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Musical inspired by disaster
Hot Toddy in rehearsals for the Tay Bridge disaster in Lesmurdie with Iris Jones, composer, on Keyboard.

Musical suite inspired by 1879 disaster

By Sally McGlew

WRITING public disasters to music is no easy feat but for Lesmurdie composer and folk musician Iris Jones it’s a gift that just keeps giving and something that comes easily to her creative spirit.

Originally hailing from Scotland, Jones had been fascinated by the story of the Tay Bridge Disaster, a train accident which occurred en-route to Dundee, Scotland in 1879.

On December 28 that year a train with 59 passengers and crew on board started the journey across the River Tay on a recently completed railway bridge.

Tragically the bridge collapsed.

Jones’ grandfather was born a few months after the disaster and he was rocked in a cradle made from driftwood from the accident which had floated to the river shore.

Memorials to The Tay River disaster are built on both sides of the river.

The former US President, General Ulysses S Grant even travelled to Scotland to see the bridge under construction, which at the time was hailed as an engineering feat.

Jones has worked closely with Dr Erin Farley of the McManus Museum in Dundee, Scotland for much of the original resource material.

Hot Toddy will perform the piece in the Perth Town Hall in March 2021 and a separate second performance at the Kalamunda Historical Museum as soon as COVID-19 virus restrictions are lifted.

The Suite of Music, Song and Poetry of the Tay Bridge Disaster received a standing ovation from audiences at the Dwellingup Folk Festival last month.

The suite of songs, jigs and waltzes, especially the young lovers waltz, who met and danced for only seven minutes before the train went down, are very moving.

Perth folk musician Bernard Carney said the quality of the music, the story of the young lovers and the song The Water Is Wide were absolute tear jerkers.

“I hope this gets a wider hearing than just the lucky folks who attended the Dwellingup Folk Festival,” Mr Carney said.

Jones worked on the composing for a year and performs the show with accomplished Hills musicians Aileen Emery, Margaret Schlink, Marianne Holzherr and Alan Malcolm on mandolin.

The group performs as Hot Toddy and is well known in folk music circles in Western Australia.

Contact: itsmeirisjones@gmail.com

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