Tamar Bridge memories from Plymouth worker Frank Fry
FRANK Fry left Victoria Road School in 1960 when he was 15 and happily for him he walked straight into a job.
The post was in the office of the consultant engineers who were overseeing the construction of the Tamar Road Bridge.
Frank was prompted to contact me following Pete Organ's piece a few weeks ago on laying the road surface of the bridge.
Construction of the bridge had begun the previous year so the project was still very much in its infancy.
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"I got the job through the Youth Employment Scheme and I was employed by the Cleveland Bridge Company themselves – I think I was paid just over £2 10s (£2.50) a week."
That might not seem like much now, but Frank recalls that you could buy a pint for 1/6d (7p) "so you could go into a pub with a pound and come out quite merry and still have plenty of change!
"It was a great job. I saw something different every day. Some of the workmen came and went, when their specific bit of the construction work was done, but I was there throughout.
"I remember when the first tower on the Plymouth side was going up, it got to a certain height and work had to stop. The concrete was honeycombing – bubbles were appearing in the structure and they had to take it down and start again.
"I didn't have a camera of my own in those days, but people were always taking pictures. I remember Michael Fenn recorded many different stages of the development for Plymouth City Council."
The bridge was a fantastic bit of engineering and at the time it was built it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the country.
Frank still marvels at the massive cables that slide imperceptibly across the great saddles on the top of the towers as the heat of the sun stretches the metal work.
"There are plates carrying the road surface that also allow for a degree of movement according to temperature," adds Frank, noting at the same time that the brass pin that Peter Organ was talking about – the one that was located in the road surface to denote the boundary mark between Devon and Cornwall – was actually slightly nearer the Plymouth side than it was to the Saltash side.
Neither Frank nor Peter know where the pin is now though, if it's even there at all.
On a similar note Frank also recalls that "set into the wall in the approach road to the bridge from the Plymouth side there was a complete set of pre-decimal coins."
I wonder if that is still there today.
One of Frank's last tasks was to sweep the red carpet that the Queen Mother stood on to officially open the bridge on April 26, 1962.
The bridge had been open to traffic since the previous October, but the formal opening marked the completion of the work.