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John Pennefather Vansittart

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John Pennefather Vansittart (1837-1886)


1887 Obituary [1]

JOHN PENNEFATHER VANSITTART was the son of Mr. J. G. Vansittart, the grandson of Admiral H. Vansittart, and nephew of General Sir John Pennefather, G.C.B.

He was born at Woodstock, Western Canada, on the 15th of August, 1837 ; and received his early education at Upper Canada College. His parents intended him for the Royal, Engineers, and with this view sent him to England, where he competed for entrance to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and took a high place, having passed third in the list out of a large number of candidates. He was considered a very promising pupil, and would no doubt have made his mark at the Woolwich Academy, but unfortunately he had to leave on account of ill-health, and to abandon a military career.

He returned to Canada, studied Civil Engineering, and was employed for some time in the survey of Crown lands for the Canadian Government.

Mr. Vansittart then proceeded to India, where he joined the service of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company, and after having been for some years a Resident Engineer on that line, was, in February, 1872, offered and accepted the appointment of Executive Engineer, 4th grade, in the Public Works Department of the Government of India. He first joined the Khanpore division of the surveys in the Lower Sind District of the Indus Valley State Railway, where he remained till August 1874, when he was transferred to the Neemuch State Railway.

He was then posted to British Burma in September, 1875, where he was employed on the construction of the Rangoon and Irrawaddy Valley State Railway until April 1878, when he was obliged to proceed to Europe on eighteen months’ leave on medical certificate. The climate of the district through which the Irrawaddy Valley Railway runs is notoriously unhealthy and inimical to a European constitution, and as the nature of the duties upon which Mr. Vansittart was engaged necessitated exceptionally hard work, and constant exposure, his health failed, and he had to take that change and rest in Europe which was absolutely necessary for his recovery. While in Burma Mr. Vansittart was entrusted with the erection of some large iron bridges, and the construction of a section of the State Railway, and as there were very few intelligent and skilled subordinates to assist him, the whole management of the work in all its branches necessarily Sell upon his shoulders.

On return to duty in December, 1879, Mr. Vansittart was posted to the Rawul-pindee Peshawur section of the Punjab Northern State Railway. He was transferred to the Jacobabad section of the Kandahar State Railway in September, 1880, and was also employed on the Sharigh and Harnai divisions of the same line. His services were favourably noticed by the Government of India in 1883, as one of the officers employed on the construction of the Punjab Northern State Railway, on the occasion of the opening of that important line. Mr. Vansittart was then employed on the southern division of the Indus Valley State Railway from July to October, 1883 ; on the Kandahar division from October, 1883, to September, 1884 ; and on the Jacobabad division from the latter date to March, 1885, when he was again compelled to take short furlough on account of ill-health-from March to July, 1885.

On return from leave he was posted to the establishment under the Government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, and after serving on special duty in connection with the Cawnpore Achneyra State Railway, from July to August, 1885, he was appointed Superintendent of Way and Works of that line, which post he held until his death. Being attacked with liver-complaint, he had made all arrangements to visit England for a change, but the doctors decided that he was not in a fit state of health to undertake the long journey to the sea-board, and ordered him to proceed to the hill Sanatorium of Mussoorie, which he died on the 3rd of October, 1886.

Mr. Vansittart was elected a Member of the Institution on the 1st of April, 1879. He was promoted to Executive Engineer, 3rd Grade, on the 1st of June, 1880, and to the 2nd Grade on the 1st of January, 1885. Mr. Vansittart was an able engineer and an enthusiastic worker ; he had an invincible repugnance to bad work of any kind, and no doubt anxiety of mind, and exposure to the climate of India, from which he never attempted to spare himself, were the primary causes of his enfeebled constitution and premature death.



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