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Murdoch Paterson

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Murdoch Paterson (1826-1898)


1899 Obituary [1]

MURDOCH PATERSON, son of Mr. Donald Paterson, of Inshes, near Inverness, was born in September, 1826.

Having been educated in the parish school of Culcabock, and in the Royal Academy, Inverness, he passed two years in the office of Mr. John Mackenzie, banker, where he received a thorough commercial training which was in after years of great use to him. Happily for himself he decided that his career was to run in quite a different direction, and he found his true vocation in the office of the late Joseph Mitchell, to whom he was bound as apprentice in 1846. There was no office in the North at that period in which he could have obtained a more comprehensive training, Mr. Mitchell being the Government Engineer for the construction of roads, bridges, harbours and buildings in the Highlands.

When the railway mania reached the North, Mr. Paterson, though but little over twenty years of age, became engaged in many of the enterprises then undertaken in that district. In 1851 he left Mr. Mitchell and started with a firm of contractors who had the work of enlarging the harbour accommodation at Inverness. The firm, however, failed, and young Paterson, so great was the confidence placed in him, was appointed by the harbour trustees to carry out and complete the works, which he did to their entire satisfaction.

The present system of the Highland Railway was begun in a way in 1854 by the construction of the line from Inverness to Nairn, and on this undertaking Mr. Paterson was actively engaged under Mr. Mitchell, the Engineer to the Company.

The first turf of the Nairn line was cut by the Countess of Seafield on the 20th September, 1854. In rapid succession followed the expansion of the railway from Nairn to Keith, from Inverness to Invergordon and Bonar Bridge, and of the main line from Forres to Perth-a work which made the Highland Railway the main artery between the north and south of Scotland. These lines were constructed in less than ten years. Mr. Paterson was in charge of the construction of the line from Inverness to Keith and Bonar Bridge, and of the trunk line from Forres to Dunkeld.

In 1862 Mr. Mitchell took the brothers William and Murdoch Paterson into partnership, the firm being known as Joseph Mitchell and Co.

Mr. Mitchell retired in 1867, in which year the Sutherland lines from Bonar Bridge to Golspie were designed under the superintendence of Mr. Paterson, who now entered on an independent career and had full charge of the Dingwall and Skye line, including Parliamentary work and construction, until its completion in 1870. The Sutherland lines were completed in 1871 as far as Helmsdale, Mr. Paterson in that year, with the assistance of a large staff, surveying under great difficulties the 66 miles between Helmsdale, Wick and Thurso in less than one month.

On the opening of the Caithness line from Helmsdale to Wick and Thurso, which was taken over by the Highland Railway Company in 1874, Mr. Paterson was appointed Chief Engineer of that Company, which post he held until his death. Under his supervision the Buckie line, Black Isle, Strathpeffer branch, Hopeman and other railways were constructed; besides the surveys of various proposed lines in all parts of the North.

The construction of the new direct line from Inverness to Aviemore, which was opened in November, 1898, Mr. Paterson practically saw completed, and this work occupied his last days, his death taking place on the 9th August, 1898, in the house built for the agent at Culloden Moor station on that line. The Aviemore direct line is about 33.75 miles in length, and shortens the journey between Inverness and the South by some 26 miles.

The viaducts over the Findhorn and Nairn Rivers on this line are most important constructions. The former, which is 445 yards long and 141 feet from the bed of the river to rails, consists of nine spans, each 130 feet long, resting on eight piers and two abutments of masonry, with two arches of 25 feet span at each abutment.

The Nairn Viaduct is perhaps the largest structure of its kind in Scotland, the total length being6 00 yards and the greatest height above the river bed 130 feet. The main arch through which the water flows has a span of 100 feet, and the twenty-eight subsidiary arches have each a span of 50 feet. The Nairn and Findhorn Viaducts form lasting monuments of Mr. Paterson’s skill.

Mr. Paterson designed the water-supply to Inverness, the new bridge over the River Ness, and a number of other works too numerous to mention. Mr. Paterson possessed great independence of character, though he was not over assertive. Remarkably careful in his estimates and most conscientious in his various dealings, he was a loyal officer of the Highland Railway Company, and his staff, to whom he was always most kind and considerate, looked to him with feelings of the utmost affection, and were inspired by his example to still greater devotion to duty. In private life he was a warm and most steadfast friend.

Mr. Paterson was elected a Member of the Institution on the 3rd February, 1874.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1899 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries