The Scottish year ends with two disasters, each of which caused significant loss of life. The first was the collapse of the Tay Bridge, on 28 December 1879. High winds, combined with the additional weight and drag of a train crossing the bridge, saw it collapse into the Firth of Tay. Nobody knows exactly how many lost their lives in the incident as there is no accurate record of how many passengers the train was carrying, but the number is reckoned to be around 75 in one of the worst ever incidents on the British rail network.

And, in the run-up to Christmas 1988, a bomb planted in a radio and placed in the hold of Pan Am flight 103, brought down the 747, called Clipper Maid of the Seas, as it flew over Lockerbie. All 243 passengers on the aircraft, plus 16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie, were killed as the debris rained down. The subsequent investigation, overseen by the FBI and Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, led to two Libyans standing trial for the bombing at a court in the Netherlands.

This was the month in which both Madonna and JK Rowling each got married in Scotland, and the man who would be the inspiration for the fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, was born. The first part of the Encyclopaedia Britannica was published, and author George MacDonald was born.

Being the depths of winter, it’s perhaps not surprising that Scotland has seen some rough weather in December. A storm washed away Wick harbour, Hurricane Bawbag struck, and Stotfield’s entire fishing fleet was sunk while at work.


Also in December…

Death of women’s rights campaigner Agnes Brown 1st
BBC establishes the Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Sherlock Holmes inspiration born in Edinburgh 2nd
Missionary Mary Slessor is born in Aberdeen
Socialist campaigner John Maclean is released from prison 3rd
First and last editions of comic The Dandy are published 4th
A Scot becomes Britain’s first Prime Minister 5th
Edinburgh station roof collapses 6th
Man who ‘discovered’ carbon dioxide dies
St Columba is born 7th
Queen Victoria’s companion John Brown is born 8th
Hurricane Bawbag strikes Scotland
Cumbernauld is designated a New Town 9th
Author George MacDonald is born 10th
First part of Encyclopaedia Britannica is published
Castlecary rail crash kills 35
Royal Yacht Britannia is retired to Edinburgh 11th
BBC officially rejects the Scottish Six
Donald Trump granted permission for golf complex 12th
Fife-born ‘Robinson Crusoe’ dies 13th
Glasgow Subway runs its first services 14th
Helicopter collides with Bell Rock lighthouse 15th
Walter Scott’s publisher Robert Cadell is born 16th
Death of the man responsible for Dean Bridge 17th
Ship’s crew reports strange events at Flannan Isles Lighthouse 18th
Storm washes away Wick Harbour arm 19th
Flying Phantom sinks on the Clyde
Burke and Hare’s best customer dies 20th
Pan Am flight 103 bombed over Lockerbie 21st
Madonna and Guy Ritchie marry in Scotland 22nd
The hanging of martyr Hugh Mackail
First episode of Rab C Nesbitt broadcast
Musician Ricky Ross is born
Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is born 23rd
Death of naturalist John Muir 24th
Musician Annie Lennox is born 25th
The Stotfield fishing disaster
Sinking of HMS York spurs the building of Bell Rock lighthouse 26th
JK Rowling marries at Killechassie House
The Tartan Pimpernel, Donald Caskie, dies at Greenock 27th
Industrialist John Brown dies
The Tay Bridge disaster 28th
Elliot Junction rail accident kills 22 and injures 24
Inventor of the Mackintosh is born 29th
Serial killer Dennis Nilsen’s first killing 30th
First minister Alex Salmond is born 31st