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John Blackett (1819-1893)

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John Blackett (1819-1893)

1852 Birth of son John George Blackett

1893 Obituary [1]

JOHN BLACKETT was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1819 and served an apprenticeship of seven years to R. and W. Hawthorn, engineers, of that city.

On the expiration of his pupilage he remained in the employment of the firm as a draughtsman for twelve months, leaving in 1841 to occupy a similar position in the works of the Great Western Steamship Company at Bristol, under the late T. R. Guppy.

Mr. Blackett was in the service of this company until 1845, after which he assisted Mr. Guppy for a time in the design and construction of iron steamships and machinery generally. He then had charge for three years, under Mr. Guppy, of the erection of new mills, engines and workshops for the Governor and Company of Copper Miners in England.

After practising for a time on his own account at Newcastle-on-Tyne, Mr. Blackett decided to emigrate to New Zealand in 1851. He was amongst the earliest settlers in Taranaki, that province being then in its infancy, the white inhabitants few and the Maoris not always easy to deal with. After enduring all the hardships of the early residents in that part of the colony Mr. Blackett removed to Nelson, where he was appointed Provincial Engineer in 1859. That position he filled for nearly twelve years with much practical ability, not only performing valuable engineering services in road making and bridge construction under circumstances of great difficulty, but undertaking arduous explorations in the wild, thickly-wooded and mountainous country in the interior between Nelson and the west coast of Middle Island and other districts.

In these expeditions through country for the most part previously untrodden, Mr. Blackett underwent considerable hardships and no doubt sowed the seeds of the rheumatic trouble from which he suffered in after life.

In 1867 he carried out a system of water-supply for the city of Nelson. Mr. Blackett entered the service of the General Government of New Zealand in 1870 and held the position of Acting Engineer-in-Chief until the following year, when he was appointed Assistant Engineer-in-Chief. In 1878 he became Chief Engineer for the North Island, the late Mr. W. N. Blair occupying a similar post for the South Island, and in 1884 he was appointed Engineer-in-Chief for the whole colony. In that capacity he had charge of the railways, roads, waterworks, lighthouses and other public works.

Mr. Blackett remained in office until 1889, when he left the colony and proceeded to London to take up the appointment of Consulting Engineer to the Government of Kew Zealand, his principal duty being to inspect material sent out for public works in the colony.

His health failing, however, he was induced in the autumn of 1892 to return to New Zealand, in the hope of enjoying there some years of retirement. On the voyage out he suffered severely from indigestion and heart affection, and a few days after landing became seriously ill. He died at Wellington, on the 8th of January, 1893, at the age of seventy-four.

As a hard-working and faithful public servant Mr. Blackett was esteemed and respected throughout the colony. In disposition he was modest and retiring. He was elected, a Member of the Institution on the 5th of February, 1878, and shortly afterwards contributed to the Minutes of Proceedings a Paper on “New Zealand Lighthouses.”

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