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Samuel Ussher Roberts

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Samuel Ussher Roberts (1821-1900)

1900 Obituary [1]

SAMUEL USSHER ROBERTS, C.B., eldest son of Mr. Edward Roberts, J.P., of Weston, near Waterford,, was born on the 21st May, 1821. He was a member of a Waterford family, distinguished in arts and arms, and a cousin of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts.

After being educated at Burney’s Royal Academy, Gosport, where he laid a good mathematical foundation for his future career, he served a pupilage under Mr. Kearney, Civil Engineer, on the expiration of which he was for two years occupied on his own account in the execution of works in Waterford, Carrick and Dungarvan.

He was then for three years District Surveyor for County Louth, carrying on extensive arterial drainage works for the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. During the latter period, in 1847, he contributed to the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland, of which he was a Member, a valuable Paper on "The Means Adopted for Unwatering Works of River Drainage," describing, among other methods, his successful application of the turbine, worked by the head from the river turned into the "back drain," as the motive power for pumps in unwatering the channel excavation of the River Glyde.

Early in 1848, when only in his twenty-seventh year, Mr. Roberts was promoted to the charge of the district of Loughs Corrib, Mask and Carra, one of the two most important of the districts, numbering nearly two hundred, of which the works were then in progress or projected, under the Drainage Commission of the Board of Public Works in Ireland. This large district having a catchment area of 1,218 square miles, included the chain of three lakes of which the two chief, Corrib and Mask, contain respectively 68 and 34 square miles, stretching-roughly north-east-into the counties of Galway and Mayo, from the neighbourhood of the town of Galway, through which the short but broad and rapid River Corrib discharges the waters of the great catchment into the head of Galway Bay. The works, which involved an expenditure of about S200,000, comprised improvement of the drainage of Lough Corrib and its river tributaries, also opening a lock canal from the Port of Galway to the deep water of Lough Corrib; improving the navigation of the latter, and connecting it by a lock canal with Lough Mask; also improvement of the extensive mill-power of the River Corrib, in and near the town of Galway. These objects were successfully carried out, excepting the full completion of the Lough Mask canal, which unfortunately was prevented by financial considerations, after the pressure for distress relief works had slackened.

In and near the town of Galway the works were of a specially difficult and varied character, and included-besides the objects already specified-arrangements for the improvement of the important salmon fishery. The canal from Galway Bay to Lough Corrib was opened by, and named after, the Earl of Eglinton, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1852.

The numerous interests of land proprietors, farmers, and mill and fishery owners, in such an extensive district, made it very much a case of "engineering men as well as matter"; but Mr. Roberts’ skill, energy and tact, proved amply equal to both, and in the only two cases of lawsuits brought-by a fishery and mill owner respectively-the verdicts were in the Commissioners’ favour.

After the completion of the Lough Corrib works Mr. Roberts acted under the Board as Consulting and Inspecting Engineer of important drainage schemes in other parts of Ireland, and in 1873 he was appointed a Member of the Board.

In 1887, among the Jubilee honours, Mr. Roberts was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

In 1891 he retired from his Commissionership, on pension, under the age order; but this did not close his career of active work, as he then became Consulting Engineer and Architect to the Lunatic Asylums Board, and the Congested Districts Board also had the benefit of his long experience. Besides his official duties Mr. Roberts’ public spirit made him a highly-valued member of the Royal Dublin Society - long established for promotion of arts, sciences and agriculture in Ireland. As one of the Vice-Presidents he took a prominent part, especially on the Committee of Agriculture, on which his knowledge of horses made him one of the chief organisers and judges at the well-known horse show held annually at Dublin by the Society.

Bright and active to within a few days of the end, he died in Dublin after a short illness on the 11th January, 1900. His sterling and genial character caused him to be mourned not only by his family, but by many friends; while his marked ability, firmness and judgment, made him greatly missed as a public man.

Mr. Roberts was married to Emily, eldest daughter of the late Sir George Forster, Bart., of Coolderry, Co. Monaghan, who survives him.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 7th March, 1854.

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