Very true; yet it is rather unpleasant to think how very near the deputation from the Directors of the North British were to being sent away worse than empty-handed away to the Board they represented with the tidings that an important public Trust of Dundee had thrown cold water on the scheme for the bridging of the Tay — a scheme than which, we believe, there never was a more popular one mooted in Dundee. Not that we think the removal of one vote from the majority to the minority would have made the bridge scheme collapse. A public meeting might have put that all right. But seeing the public represented by the Trustees are, as a whole, in favour of the Bridge, it was well the “nail” of the shoe was awanting the loss of which caused the loss of the “rider” — the dissentient minority. The result of the vote not only saves trouble, but gives buoyancy to the scheme it would have in some measure lost had a majority of the Trustees declared against it.

We think the explanations given by Mr Bouch as satisfactory as they could be under the circumstances. It may be true that it would be better were the docks and their surroundings left as they are. But that is not the question. The query rather is — Would the erection of the proposed bridge be likely to do the town of Dundee more good than would be derived from the leaving of the docks as they are? We have rather satisfactory grounds for saying that the vast proportion of the public, including the greater part of our monied men, believe the bridge will confer a prosperity on the burgh that would never accrue to it from the corner being left on the docks which it is proposed to shave off, or from the absence of a railway crossing which is thought to be necessary to the undertaking. On the whole, the objections raised to the resolution of the Dean of Guild are we think, rather frivolous, and strike us as if they were not very hearty. For a genuine and enthusiastic opponent to the bridge commend us to Mr Patrick Matthew, a dozen lines of whose letter in our columns some time ago contained more deterrent portentous warnings and gloomy forebodings on the subject than all the objections made by the dissentient Trustees yesterday put together. In that gentleman’s opinion any other “impossibility” would not be half so difficult. We should not wonder though we hear from him next that a conclave of the monsters of the deep had been held on the subject, at which it had been decided by a large majority to oppose the erection of the proposed structure, supposing the bill be obtained. Certainly a flip from the tail of such a creature as the Longniddrie whale would play terrible havoc with the rising piers.

But if Mr Matthew’s terrors are somewhat fanciful, we are bound to say that no small part of the observations made the dissentients at the Harbour Board yesterday were very captious. Who but those blindly wedded to a foregone conclusion would have bothered Mr Stirling by asking him if the proposal to erect the bridge arose on the part of the North British Company from philanthropy towards Dundee? Or who but a person careless of bringing himself into ridicule would have thought with Mr Gordon that it was necessary to deny that it arose from philanthropy on the Company’s part? Is it really true, as the report has it, that Mr Shaw will not give his support to the scheme because the Railway Company’s object was “to get a connection with the North, and not for the harbour interest at all?” Does he think that it is impossible that a scheme capable of benefiting a railway company could likewise benefit another party? This is surely more than he would say if privately interrogated on the subject. The wish to have the deputation out of the Board-room while the discussion was going on regarding the resolutions to be submitted to the meeting was not a very wise one if the reporters were allowed to remain. Had the wish any connection with a feeling that the bridge, after all, should not be opposed? The deputation, at any rate, put the misgivings of faint hearts to rest by walking out of the room. The remarks made after they withdrew by Bailie Buchan, in support of the Dean of Guild’s motion, were very much to the point, and Mr Cutlar’s not very much. We cannot see very well that his “sympathy” “with all that has been said to the benefits the public Dundee would derive from the Bridge proper,” was very deep. His sympathy was somewhat contradictory to his amendment. Indeed his amendment was not a very masterly production in any sense, short although it was. It was something like “approving” of an impossibility to “approve of the Tay Bridge,” and yet be opposed to “all and any interference with the docks and accesses thereto.” Had not the engineer vouched that such a resolution would quash the whole affair? Mr Mudie, the seconder of the amendment, seemed throughout the discussion to be preternaturally concerned to know about the quantity of Scotch coal likely to be exported from Dundee if the bridge were built, and to point out to the deputation the respective qualities and comparative values of Scotch and English coals. His questions were as well directed as if he had come to the conclusion that the North British Railway Company’s interest was a very different thing from the interest of Dundee exporters of Scotch coal, and that no attempt should made to damage the sale of English coal. However, we are glad to be able to say that a majority of votes were recorded in favour of the bill — even though it was but “the glorious majority of one.”

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