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John Hemphill Morant

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John Hemphill Morant (1847-1892)

1892 Obituary [1]

JOHN HEMPHILL MORANT, son of the late Captain George Morant of the Grenadier Guards and of Shirley House, Carrickmacross, Ireland, was born on the 29th of April, 1847.

After being educated at Cheltenham College, where he obtained several prizes, he was articled in 1866 for four years to Mr. James Barton of Dundalk.

On the expiration of his pupilage he acted for Mr. Barton as Resident Engineer on the construction of the Dundalk and Greenore Railway until May, 1872, when he proceeded to Brazil as First Assistant Engineer on one of the four staffs organised to survey a projected line of railway from the harbour of Paranagua, on the Atlantic seaboard of the Province of Parana, to Miranda in the Province of Matto Grosso on the borders of Bolivia, a distance of about 1,300 miles, Among the concessionaires from the Brazilian Government for this line were the late Viscount Nauit and the late Captain Christian Palm of the Swedish Royal Engineers. The Consulting Engineers were Messrs. Brunlees and McKerrow, and Captain Palm was Engineer-in-Chief until his death, when he was succeeded by Mr. William Lloyd, and, during the absence of the latter, by Mr. H. Edgell Hunt.

On the completion of the work of his own staff, which included the survey of some 260 kilometres through difficult and unexplored country, Mr. Morant joined a supplementary staff formed to assist the second staff, whose work lay yet farther in the interior.

He then went to Rio de Janeiro to prepare the plans, after the presentation of which to the Government in June, 1874, he returned to England. The great difficulties encountered in carrying out these surveys through an unknown country, peopled for the most part by tribes of Indians, with impenetrable forests, tropical heat, insufficient food and accommodation, and every possible torment in the shape of mosquitoes and other insects, demanded endurance, pluck, and self-denial, and Mr. Morant showed that he possessed the qualities necessary to meet and overcome all obstacles. It is related that on one occasion, when a sudden rising at night of the Rio Ivahy flooded the camp, his bed floated in the direction of the river on the two empty barrels which supported it; on awaking he calmly sat up and lighted a pipe before proceeding to more energetic measures.

In 1887 Mr. Morant was appointed Acting Engineer to the Irish Lights Commissioners, which post, however, he resigned in May of the following year, being presented by the Commissioners with the sum of 5300 on his retirement.

In 1879 he again proceeded to Brazil as Assistant Resident Engineer on the construction of the Natal and Nova Cruz Railway, and in the following year became Chief Engineer for the contractors, which position he held until 1884, when he was appointed Chief Engineer to the Central Sugar Factories of Brazil.

In 1885 he returned to the service of the Natal and Nova Cruz Railway Company as Resident Engineer and Manager, which post he occupied at the time of his death, from the effects of sunstroke, on the 1st of June, 1892.

Mr. Morant was a man of high character and of more than ordinary ability as an engineer. His generous and amiable disposition won the esteem and respect of his brother officers and of all who came into immediate relation with him.

In 1888 he received the Brazilian decoration of the Imperial Order of the Rose as a recognition of his services in preparing the first map of the Province of Rio Grande do Norte.

In April, 1885, he married a daughter of Mr. Wells Hood, of Pernambuco, leaving her a widow with one child. Mr. Morant was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 11th of January, 1876, and was transferred to the class of Associate Member on its creation in December, 1878, and to that of Member on the 11th of November, 1890.

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