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John Atkinson Harrison

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John Atkinson Harrison (1816-1880)


1880 Obituary [1]

MR. JOHN ATKINSON HARRISON was born at Gateshead-on-Tyne on the 10th of October, 1816, and was the only son of Mr. J. A. Harrison, tanner, of that town.

His general education was obtained at the endowed grammar school at Morpeth. His professional career commenced by his being articled to Messrs. R. and W. Hawthorn, when he went through the usual routine of apprenticeship in the workshops and in the drawing office.

On the termination of his articles in 1845, he entered the office of the late Mr. Robert Nicholson, M. Inst. C.E., as an assistant and improver, where he remained until the death of Mr. Nicholson in 1855, seeing his full share of a large and varied practice.

He was next engaged on various Parliamentary and other surveys in Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire and elsewhere, for the Border Counties, the Blyth and Tyne, and the Severn Valley railways for Mr. J. F. Tone, M. Inst. C.E., the successor of Mr. Nicholson, by whom he was appointed Resident Engineer on the Morpeth branch of the Blyth and Tyne railway in 1856, upon which he was employed for two years.

Mr. Harrison was then constantly occupied on the surveys for the Parliamentary contests between the North British and the Caledonian Railway companies, which ended in the making of the Border Union and the Border Counties Extensions by the North British Co.

In 1859 (when Mr. Harrison was elected an Associate of the Institution) he was appointed Resident Engineer on the three heaviest contracts on the Border Union railway those from Hawick up to, and including, the tunnel through the “Limekiln Edge.”

Owing to the works on the Whitrope contract being after a time taken by the company into their own hands, additional responsibility was thrown upon Mr. Harrison.

This line was completed in 1863. Besides its interest to him as an ardent lover of nature and as a keen sportsman, Mr. Harrison’s literary tastes made this long residence in a district, which is pre-eminently the scene of border legend and minstrelsy a great and lasting pleasure. He now began private practice in Newcastle, and was engaged in various matters connected with railway work, the preparation of plans for the Whittle Dene and other extensive waterworks, &c., interrupted from time to time by attacks of the disease which eventually proved fatal.

In 1870 he became chief engineer of the Scotswood and Newburn railway, in conjunction with Messrs. Laws, MM, Inst. C.E.. After the Act was obtained, and the designs were completed, he took personal charge of the works for about a year. His health becoming gradually worse, he was reluctantly compelled to abandon an active career, still however feeling a lively interest in all that went on, and working when favourable weather, or a temporary improvement in health, made it possible.

For the last few years he resided at Wylam-on-Tyne, where he died suddenly on the 14th of February, 1880, from the bursting of an aneurism, of the gradual formation of which he had long been aware. Mr. Harrison’s kindly and genial temperament, and the store of information and anecdote with which his wide reading and varied experience supplied him, made him a universal favourite, especially among his professional brethren, the younger members of whom he was always ready to advise and assist.


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