This story appeared in the Courier and Argus of Monday, January 19th, 1880 –




   A Fife correspondent writes:- I have just been in conversation with a few friends whose relatives reside in the vicinity of Newport, and I heard them relate a rather strange story regarding the finding of the body of Ann Cruickshanks, the housemaid to Lady Baxter of Kilmaron, but who left Edinburgh along with Mrs Easton for Broughty Ferry to wait upon Miss Montgomerie. It will be remembered that Miss Cruickshanks’ body was recovered near Newport on the Monday morning after the accident, and, strange to relate, not a single soul was found till about a week afterwards but the body of David Johnstone, the guard. It appears that on Sunday evening four men belonging to the district of Newport had been appointed to watch some property, while in the discharge of their duty they had occasion to be in the vicinity where the body of Miss Cruickshanks turned up, and a little before midnight they report that they heard four distinct screams of cries of a woman come from the direction of the Tay, and a short time afterwards two men were seen to come hurrying along the line to the eastward, when the other two taking to the direction of the sands. Holding to the eastward the first two men left the line and were soon joined by a third party on the turnpike road, when they held right on to Tayport. The two watchers meeting a machine coming in the opposite direction here informed on making up to the driver that the Tay Bridge had fallen when they immediately returned to Newport, and were joined by their other two companions. Little attention was then paid to the object of the men’s watching, as all seemed absorbed in the sad calamity.

Since the fact has transpired that not a single body has been found near the same spot, but that all articles of wreck found mostly to the north side of the stream and in the Broughty Ferry district, it is conjectured that Miss Cruickshanks may have left the train at St Fort, and had intended to have crossed over by boat to Dundee. Be that as it may, I only give the statement as narrated to me, and it can be accepted for what it is worth. But there seems some singularity in the fact that this particular body should have been so soon recovered in such a quiet out of the way corner. There seems little doubt that if standing on an exposed part of the beach in such a stormy night, and a sudden gust came sweeping along the coast, one would have enough to do to keep themselves from being driven into the swelling flood. As to the veracity of the statement I have no doubt personally, but how it may be accepted by the public may be a different matter.

Perhaps some of your readers in the district of Newport may have recollection of the force of the gale in their district and also of the possibility of a body being washed from the wreck by the manner in which the tide was flowing.



Dundee Courier and Argus, Tuesday, January 20th, 1880 -




   For a week past a foolish story has been in circulation with reference to Ann Cruickshanks, who was a passenger by the train, and whose body was first found. It is said that on the night of the disaster four men were watching a property at Newport. About twelve o’clock they heard four distinct screams, and subsequently saw two men come from the direction from which the sounds seemed to proceed. The men, who took the road to Tayport, were soon out of sight. Next morning the first body recovered from the wrecked train was found, and proved to be that of Ann Cruickshanks. Those who heard the screams say the body was got exactly where they would have expected to find it, and the suggestion is that Miss Cruickshanks left the train at St Fort, travelled to Newport with the intention of crossing the river by steamer, was waylaid and murdered. We have made some inquiries, and find that Ann Cruickshanks undoubtedly travelled by the train from Edinburgh; that her body was the first recovered, but that where it came ashore a quantity of wood was also picked up; that, on being taken to the mortuary, the body was carefully examined, and that there was nothing to indicate foul play; that it was identified by her sister and friends; and that generally the story above related is regarded as incredible by those who know the circumstances best. It should be added that no report of the occurrence described has been made to the Fife county police.

Ann Cruickshanks (53) was a housemaid to Lady Baxter of Kilmaron.




Dundee Advertiser, Saturday, January 24th 1880




The Editor

Sir, - In your paper of the date I observe a statement to “female screams” being heard in East Newport on the 28th ultimo, the night of the Tay bridge accident, and as your informant states he saw three men on or about the railway bridge at the Serpentine moving about in a suspicious manner and apparently in great hurry, perhaps you will allow me to clear up the mystery so far as the men are concerned. About 11 o’clock on the night of the accident I despatched two of my men to Tayport with train staff, and the third accompanied them. They walked down the railway to the bridge in question. They intended joining the road there, and they went over the fence for that purpose, but finding the road wet and muddy, they again joined the railway line and went direct to Tayport Station. They were going fast in fact they were running part of the way. It is somewhat strange that these men heard no screams although they were coming from the direction they were reported to have proceeded from. These men passed within 100 yards of Northfield Steading and no unusual noise could have taken place without them being aware of it, the night comparatively quiet and the moon shining clearly.

                                            I am &c.,

                                                         James Duncan



Newport East Railway Station, 23rd January, 1880



To the Editor

Sir, - Mr Duncan’s letter of 23rd inst. Satisfactorily explains as to his men, but as there is nearly an hour of difference from the time his men arrived at Tayport station and the time I heard the screams and saw three men running along the line, some other parties should turn up and possibly explain the matter –

                                            I am,

                                                   John Fowlis

                     Scotscraig, Ferry Port on Craig

                                         24th January 1880





These early articles took my interest and I decided to look into this incident more closely, then I came upon Mr Blair. –

On Monday the 26th of January, Wm Blair adds to the controversy, in a most bizarre manner.




Sir, -…Ann Cruickshanks, as I have always maintained, was not in the train, but left it at St Fort, and was walking to Newport when she was either blown into the water or ill-treated and flung into it. If her person had been carefully examined, the latter supposition might have been found right. It is clear, however, that she went up with the tide and came down with the next, close to the south side, as found by the position of all the bodies yet discovered, would have made it impossible for her to have got where she was if she had been on the train…

I thought that this was the confirmation I was looking for, but the rest of the contents of his letter left me a little unsure. I think he was taking the conspiracy theory, now aimed at Dundee’s Council, a little too far –

…All through this wild effusion shows the ‘mark of the beast,’ and clearly reveals the ‘the cloven foot of the council,’ who are anxious that their blundering policy should not further suffer by exposure…

                                        Jan 24th, 1880             Wm Blair



On the Thursday, 29th Mr Blair goes on –


Sir- …In regard to the case of Cruickshank

s, then, I have to say that this correspondent, who believes that she lost her life on the bridge, will find no difficulty in believing that same “whale” knocked it over with his tail, and that his friend the shark then swallowed it up, carriages and passengers too!...

    …That same drivelling maniac like himself should doubt the success of my Parliamentary candidature is not to be wondered at.

                                    Yours respectively              Wm. Blair




Mr Blair was a Dundee Councillor in his time and wrote very, very many letters to the newspapers, not everyone was impressed by his rhetoric as this excerpt from a reply, by FACT, on January 30th shows.


Mr Blair and the search for the bodies


Sir, There is no use in paying any further attention to the rubbish which is emanating from the diseased mind of Mr Blair…