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Dane Sinclair

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Dane Sinclair (1852-1930), chairman of the British Insulated and Helsby Cables and later managing director of the Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Co

1930 Obituary [1]

DANE SINCLAIR, one of the rapidly diminishing band of British telephone pioneers, died on the 6th May, 1930, at the age of 78.

He was born in Caithness on the 6th June, 1852, and joined the telegraph department of the North British Railway in 1872.

In 1875 he was selected to go to Japan in the capacity of inspector of telegraphs for the Japanese Government.

On his return to this country, after four years in Japan, he was for a time in charge of the telegraph department of the Dundee and Arbroath Joint Railway, and in 1882 he became engineer to the National Telephone Co., in the Glasgow district. This period of his career was marked by a number of inventions connected with telephony.

When the three principal telephone companies were amalgamated, forming the new National Telephone Co., he furnished the directors with a report on the system. His report formed the basis of an entire reorganization, and he was appointed London manager.

In June, 1892, he became engineer-in-chief of the National Telephone Co., which position he continued to hold until 1902. He was the first British telephone engineer to apply automatic switching mechanism to public telephone service. This was carried out at Coatbridge, where an automatic switchboard of his own invention linked up a small number of subscribers to a distant main exchange over a single-junction circuit. An example of this switchboard is deposited in the Institution Museum.

In 1902 he severed his connection with the National Telephone Co. at the invitation of the directors of the (then) British Insulated and Helsby Cables, Ltd., to become general manager of that company. He later became a director and, finally, chairman of the company, which expanded rapidly under his guidance.

When the Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Co., Ltd., was formed in 1911 he was appointed managing director, a position which he held in addition to that of general manager of British Insulated and Helsby Cables, Ltd.

He was also a director of the Associated Telephone and Telegraph Co., the International Automatic Telephone Co., the Midland Electric Corporation for Power Distribution, Ltd., Enfield Cable Works, Ltd., and the Electric Supply Company of Victoria, Ltd.

He was a man of sterling character and in spite of his heavy business cares, took a benevolent interest in the welfare of the large staffs which he controlled. His leisure hours were devoted to contemplative reading, his tastes being those of the literary student.

He joined the Institution as an Associate in 1883, became a Member in 1893 and served on the Council from 1896 to 1898.

1930 Obituary[2]


Mr. Dane Sinclair, whose death we regret to record, occurred on Tuesday, May 6, at Weybridge, was 78 years of age, and played a leading part in the early days, in the development of telegraphy and telephony at home and abroad. Recently, too, he has been concerned in stimulating progress in the automatic operation of the equipment required in the latter system of communication. In addition, the firm, of which he was for many years the chairman, has been instrumental in carrying out improvements in the manufacture of the cables and wires used in power supply and communication circuits, and in erecting overhead lines for the same purposes. The transmission system in Central Scotland, of which a description appears on page 599 of our issue of last week, is a notable example of the latter activity.

Mr. Sinclair was born at Caithness on June 6, 1852, and joined the telegraph department of the North British Railway Company twenty years later. In 1875, he was appointed inspector of telegraphs under the Japanese Government, and remained in that country for five years. On his return, he obtained a position with the Dundee and Arbroath Joint Railway, but in 1882 was appointed engineer of the Glasgow District of the National Telephone Company. Shortly afterwards, as the result of his advice, this concern amalgamated with the United Telephone and the Lancashire and Cheshire Telephone Companies, and in 1892, Mr. Sinclair became engineer and electrician-in-chief of the entire concern, a position which he held until 1902. During this period, it was decided to convert the whole of the telephone system of Great Britain from single to double-circuit working, and considerable pressure, including legal action, was brought to bear to ensure that this change should be accomplished as quickly as possible, even in districts where financially it was hardly justifiable. In 1896, he was appointed jointly with Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Gavey to value the trunk system of the National Telephone Co on its sale to the Post Office, while, in addition, he was largely responsible for introducing methods of standardisation into the equipment used in telephonic working.

After ten years as engineer and electrician-in-chief of the National Telephone Co, Mr. Sinclair was appointed general manager of the British Insulated and Helsby Cables, Limited (now known as the British Insulated Cables, Limited), which had been formed by an amalgamation of the British Insulated Wire Company and the Telegraph Manufacturing Co. This firm under his guidance has risen to a leading position in the cable-manufacturing world. As an indication of this it may be recalled that the recent contracts it has carried out include the overhead equipment required for electrifying railways in both Western Australia and India. The firm also acquired the Strowger automatic telephone patents, and some years ago formed a company for their development which is now known as the Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Co. As is well known, this system, in a modified form has been adopted by the British Post Office, and has lately been applied to the operation of the totalisator.

Mr. Sinclair was elected a member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the year 1893, and had served on the Council of that body."

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