John Mather will give an illustrated talk on Sir Thomas Bouch, Cumbria’s largely forgotten engineering genius.
Born in the Ship Inn, Thursby, where his father was licensee and former captain in the merchant navy, he became one of the most celebrated bridge builders and railway engineers in Victorian Britain.
As well as designing over 300 miles of railway and large bridges throughout Scotland and northern England, his greatest achievement was building the Tay railway bridge in 1878. This bridged the two mile wide mouth of the River Tay near Dundee.
National recognition and a knighthood followed. However, Bouch’s good fortune did not last. The Tay Bridge collapsed the next December, dragging a passing train and passengers into the River Tay, with tragic consequences. His reputation lay in tatters and he remains, to this day, the main scapegoat of the disaster.
As well as telling something of Bouch’s fascinating life and times, John wants to take the opportunity to re-evaluate his career and recognise some of his other engineering achievements. John is particularly keen to demonstrate that many of his earlier works, which feature in Cumbria, are particularly ambitious and innovative. His talk will emphasise the design and construction of the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith railway line.