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Dundee 1939 (clip 2)

The City of Dundee and its industries: jute, jam manufacturing and journalism. This clip tells the story of the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879

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A group of locals discuss the importance of the bridge with an Englishman. We see shots of the coal train crossing the bridge. There is then a dramatised reconstruction of the night of the Tay bridge disaster. There are shots of the south side and north side junction boxes, and the telegraph equipment. We see the mailbag from the train hauled out of the water, and then the collapsed bridge in daylight. There is no sign of the train. There is also a close up of a page from a document recording articles recovered from the water. We then see the reconstructed and much strengthened second bridge, with steam locomotives crossing, before a shot of the Forth bridge with a steam boat passing below.

Questions & Activities


  • Why was the bridge built and what happened to the first one?
  • Who are the people at the beginning of the clip and what questions do they raise?
  • Why did they film a 'reconstruction' of the disaster?
  • How many chimneys are there in the opening shot?
  • Why was coal important then?


Social History /Science: Research the Tay Bridge disaster - what happened and why? What lessons were learned in bridge construction? (physics) - Check the film of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse - Primary - Bridge construction and types - Pontifix in secondary.

Social History / Technology: When were the two bridges made? - Look at the Tay Bridge and identify the supports from the old bridge.

Social History: Research why the Forth and Tay bridges were constructed differently.

Geography and Science: Research the place of coal, and its development, science etc. in the past. Also, look at current and future developments and controversies.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-197-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 1061
Date 1939
Genre Documentary, Sponsored
School Subject Geography, Science, Technologies, English, Social History
Who Donald Alexander (director), Films of Scotland Committee (sponsor), Scottish Film Productions (production company)
Where Dundee, Forth Bridge, Tay Bridge
Event Tay Bridge Disaster
Attributes Black and White, Sound
Clip Length 2:16
Film Length 20:00