From their mid-nineteenth-century fencing business the Harpers of Aberdeen developed a unique system of suspension that allowed their light foot suspension bridges to be relatively rigid. John Harper was one of the first to employ steel wire rope, now universally used. The Harpers' innovative work overcame the disadvantages of this type of bridge and was of considerable benefit to those who relied upon them.
Harpers built over sixty such bridges throughout the UK and the British Empire between 1870 and 1910, but until now they have been little documented. The author, John Harper's great-grandson, searched the globe to find and cross those still in use. Here he tells the story of his ancestors, his journeys and the communities the bridges served.
Douglas Harper is an Aberdonian who was educated in the city and qualified as a geologist, a doctor, and a surgeon. He trained in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and London before his appointment as consultant surgeon and later, in addition, as trust medical director, at Falkirk & District Royal Infirmary. In 1999 he returned to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to establish a day surgery unit. He has developed an interest in less ephemeral structures than patients and traveled throughout the UK and further afield to find and to cross the Harper bridges that remain.