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Alexander Drysdale

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Alexander Drysdale (1817-1883)


1884 Obituary [1]

ALEXANDER DRYSDALE, son of Robert Drysdale, an engineer and surveyor, was born on the 14th of January, 1817, at Dumfermline, where he was educated at the Commercial School, and afterwards by a private tutor.

At the age of seventeen he was articled for three years to Mr. George Buchanan of Edinburgh, it being stipulated that time was to be allowed him “for attending classes or otherwise improving himself”; however, he was so much employed on extensive surveys in the North of Scotland, including the Cromartv and Beauly Firths, that he was unable to pursue his studies as intended.

On the termination of his apprenticeship Mr. Drysdale spent two years at the University of Edinburgh, and attending some private classes. The subjects included Botany, Natural Philosophy, and Mathematics, in the last of which he attained considerable proficiency, particularly in the higher departments, comprising the various applications of the Differential Calculus. It was his custom to continue his studies during the vacation; and upon one occasion the late Mr. Walker, Past-President Inst. C.E., when on a visit to Mr. Drysdale, senior, was shown a drawing by him so well executed that he took it to London, and shortly after sent for the draughtsman, who entered the office of Walker and Burges, where he remained from the end of 1839 to 1844. During this time he was engaged in preparing drawings for the Tame Valley and Wednesbury Canals for the Birmingham Canal navigations, the cofferdam and foundations of the Houses of Parliament, works of the Trinity Corporation, Dover Harbour, &c.

Leaving Messrs. Walker and Burges, he went abroad for the purpose of acquiring further professional knowledge, and in 1846 entered the employment of Mr. J. R. McClean, Past-President Inst. C.E., and for the nest five years was one of the Resident Engineers on the Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and South Staffordshire Railways, and Stafford and Worcester Canal, under Messrs. McClean and Stileman.

Subsequently he was engaged on the Furness Railway, the South Staffordshire Waterworks, the Bristol and Portishead Pier and railway, and other important works.

In the summer of 1870 the question of the accommodation required in the harbour of Alexandria was referred by the Viceroy, Ismail Pasha, to a mixed Commission. Two plans were considered; one was the proposal of the late Mr. J. R. McClean and Mr. Abernethy; the other that of Linant Bey, Egyptian Minister of Public Works. Mr. Drysdale went to Egypt in June 1870, to represent Mr. McClean, and had several interviews with the Viceroy.

As the Viceroy wished to have at Alexandria a harbour as magnificent as any in the Mediterranean, the plan proposed by Linant Bey was adopted, although the area enclosed by the outer breakwater included a large extent of shoal water.

The Concession for the construction of the harbour was, however, given to an English firm, Messrs. Greenfield and Co.

His mission finished, Mr. Drysdale returned to London, where the organization for the construction of the works was arranged.

Mr. Drysdale, spent the winter and spring of the years from 1870 to 1873 in Egypt. While there the use of concrete on a large scale at Alexandria led him to test the value of the materials of the country to form cement. Sufficient Nile mud and limestone from Alexandria were brought to England in the early summer of 1871, and from these an excellent Portland cement was made under Mr. Drysdale’s supervision. The cost of fuel in Egypt, however, was prohibitive.

In the spring of 1872 Mr. Drysdale visited Trieste, and his observations there influenced materially the mode of construction ultimately adopted for the inner works at Alexandria.

In the summer of 1873 the method provided in the contract for the construction of the Mole, as well as its line of direction in the harbour, were brought before the Viceroy, who was then at Constantinople, where Mr. Drysdale went as the Consulting Engineer of Messrs. Greenfield and Co.

In consequence of these negotiations the width of the Mole was increased, its mode of construction modified, and its direction altered to an extent which nearly trebled the area of the inner harbour.

Mr. Drysdale subsequently went to Alexandria to take the general direction of the execution of the harbour-works, from which Mr. May had retired. These were completed in the summer of 1880.

In the winter 1881-2 Mr. Drysdale revisited the works, and had the satisfaction of finding all in good condition.

In the autumn of 1883 Mr. Drysdale visited St. John’s, Newfoundland, also Halifax and Quebec, having been consulted as to the site and construction of a graving-dock in the harbour of St. John’s. He prepared drawings and estimates for a dock to admit the largest ocean steamers, and recommended concrete faced with the native stone as the materials to be used. The St. John’s authorities, however, while adopting the site proposed by Mr. Drysdale, decided to build the dock of timber, as being more economical in first cost.

This trip appeared to have an injurious effect on the health of Mr. Drysdale, which was never re-established, and he died on the 10th of August, 1883.

Mr. Drysdale was elected an Associate of this Institution on the 7th of March, 1848, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 8th of April, 1856.



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