First Minister Alex Salmond today joined workers from Network Rail, principal contractor Balfour Beatty, and members of the local communities in North and South Queensferry to celebrate the recent completion of a 10 year restoration project and remember those who lost their lives building the Forth Bridge.
Twin memorials, unveiled in prominent public locations in North and South Queensferry, pay tribute to the thousands of ‘Briggers’ who contributed to building, maintaining and restoring the structure in the 129 years since construction began.
Both memorials consist of a 7ft upright bronze section built into a stone base. The upright bears the names, ages and occupations of 73 men who died during construction, the base is engraved with the words: “To the Briggers, past and present, who built, restored and continue to maintain this iconic structure.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The Forth Bridge is perhaps the single most inspirational structure ever to have been built in Scotland. As a pioneering, supremely practical but also very beautiful feat of engineering it has few equals anywhere in the world and the completion of its ten-year restoration project is a terrific achievement.
“All of this has been made possible thanks to the Briggers past and present, who have shown incredible bravery, industry and skill in the 129 years since the bridge was built.
“Above all, we honour the sacrifice of those who lost their lives during the bridge’s construction. They helped make possible what remains perhaps Scotland’s greatest-ever engineering achievement and these memorials are worthy tributes to their skill and courage.”
David Simpson, route managing director, Network Rail Scotland, commented: “The work which has been undertaken by the team on the Forth Bridge over the last decade has been completed to exacting standards and produced results which have been recognised across Britain, Europe and the rest of the world.
“We are enormously proud of our modern day ‘Briggers’ but we acknowledge that we would never have been there were it not for the hard graft and sacrifice made by all those who went before us. For that reason, it made perfect sense to us to celebrate our modern day achievement by supporting this community driven memorial which will stand side by side with the bridge for many years to come.”
During his address, Mike Peasland, Chief Executive Officer of Balfour Beatty’s Construction Services UK division, added: “To be given the responsibility of restoring such a treasured part of the UK’s railway heritage, a significant icon of Scottish civil engineering, has been a unique challenge. To now stand here to celebrate the last 10 years during which Balfour Beatty has been responsible for the restoration project is an honour and something that we can be rightfully proud.”
The concept for the memorials was devised by a dedicated team of local historians and enthusiasts. Over the last seven years, they have researched the subject matter, rallied local support and raised funds for the concept. Network Rail and Balfour Beatty became principal sponsors to acknowledge the support of the communities north and south of the bridge and to recognise the dedication of the men and women who have worked on the structure during the past 10 years.
The monuments were designed by local artist Gordon Muir and were be cast by Powderhall Bronze Ltd, Fine Art Founders, in Leith.
Len Saunders from the Forth Bridge Memorial Committee commented: “We are immensely pleased that Network Rail and Balfour Beatty have chosen to celebrate the completion of the decade long bridge restoration in such a fitting way. And that the support, together with our many other sponsors has resulted in a fine public memorial to ‘The Briggers’.”