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British Industrial History

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Edmund Morel

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Edmund Morel (1841-1871)

For information about Morel's railway construction work in Japan, from a Japanese viewpoint, see here [1]. His surname is given as Morell.

1873 Obituary [2]

MR. EDMUND MOREL, the only son of the late Mr. Thomas Morel, of Piccadilly and Notting Hill, was born on the 17th of November, 1841.

He was educated at King’s College, London, afterwards at technical schools in Germany and Paris, and subsequently studied at Woolwich for a commission in the Royal Engineers, which, however, his short sight disqualified him for.

In May, 1858, he was articled to Mr. Edwin Clark, M. Inst. C.E., with whom he remained three years and a half.

Leaving England, he served under the New Zealand Government, in 1862 and 1863, as Chief Assistant Road Engineer, and in the latter year was appointed Chief Engineer of the Province of Wellington.

In 1864 and 1865 he was occupied with private practice, principally in Australia, and for the next year and a half in examining for a proposed railway in Labuan.

In 1867 he was appointed Chief Engineer and manager for the Labuan Coal Company, to construct a railway, sink shafts, and open out mining arrangements.

In 1869, his health breaking down, he proceeded to South Australia as Consulting Engineer to an association anxious to introduce the Indian guarantee system in that country. This situation he resigned on being appointed Engineer-in-Chief for the laying out and making certain lines of railway, and for the designing, constructing, and carrying out of other public works in Japan. The engagement was for five years, and was concluded with Mr. Horatio Nelson Lay, C.B., who was invested with certain privileges by the Japanese Government, at Point de Galle. On arriving at Yokohama, on the 9th of April, 1870, he at once proceeded to set out a line of railway between Tokei and Yokohama, 20 miles in length; the works on this, and on another length of 20 miles, between Kobe and Otaka, were commenced under him, but he did not live to see their completion.

Mr. Morel had for some months been in declining health, a constitutional weakness of the lungs having taken the form of rapid consumption, to which he succumbed on the 5th of November, 1871. His wife survived him only twelve hours ; and they were buried together in the cemetery at Yokohama on Tuesday, the 7th of November, 1871. His services were highly appreciated by the Japanese Government. His Majesty the Temio, hearing of his illness, sent a letter of condolence by the Vice- Minister of Works, accompanied with a gift of £1,000, within a week of his death ; and all the expenses of his funeral the Government offered to defray.

Mr. Morel was a man of great energy and sterling integrity. His career had brought him into contact with classes of men who turned his profession into a trade, and tended to make it the instrument of injustice to governments and the public; to these he had an extreme antipathy. It was with a true estimate of his character and services that the Japanese Government, on withdrawing the powers of their commissioner, requested him to continue those services, and undertook the satisfaction of any penalty that might have been incurred by this act. He possessed that fineness of sensibility so commonly found among men of talent, nor was he free from that desire for distinction which, when unsatisfied, becomes a source of irritability.

He plainly saw, as disease made ever greater inroads on his constitution, that this ambition could never be satisfied. But he never murmured against the dispensations of a Providence which he regarded as inscrutable but all-wise, and his high religious sense taught him that unquestioning submission to its decrees was his duty, and the best evidence he could give of his faith in the wisdom of those mysterious dispensations.

Mr. Morel was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 23rd of May, 1865.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Japan's Discovery, Import & Technical Mastery of Railways, by Harada Katsumasa, 1979, United Nations University, p.22ff.
  2. 1873 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries