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John Strain

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John Strain (1845-1931) of Strain and Robertson

1931 Obituary [1]

JOHN STRAIN, a former Vice-President of The Institution, who died at Cassillis House, Ayrshire, on the 30th March, 1931, at the age of 85, was the son of Mr. Hugh Strain, of Grahamshill, Airdrie.

He was born at Airdrie on the 11th December, 1845, and at the age of 13 became a pupil of Andrew Laughlen, Civil Engineer, of Glasgow, under whom he received training on road-construction, reservoirs, reclamation of land, and river improvements.

In 1865 he became assistant to George Cunningham, M. Inst. C.E., of Edinburgh, and was engaged in laying out railways, and preparing Parliamentary and working plans.

In the following year he was appointed resident engineer (under Messrs. Blyth and Cunningham, MM. Inst. C.E.) on the construction of a section of the Glasgow and Kilmarnock Joint Railway, and after its completion, in 1873, he was in charge of the maintenance of the line for a year.

Whilst holding this appointment he commenced private practice in Glasgow and was engaged in connection with various Parliamentary Bills. He also constructed the Stirling and Bridge of Allan Tramways and several branch railways. He carried out the extension of the Callander and Oban railway from Dalmally to Oban, including the construction of a harbour at Oban, and in 1877 he was appointed engineer to the Callander and Oban Railway Company.

The extension to Oban was notable for the considerable use made of concrete; and Mr. Strain was, in fact, the first to make use of that material on an extensive scale in permanent railway work.

In the same year he became engineer to the Ayr Harbour Trustees, for whom he carried out general harbour work and constructed a dock. He also completed the reconstruction of the West Pier at Stranraer; was Engineer-in-Chief for the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire railway from Lugton and Ardrossan, constructed in 1888-91, and its branches to Kilbirnie and Irvine; carried out gasworks and waterworks for the town of Oban; and was standing arbitrator to the Caledonan Railway Company under all its contracts for the Southern Division of its system.

His activities, however, were not confined to Scotland. He was a partner in the firm of Bateman, Parsons and Strain, who carried out a large drainage and waterworks scheme at Buenos Aires, and was engineer for the construction of the Calanas-Tharsis railway in Spain.

He also assumed as partners at one period Robert Robertson and the late T. Frame Thomson, MM. Inst. C.E., who had been first pupils and then assistants in his office. The later years of his life were mainly occupied in the management of the Lanarkshire Steel Works, of which he was one of the founders.

Mr. Strain was elected an Associate Member of The Institution on the 4th May, 1875, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 7th March, 1882. He served as a Member of the Council from 1901 to 1911 and was a Vice-President from 1911 to 1916, and he would have been nominated in 1915, and again in 1916, for the office of President had not his responsibilities at that period in connection with the output of war munitions compelled him to forgo office. In announcing his death, at the Meeting on the 14th April, 1931, the President referred (ante, p. 243) to the special manner in which the Council had shown then great regret at his decision and their sense of the high value of his advice and assistance.

For many years before his death he occupied Cassillis House, an ancient seat of the Marquess of Ailsa. He and his wife took much pride and interest in its history and associations, and delighted in entertaining their many friends within its walls.

He married in 1874 Euphans, daughter of Mr. James M'Naughton, of Smithfield, Ayrshire, and authoress of several books and letters on her extensive travels, who survived him, and by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

1931 Obituary [2]

JOHN STRAIN died at his residence, Cassillis House, near Ayr, on March 30, 1931; he was born at Airdrie in 1845.

He was a well-known civil engineer, and was responsible for the construction of several stretches of railway in Scotland. Later, he was a partner in the firm of Bateman, Parsons & Strain, civil engineers, in London.

He was also the founder of the Lanarkshire Steel Works.

He joined the Iron and Steel Institute in 1898.

1931 Obituary[3]


Mr. John Strain, whose death, we regret to record, occurred at Cassillis House, near Ayr, on Monday, March 30, at the advanced age of 86, had had a long and distinguished career as a civil engineer, and afterwards) as a business man, and had continued his activities up till the last.

John Strain was born at Airdrie in 1845, and, at the early age of 13, became a pupil of Mr. Andrew Laughlin, of Glasgow, under whom he was engaged in constructing a number of roads and reservoirs in that part of Scotland, besides being connected with more than one land-reclamation and river improvement scheme. In 1865, he was appointed assistant to Mr. George Cunningham, of Edinburgh, with whom he gained experience in railway work, while in the following year) he became resident engineer, under Messrs. Blyth and Cunningham, for the construction of a section of the Glasgow and Kilmarnock railway. This work was not completed until 1873, and he was responsible for its maintenance for another twelve months, but, in 1871,, he set up in practice for himself, and soon gained a high reputation for the manner in which he transacted the, difficult business of commending Bills to the attention of Parliamentary Committees.

After being responsible for the construction of the, Stirling and Bridge of Allan tramways, and several branch railways, he then undertook what may perhaps) be described as his most interesting and important work, viz., the extension of the Callander and Oban Railway from Dalmally to Oban, notable for the extensive use of concrete. Owing to the nature of the country the work gave rise to numerous difficulties, which he was successful in overcoming, and the same is true of the part he played in the construction of the harbour at Oban, which was included in the scheme. In 1877, on the completion of this work, he became engineer to the Ayr Harbour Trustees, in which position he was responsible for the construction of an extensive esplanade, sea-barrier and other harbour works, as well as a dock which at that time was one of the largest in the kingdom.

He was also concerned in the re-construction of the West Pier at Stranraer as well as in the building of other piers on the west coast of Scotland. At the same time, he did not lose his connection with railway work, being engineer-in-chief for the construction of the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway from Lugton to Ardrossan with branches to Kilbimie and Irvine. He also held the position of standing arbitrator to the Caledonian Railway Co under all their contracts for the Southern Division of the system.

His interests were, however, not confined to Scotland, for after he had become a partner in the firm of Bateman, Parsons and Strain, in London, he carried out an extensive drainage and waterworks scheme at Buenos Aires and was responsible for the construction of the Tharris and Calanas railway in Spain. As regards his commercial career, he was one of the founders of the Lanarkshire Steel Works, a concern in whose management he played an important part for many years.

Mr Strain was a past vice-president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, of which he was elected an associate member in 1875 and a member in 1882 he did not however serve as president of the Institution, although he was twice offered that position, on account of his war time activities."

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1931 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1931 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  3. Engineering 1931/04/10