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James Fairrie Blair

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James Fairrie Blair (1831-1876)

Civil Engineer.[1]

of 21 Abingdon Street, Westminster and 2 Cleveland Row, St.James, London.[2]

1876 Obituary[3]

1877 Obituary [4]

MR. JAMES FAIRRIE BLAIR, the third son of Mr. Patrick Blair, solicitor and banker, of Irvine, Ayrshire, was born on the 28th of November, 1831.

He was educated at the Irvine Academy, his freshness and brightness making him a general favourite with both masters and boys. As sometimes happens with those who in after life become enthusiastic with regard to their special vocation, young Blair does not appear to have manifested any early predilection for Engineering, his adoption of the profession being the result of accident.

At the age of fourteen he left Irvine to reside in Edinburgh, for the purpose of attending the lectures at the University, where he speedily distinguished himself in mathematics. While there Mr. John Miller, M. Inst. C.E., who was a friend of Mr. Blair’s family, offered to take him as a pupil, and as this offer was made at a time when engineering was eagerly courted, it was gladly accepted ; and Mr. Miller soon after employed him upon the Glasgow and South-Western railway, and various other important works. His own natural intelligence, strengthened by Mr. Miller’s kindly encouragement and excellent training, quickly led him to delight in the profession he had adopted.

On the completion of his articles he entered the employment of the late Mr. James Walker, Past-President Inst. C.E., under whom he was principally occupied on the Holyhead Harbour works. On the retirement of Mr. Walker, Mr. Blair entered the office of Mr. John Fowler, Past-President Inst. C.E., and under that gentleman was engaged on various extensive works, and became Resident Engineer of the Mid-Kent railway.

On its completion he was, in 1859, appointed to a similar position on the Great Northern and Western of Ireland railway, and the greater portion of that line was satisfactorily finished under his direction.

In the year 1863 Mr. Blair commenced practice on his own account, and in conjunction with Mr. Fowler laid out the City of Glasgow Union railway, a line passing through the city, connecting the various railways terminating in it, and providing a large central station. The Act was obtained in 1864, and Mr. Blair was appointed, with Mr. Fowler, to carry out the works, which were of an important and extensive character, involving an outlay of more than two millions sterling. The Central Station in St. Enoch‘s Square in particular, now approaching completion, is a fine structure, having an arched roof of 198 feet span and 80 feet high from the platform level. The City of Glasgow Union railway is the work with which Mr. Blair’s name will be principally associated, its progress having exacted his unremitting attention during the whole of his independent professional career.

But he was also consulted on other matters, notably the regulation of the Danube at Vienna, for which he, in 1869, made surveys and prepared an elaborate report. These works have since been carried out under the superintendence of Herr Wex. Mr. Blair likewise surveyed various railways in Dalmatia, which, however, from financial difficulties, have not been carried out; and he was Consulting Engineer to the Minho District railway of Portugal.

Mr. Blair had thus acquired a good practice, and being endowed with shrewd knowledge of the world and professional acumen-in the prime of life and possessing engaging manners and a large store of genial good-fellowship, he might have risen, had he been spared, to the first rank in his calling.

In the summer of 1876 he went to the Engadine for his annual holiday, and for relaxation from his professional duties, which were becoming heavier as his engagements increased. While there an attack of cynanche, which he had in a slight degree before he left London, rapidly assumed an acute type, and a little abscess formed just at the entrance of the air passage. On the second day of the attack Mr. Blair was engaged in dressing to go into his sitting room, when suddenly the abscess burst into the windpipe, and this proved fatal in a few minutes. He died on the 2nd of August, 1876, in the forty-fifth year of his age; and he was buried at Schuls, in the Engadine.

Mr. Blair was elected a Member of the Institution on the 4th of March, 1862.

1876 Obituary [5]

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