The Queen's Ferry
Looking across the Firth of Forth from South Queensferry
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On opposite banks of the Firth of Forth, at the northern and southern ends of the Forth
Rail Bridges, are the towns of North and South Queensferry. Although both these
towns are bypassed by the road and rail that link Fife to Edinburgh and the
Lothians, at one point this was an important ferry crossing. The ferry service
was set up, with hostels on either side of the Forth, by Queen Margaret, the
wife of Malcolm Canmore, in the 11th century to assist travellers going to and
from Dunfermline and St. Andrews; this queen’s ferry is where the names
of the two towns are derived from.
In 1093, following her death in Edinburgh Castle, Queen
Margaret made her final trip on this ferry, to her burial in Dunfermline. In
1129 her son, David I, established the ferry as a regular crossing with the
rights given to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey; many of these travellers would
have been going to visit the shrine of the Queen, especially after she had been
made a saint in 1251. In 1589, James IV gave the rights to the ferry, along with
the abbey and guest house in Dunfermline, to his bride, Margaret of Denmark. In
the early 17th century the ferry rights were divided into sixteen parts, which
could be feud to individuals; this remained in operation until the 18th century.
By the start of the 19th century the service was being
heavily criticised and a more efficient crossing was required. Engineers in
Edinburgh considered a tunnel and a survey took place in 1805; a bridge with a
roadway suspended by chains was also proposed around this time. In 1807 a
Board of Trustees was set up to examine the condition of the service and in
1809 a Bill was passed to give the control of the ferry to this Board.
In 1811 the official ferries averaged 228 passengers a day, rising to 447 at
busier times. By 1820 the ferry service was starting to lose money and a new
boat was required; the Board commissioned the Queen Margaret in 1821,
following a trial of the steam ship Lady of the Lake the previous year.
For a while a train ferry ran between Granton in Edinburgh
and Burntisland in Fife; originally this was for the passengers only, but later
Thomas Bouch, the designer of the ill fated rail bridge over the River Tay,
designed a ferry, the Leviathon, to transport the train carriages across
the Forth. In 1890 the iconic Forth Bridge opened, removing the need for the
rail ferry; however the passenger service continued until the Forth Road Bridge
was opened in 1964.
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