The COX Family - in Angus and Perthshire

5 Jul 1808 at Lochiefield
James Cock 1776-1848
Helen Scott 1787-1824
David, William, Robert, Henry, Thomas, George, Edward
Jean 1806, Helen 1824
18 Aug 1834 in Dundee
Clementina Carmichael 1811-1888
James (1835), William, Charles, Edward, James (1853)
Grace, Ellen, Clementina, Beatrice, Adeline
1 Dec 1885 at Clement Park

James had many interests outside Cox Brothers which are not mentioned at all in his journal. According to the Post Office Directory of Dundee, he was a JP from about 1864 and he joined the Board of the North British Railway Company in 1867. His seven-year municipal career began in December 1868 when he was first elected to the Town Council. His fellow councillors immediately elected him to the office of Bailie (six Bailies acted as a Magistrates Bench) and he held this office for three years. In 1872 he was unanimously elected Provost and remained in the post for the usual term of three years, but did not stand for re-election to the Council in November 1875.¬

He was an avid supporter of the proposal to build a railway bridge across the Tay estuary which was first raised for serious discussion in 1863. A bridge linking Dundee to the coalfields of Fife would benefit the whole city, including Cox Brothers. As a board member of the North British Railway Company, he would have been involved in the years of wrangling amongst the various railway companies which preceded a Parliamentary bill authorising the project. The Tay Bridge Undertaking was then formed to finance the building of the bridge, with James as chairman and the largest shareholder.¬

The designer of the bridge was Thomas Bouch and construction proceeded under his direction in a manner that was later criticised for its lack of competency and thoroughness. The 2-mile long bridge consisted of 85 spans, of which the central 13 spans carried the rail between a tunnel of supporting girders above the track, known as the 'high girders'.¬

After many setbacks and piecemeal adjustments to the design, the bridge was finally completed nearly seven years after the laying of the foundation stone in 1871. It was officially opened on 31st May 1878, a day of great celebration in Dundee. There was a banquet for 600 guests in the Albert Hall which was no doubt attended by the whole Cox family.¬

The bridge brought immediate benefits. Journey times between Edinburgh and Dundee were shortened by over an hour and traffic on the bridge increased steadily. In the summer of 1879, Queen Victoria travelled across the bridge when returning to London from Balmoral.¬

Success was short lived however. On 28th December the same year, with a violent storm raging, a train with 75 people on board, was crossing the bridge to Dundee when the high girders in the middle section of the bridge collapsed and sent the train plunging 90 feet down into the river Tay. There were no surviviors.¬

A Court of Enquiry was set up at the time to try and ascertain why the bridge failed and there have been a number of subsequent studies. It seems no single defect was to blame but rather a combination of poor design and substandard materials, workmanship and maintenance. James was devastated by the catastrophe but nevertheless resolved to rebuild the bridge and was instrumental in initiating plans for a new structure on a more extensive scale, though sadly he did not live to see its completion.¬

The year before the Tay Bridge Disaster, James purchased the Cardean Estate near Meigle, consisting of a large mansion and three farms. He lived there during the summer and autumn but continued to regard Clement Park in Lochee as his true home.¬

On the occasion of his 73rd birthday in July 1881, James was at Buxton Spa in Derbyshire where he received letters from three of his grandchildren, the children of Clementina Low. Apart from wishing him a Happy Birthday, the letters also send good wishes for his health, hoping the Buxton Waters were helping to relieve the pain in his leg and hands, perhaps arthritis.¬

The following year he received a letter from his brother Thomas expressing concern for his health, having heard about a 'serious attack' and relaying advice from Adelaide his wife, for alleviation of the condition. It's not clear exactly what the attack was, but clearly his health was beginning to fail. In December 1885 he died at Clement Park aged 77.

Sir Thomas Bouch, Railway Engineer
Designer of the first Tay Rail Bridge.
He was knighted after the completion of the bridge.

The First Tay Rail Bridge, opened 1878

The Queen's Return from the Highlands
Her Majesty crossing the Tay Bridge, Dundee.
From The Illustrated London News of July 5, 1879

The Bridge after the Disaster of 1879
Only stumps remain of the central section of high girders.

Engine No. 224
Recovered from the water after the Tay Bridge disaster.

The New Tay Rail Bridge seen from Dundee Law
Foundation stone laid 1883, opened 1887, still in use.

