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Thomas Ormiston

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Thomas Ormiston (1826-1882)


1883 Obituary [1]

. . . In the year 1846 he entered the service of the trustees of the River Clyde Navigation in the engineer’s department, and shortly after became chief assistant to the then Engineer, David Bremner, M. Inst. C.E., and during the long illness, and for some time after the death, of Mr. Bremner in 1852, he had the entire charge of the works. . . appointed him principal assistant in the office of Walker, Burges and Cooper, in London. . .

Mr. Ormiston continued in the service of Messrs. Walker, Burges, and Cooper, for about seven years, until the beginning of 1862, and during this period he frequently accompanied the late Mr. Walker to the many important works upon which he was engaged to report, amongst others the improvement of the harbours in tho Isle of Man, the River Mersey, the extension of the Bute Docks, Cardiff, and many of the lighthouses for the Honourable Corporation of Trinity House. He was also entrusted with the entire charge of the erection of tho lighthouse on the Needles Rock during 1856-7. No contractor being employed, he designed the whole of the necessary plant, and carried out the works to the entire satisfaction of Mr. Walker and the Trinity Corporation, and received a testimonial from the latter on the completion of the works. . . .


1883 Obituary [2]

THOMAS ORMISTON, C.I.E., was born in Edinburgh on 28th July 1826, and received his education at Glasgow.

In 1846 he entered the service of the trustees of the River Clyde Navigation in the engineer's department, and shortly after became chief assistant, being for some time in entire charge of the works.

In 1855 Mr. James Walker, then the consulting engineer to the River Clyde Trustees, appointed him principal assistant in the office of Messrs. Walker Barges and Cooper, in London. Here he continued until the beginning of 1862, and during this period he frequently accompanied the late Mr. Walker to the many important works upon which he was engaged to report, amongst others the harbours in the Isle of Man, the River Mersey, the extension of the Bute Docks at Cardiff, and many lighthouses.

He was entrusted with the entire charge of the erection of the lighthouse on the Needles Rock during 1856-7. No contractor being employed, he designed the whole of the necessary plant, and carried out the works to the entire satisfaction of Mr. Walker and the Trinity Corporation, receiving a testimonial from the latter on the completion of the works.

Having been engaged in the preparation of the designs for the foundation of the Plymouth Breakwater Fort, the contract for which was let to Messrs. Henry Lee and Son, Mr. Ormiston accepted from Messrs. Lee the appointment as their engineer in sole charge of the works. These he continued to direct until near their completion in October 1864, when he received the appointment of chief engineer to the Elphinstone Land and Press Co. of Bombay, formed for the purpose of reclaiming a large extent of land from the foreshore of the harbour, the formation of a series of tidal basins for native craft and boats, the construction of warehouses, roads, &c.

Although the works had been commenced in 1859, only about 81 acres had been reclaimed when Mr. Ormiston took charge in January 1865. He immediately reorganised the establishment, appointed a proper staff, and reduced the number of workmen by two-thirds; and operations proceeded rapidly. By the year 1870 the whole foreshore, 328 acres in extent, had been reclaimed and converted into a valuable estate, and nine miles of roads, from 40 feet to 80 feet wide, ten miles of drains, and two miles of permanent sea-walls, had been constructed, affording basins for the native craft, with 70 acres of wharf space and extensive shed and warehouse accommodation.

The Government, being alive to the importance of these works, purchased the Elphinstone estate in April 1870, and took over the services of Mr. Ormiston as engineer, transferring to his charge the reclamation works in Mody Bay, which had for sonic time been in progress. In 1873 the Bombay Port Trust was formed, which took over the administration of the entire harbour of Bombay, Mr. Ormiston being appointed chief engineer.

After the constitution of the Port Trust, Mr. Ormiston, convinced of the necessity for improved appliances to meet the increasing trade, began persistently to advocate the construction of a wet dock with the most modern hydraulic appliances.

In July 1875 orders were given to proceed with the works of this the first wet dock of any extent in India. The first stone of the Prince's Dock was laid by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on 11th November 1875; the last stone was set, and the water admitted, on 10th April 1879, and the dock was finally opened for traffic on 1st January 1880.

In addition to the reclamation and dock works, Mr. Ormiston erected the Prongs Lighthouse, a tower 150 feet high on a dangerous reef, at the entrance to Bombay harbour. He also designed the lighthouse in course of erection on the Sonic Rock near the harbour, and erected numerous beacons and landmarks.

Mr. Ormiston was for many years a justice of the peace for Bombay, and was entrusted with many arbitration cases for Government and individuals. He was consulted on harbour and other works in different parts of India, and designed the Albert Edward breakwater now in course of construction under native engineers, to form a harbour for the town of Mandvi, on the coast of Kattywar; also a breakwater for Verawal on the same coast, &c.

In 1879 he visited Cyprus at the request of the Foreign Office, and prepared a report and design for a harbour at Famagusta.

In 1877 he relinquished the post of chief Resident Engineer, and became Consulting Engineer to the Bombay Port Trust in London. His last visit to India was to attend the opening of the Prince's Dock in January 1880, on which occasion he received the decoration of Companion of the Indian Empire.

In February 1881 he visited Venezuela in South America, in his capacity as Chairman of the Bolivar Railway; he minutely inspected the whole of the line, and introduced such changes in the management as he considered desirable.

Early in 1882 he was obliged to give up all work, and died at Freshwater, Isle of Wight, on 9th July 1882, at the age of barely fifty-six.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1880.


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