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Thomas Meik

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Thomas Meik (1812-1896) was a British engineer.

1812 January 20th. Born in Duddingston, Midlothian.

He was particularly associated with ports and railways in Scotland and northern England, and fathered two prominent engineering sons: Patrick Meik and Charles Scott Meik. The firm they founded remains active, though it is today known as Halcrow Group Limited, taking its name from William Thomson Halcrow, who joined the company in the early years of the 20th century.

After attending the University of Edinburgh, Thomas Meik was apprenticed to John Steedman, an engineer and contractor who was working in Glasgow on the Hutcheson Bridge (designed by Robert Stevenson, grandfather of author Robert Louis Stevenson).

His first long-term post was as assistant engineer to William Chadwell Mylne of the New River Company, London.

In 1845, at the age of 33, Meik was appointed engineer to the River Wear Commission (responsible for maritime works around Sunderland).

1858 Engineer to the River Wear Commissioners, Sunderland.[1]

In 1859, the commission took over the construction of the Hendon Dock on the south side of the Wear, and Meik was responsible for the entire works (the task included a grain warehouse and a lighthouse - which, although relocated when the South Pier was shortened in 1983, still stands today).

Just a few miles further north, he was also consulting engineer to Blyth Harbour from 1862.

In 1871, Meik was commissioned to design a rail freight link. The Hilton, Southwick and Monkwearmouth Railway transported coal from collieries sited along the line to the nearby port at Sunderland. The railway was subsequently acquired by the North Eastern Railway. However, later railway designs were to prove more successful for Meik. In Scotland he designed the Eyemouth Railway;a rail link to Eyemouth which was an extension to the Forfar to Brechin line, the Newburgh and North Fife Railway and the East Fife Central Railway.

Meik continued to undertake harbour commissions. His work in Sunderland gave him a reputation and he set up a practice based in Edinburgh. From here he designed the Scottish ports of Ayr, Burntisland and Bo'ness.

He retired in 1888

1896 April 22nd. Died in Edinburgh aged 84, leaving his business in the hands of his sons, Patrick and Charles.


1896 Obituary [2]

THOMAS MEIK was born on 20th January 1812 at Duddingston, near Edinburgh.

After being educated at the High School and University of Edinburgh, he worked for two years with a firm of millwrights named Moodie; and was then apprenticed to Mr. John Steedman, engineer and contractor, at that time engaged in building the Hutcheson Bridge at Glasgow.

He next obtained an engagement upon the ordnance survey of Ireland; and in 1833 became assistant to Mr. W. C. Mylne, engineer to the New River Company, London, to which he ultimately became assistant engineer.

In 1845 he was appointed engineer to the River Wear Commission, Sunderland; and from 1859, when the Commission took over the undertaking of the Sunderland Dock Co., he had charge of the whole works of the port until 1868, when he retired from the service of the Commissioners, while continuing to act as their consulting engineer. There he carried out extensive works, including the construction of the Hendon Dock with separate entrance from the sea, new breakwater, graving dock, grain warehouses, coal staiths, swing bridges, and extensive dredging operations.

In 1868 he started business on his own account in Sunderland and Edinburgh, in partnership with Mr. W. D. Nisbet, with whom he carried out important works in the north of England and in Scotland, including docks at Burntisland and Ayr, harbour works at Warkworth and Blyth, waterworks at Bedlington, fore-shore protection at Bridlington Quay, the Hylton, Southwick, and Monkwearmouth Railway, and other smaller works.

After dissolution of this partnership in 1875, he was joined by his two sons, with whom he carried out further works, including Boness Harbour and Dock, Eyemouth Harbour, and Eyemouth Branch Railway; and the firm also acted as consulting engineers to the new dock at Silloth for the North British Railway.

He was consulted by many harbour authorities in the north of England and Scotland; and gave evidence before the Royal Commission upon Harbours of Refuge in 1859, and again before the Fishery Harbour Commission in 1884.

He was the first to introduce hydraulic coal-hoists into Scotland, the first of these being set to work at Burntisland in 1875; and he considered no dock works complete without machinery worked by hydraulic power.

He retired from business in 1888, and had hardly known what illness was until a few mouths before his death, which took place at his residence in Edinburgh on 22nd April 1896, at the age of eighty-four.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1858.


1896 Obituary [3]

THOMAS MEIK, who was born on the 20th of January, 1812, at Duddingston, near Edinburgh, came of an old Perthshire family, at one time the owners of considerable property in the neighbourhood of Coupar Angus.

