Bridgescapes – 19 October 2021

Bruce Keith was the guest speaker at our recent meeting at the Savoy Park Hotel. His was an excellent and informative talk on the bridges of Scotland which are the subject of his book “Bridgescapes”, a personal journey through history celebrating Scotland’s bridge-building heritage.

Bruce began with an admission – he wasn’t a civil engineer, but a retired surveyor. However, that “limitation” (who would guess that this blog is written by a civil engineer!) did nothing to detract from either his obvious, intelligent enthusiasm for the topic or the interest his talk created.

Bruce’s passion for bridges had started at a young age; his father had been a bridgemaster with Inverness Council. So Bruce had been introduced to many of the old highland bridges and he showed some wonderful photographs of these as he began his whistle-stop tour around Scotland visiting numerous bridges, old and new, while peppering his story with amusing relevant anecdotes. He ably demonstrated that over the years Scotland’s bridge-building expertise led the way in pushing engineering boundaries – the first… the longest….. the highest….etc.

The aim of Bruce’s presentation was to demonstrate that Scottish bridge-engineering was the best in the world and that that claim can be considered as valid today as ever it was. The Queensferry Crossing over the River Forth, opened in 2017, joins the original Rail Bridge and the 1964 Road Bridge to complete a unique trio celebrating very different structural designs which are all wonders of their age. The rail bridge is already a UNESCO world heritage site and Bruce made a plea for the three bridges to be recognised as one such site in the recently declared “Scotland’s UNESCO Trail”.

Bruce’s other passion is the works of Robert Burns who made famous a certain old bridge in Alloway. Bruce was unable to resist mention of this link in order to demonstrate his local knowledge to his appreciative Ayrshire audience.

Jimmy Begg gave the vote of thanks recognising Bruce’s undoubted enthusiasm for and knowledge of his subject.

(Post-Script: The photo of the incomplete Queensferry Crossing was taken on an Ayr Rotary outing in 2017.)