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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Wandering Willie

Author and Title: Andrew Stewart. Wandering Willie: A Romance of the Great Tay Bridge Disaster

First Edition: Edinburgh: John Menzies and Co., 1887. 1 volume, post 8vo., 3s.

Serialization: People's Journal for Aberdeen, 1 November 1884 to 14 February 1885 (weekly), Dates approximate

Summary: A novel centering on the real-life Tay Bridge disaster of 28 December 1879. "Wandering Willie" is an itinerant bugler who has proof that his wealthy uncle David Foster cheated Willie's deceased father out of a large sum of money in the past. David used the money as the basis for his now large fortune and he hopes to consolidate his position through the marriage of his son Malcolm to the daughter of a baronet. Malcolm refuses the match since he has already engaged himself to Lucy Harcourt, a poor seamstress he met on a train. The furious father threatens to disown his son. Willie confronts his uncle with his proof and the guilty man gives him some money to go away. As a result of his son's and nephew's difficulties, David develops a scheme. He promises his son to consider his marriage to Lucy if he goes to Calcutta for a year as a test of his love. Malcolm agrees and departs. While he is gone, his father bribes a clerk to woo Lucy away from Malcolm (which fails). David then promises Willie that he will make reparations but instead has him kidnapped and taken to Panama. Learning of the conspiracy against him at home, Malcolm returns early from India and coincidently meets a vengeful Willie in Edinburgh. The cousins, both wronged by David, agree to confront the man by swapping cloths since Malcolm wants to hear his father confess to his crimes. They book tickets on the fateful train to Dundee. That night during a furious storm the bridge collapses plunging the train and its one hundred passengers into the river. News of the disaster reaches Dundee and Malcolm is presumed dead after his luggage is found in the wreckage. Soon after, his body is found. The event chastens David, who confesses his schemes and repents. However, a week later, Malcolm arrives home. Malcolm tells them that illness forced him off the train at the last moment and that the body found was Willie's. Father and son are reconciled and Malcolm marries Lucy. (TJB)

References: BL; EC


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