He was educated at the High School and at the University of Edinburgh, from which he went for two years to a firm of millwrights named Moodie, and was then apprenticed for a similar period to John Steedman, engineer and contractor, at that time engaged in building the Hutcheson Bridge, Glasgow. On the conclusion of his apprenticeship he obtained, through the influence of Colonel (subsequently General Sir) Charles Pasley, K.C.B., R.E., an appointment on the ordnance survey of Ireland, which, however, he did not retain long, as in 1833 he accepted the post of assistant to W. C. Mylne, engineer to the New River Co. He remained on the New River works until 1845, during the first few years in Mr. Mylne’s office and subsequently employed on out-door work, being appointed chief Assistant-Engineer to the Company under Mr. Mylne. During that period Mr. Meik was engaged in a variety of general work in addition to that of the New River Company, including the water-supply of Hastings and Stamford, bridges at Cambridge and elsewhere, and the survey of a railway from London to Brighton. After his appointment as Assistant-Engineer to the Company, he lived on the New River at Bush Hill near Enfield, and had special charge of the sinking of two wells, one of which was at Cheshunt.

In 1845 Mr. Meik was appointed Engineer to the River Wear Commission in succession to [[John Murray, who had become Engineer to the Sunderland Dock Co formed under the chairmanship of George Hudson, the 'Railway King,' to construct a large dock on the south side of the Wear. The dock undertaking was purchased by the Commission in 1859 and from that time Mr. Meik had charge of the whole work of the port.

During his residence at Sunderland the works carried out by the Commissioners were very extensive, including large dredging operations in the river, the construction of the Hendon Dock, with a separate entrance to the sea, and the enlargement of the Southern outlet from the dock by the construction of the New South-west Breakwater and other works.

Mr. Meik's duties also included the design and construction of a graving dock, grain warehouses, quays, fixed and swing bridges, coal staiths and the other usual adjuncts of a large harbour and dock undertaking. A great deal of the work of the Commission was executed by its own staff without the assistance of a contractor, and as the New Hendon Dock works were constructed in this way the duties of the engineer were very onerous.

These important works were finished in 1867, and in 1868 Mr. Meik resigned his appointment as Engineer to the River Wear Commission, and was succeeded by Mr. H. H. Wake, a former pupil, Mr. Meik being retained as Consulting Engineer.

He then took into partnership another old pupil and assistant, W. D. Nisbet, and commenced business both in Sunderland and Edinburgh, Mr. Meik going to reside in Edinburgh, while Mr. Nisbet remained in Sunderland. The firm carried out extensive works in the North of England and in Scotland, including new wet docks at Burntisland and Ayr, harbour works at Blyth and Warkworth, the water-supply of Bedlington, foreshore protection works at Bridlington, a graving dock and quays on the Wear, and the Hylton, Southwick and Monkwearmouth Railway, afterwards taken over by the North Eastern Company.

In 1875 Mr. Nisbet left the firm to accept the post of Harbour Engineer to the Government of Queensland, and Mr. Meik then took into partnership his son, Patrick Walter, and a few years later another son, Charles Scott. The firm, reconstituted as Thomas Meik and Sons, executed further important works, including the dock and harbour at Bo'ness, the harbour of Eyemouth and the Eyemouth Branch Railway, and acted as consulting engineers for the new dock at Silloth. In 1876, Mr. Meik severed his connection with the River Wear Commission and in 1888 he retired from business.

In addition to the works referred to, Mr. Meik was consulted at various times by nearly every harbour authority in the north. He acted as Engineer to the Peterhead Harbour Trustees for their Act of 1876, and he designed the Port Henry Works at that place. He was twice asked to submit designs for docks at Stockton-on- Tees, and at Seaham and Arbroath. He gave evidence before the Royal Commission on Harbours of Refuge in 1859, before the Fishery Harbour Commission of 1884, and before many Parliamentary Committees on Harbour and Dock Bills.

Mr. Meik was a man of genial temperament and made many friends amongst his professional brethren, but in his later years he lived in quiet retirement. He had an excellent constitution and had hardly known what illness was till within a few months of his death.

He passed away peacefully at his residence, 13 Newbattle Terrace, Edinburgh, at the mature age of eighty-four, on the 22nd of April, 1896, the fiftieth anniversary of his wedding-day.

Mr. Meik was elected a Member on the 1st of May, 1866.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1858 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  2. 1896 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  3. 1896 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries