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James Adair McConnochie

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James Adair McConnochie (1835-1895)

1865 March, appointed Resident Engineer to the Surrey Commercial Dock Co


1896 Obituary [1]

JAMES ADAIR McCONNOCHIE, who died at Brighton in his sixty-first year, on the 17th of December, 1895, after a long and painful illness, was born at Row on the Gareloch, Firth of Clyde, on the 21st of August, 1835, and afterwards resided at Glasgow, where he was educated at a private school. His father was for many years Superintendent of Works and Assistant Engineer on the Clyde Navigation.

The subject of this notice was in 1849 apprenticed to Mr. Thomas Kyle, an engineer and surveyor in large practice in Glasgow, with whom he remained until 1854, when he was engaged as an assistant by Messrs. Walker, Burges and Cooper, of Westminster. In that capacity he assisted during the next eight years in the preparation of drawings of many important works, among them being in 1856 the contract drawings for the first portions of the Tyne Piers, the Dover Admiralty Pier, Plymouth Fort and Breakwater, and the Bishop Rock, Gunfleet, and other lighthouses erected for the Trinity House, to which Corporation Mr. Walker was Chief Engineer. He also prepared drawings for extensive additions to the Commercial Docks (afterwards amalgamated with the Grand Surrey Docks and Canal Company, under the name of the Surrey Commercial Docks) and for other important works; and so well did he perform his duties, that at the time of the death of the junior partner, Mr. James Cooper, in March, 1862, he was the Chief Assistant in the office.

Mr. Walker died in the following October, and on the retirement of Mr. Burges the business of the firm was taken over by Messrs. McClean and Stileman with whom Mr. McConnochie remained until March, 1865, when he was appointed Resident Engineer to the Surrey Commercial Dock Company.

The following works for the alteration, extension or improvement of the Surrey Commercial Docks were executed from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. McConnochie:- In 1865 and 1866 the Lavender Dock, and the communication between the Stave Dock and the Lavender Pond; also a retaining wall about 1,550 feet long and puddle trench along the east side of Lavender Pond and Acorn Pond; from time to time the whole of the Albion Dock, Stave Dock, Russia Dock, and Norway Dock, which until 1866 had only sloping sides, were deepened and provided with timber quays throughout, the total length of which was about 3 miles. The Lady Dock was altered on two occasions, first a concrete quay wall was built on the vest side, in substitution and in front of the sloping side. This wall was built without. a dam by the placing of large concrete blocks by divers; whilst on the east side the concrete wall was constructed in a trench behind the slope and the dock was widened by the removal of the ground in front after the wall was completed. The Commercial Basin was. constructed in 1866 and 1867. The Canada Dock, a new deep-water dock of 15.5 acres, with communication passages to the Albion Dock and to the timber ponds, was constructed in 1875 and 1876. New sheds, covering 35 acres and costing about £160,000, and extensive grain warehouses, fitted with complete appliances (worked by hydraulic machinery), costing £150,000, were also designed by and executed under the superintendence of Mr. McConnochie, who likewise installed hydraulic machinery for working the principal gates, cranes and capstans, throughout the system.

In 1893 Mr. McConnochie, after reporting, prepared plans for an extensive addition to the dock accommodation of the Company. This consisted of a new deep entrance lock from the river, giving access to a new dock, 2,000 feet long and 400 feet wide, communicating by a 60-foot passage with the existing Canada Dock; also on the north side a new passage connecting the Russia Dock, and on the south side a new canal lock. For these works (estimated to cost £374,000) Parliamentary powers were obtained in 1894.

He afterwards prepared the drawings and specifications for the. first section of the work, the contract for which was let to Messrs. Pearson and Son, who commenced operations in April, 1895.

Mr. McConnochie was also engaged on many other works on the River Thames and elsewhere. Among these were the Aberdeen Wharf, constructed in 1876, on a foundation formed of concrete cylinders, at a cost of £33,000, and the Christchurch Graving Dock at Cubitt Town.

From 1882 until his death he acted as the London agent of the Bombay Port Trustees, whose appreciation is adequately expressed in the following extract from a resolution passed by the Board on the receipt of the telegraphic news of his death:-

“His services were of the highest value to the Trustees in all their transactions with home, including the purchase, inspection and approval of extensive dredging plant, and hydraulic and other machinery.”

Mr. McConnochie designed and carried out the Junction Graving Dock and Bute Graving Docks at Cardiff. He was also consulted in 1870 as to the construction of the dock gates and caisson of the Bute Docks, Cardiff, and more recently as to the plans for the extension of those docks, for which an Act was obtained in 1894.

In 1890 he was engaged by Miss Talbot, and afterwards by the Port Talbot Railway and Docks Company, as Engineer. He recommended various improvements at the Port Talbot Docks, and in 1893 designed a comprehensive scheme for the enlargement and improvement of the harbour and docks, for which an Act was obtained in the following year. The parliamentary plans, contract drawings and specifications were prepared by Mr. McConnochie in conjunction with Mr. P. W. Meik, and the contract was let to Messrs. Pearson and Son, Mr. McConnochie up to the time of his death continuing to be joint engineer with Mr. Meik and Mr. T. Forster Brown. He also advised the Corporation of Bristol as to dock extension and other matters in 1893.

Mr. McConnochie was animated by a deep sense of duty not only to his employers but to all who served under him. Inflexible in purpose, he yet contrived to carry out his work with due consideration to the claims of others, while his manner was as gentle as it was firm. The following extract from a letter to Mrs. McConnochie from the Secretary of the Surrey Commercial Dock Company, dated the 19th of December, 1895, may well be quoted :-

'The sad intelligence was received by the Board with extreme regret, and I am desired to express to you the very great esteem which the Directors have always entertained for Mr. McConnochie personally, the high value they placed on the services he had rendered to the Company, and their sense of the loss sustained by his death, and to convey to you their sincere condolence and deep sympathy with you in this most trying bereavement.'

Mr. McConnochie was married in July, 1876, to Jessie Forsyth, eldest daughter of the late Rev. Stephen Balmer, minister of the parish of Portpatrick, N.B.

He was elected a Member on the 10th of January, 1865.



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