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British Industrial History

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William Simpkins

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William Simpkins (1844-1906)


1907 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM SIMPKINS was born at Edinburgh on the 18th January, 1844. His father, Mr. William Yule Simpkins, of Inveresk, died in 1852, leaving his widow and five young children poorly provided for, and the subject of this notice, being the eldest, was in consequence obliged to go to work at a very early age to assist the family.

In 1860 he was enabled to apprentice himself to Messrs. Thomas Long and Company, Engineers, of Edinburgh, with whom he remained until 1867, attending evening classes during his apprenticeship and taking advantage of every opportunity to improve his general education.

In 1867 he entered the service of Messrs. James Milne and Son, Engineers, of Edinburgh, where he obtained his first experience of lighthouse work, which had great attractions for him.

In 1870 he obtained a post as foreman of works under the Japanese Government, to superintend the erection of lighthouses around the Japanese coasts.

He remained in Japan about 12 years, and on his return home he commenced a course of studies at the University of Edinburgh, with a view to obtain the science degree in Engineering, and although his studies were subsequently interrupted by the loss of his savings in a bank failure, his indomitable courage and perseverance enabled him to resume them in the course of a year or two, and in 1888 he graduated in Science.

In the following year he entered the service of Messrs. D. and C. Stevenson, Civil Engineers, of Edinburgh, and in the course of a few years he became their chief assistant, holding that post until obliged by illness to retire from active work. As chief assistant he was engaged in the design and execution of several important harbour and lighthouse works and in the general work of the office, his ability and devotion to duty rendering him a most valuable assistant.

Of studious habits and varied interests, Mr. Simpkins was widely read and well informed in subjects of general culture. He took an active part in the proceedings of the Edinburgh Society of Civil Engineers, of which body he served the offices of treasurer and president.

He died on the 30th July, 1906, aged 62 years.

Mr. Simpkins was elected an Associate Member of The Institution on the 5th May, 1891.



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