Fife Tourism Partnership

Writer-in-Residence celebrates new book

16 February 2023

Rivet Boy

The Forth Bridge’s inaugural writer-in-residence and award-winning children’s author, Barbara Henderson, is celebrating her new book, Rivet Boy.   Rivet Boy is based on a real-life Dunfermline boy who fell from the Forth Bridge during its construction in 1889 and survived unhurt. 

The book’s hero is 12-year-old John Nicol who gets a job at the Forth Bridge construction site knowing it’s dangerous. Workers have already fallen from the bridge into the Forth below. But John had no choice—with his father gone, he must provide an income for his family—even if he is terrified of heights.  John finds comfort in the new Carnegie library, his friend Cora and his squirrel companion, Rusty. But when he is sent to work in Cain Murdoch’s Rivet Gang, John must find the courage to climb, to face his fears, and to stand up to his evil boss.

A drama teacher, Henderson is the author of nine books, mostly children’s historical fiction, and a frequent guest at schools and book festivals. ‘It was such a privilege to return to the Firth of Forth to research the settings of the book, many of which were old haunts for me,’ she explains. ‘I had a lot of help from the local research group The Briggers who gave me invaluable advice and information.’

Dr Miles Oglethorpe of Historic Environment Scotland agrees: ‘As Chair of the Forth Bridge World Heritage Management Group, I think that the Bridge is one of the most inspiring subjects for both children and adults and is a fantastic learning resource. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the expectation is that we share our monument with the world and maximise its potential as an educational and scientific cultural resource. We believe that having a Writer in Residence promoting writing, drama and art, is a brilliant way of working towards this goal'.

In her role as writer-in-residence, Henderson continues to deliver a combination of school- and public events in the coming weeks. ‘It’s going to be so much fun to take Rivet Boy on the road to schools in South Queensferry, Kirkliston and Echline as well as the Fife side of the Forth. Seeing children interact with stories is hands-down my favourite part of the job, and I can’t wait to get started!’

Cover of Rivet Boy book

Find out more about Barbara’s journey on her writer-in-residence blog: Forth Bridge Writer-in-Residence Diary – Part 5 | write4bairns (

Follow John Nicol’s example and visit your local library to borrow a copy, or purchase your own from your favourite book shop and at  Rivet Boy by Barbara Henderson – Cranachan Publishing

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