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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Public Works Department

Public Works Department.

The Public Works Department has of late years become insignificant in comparison with its former importance. The great bulk of the moneys raised by loan was distributed throughout the Colony by it; the railways, roads, public building, lighthouses, harbour works and defences, telegraph lines, water-races on goldfields, were all designed and carried out under the supervision of the engineer-in-chief and his army of deputies, and in the early days of the public works policy the important Department of Immigration was also controlled under this head. Altogether, up to March, 1895, the expenditure out of the Public Works Fund amounted to the vast sum of £29,647,175, but the expenditure for the year 1894–1895 dwindled down to less than £360,000. Changes are contemplated by which the control over the construction of roads now held by the Lands Department shall be transferred to the Public Works Department, and the railway construction branch shall be vested in the Railway Department. During the last four years the most of the work in the Colony has been done under the co-operative system, an average of 840 men having been employed. It is claimed by the authorities that the wages earned and the work done has been satisfactory to both employers and employed; but this statement has been questioned by competent authorities who assert that better work is done for less money under the contract system. It is undeniable that, in works where a large amount of labour is necessary, the chief requisite is organising ability. This cannot be looked for in a gang of co-operative workers, and the frequent complaints indicate that the system is not a perfect one, and it is obvious that as the nature of the work is so various, ranging from mere shifting of earth a few yards, to the building of bridges across dangerous rivers, the need of men of ability becomes more evident; and this is proved by the fact that such works are still let by tender to contractors. The salaries and expenses of the Department, which consists of twenty-two officers, is £8600 per annum.

The Hon. R. J. Seddon, Minister for Public Works, is in charge. His career is given at length on pages 40–3.

Mr. Horatio John Hooper Blow, Under-Secretary for Public Works and Railways, was born in London, and received his education at Brighton, at the Arnold House School. He was brought up to a mercantile life, and gained some experience in his father's business in London. He came out to the Colony with his father, arriving in Wellington in 1871, per ship “Celaeno.” Mr. Blow, senior, then started a leather manufacturing business in Wellington, which he conducted for some time, the subject of this notice assisting him therein. Later on he accepted an appointment with Mr. W. J. Gandy, of Wellington, and remained in his office for some time. In July, 1873, he entered the accountant's office in the Public Works Department, a position for which his previous experience had eminently fitted him. Mr. Blow has page 148 Mr. Horatio John Hooper Blow been in the Public Works Department ever since, with the exception of nine months in 1877, when he was in the Railway Department. He was appointed Record Clerk of the Public Works Department 1st of January, 1878; Acting Assistant Under-Secretary 1st of January, 1885; Assistant Under-Secretary 1st of October, 1885; Acting Under-Secretary 3rd of June, 1891; Under-Secretary for Public Works 12th of October, 1891, and Under-Secretary for Railways (as well as Public Works) 1st of January, 1895. Mr. Blow is a member of the Newtown Bowling Club, and was elected its president in 1894. He also takes an interest in church matters, and for two years held the office of churchwarden in St. Mark's Church. In 1875 he was married to Miss Russell, daughter of the late Mr. G. R. Russell, builder, of Wellington, and sister to Mr. G. W. Russell, M.H.R. for Riccarton. His family consists of three daughters and three sons.

