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Henry Alcock Fletcher

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Henry Alcock Fletcher (1820-1861)

1862 Obituary [1]

MR. HENRY ALCOCK FLETCHER was born on the 16th January, 1820, at Ripley, in the county of Derby, where his family had been settled for some generations.

After receiving a useful education he was, at an early age, put in training for the acquisition of that acquaintance with the conduct of large commercial enterprises, which he afterwards turned to so good an account.

For many years he was employed in the establishment of Messrs. Euclid Shaw and Sons, carriers in Bath, under whom he became thoroughly conversant with the management of all the details of their extensive carrying trade.

He was afterwards employed in the traffic department of the Midland Railway, and subsequently, for a short time, in the establishment of Messrs. Pickford and Co.

His next appointment was that of assistant traffic-manager to the London and South-Western Railway Company; during the last year of his connection with which he had the entire management of the Dorchester Line.

Subsequently he was for several years connected, as traffic-manager, with some of the principal lines of railway in Ireland, where the value of his services met with marked recognition, and where he acquired many lasting connections.

In consequence of the reputation he there succeeded in earning, he was in 1855 selected, from a large number of candidates, to fill the important post of traffic-manager, in India, for the Madras Railway Company. In this situation Mr. Fletcher did not disappoint the expectations raised by his previous character, so that after discharging with great credit to himself for several years the duties of the office intrusted to him, he was, in 1860: appointed by the Directors to fill the position of general agent and manager in India.

This appointment Mr. Fletcher held up to the time of his death, which occurred in June, 1861, in the Red Sea, on his passage home, he having at length reluctantly yielded to the pressing necessity of endeavouring to recruit his health, by a temporary change from the Indian climate,, from the effects of which he had latterly begun to suffer severely.

Mr. Fletcher was particularly distinguished for the determined energy with which he pursued and carried out any object which he had once fixed upon as desirable. In this his views were seldom limited by the precise boundaries of a single department, every matter being regarded by him in its most general point of view, with reference to the interests of his employers. Thus, while in charge of the traffic department of the Madras Railway, he found time to take the chief part, in co-operation with other officers of the Company, in reorganising, and placing on a sound footing, the transactions of the General Stores department, which, through unfortunate circumstances, had fallen into an unsatisfactory condition. At the same time his experience and skill, in the arrangement of carrying operations, were brought to bear with great advantage in aid of the Engineering department, by the establishment of a system for the transport of materials along the line, by which a centralised control was obtained, and the chances of raising prices by unconscious competition amongst the Company’s officers at the various stations were eliminated.

Mr. Fletcher’s exertions to promote the success of the enterprise in which he was concerned, extended even to matters having a. less obvious connection with it. He was an active promoter, and indeed the originator of several projects, since carried into operation, for improving the means of transport in all parts of the country, from which trade might be expected to flow to the railway; and with this object, he took the chief part in the establishment of a line of coaches, on the English plan, between the great military station of Bangalore and the station nearest to it, a distance of eighty miles.

He was an active member of the Madras Chamber of Commerce, fully realising the importance of every measure calculated to develop the trade of that port, which is so intimately connected with the Madras Railway.

In private life, Mr. Fletcher was remarkable for his sociable and friendly disposition-for his unbounded hospitality-and for the interest he took in all public institutions of a useful, or charitable character. It may not be out of place to mention, that at the period of the outbreak of the Indian Mutinies, he took a very active part in the formation of the regiment of Madras Volunteer Guards, in which he, for some years, held a commission as Captain, and of which he was at the time of his decease the Major.

His popularity amongst the officers and men of this corps was signalised at the time of his departure for England, when a subscription was entered into, for the purpose of presenting him with a sword, as a token of the esteem in which he was held. The unfortunate issue of the journey modified the carrying out of the intention, which took the form of the foundation of a scholarship in a charitable educational establishment of which he was a director-the presentation to which is for life placed in the hands of his widow. Mr. Fletcher was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1859.

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