The FORTH RAILWAY BRIDGE

Well done the Forth Railway Bridge for acquiring UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

This gives the UK 29 such sites from a total of 1028 world wide sites in 163 countries. Note, from the word go, UNITED KINGDOM, and not the separate countries of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or the Principality of Wales.

It is put that way on purpose because the UK has, and always has had, brilliant design engineers and skillful builders performing their skills across our lovely islands and it is pointless and churlish to say that some thing currently enjoying this special UNESO status is, say, English, just because it stands proud on English territory. This is particularly relevant to this great design/build site, standing fully on Scottish soil, natural and man-made terra firma, on which it stands proud in the Forth.

As you will read, it is far from being wholly Scottish when design, manufacture, materials and build skill are considered!

Whilst on the subject of designers and builders, for without them we wouldn't be celebrating our good fortune, those two features alone are important. Take the Sydney Opera House for example, another UNESO site, the designer was a Dane. The Aussies loved him for his innovation and rightly so. However, quote Wikipedia, the cost overruns contributed to populist criticism and a change of government resulted in 1966 to his resignation. He was deeply hurt with what followed, which were street demonstrations and professional controversy. Peter Hall supported by Lionel Todd and David Littlemore in conjunction with the then NSW Government Architect, Ted Farmer completed the glass walls and interiors including adding three previously unplanned venues underneath the Concert Hall on the western side.  Opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, new works were undertaken between 1986 and 1988 to the land approach and Forecourt under the supervision of the then NSW Government Architect, Andrew Andersons, with contributions by Peter Hall. That most beautiful and innovative building which for example, houses the largest organ in the world designed by Australian Ronald Sharp, much loved around the world and a rallying call to all Australians and not just to NSW'lians, was the product of international expertise specifically from the UK but more importantly from Germany with European support but with a goodly input [and at times a crucial input] by the NSW authorities and their accomplished designers, engineers and construction companies. The Dane's original designs were modified in many and several ways, but his international skills were so widely acknowledged and sought after, that he was brought back and without any demotions or sour grapes, he helped finish this iconic building. So, in truth, the Sydney Opera House, from day one, was always going to be an international building and the fact that it was built on a piece of high-profile real-estate, doesn't or shouldn't detract from a salute to the expertise of many, some of whom never actually got to see the finished product, for the eternal benefit of our dear friends down under. I have been there and I have experienced the pride Aussies have in their iconic building which they readily accept as a universal gift to the city and to Australia.

 Architecture Prize
In 2003 Utzon [the Danish designer] received the Pritzker Prize, international architecture's highest honour.

So, congratulating ourselves for acquiring yet another UNESCO site, let us have a quick look as to how it was designed and built and by whom.

The story really starts with a Scot being dismissed by Scot's for the flaws in his designs in bridge building, track laying, assembly and maintenance in various Scottish locations. His name was Thomas Bouch, and his abilities were in doubt with regard to a new crossing of the Forth.

He was replaced by Sir John Fowler and colleagues, English design engineers of great renown. Allan Stewart working under Sir Benjamin Baker [one of the Fowler's colleagues] was the acclaimed designer of the bridge.

The bridge was assembled by the famous Scottish [Glasgow based] Sir William Arrol and company, with a sizeable supportive input from English construction companies. Of note, one of the chief hands-on architects of the project was Sir Thomas Selby Tancred, a Baron and a world famous engineer from Yorkshire.

The Royal Navy played its part in the building of the bridge. HMS Lord Warden [Captain Kennedy] and his "well disciplined and willing crew  of hundreds of bluejackets]" assisted in several aspects of the planning processes.

 The high quality steel used in the project came from England [Siemens], Wales [Dowlais] and France [Martin], and the untold copious amounts of Portland cement came from many areas of England. Scotland itself provided all the granite required to support the bridge structure. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, was built five years after the start of the Forth Railway Bridge in 1887, using wrought iron and not steel.

The work force for the builders, Sir William Arrol and Company, a Glasgow company, came from many areas and many skills some of whom had supplied 'gangers' for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's later projects in years gone by. This great man, possibly the finest engineer of them all was an Englishman born in Portsmouth. He died in 1859 twenty three years before the Forth bridge was started [1882], but his recorded skills and pioneer work lived on and many of his ideas were naturally copied.

The bridge has had many owners, and is now owned by Network Rail on behalf of the UK and not on behalf of Scotland.

Given the parameters above, and that the design of the bridge is pivotal and a most important criterion in a multifaceted criteria, if anything, there is a crucial and very large important input of Englishness in everything to do with it, right down to its maintenance, function and HSE requirements.

The Scot's would [and will] have it that it is theirs, but in reality it is a UK edifice which all 64'odd millions of people [the 2015 UK population] can be proud of and justifiably celebrate the UNESCO award of yet another Heritage site. Having made the crossing many times toing and froing from London's King's Cross station to Waverley Station and from there to Inverkeithing for access to HMS Cochrane, Rosyth Dockyard [one ship and two submarines], Pitreavie MHQ [Maritime Headquarters] and HMS Temeraire, I feel the pride in my part ownership of this wonderful World attraction. 

To date at least, there is no mention in any of the media I have read and watched concerning the UNESO award, regarding the bridge's pedigree, so I thought it fitting to add just a few facts. The cost of the bridge and those who paid for it is shown here.

Construction work commenced with the capital for construction funded by Midland Railway (32.5%), North British Railway (30%), North Eastern Railway (18.75%) and Great Northern Railway (18.75%). The total cost for constructing the bridge was estimated to be £3.2m.

Enjoy all we have in the UK, a jewel in the crown of the western world, a place envied by the majority of the world's population, although they wouldn't admit it!