The New Tay Rail Bridge seen from the South
View of the steel piers and girders at the south end, with
the foundations of the original bridge visible on the right.

Cardean House, Meigle, Perthshire
A perspective view of the house, drawn up in 1823.

Buxton Crescent, Buxton, Derbyshire
Built 1780-9, facing the ancient spring, St Ann's Well.
James Cox was here on the occasion of his 73rd birthday.

SOURCE: The Tay Bridge Disaster by John Thomas (1972)

The Final Minutes of the First Tay Bridge

The terrific blasting of the gale set up a violent racking motion between the two groups of columns forming the hexagonal piers. The lugs on the columns fractured and fell away and bracing bars swung loose. Bolts sheared away from the flanged joints of the columns. The added weight of the train was too much for the tottering structure.¬

As No. 224The engine that was in use on 28 Dec 1879, the night of The Disaster neared the northern end of the fourth high girder, the iron towers began to double about their lower joints. The spans they supported tilted over to the east, slowly at first but quickly gathering momentum. David MitchellThe engine driver on duty on the night of The Disaster felt his footplate slipping sideways and sinking beneath him. His hand closed instinctively on the regulator but he did not have time to shut off steam. In that final second the spans broke away from the crumbling piers and hurtled toward the water with the train in their midst.¬

Although the spans turned over, the engine and carriages remained upright during the final plunge. As the spans struck, the water burst through the open lattice work and drove the light vehicles upwards, crushing their roofs against the west girders. Coal shot forward from the tender of the falling engine and crushed the men against the facing plate. With steam blasting from its chimney, its coupled wheels whirring in space, No 224 plunged into the Tay, for all the world like a struggling animal imprisoned in a cage.¬

There was a great commotion as hundreds of tons of iron crumbled into the firth. Hissing columns of spray rose high in the air to be dispersed instantly by the driving wind. The thirteen central spans of the bridge and the train and its passengers and crew were no more.

SOURCE: The Family of Cox by Henry Kinloch Cox

James Cox's response to the Disaster

The great storm of 28th December 1879 destroyed the bridge and from that day Mr Cox may truly be said never to have regained his former buoyancy of spirit, having taken to heart the sufferings of so many bereaved families.¬

But he did not despair. He at once said 'We will rebuild the bridge. We will make it a double line and strong enough to resist every wind that blows.' He did not live to see the new bridge completed, but long enough to see his ideas embodied in a structure which has become one of the main links of the East Coast Railways.

SOURCE: Letter from James Cox Tod aged 8

Written to his Grandfather James Cox

3 July 1881¬

My dear Grandfather¬

I am very glad to learn that you are getting a little better at Buxton, and I hope it will do you lasting good and as this is your birthday I write to wish that you may be spared many years and have great happiness and pleasure with dear Grandmother and all your children and grandchildren.¬

I am quite well and liking School and trying to be a good and a clever boy and I like many of my schoolfellows very much and have jolly fun with them during the playhour.¬

Give my love with a smacking kiss to dear Grandmother, Aunt NellieEllen Scott Cox, sister of the writer's mother and Mother
and Believe me
your loving Grandson
James Cox Tod

SOURCE: Royal Album of Arts and Industries (1887)

On James Cox, Senior Partner of Cox Brothers

It may well be thought that the projection, extension, management, maintenance and distribution of the products of such a concernA reference to Cox Brothers would severely tax the energies of any Firm, but the senior of the four brothers, Mr James Cox of Cardean and Clement Park, who died about a year ago, latterly devoted almost the whole of his time to public affairs. He was Provost or Chief Magistrate of Dundee for three years, was a JP and DL,Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant and a Director of the North British Railway, and was, if not absolutely the originator, among the first to conceive the practicability of perfecting the continuity of the East Coast Railway route by bridging the Tay, and threw himself with characteristic ardour and energy, into the accomplishment of this remarkable work.¬

So highly were his services appreciated, that his colleagues in the Directorate constituted him Chairman of the Tay Bridge Undertaking, and it is not too much to say that it is largely due to his exertions that the presentThe new Tay Railway Bridge was opened in 1887 splendid and substantial erection, with its double line of rails - the longest bridge over a tidal river in the world - is now in full and satisfactory operation.¬

He had a kindly and social nature, with a vein of quaint humour, which gave great pleasure to his friends and mitigated the severity of opposition.