Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Tyne Bridge Tragedy

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Tyne Bridge Tragedy

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Morton Nostalgia Editor david.morton.editorial@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE issue of health and safety clearly wasn't a priority during the building of the Tyne Bridge in the late-1920s.

The film footage and images we've published recently showing men working high above the river without harnesses or helmets is quite remarkable.

In the event, only one man was killed in the building of the Tyne Bridge.

It's amazing when you consider men were working at heights of up to 200ft above the river, not wearing safety harnesses and using ladders lashed together to reach the top, and sometimes even just shimmying up the columns.

But we must remember the one man who did lose his life - a man of 33, who was married to Alice, and a father-of-four.

Nathaniel Collins, a scaffolder from South Shields, lived at 9 Edward Street in the town.

Nathaniel was working near the top of the bridge which, at that time, was at least 175ft above the river, on Saturday, February 18, 1928.

| Nathaniel died while on the Tyne The bridge was nearing c omp l e t i o n February and the arches weren't more than a few feet apart.

On that fateful day, as the usual crowd of everyday watchers looked on in awe as the "monkey-men" went about their work, Nathaniel must have either slipped or got his footing wrong, because as watchers gasped, he tumbled offthe bridge.

His body hit the footway on the way down and splashed into the river.

Many people thought that a piece of steel had fallen, until the cry went up offthe bridge: "Man overboard".

It was at this time that John James Carr, a waterman employed by the bridge builders, Messrs Dorman, Long and Co, exactly for this moment, swung into action.

As the crowds on the Quayside and High Level Bridge pressed closer, John Carr rowed to the spot Nathaniel had entered the water and, as the fallen man broke the surface, John grabbed him. But there was a strong ebb tide running which meant John could not lift Nathaniel into the boat.

However, with incredible strength, and with his own life in danger, he hung on to him as his sculling-boat was dragged at least a quarter of a mile down river. …

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