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William Henry Richards Curll

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William Henry Richards Curll (1828-1865)


1866 Obituary [1]

MR. WILLIAM HENRY RICHARDS CURLL, the fourth son of Mr. William Curll, of Braes, Dumfrieshire, was born at Edinburgh, on the 19th of November, 1828.

He enjoyed the advantage of an excellent and classical education, first at one of the private schools of Edinburgh, and then for a course of years at the High School of that city. After leaving the High School, he devoted himself with much energy to the study of mathematics, under the guidance of a well-known and much-esteemed master, the late Mr. Walter Nichol; and at the same time he applied himself to improve his skill in drawing, for which he had early evinced a strong natural taste.

In conformity with his inclinations, he was apprenticed to Messrs. Macallum and Dundas, Civil Engineers, Edinburgh, under whom he had great advantages for acquiring a thoroughly practical knowledge of his profession ; and there is evidence that he availed himself of them, having been employed not only in the survey of landed estates, but also in connection with the Caledonian Railway, some parts of which were still being constructed.

He remained for six years with Messrs. Macullum and Dundas, and then directed his thoughts to India, viewing it as a sphere where he would have ample scope for engineering, upon the railways which were in progress in that distant part of the British empire. He had obtained influential friendships in the course of his professional labours, and embarked for India, carrying with him the highest recommendations.

On reaching Calcutta, he obtained an appointment on the East Indian Railway, in the Bengal district, where, with characteristic enthusiasm, he set to work, and, by assiduous attention and energetic efforts, he soon attracted the notice of those above him on the line.

He was, accordingly, soon promoted-first as Resident Engineer, and subsequently as District Engineer, in the North-west Provinces, having under his charge the portion of the railway from Alighur to Delhi. This district embraced difficult points of engineering, and, in particular, the construction of two bridges-the one over the Hindun, twelve miles distant from Delhi, and the other over the Jumna, at the entrance into that city, where the river is of great breadth, and liable to heavy floods.

It is impossible, in a sketch like this, to give any idea of the amount of careful calculation and constant watching, and skilful study and unwearied superintendence, which he expended in the construction of these works, whose thorough accomplishment he personally inspected at every step ; and, while securing their complete soundness, guarded against any expenditure beyond what was strictly required.

His was a life of unwearied devotedness to the execution of his duties, and only varied by the awful and tragic events of the Indian mutiny ; events in which he bore a large share, and of which the recollection was so painful, that he would scarcely ever refer to them. This dreadful outbreak interrupted his labours for some time ; and- his confinement and privations, while in the fort at Agra, broke down his hitherto robust health, and made it necessary for him to visit Europe ; but he soon returned to the field of his duty with renewed energy, to carry on the works on whose completion his heart was set, and with which he had cherished the hope of having his name associated-a just ambition, doomed to be cruelly disappointed. Incessant labours like his, under an Indian sun, could not fail to undermine the strongest constitution. Unhappily, he disregarded the warnings of approaching illness; and it was not till he was laid prostrate by inflammation and fever, that he would listen to urgent counsel to return home.

He left India in the beginning of March, 1865, having taken a passage for England, with his wife and infant child, in the ‘Malabar.’

For a short time there was a prospect of his rallying ; but the hot winds of the Indian Ocean were against him : his strength gradually failed; and he expired on the 10th of May, 1865, at the age of thirty-six, having been upwards of thirteen years in India.

If he had been spared, he would certainly have risen to high eminence in his profession; and all who knew him cannot fail to join in the regret that one so useful in his life, so full of kindness, and so animated by feelings of the highest and strictest honour, should have been thus prematurely taken away.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 6th of December, 1859. Although precluded by the nature of his professional engagements from being present at the meetings, he had a strong sense of the utility of the Society, and took a lively interest in its prosperity.


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