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Ernest Cummings Niven

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Ernest Cummings Niven (1881-1932)

1933 Obituary [1]

ERNEST CUMMING NIVEN, C.I.E., third son of D. Niven, of Newport, Fife, was born there on the 25th December, 1881, and died in London on the 13th August, 1932.

He was educated at the Harris Academy, Dundee, and from 1897 to 1901 received practical engineering training under Sir George C. Buchanan and Mr. J. Hannay Thompson, M.Inst.C.E.

After a short period as an Assistant Engineer under the Dundee Harbour Board he was appointed, in 1902, Assistant Engineer under the Rangoon Port Trust, in whose service the remainder of his life (except for war service) was spent. He was at first engaged on the design of various improvement works, and in 1904 to 1909 was in charge of their execution.

From 1909 to 1914 he was Executive Engineer of the river-training works under the Chief Engineer, Sir George Buchanan.

He was then, until 1915, Executive Engineer of the River Conservancy, and made a complete hydraulic study of the river with a view to a scheme for improving the channels into the port.

In 1915 he went to Mesopotamia as Assistant Director, River Conservancy, and Chief Engineering Assistant to Sir George Buchanan, and was engaged on surveys of rivers and canals, on the design of weirs, and on landing-stages and wharves for the port of Basra.

He came to England in 1917, and for two years was Director of National Ordnance Factories and Director of Ordnance Supplies under the Minister of Munitions.

He returned to Rangoon in 1919 as Resident and Executive Engineer to the River Conservancy under the Chief Engineer, Mr. J. Ll. Holmes, M. Inst. C.E., and in 1921 he succeeded Mr. Holmes as Chief Engineer to the Rangoon Port Trust. In 1932 he was made C.I.E.

He was elected an Associate Member of The Institution on the 22nd April, 1913, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 14th December, 1920. Prom 1930 to 1932 he served as Member of the Council resident in India.

He married, in 1909, Clara J. Robertson, who survived him.

1932 Obituary[2]


We regret to announce the death in London, on August 13, of Mr. Ernest Cumming Niven, C.I.E., Chief Engineer to the Commissioners for the Port of Rangoon. He was born on December 25, 1881, and received his general education at Newport Sohool and later at the Harris Academy, Dundee. For four years, from 1897-1901, he obtained practical training under Sir George C. Buchanan, and after serving a fifth year under Mr. J. Hannay Thompson, he became assistant engineer in charge of the construction of a tidal dock, hydraulic coaling station and other works at Dundee Harbour. His connection with the Port of Rangoon, which was to extend for thirty years, began in 1902 when he was appointed assistant engineer to the Port Trust, and became engaged on the design of a number of improvement works. These included a retaining wall, and foreshore reclamation, screw-pile wharves, pontoon landing stages, transit sheds and other works. The years from 1904 to 1909 were spent as assistant engineer in charge of the construction of these works. In 1909 Mr. Niven, then only twenty-eight years of age, was promoted to the rank of executive engineer. His duties dealt with river training works, and soon after his appointment he was employed in the construction of a training wall 2 miles long on mattress foundation, which work was completed in 1914. The scheme, the chief engineer for which was Sir George C. Buchanan, also comprised the dredging of the new river channel and the reclamation of 300 acres of land. A detailed illustrated description of this important work appeared on page 441 of Engineering, vol. xcvii (1914).

In 1914, he became executive engineer in the river conservancy department, and during the succeeding twelve months conducted an investigation into the Rangoon river system. This embraced upland water-discharge observations and the determination of the tidal capacities of various rivers and creeks, of movements of silt, of surface and under-currents, and of the travel of sand waves. In other words, the project constituted a complete hydraulic survey planned to furnish the information required to formulate a scheme for the improvement of the channels leading into the Port of Rangoon. In 1915, Mr. Niven proceeded on war service to Mesopotamia where he became assistant director of river conservancy and chief engineering assistant to Sir George Buchanan. He was given the task of surveying and investigating the River Shat-al-Arab, and the rivers and canals of Lower Mesopotamia. Later, he designed weirs for various canals and also wharves and landing stages for the Port of Basra. In 1917, he came to England, and during the succeeding two years he occupied the posts of Director of National Ordnance Factories and Director of Ordnance Supplies. Returning to Rangoon in 1919 he held, for some two or three years, the combined post of resident engineer and executive engineer for river conservancy, and upon the retirement of Mr. J. LI. Holmes he succeeded him as Chief Engineer. Recently, he was awarded the C.I.E. A former student of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Mr. Niven became an associate member on April 22, 1913, and a full member on December 14, 1920. He was elected a member of the Council of the Institution some time ago."

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