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Patrick Montgomerie

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Lieut-Col. Patrick Montgomerie (1837-1886)

1886 Obituary [1]

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL PATRICK MONTGOMERIE, R.E., was born on the 26th of October, 1837.

He obtained his first commission as Second Lieutenant in the Madras Engineers on the 13th June, 1856, and after the usual course of practical instruction at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham, he proceeded to India, and reached Madras in June, 1858. Arriving in India after the Mutiny, and being posted to the most peaceful of the Presidencies, it was not his fortune to see any active service in the field.

In the ordinary course of promotion he rose in military rank as follows : viz., First Lieutenant, 27th August, 1858 ; Captain, 7th March, 1868 ; Major, 3rd February, 1875 ; Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, 3rd February, 1882 ; Regimental Lieutenant-colonel, 4th June, 1883.

His first occupation in civil duties appears to have been in conducting some boat experiments under the immediate order of the then Chief Engineer, Colonel (afterwards Sir Arthur) Cotton. In November 1860 he was transferred as Assistant Engineer to the Godavery District; a chief centre of irrigation work in connection with the great dam and system of canals, which had been projected and carried out under Sir Arthur and his brother Frederick Cotton; and there he laid the foundation of that practical knowledge of irrigation engineering which made his services so valuable in that special branch, to which he remained devoted throughout his career.

He left the Madras Presidency for the Central Provinces in June 1864, obtaining promotion as an Executive Engineer, 4th Grade, in November, but was driven home by ill health in October 1865. Returning to duty in December 1868, he was employed for upwards of four years in the irrigation districts of Tanjore and Trichinopoly, where he had charge of the works in connection with the River Cauvery, originated by native engineers under a former government, but put into their present state of efficiency by Sir Arthur Cotton and the school of engineers who are still proud to look up to him as their chief. It showed appreciation of his abilities and good work that Captain Montgomerie was called up to Madras in March 1873 to fill the post of Deputy Chief Engineer and Under-Secretary to Government in the Department of Public Works, which he held till he went home on two-years’ furlough in March 1874 ; and neither on this nor on the subsequent occasion when he filled a similar office in the irrigation branch, from September 1877 to March 1879, did he fail to recommend himself by his efficiency and genial character, not only to his immediate chiefs, but also to the members of government, and to the body of officers whose interests he to some extent represented.

He gained the respect and esteem of all with whom he had to transact departmental business. In fact, he was an officer of varied resources, and officiated as District Engineer of Madras itself, and as Consulting Architect to Government, from the date of his return from furlough in March 1876 till nearly the end of that year, spending the next twelve month in the Salem district. His subsequent appointments were as follows, viz. : Acting Superintending Engineer, 4th Circle, March 1879 ; on special duty, Tanjore Delta, July 1880 ; furlough two years-March 1881 to February 1883; on special duty in connection with the Tanks Maintenance Scheme, February 1883; concluding finally with the charge of the First Superintending Engineer’s Circle from May 1884 ; in which was included the Godavery Irrigation Works on which he gained his first experience. It was while on one of his tours of duty as a Superintending Engineer that he was carried off by a sudden attack of illness at Waltair, near Vizagapatam, on the 8th of January 1886, to the deep regret of all who knew him.

"The most notable work that he did," writes one most competent to judge, "was the investigation in 1880 of the cause of the great floods in the Coleroon and Cauvery Rivers. This special work was most ably carried out : and the report is a most valuable contribution to the literature of river floods, their causes, and their proper treatment. On the information collected by him the design for the Cauvery and Vennar Regulators at the Grand Annicut near Trichinopoly, was modified, and the estimates were sanctioned by the Government of India. These great works must now be nearly if not quite completed."

The Tanks Maintenance Scheme was one also on which Colonel Montgomerie bestowed much thoughtful attention. It was a subject of great financial importance, inasmuch as the revenue dependent on these (comparatively) minor irrigation works of the Madras Presidency, is 36 per cent. more than that derived from the whole of the great delta systems, and amounts to three-fifths of the entire irrigation revenue. But it was a matter requiring to be handled by an expert in Irrigation Engineering ; and the Government Order disposing of his report acknowledged that it was the first time that this important question had been systematically and scientifically treated. Colonel Montgomerie’s able report showed what could and what should be done to bring up every irrigation work in the presidency to a proper standard of efficiency, and to maintain them in it : and his recommendations are to be carried out, though such action was not thought to necessitate any such radical changes in the constitution of the Public Works Department as his further proposals involved. The deceased officer was married in 1875 to a daughter of General Macleverty, formerly Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army, whom he left a widow with two young children.

Colonel Montgomerie was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 5th of May 1868.

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