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William Gill

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William Gill (1843-1901)


1901 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM GILL was born on the 11th November, 1843, in the village of Malton, in Yorkshire, whence, after receiving a modest education in the village school, he migrated with his parents to London, where his father had obtained a post in the Civil Service.

Circumstances necessitated that the subject of this notice should become a breadwinner at an early age. When only 13 years old he entered the Bombay and Baroda Railway Company, where he was engaged for 2 years.

He then entered the service of Mr. Robert Fairlie, of double-bogey engine fame, under whom he obtained much valuable experience. During this period he earnestly endeavoured to supplement his early education by attending evening classes at King’s College, Strand.

At the age of 18 he prepared, in competition, a design, which was highly commended, for a bridge for the town of Brisbane. So great was Mr. Fairlie’s confidence in young Gill that, in the same year, he was sent to Cadiz with instructions to make a complete survey of the town, with a view to the installation of a new water-supply.

On leaving Mr. Fairlie’s service at the end of 1863, Mr. Gill was employed by Messrs. Smith, Knight and Company, contractors, on the construction of the Baker Street to Edgware Road section of the Metropolitan Railway, of a portion of the Royal Sardinian Railways, and of the Edgware and Highgate branch of the Great Northern Railway.

From October, 1866, to May, 1870, he was in the service of Mr. William Hanson, contractor, engaged on the construction of the Blackburn and Chorley line in Lancashire, on the completion of which he was employed by Messrs. G. B. Crawley and Company, in the Caucasus, as Chief Assistant to Mr. E. Preston on the construction of the Poti-Tiflis Railway, a mountain single line of 168 miles in length. During the absence of Mr. Preston he acted as Chief Engineer.

In 1870 he married Miss Tait, eldest daughter of Mr. Tait, of the firm of Mirrlees, Tait and Company, now the Mirrlees, Watson and Yaryan Company, and on the completion of the Poti-Tiflis line he returned to England in March, 1873.

He was next engaged in Brazil in making surveys and preparing plans for the Recife and Limoeiro Railway and in reporting on public works in Pernambuco for the Brazilian Government.

In October, 1877, he was placed in charge of the construction of Neath Harbour by Messrs. Vignoles and Greenbank.

Two years later hew as appointed Resident Engineer and Manager of the Pisagna Railway in Peru, for the Peruvian Nitrate Railways Company. That employment nearly proved fatal to him, as he contracted a severe attack of fever, which was aggravated by the fact that it occurred during the Peruvian and Chilian War of 1879, for as the invaders advanced he had to be carried from place to place in a litter, frequently in the midst of the bullets of the contending forces. The doctors gave him up, but he pulled through and managed to reach England.

Although advised that he should give up all hope of resuming an active life, Mr. Gill sought and obtained in November, 1880, the post of General Manager of the extensive mines of the Orconera Iron Ore Company in Bilbao, which appointment he held until his death. Never a very strong man, the fever contracted in Peru had undermined his constitution; but, in spite of ill-health, his capacity for work was very great. He did much to raise the general tone of the mining industry in Bilbao, and by the authorities of that town he was frequently consulted on engineering and other matters concerning the public welfare, especially as to questions of sanitation.

To the Iron and Steel Institute, of which he was a Member, he contributed two Papers entitled respectively "The Iron-Ore District of Bilbao," and "The Present Position of the Iron-Ore Industries of Biscay and Santander," the latter being read on the occasion of the visit of that Institute to Bilbao in 1896.

Mr. Gill was an excellent linguist, speaking with fluency German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian, and his occupations and travels in those countries had given him considerable knowledge of the character of their inhabitants. Towards the end of 1900 his health showed serious signs of failure.

He returned to England, and died at Wells, in Somerset, on the 20th January, 1901.

Mr. Gill was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 13th January, 1874, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 15th March, 1851.


1901 Obituary [2]

WILLIAM GILL, who died at Wells, in Somersetshire, on January 20, 1901, at the age of fifty-seven, in his capacity as general manager of the Orconera Iron Ore Company, did more than any one else to build up the iron ore trade of Bilbao.

His elaborate memoirs on the Bilbao iron ore district, contributed to the Iron and Steel Institute in 1882 and 1886, are the standard works of reference on the subject. His early training was in connection with railway engineering on the Bombay and Baroda Railway. He subsequently entered the service of Mr. Robert Fairlie, and later on was engaged in railway construction in Russia, Brazil, Peru, and in other parts of the world. In 1880 he was appointed general manager of the Orconera Company. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1881, and as local honorary secretary organised the highly successful meeting in Bilbao in 1896.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1901 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1901 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries