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Thomas Parker Watson

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Thomas Parker Watson (1828-1885) M.A. , Mem. Inst. C. E.

1885 Died at 2, Royal-parade, Cheltenham, late Chief Resident Engineer at Port Elizabeth, South Africa.



1885 Obituary [1]

THOMAS PARKER WATSON, the son of George Watson, who held an appointment in the Four Courts, was born at Dublin, on the 4th June, 1828.

His education was commenced at the private grammar school of Doctor Wallis, and in 1846 passed from thence to Trinity College, Dublin, where he obtained a diploma, with a certificate of merit, from the engineering school in December, 1849. In the same year he took his degree of B.A. ; and later on that of M.A. of Trinity College. In 1850 he commenced a career for which he afterwards proved himself eminently fitted, and was first engaged on the survey and construction of the Hamburg-Lubeck Railway, serving under Mr. N. Scheffer, a Prussian engineering officer, for about three years.

In 1853-1855 he was engaged on the Copenhagen-Eorsor Railway, in Denmark, under Mr. W. G. Brounger, M.Inst.C.E., but in the service of Messrs. Fox and Henderson the contractors for the line; being stationed for about two years at Ringstedt, near to which place, the works were heavy, and afterwards holding the appointment of engineer to the Danish Railway Company, under his former chief, Mr. Scheffer, 'for about one year longer.

In September, 1856, he was appointed district engineer at Amstetten, on the Kaiserin-Elizabeth-Westbahn (from Vienna to Linz) under Mr. George Giles, M.Inst.C.E., in the service of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts, the contractors for that section of the line. The works under Mr. Watson's direction were heavy and complicated; but were carried out in a manner which elicited high encomiums from the Austrian engineers.

In 1861 he again went to Denmark, having been appointed to the post of district engineer at Odense, on the eastern section of the Fyen Railway (some 28 miles) from Nyborg on the Great Belt to Brendekilde. This formed a portion of the system of railways then being carried out by Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts, as concessionaries to the Danish Government under the chief direction of Mr. F. J. Rowan. Two large stations were erected on this length, viz., at Nyborg and at Odense.

On the opening of this section in September 1865, Mr. Watson was decorated by the King of Denmark, with the order of Ridder af Dannebrog, for the able and satisfactory manner in which the works under his supervision had been executed.

In 1865 he was appointed to another section of the same system of railways in the north of Jutland, and stationed at Aalborg. Returning from Denmark Mr. Watson was next engaged on the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways, still in the service of the same firm, for whom he also conducted some extensive works on the Cornwall Minerals Railway in the years.

In 1874 Mr. Watson entered the service of the Cape of Good Hope Government, receiving the appointment of resident engineer on the Midland system of railways, from Port Elizabeth to Graaf-Reinet, a distance of 184 miles.

In 1878 he was promoted to the post of chief resident engineer for the eastern province, with the charge of some 400 miles of railway, viz., from Port Elizabeth to Graaf-Reinet, 184 miles, and from Port Elizabeth to Cradock, 182 miles : also the Branch line to Grahamstown, 35 miles. In 1881-82, the surveys, and eventually the construction, of the railways northwards and westwards, viz., from Cradock to Colesberg, the route for the Orange River, 126 miles; and the connecting line, in Hanover, to unite the Midland system of railways with the Western system, 68 miles, were also carried out under Mr. Watson’s direction, the former being opened in October 1883, the latter in March 1884.

In May 1883, Mr. Watson was sent on a confidential service of great importance by the Cape Government to Kimberley, to report technically upon the state of the diamond mines of that place. This duty, although undertaken under the most disadvantageous and delicate circumstances, was performed with tact and completeness, and elicited a warm expression of satisfaction from the Government.

At the close of 1884, all the lines of railways for which Acts of Parliament had been obtained in the Cape Colony having been completed, the engineering staff was broken up, and Mr. Watson was pensioned by the Government.

In November he returned to England, after a ten years’ residence in the Cape Colony, apparently in the midst of health and strength, full of manly vigour, and unabated mental energy. He died very suddenly, on the 22nd January, 1885, as was generally supposed from heart disease, probably more or less influenced by the return to an English climate in winter.

Gifted by nature with unusual ability and capacity, he enjoyed all the advantages conferred by education, with a refinement of mind and principles of the highest order. He was possessed of fertility of resource in difficulty, rapidity of thought and clearness of perception, and a habit of keen observation. A kind and feeling heart caused him to be endeared and respected alike by those above him as well as by those who had the privilege and pleasure of serving under him. The opinion held of him by a high official of the Cape Government, one who by nature and experience was very competent to judge correctly in this matter, was recently so suitably expressed, that it may be appropriate to cite it here. “No one could exceed Mr. Watson in the interest and attention which he paid to his work, nor was he the mere official, ready to assent to my proposition which might happen to come from above : he had a very distinct individuality, and always defended his own opinion. “Mr. Watson was particularly good at framing a comprehensive and precise report; one may be remembered, the last indeed which he drew up, on the connection between the Eastern and the Midland systems. “In 1883, he drew up, at my request, a report on the Kimberley Mine from an engineering point of view. This report was extremely unpalatable to many (interested in the mine), but time has proved the correctness of Mr. Watson’s forecaste. “The news of his sudden death shocked me very much. He is a distinct loss to the colony, and it will be hard to replace him.”

Mr. Watson was elected a Member of the Institution on the 13th of January, 1880.



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