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Edward Price (1805-1871)

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Edward Price (c1805-1871)


1872 Obituary [1]

Mr. EDWARD PRICE was born in 1805-6 at Callow Hill, near Minsterley, in Shropshire. His father, William Price, was at that time a ganger in the Snailbeach lead mines, near Minsterley, and under him, when a boy, Edward Price acquired that knowledge of mining which in after-life proved of such great service to him.

He left Minsterley when quite a lad, and darted to make his way in the world with only two half-crowns in his pocket. The difficulties he encountered and the privations he endured before obtaining regular work are not known; but soon afterwards he was engaged by Mr. Mackenzie, on the works of the Worcester and Birmingham canal as timekeeper, in which situation, whilst keeping count of the number of men and horses employed and of wagons filled, he learnt the value of labour, by ascertaining from the inspectors the relative quantity of work executed. Here he saved money and conducted himself so well, that he was employed more than once to superintend jobs of work in cases of emergency. Not long afterwards he found employment in building the sewers of King William Street, in the City of London, which was then in course of construction, and in the prosecution of this work first experienced the advantage of his early training.

When the works of the London and North Western railway were in progress, he was engaged as ganger of miners at the Primrose Hill tunnel, under the contractor, Mr. Thomas Jackson; and when the contract was given up, Mr. Price continued to serve in the same capacity directly under the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, M.P., Past-President Inst. C.E. At the Kilsby tunnel he was intrusted with it more responsible position, in carrying out the mining operations there.

In 1838-9, he executed a contract for earthwork, and the viaduct on the Great Western railway, at Chippenham, under the late Mr. I. H. Brunel, V.P.Inst.C.E.

In 1844, on the recommendation of Mr. Stephenson, he went to France and contracted for the construction of the tunnel at La Nerthe, on the Marseilles and Lyons railway, under M. Talabot ; which work he executed within the specified term, and much to the satisfaction of his employers.

Between the years 1846 and 1849 he contracted, under Mr. Stephenson and Mr. G. P. Bidder, Past-President, Inst. C.E., for the construction of part of the North Staffordshire railway.

In 1851 to 1854 he was engaged in Egypt, under Mr. Stephenson, in the execution of the Benha and Kaffre Azayat bridges over the Nile, and in the construction of part of the Alexandria and Cairo railway. These bridges were built on iron cylinders sunk, under the compressed air process, more than 90 feet into the bed of the river. This style of construction was then comparatively new ,- none of the large bridges on the Continent since erected on similar foundations having then been constructed, - and the work required active and trained superintendence. Nevertheless, no accident of importance occurred, all impediments to the progress of the works were overcome, and they were completed within the specified term.

Before these bridges were finished, Mr. Price entered into a contract with the Brazilian Government for the construction of the Dom Pedro Segundo railway, from Rio de Janeiro to the foot of the Serra S. Anna, a distance of 40 miles. In this he succeeded under most difficult and untoward circumstances, both the cholera and yellow fever raging together, and, notwithstanding all precautions, carrying off his English assistants and foremen one after another as soon as they were sent out. On the 2nd of December, 1856, after his return to England, he was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

The larger chance of gain which generally attends foreign contracts, and his perfect confidence in his own powers, induced him at this time to prefer such undertakings to more certain but less speculative enterprises in England. In accordance with this view, on the conclusion of peace between the Allies of Turkey and Russia, he was induced to obtain a concession for a railway from Samsoon to Swas, in Asia Minor, but this scheme was afterwards abandoned, the traffic having been found inadequate to the charge on the large capital required for its construction. From this time forward, however, he gave his sole attention to foreign works, and many such contracts were offered to him and refused. Eventually he was engaged as contractor in the construction of the South Eastern of Portugal railway, in the Alentejo from Vendas Novas to Beja and Evora, which e completed, with great labour and at little profit, to the satisfaction of the Portuguese Government; and he acquired so much the confidence of that mutable body; that the king appointed him a Knight Commander of the Portuguese military order of our Saviour Jesus Christ; and on his refusal to accept himself the contract for the construction of the extensions to Estremoz and the Algarve, proposed for that scheme of railway, his advice was solicited and taken with regard to the price and contract for those extensions.

Whilst engaged on this work he was recommended, as an investment for his idle capital, to obtain the concession for a railway from Smyrna to Cassaba, in Asia Minor, which formed part of an extensive scheme of railways before conceded to other parties. Glowing reports of the lightness of the work and of the amount of local traffic induced him to invest a large fortune in this enterprise, just as the panic of 1866 reduced the price of ordinary railway shares to a minimum, and quite debarred him from disposing of any part of the profit and loss thereof.

His capital not being sufficiently large to defray the cost of the entire work, he was compelled to borrow money at high interest in order to complete the railway, and although he ultimately succeeded in getting rid of all his liabilities, the efforts he made for that purpose, and the anxiety he experienced whilst the indebtedness remained, were so great as to undermine his strong constitution which eventually gave way, and he died on 31st of March, 1871, of a complaint of the heart brought on by the constant anxiety under which he laboured. The Turkish Government was so pleased with the manner in which the works were carried out, that it was desired to confer on him the 2nd order of the Medjedi, which, however, certain circumstances prompted him to refuse.

Mr. Edward Price was noted by his employers not only for that inestimable and rare quality-good practical common sense - but also for his probity, his energy, and his thorough knowledge of work, which enabled them to rely on his carrying out any contract intrusted to him in the best practical manner, and on his completing it within the specified term. From the time he commenced work on his own account he never incurred any debts ; and could always balance to such a nicety his liabilities with the means in his possession as to secure the profit due to ready money payments. His manners and speech partook of this character. He was never lavish of words either in talking or writing: his letters were concise and precise, and his address gentle and amiable.


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