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William Foulis

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William Foulis (1838-1903), gas engineer to the corporation of Glasgow.

Designed machinery that was built and supplied to other gasworks by Adam Woodward and Sons of Manchester.


1903 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM FOULIS was born on 29th March 1838, at St. Andrews, where his father was manager of the gas works.

In 1850 he went to Paisley along with his father, who had been appointed to take charge of the gas works in that town. At the ago of fourteen the lad was apprenticed in the engineering works of Messrs. Craig, Fullerton and Co., and about this time he also attended Glasgow University.

Shortly after the completion of his apprenticeship, he entered the service of the late Mr. W. M. Neilson, of the Hyde Park Locomotive Works, Glasgow.

Then he proceeded to London, and in the interest of an English firm he went to the Mediterranean, superintending the erection of gas works at Malta and elsewhere. Seven years were thus spent in different towns and cities in Italy and Greece.

On returning, to Glasgow, he entered into partnership with Mr. W. R. Copland, and carried on with him the business of civil and gas engineer. When preparations were on foot to municipalize the gas supply of Glasgow, which had previously been in the bands of two private companies, he was employed to advise the Corporation; and when the transfer of the works was effected in 1869, he was appointed Gas Engineer. His first work was to erect new gas works at Dawsholm, and then to dismantle the old works at Townhead and Partick.

Many improvements were introduced by him into the manufacture of gas. In conjunction with Sir William Arrol, he constructed a machine, worked by hydraulic power, for charging and drawing retorts, the water being also used to cool the shovel of the charger and the rake of the drawer.

Another improvement was the introduction of the gas-producer furnace invented by Sir William Siemens; a double saving of fuel is effected by the device, and a continuous high temperature is easily maintained.

In addition to invention, his genius found scope in the adaptation of plant and processes to perfect the production of gas and to cheapen its supply to the consumer.

An apparatus for producing gas from oil alone was designed by him, and put up in 1896 at the Temple Farm Works, near Dawsholm, the resulting gas being used to enrich the coal gas.

The question of the conveyance of material early had his attention, and be installed at Dawsholm and at Tradeston a system of conveying coke by means of tiny locomotive engines, running upon narrow-gauge railways, for the hauling of trucks from the basement floor of the works out to the yard.

Another time- and labour-saving device of his was an adaptation of wheels and rails for the removal of purifier covers, taking the place of the overhead tackle almost universally in use. He was the first gas-engineer in the kingdom to install plant for the recovery of cyanogen.

In 1887 he was elected President of the British Association of Gas Managers, afterwards the Gas Institute, and he was one of the founders of the Institution of Gas Engineers, of which he became a Member of Council, a Trustee, and President in 1896. He was a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers; and was President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland at the time of his death.

He had been in failing health for some months from an internal complaint, and his death took place suddenly at his residence in Glasgow, on 29th June 1903, at the age of sixty-five.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1877.


1903 Obituary [2]

WILLIAM FOULIS, Chief Engineer and Manager of the Glasgow Gasworks, and recently President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, died at his residence, 2 Montgomerie Quadrant, Glasgow, on the 29th June, 1903, at the age of 65. He had held his post in connection with the gas-supply since it was created, in the year 1869, and was almost, if not quite, the oldest servant of the Glasgow Corporation.

Mr. Foulis began his engineering career as an apprentice in the works of Craig, Fullerton and Co, of Paisley, now known as Messrs. Fullerton, Hodgart, and Barclay. Shortly after the close of his apprenticeship he entered the service of the late Walter Montgomerie Neilson, the originator of the firm of Neilson, Reid and Co, of the Hyde Park Locomotive Works.

In 1863 he was appointed Resident Engineer to the Mediterranean and Malta Gas Company, for which he superintended the erection of gasworks at Malta and at several places on the shores of the Mediterranean.

On his return to Scotland in 1868 Mr. Foulis entered into partnership with W. R. Copland, of Glasgow. That partnership, however, was dissolved in the following year on his appointment as Gas Engineer and Manager to the Corporation of Glasgow.

He set about his new duties with characteristic vigour. He did not long remain content with the 'use and wont' prevalent at that time in gas-making. Taking, for example, the heat regenerative system of Dr. (subsequently Sir William) Siemens, Mr. Foulis induced that gentleman to co-operate with him in adapting the regenerative furnace to the carbonization of coal.

The joint endeavours of Dr. Siemens and Mr. Foulis to adapt the heat regenerative system of the former to the carbonizing of gas-coals in gas-retorts eventually turned out a complete success-so complete, indeed, that within the past twenty or twenty-five years the system has been adopted by gas engineers and managers in all parts of the world.

Another of Mr. Foulis’ innovations was a stoking machine, one by means of which the raw coal is charged into the retorts, and the coke that is left, after it has given off its gas, is withdrawn. The making of such a machine was long a hobby with Mr. Foulis ; indeed, he tried his hand at one before he went in for the use of gaseous fuel in heating the retorts for the carbonizing of gas-coal, and he had one working at the Dawsholm Gasworks, which he designed and built for the Glasgow Corporation on ground acquired at Maryhill, on the banks of the Kelvin, in Dumbartonshire. The saving effected by No. 2 machine is put down at 1s. per ton. In the preparation of this machine, known as the Arrol and Foulis Stoking Machine, Mr. Foulis was largely aided by its makers, Sir William Arrol & Co.

Mr Foulis was a Member of the North British Association of Gas Managers, over which he presided in the year 1874, when he delivered a very instructive address, as he also did some years since, when he was President of the British Association of Gas Managers, the meeting being held at Glasgow. Mr. Foulis likewise delivered the presidential address to the Institution of Gas Engineers a few years ago, and for the past two sessions he was President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland.

Mr. Foulis was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 3rd February, 1874. He contributed to the Engineering Conference of 1899 a note on 'The Recovery of Residual Products from Coal-gas during the Process of Purification.' He also took part in the Conference held last June, giving special attention to the Gas Section.


1903 Obituary [3]

"...with much regret, the death of Mr. William Foulis, gas engineer to tho Corporation of Glasgow, which event took place with startling suddenness on the 20th inst., at his own house in Glasgow. So recently as Wednesday of last week he attended the usual meeting of the Gas Committee, and on Saturday he was in the Municipal Buildings. Though thus able to attend to his duties, Mr. Foulis has been in failing health for some months, and on Saturday evening he was seized with an acute internal ailment, which from the first was regarded as serious. A consultation of medical men was held, but their services were unavailing. He was born Sixty-five years ago in St. Andrews, where his father was gas manager. In 1850 his father having been appointed manager of the gasworks at Paisley, he accompanied him to that town, and two years later, when aged fourteen, he left school, and began his apprenticeship..."[More]


1903 Obituary [4]



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