Mr. William Henry Hales, Engineer-in-Chief and Marine Engineer for the Colony, was born in 1830 in New Brunswick, where his father, Mr. James R. Hales, was a ship builder and owner. Educated in his father's house, the subject of this notice studied for his profession in Liverpool, England, and in 1853 sailed for the colonies. For three years he was engaged in contracting and general business in Melbourne, and in 1856 he crossed the Tasman Sea and landed in Wellington, The first six years of life in New Zealand was spent as a builder and contractor for road and bridge works. Mr. Hales first entered the public service under the Provincial Government in 1861 as assistant engineer of roads in the Wanganui and Rangitikei districts. After about a year he was transferred to Wellington to take charge of the wharf and Harbour Works, and to this was afterwards added the care of the roads in the district. In the year 1864 Mr. Hales was again sent to Wanganui, his duty on this occasion being to take charge of the construction of the North Road, which was being pushed forward to facilitate the settlement of the country. He continued to direct this work till 1866, when the Maori war temporarily put an end to the construction. The same year the subject of this notice was re-transferred to Wellington and placed in charge of the district for the Provincial Government, and at the same time he became acting engineer for Wellington under the General Government, continuing both services till 1868, when he left the Provincial Government employ. In 1869 Mr. Hales left Wellington to put up the lighthouse at Farewell Spit, after completing which he had charge of the construction of the Wanganui Bridge. Remaining in Wanganui he continued in charge of roads and works generally till 1875, when once more he was transferred to the Empire City. On the establishment of the Public Works Department, in 1871, Mr. Hales became an officer, and has continued in this branch of the Civil Service up to the present time. On his removal in 1875, Mr. Hales took charge of all works in the Wellington District. The Wellington-Masterton line of Railway was then in course of construction, and Mr. Hales saw the work completed; at about that time five miles of the Wellington-Manawatu Railway was constructed by the Government and subsequently abandoned. In 1881 he went to Auckland as district engineer and remained for ten years. When Mr. Blair, the late Engineer-in-Chief was taken ill, in 1891. Mr. Hales was recalled from Anckland, placed in charge and appointed acting engineer-in-chief. A year after he became Engineer-in-Chief, and some six or eight months later still he was appointed Marine Engineer for the Colony. Mr Hales married, in 1869, Miss Wilkinson, daughter of Mr. D. N. Wilkinson, horticulturalist, of Wellington. His family numbers six sons; the eldest is in the working Railways Department, the second is at Hawera in the Bank of New Zealand, the next is in the office of Mr. William Henry Hales page 149 the Public Trustee, the fourth is at Wellington College, and the two youngest are at school.

Mr. Peter Seton Hay, M.A., M. Inst. C.E., Resident Engineer, Public Works Department, was born in Glasgow in 1852. Arriving in Port Chalmers in 1860, per ship “Stormcloud,” Mr. Hay was educated at the Otago University. He graduated in Dunedin and gained the degree of B.A. in 1877, and that of M.A. with first-class honours in mathematics and mathematical physics in the year following. Mr. Hay entered the Public Works Department, Dunedin, in January, 1875, as a cadet. Four years later he was promoted to the position of assistant engineer, an office which he held for five years in the Edinburgh of New Zealand. In 1879 Mr. Hay was married to Miss Mary Clarke, daughter of Mr. Peter Clarke, of Clinton, Otago. His family consists of one daughter and four sons. Having done good service in the Dunedin office of the Public Works Department and a good deal of work in the field. Mr. Hay was transferred to Wellington in 1884, and two years later he was promoted to be Resident Engineer. Mr. Hay is a member of the Otago branch of the New Zealand Institute, and was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1891.

Mr. James Arthur McArthur, the Chief Clerk of the Public Works Department, is an officer of long and varied experience. He was born at Oban, in Argyllshire, Scotland, and was educated there and at the High School, Glasgow. Mr. McArthur acquired a practical knowledge of surveying in the Old Land, with the view of pursuing that profession in New Zealand. On arriving in the Colony, however, in 1861, he went to the Gabriel's Gully goldfield in Otago, where he worked as a miner for about six months, when he accepted an appointment as assistant surveyor. Subsequently he was appointed district surveyor on the survey staff of the Southland Provincial Government, under the late Mr. Theophilus Mr. James Arthur McArthur Heale. He remained in this position until about 1870, when he met with an accident which disabled him from the further practice of his profession in the field. In 1872 he entered the Land Transfer Department as chief clerk and draughtsman at Invercargill, and was transferred to the Public Works Department, Dunedin, as office engineer, in 1875. In 1884 he was removed to the office of the same department in Auckland, whence (in 1889) he was transferred to the head office in Wellington, where he was shortly afterwards promoted to the position he now holds. Mr. McArthur married Miss Ellen Bird, daughter of Mr. A. Bird, builder, Caversham, Otago.

Mr. George John Clapham, Accountant in the Public Works Department, was born at Wellington in 1856. Educated at Thorndon Public School under Mr. Mowbray, and at Mr. Brann's Commercial School on the Terrace, Mr. Clapham became clerk in the Treasury in 1872. After six years' experience in the Service, he was transferred to the Public Works Department as a clerk. He has gradually risen step by step till gaining the Senior Clerkship, from which he was promoted to be accountant in 1890. Mr. Clapham married Miss Curtis, daughter of Mr. H. Curtis, of Molesworth Street.

