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Edward Orpen Moriarty

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Edward Orpen Moriarty (1824-1896)


1897 Obituary [1]

EDWARD ORPEN MORIARTY, born on the 11th October, 1824, was the second son of Lieutenant (afterwards Commander) Merion Moriarty, R.N.

He was educated at private schools in Cork and Dublin, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A., subsequently proceeding to M.A.

He became an articled pupil of Mr. William Morgan (the inventor of the feathering float for paddle-steamers), of Acraman, Morgan and Company, of Bristol, and, while serving his indentures, had the opportunity of working on the design and construction of several steamers of the highest class of that day, among others the “Little Western,” the “Avon,” the “Severn” and the “Archduke Frederick,” a large steam yacht built for the Austrian Government.

Mr. Moriarty was next employed for some time under Sir John Macneill in the laying out and construction of railways in Ireland. During that period he passed the prescribed examination for County Surveyor under the Board of Works.

In 1848 he followed other members of the family to New South Wales; but finding on his arrival no immediate opening in the profession, he accepted an appointment offered him by Sir Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor- General, and was employed for a time in the geodetic survey of the Darling Downs and the adjacent districts, which now form part of Queensland.

About 1849 Mr. Moriarty began to practise on his own account in Sydney as a Civil Engineer. Many important undertakings soon occupied his attention and were carried out with marked success; among others schemes for the opening and development of coal mines at Wollongong, a masonry weir or dam across the valley of Hunt’s Creek for impounding water for the supply of the town of Parramatta, a timber bridge with iron swing-span (still in existence) across Darling Harbour, connecting the then suburb of Pyrmont with Sydney, and timber bridges over the Murrumbidgee at Wagga Wagga and the Nepean at Richmond.

His advice was asked on nearly all local engineering projects of importance, and it was at his instance that an efficient system of inspection of marine steam machinery was introduced which contributed much to prevent accidents and disasters previously not uncommon.

Sir William Denison, who became Governor of New South Wales in 1855, soon after arriving entrusted Mr. Moriarty with the survey and preparation of designs for improving the navigation of the Hunter River, which is subject to great and destructive floods.

He was also consulted by the Government with regard to the opening and improvement of other harbours and rivers on the coast; and the Government eventually decided to secure Mr. Moriarty’s whole time and attention.

On the 10th October, 1858, he was appointed Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and River Navigation, and he thereupon formed that branch of the Department of Public Works, which he directed till his retirement in December, 1888.

During his service under the New South Wales Government Mr. Moriarty carried out many important harbour and hydraulic works. The Hunter River at Newcastle was converted from a shallow tidal port, with shifting, narrow and tortuous approaches, navigable only by a few colliers and steamers of light draught, into a safe and commodious harbour. Extensive wharves were built, and numerous powerful steam and hydraulic cranes and appliances for rapidly shipping coal were erected. Other works of less importance have been the construction and excavation of breakwaters, basins and docks at Wollongong and Kiama, and coast works still in progress, including improvements at the mouth of the Clarence and Richmond estuaries, and a harbour of refuge at Trial Bay. The harbour of Sydney has been improved by extensive wharfage, the entrance has been deepened so as to admit at all times vessels of the greatest draught, and increased docking accommodation at the Sutherland dry dock, which is G38 feet long, has been designed and constructed under Mr. Moriarty’s direction.

Mr. Moriarty held the position of Chairman of the Steam Navigation Board from April, 1861, until March, 1872, when the old Board ceased to exist, and was superseded by the present Marine Board. He also rendered valuable service as a member or chairman of various Royal Commissions, such as those for the prevention of damage from floods in the Hunter and Hawkesbury, the sewerage of Sydney and suburbs, and (more important than any) for devising means for the improvement of the water-supply of Sydney. From the last emanated the proposal of the Prospect scheme, which was conceived and carried nearly to completion by Mr. Moriarty before his retirement, and from the responsibility of which his health suffered severely. This great undertaking has been for some time in complete and successful operation. As an indication of its importance, it may be sufficient to add that during a recent period of hot weather over 20 million gallons of water per day were conveyed into Sydney by these works.

At different periods Mr. Moriarty’s advice was sought by the Governments of adjacent colonies on works projected or in progress. He reported on the water-supply of Melbourne from the Yan Yean, on the supply to the mining districts of Victoria from the Coliban, on that of Auckland, and on harbour improvements at Greymouth, New Zealand.

Mr. Moriarty paid a brief visit to England and America in 1878, and having been obliged about the year 1888 by failing health to retire from the active duties of his official position, returned to England, where he had many warm friends, by some of whom the hospitality of the Monastery at St. Leonard’s (his home near Sydney) was remembered.

He died at Southsea on the 18th September, 1896, leaving a widow, but no family.

Mr. Moriarty was elected a Member on the 5th December, 1865.



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Sources of Information

  1. 1897 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries