The Forth and Tay Bridges Connection
James and Archie

Rail Family bridge gap of 100 years

The descendants of the first man to drive a locomotive over the Forth Rail Bridge made a nostalgic visit to Fife yesterday.  Eighty-six-year-old James Brand and son Archie (57), the son and grandson of William Brand who made the historic crossing, were given the VIP treatment by Forth Bridge Centennial officials in the lead up to Sunday's birthday spectacular.  The Brands, both railwaymen born and bred, made the trip from their homes to see where William made history 100 years ago.  James was able to relive some of his 50-year railway service, including a stint on the Osprey.  He said yesterday that he had never driven a train across the bridge, although he had travelled across it countless times.  His father, he said, had almost made history in another way, when he narrowly missed serving as the fireman on the train which tried to cross the old Tay bridge but never reached the other side,  His father's trip across the Forth, however, had simply resulted from him being in the right place at the right time. "But he talked about it for the rest of his life!" added James.

Archie (left) and James (right)
Abridged from "THE COURIER", 3rd October 1990

William was born on 13 March 1856 to John Brand (1830-1894) and Rachel Dick. John was a railway engine driver with North British Railways for most of his life. They married in Burntisland on 9 September 1853, and had 11 children that I know of. The first 3 are linked in various ways to the bridges - Henrietta, William and Ann. William married Mary King in Dundee on 8 January 1886, and their first child, John, was born at 40 Annfield Row, Dundee, on 23 December that same year. They went on to have at least 2 other boys that I know of, Archibald Dick and James. I do not yet know when and where they were born, but Archibald Dick Brand married Elizabeth Meldrum Culross (see below) in 1919 at Ferry-Port-on-Craig, and died in 1964 in Leith, where he had resided for many years. Their son William was killed during the Second World War, in 1942. My fourth cousin, Sheila, remembers them with affection as she used to visit regularly as a girl. James married Margaret Bell in 1927, I believe in Carlisle, and his son Archie was born in Leith. These are the two gentlemen in the photograph above, on the train crossing the Forth Bridge in 1990, the centenary year. I have had contact with Archie, and hope to find out more about the family if possible. I do not know yet when William died, and I suspect it may have been in England, as I have not found his death certificate in New Register House, Edinburgh.

The Ferry-Port-on-Craig Connection

Sheila Swan Culross, my fourth cousin, is descended from William Culross (1852-1916), who is pictured with his wife Henrietta Brand (1854-1929) and their family, sometime in the 1890's (upper right). They lived in Ferry-Port-on-Craig, or Tayport as it is now known. Henrietta's younger brother William (born 13th March 1856) is the man who made the news in the family! Her husband William Culross was a joiner who worked in various areas of Scotland before settling down in Ferry-Port-on-Craig, where they both had relatives living. One of their daughters, Elizabeth Meldrum Culross, born in 1896, married a son of William's, Archibald Dick Brand, in 1919. Henrietta's younger sister Ann (born 14th April 1858 in Burntisland) was another of the grandchildren of my g-g-g-grandfather William Brand (1796-1873). Ann's connection with the Tay Bridge is a fairly tragic one. She had met and married a young man, George Ness, born 1858 in Flisk nearby. They married on 29th August 1879 in St. Andrews, whilst Ann was pregnant with Rachel Dick Ness. The child was born on 15th October 1879, and Rachel was only 10 weeks old when her father died. George was employed by North British Railways as an engine cleaner, and had just passed his examination for stoker (fireman), the main step towards becoming a railway engine driver. He left home on the night of 28th December 1879, to travel to his work in the railway yards in Dundee, and became a victim of the Tay Bridge disaster. His body was recovered from the river on 13th January 1880. Little Rachel died just 2 months later, on 28th March 1880, and is commemorated on the same gravestone as her father, in Ferry-Port-on-Craig churchyard (lower right). Ann overcame these tragedies, marrying twice more before finally dying at the grand old age of 85 in St. Andrews during 1944.

William, Henrietta and family
Gravestone of George and Rachel Ness
The stumps of the old bridge are clearly visible

The Tay Bridge today, looking north from Fife to Dundee. The columns of the original bridge are clearly visible beside the new one.

Current Situation

I have had some communication with Archie's son Gordon, and his grandson, Jamie.  They will hopefully be able to supply me with some of the information to fill a few gaps in this line of the family, and perhaps some more on the railway connection.

Further to my mention of John Brand and Rachel Dick's family above, a new fourth cousin has contacted me. George Fairgrieve is descended from John and Rachel's daughter Margaret. We have exchanged information, enabling both of us to expand our knowledge of the family tree. This has also been passed on to Sheila Culross, as she was unaware of this family branch.