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William Wilson Hoy

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Sir William Wilson Hoy (c1868-1930) of the South African Railway.

1930 Obituary[1]


We regret to record the death of Sir William Hoy, which occurred on Tuesday, February 11, at the age of 62. Like many of those connected with the administration of railways, both in this country and the King’s Dominions overseas, Sir William was born in Scotland and started his career as a junior clerk in the offices of the North British Railway at Edinburgh. When he was 21, however, he proceeded to South Africa, where he entered the service of the Cape Government Railways. He later held positions at Bulawayo, Kimberley, and Port Elizabeth. On the outbreak of the South African War he was appointed traffic manager at Bloemfontein, and assumed control of the railways in both the Orange Free State and in the Transvaal, after these had been captured from the Boers. At the end of the war he was appointed chief traffic manager at Johannesburg, while in 1910 he succeeded to the general managership of the system.

One of the clauses in the Act that constituted the Union of South Africa laid down that the railways of the country were to be developed, so that the settlement of an agricultural and industrial population in the inland portions of all the provinces of the Union might be promoted. This naturally implied considerable extensions in the railway mileage of the country, and the amalgamation into one unit of three systems, which had been laid out in different ways. As some indication of Mr. Hoy’s success in these two difficult tasks it may be mentioned that between 1910 and 1923 the mileage under his charge increased by 11,588, some 1,331 miles of which is accounted for by the lines in what was formerly German South-West Africa. That this work has been almost entirely successful will be clear from a study of the reports, which are published from time to time in these columns.

While this reorganisation was still in progress the Great War broke out, and Mr. Hoy was appointed Director of Military Railways in South Africa, with the rank of colonel. One of his first tasks was to connect Prieska and Upington, in order that the campaign might be successfully waged, and he performed this with such energy that the necessary 153 miles of line were laid in 82 days. For his services during the war he received a knighthood in 1916 and was appointed C.B. in 1918, while he was promoted to K.C.B. in 1922.

The years immediately following the war were difficult ones for the South African railway administration. Trade was acutely depressed, the finances had been seriously affected, and there was considerable trouble with labour. Sir William was, however, able to prevent the railway staff from ceasing work, with the result that the revolt in the Transvaal mining industry, which occurred in 1922, was much less serious than it might otherwise have been. His administration was far-sighted in policy and flexible in action, and though he was often criticised, he was always able to give good and forcible reasons for his deeds, and successfully maintained his point of view before two Select committees.

Sir William retired from the South African railway administration in 1927, and was then appointed chairman of the Rhodesian Railway Commission."

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