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Harold William Abernethy

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Harold William Abernethy (1858-1895)

1895 Obituary [1]

HAROLD WILLIAN ABERNETHY, third son of James Abernethy, Past-President, was born in London on the 22nd of October, 1858, and was educated at Westminster School for five years and subsequently from 1877 to 1879 at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, where he obtained a Certificate of Membership and acquired a thorough knowledge of surveying.

Ho then entered his father's office and was engaged for several years chiefly on surveys and in the preparation of designs for marine and hydraulic works.

In 1883 he was appointed by his father Assistant Resident Engineer on the important works of the Alexandra Dock at Hull. This dock has a water area of 47 acres, 2 miles of quay-walls from 52 to 62 feet in height, a lock 550 feet long and 85 feet wide, with a depth over its sill of 34 feet at ordinary tides; also two large graving-docks and extensive pumping appliances for supplying the dock with water independently of the turbid river supply. Harold Abernethy was principally employed on the construction of the lock and works athe river front. In conjunction with his fellow-assistant, G. FitzGibbon, he had charge of the detailed setting out, measuring and supervision of this important section of the undertaking, including much of the difficult foundation work. He likewise assisted in the marine surveying, soundings and current observations which were made in the Humber from time to time. To these works he devoted himself assiduously and saw them through to their completion and to the opening of the dock for traffic in July, 1885.

It was at Hull that he gained the practical experience which so well fitted him subsequently to fill the important position of Resident Engineer on a section of the Manchester Ship Canal. At Hull he was a general favourite : he was fond of all athletic sports, a good football and tennis player and a first-rate shot, but never allowed his fondness for outdoor sports to interfere with the due and faithfupl erformance of his engineering duties.

During the year 1887 Harold Abernethy was employed in connection with the Royal Commission on Irish Public Works, of which his father was a member, on surveys of the River Barrow and for light railways in Ireland. In the same year he went to Egypt to superintend the construction of works for the reclamation of Lake Aboukir, under his father, who was Engineer to the English Company which had obtained a concession from the Egyptian Government.

In 1888 Harold Abernethy was appointed Resident Engineer on the Runcorn section of the Nanchester Ship Canal. A length of 7 miles, subsequently extended to 10 miles, was placed under his charge. The works included 3.5 miles of river embankment and concrete walls in the tideway, three groups of large locks and sluices of great magnitude, and the difficulty attendant on their execution was enhanced by then ecessity of keeping open the traffic of two important systems of navigation during their construction.

He continued his duties until the canal was opened for traffic in January, 1894, a period of six years, his practical knowledge, his ready and correct judgment when unforeseen difficulties presented themselves, and his straightforward, manly character being thoroughly appreciated by the Engineer-in-Chief and by all officials and others with whom he came in contact.

The appointment as Resident Engineer on the Manchester Ship Canal works was the last Harold Abernethy was permitted to hold. Intermittent fever had attacked hiin and all medical treatment failed to alleviate the complaint.

In March, 1895, he was recommended a voyage to the Cape; but the fever attacks gradually increased in severity and duration, and he embarked in the Union S.S. 'Scot' at Durban on the 22nd of June, on the voyage home.

He died on the 9th of July, in his thirty-seventh year, and was buried at sea.

He was elected an Associate Member on the 14th of April, 1885, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 14th of November, 1893.

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