Mr. Henry William Highland Millais, the Record Clerk in the Public Works Department, was born in Jersey in 1851, and educated there at St. James' Collegiate School. He is a son of the late Mr. George Henry Millais, of Jersey, and first cousin to Sir John Everett Millais, Bart., the celebrated artist. Mr. Millais came to the Colony in 1873, in the ship “Countess of Kintore,” landing in Auckland, and entering the Bank of New Zealand as a clerk. After four years in the Bank, he tried farming for a few months, but relinquished that in time to join the Government service before the end of 1879. The next six years he spent in Dunedin in the Public Works Department under the late Mr. Henry William Highland Millais page 150 Mr. Blair, and in 1885 was transferred to Wellington to the position he now occupies. In 1887 Mr. Millais was married to Miss Ross, and their family consists of five girls.

Other Officers.

Land Purchase Officer—H. Thompson.

Clerks—W. D. Dumbell, L. F. Tegnér, H. R. Rae, J. Williams, N. Jacobs, W. E. A. Butler, E. Horneman, F. E. Banks.

Chief Draughtsman—W. G. Rutherford.

Architectural Draughtsman—J. Campbell.

Draughtsmen—T. Perham, E. Jackson, W. Withers, W. G. Swan, J. H. Price, P. N. Hunt.

Mr. John Alexander Wilson, Resident Engineer of the Public Works Department, is a son of Judge Wilson, of the Native Lands Court. Although born in France, Mr. Wilson was brought up in the Colony, receiving his education at the Auckland College and Grammar School. At the age of eighteen he entered the Public Works Department as a cadet, serving for some time under Mr. C. Y. O'Connor, now Engineer-in-Chief in Western Australia. Since joining the department, in 1875, Mr. Wilson has been in its service continually with the exception of twelve months (1891), during which period he was engineer to the Westport Harbour Board. Five years after joining the staff he was appointed assistant engineer on the West Coast of the South Island. This position he held for a long time, his principal experience being on harbour works, and in the construction of railways, roads, bridges, buildings, and water races. In May, 1893, he received his present appointment. Mr. Wilson was married in 1883 to Miss Mary Falla, daughter of Mr. George Falla, who was the first chairman of the Buller County Council. His family consists of four daughters. Mr. Wilson is an Assoc. M. Inst. C.E., London.

Inspection Of Machinery Branch.

All steamers engaged in trading in the Colony, whether in foreign, Home trade, or river and extended river service, are examined twice a year by the engineer surveyors of the Marine Department, and survey certificates granted them. There were 212 steamers engaged in the respective trades in 1894, of an aggregate registered tonnage of 37,128 and 9630 nominal horse-power. The inspectors also examine and grant certificates to marine engineers. All engines on land are also periodically examined and reported on, and certificates granted; the inspectors also have authority to order that all exposed or dangerous parts of machinery shall be safely fenced off, and in mines where the motive-power for haulage or ventilation is frequently water or air, the machinery has to be examined and certified to by an inspector. Owing to the faithful manner in which the Act is administered, accidents are very rare in the Colony. The number of boilers inspected and for which certificates were issued in 1894 was 2750. It is interesting to note that of 159 new boilers which were put to work during that year, seventy-eight were imported and eighty-one made in the Colony. Under the Act of 1893 it is imperative that all drivers of locomotives and traction-engines shall hold certificates. The Department is virtually self-supporting, as the fees collected during 1894 amounted to £3820, while the total expense of the Department was £4100.

Mr. William Meffan Mowatt, Chief Inspector of Machinery, Principal Engineer Surveyor of Steamers, and Examiner of Engineers for New Zealand, was born in Forfarshire, Scotland, where he was educated. Mr. Mowatt was apprenticed to the engineering trade for five years with Messrs. Munro and Co., of Arbroath, completing his term in 1869. Afterwards he visited Barrow-in-Furness, Belfast, and Glasgow, gaining considerable experience. Arriving in Port Chalmers, in 1872, per ship “Janet Court,” Mr. Mowatt found employment at the Otago Foundry, rising to the position of foreman of works. After some eighteen months he entered the service of the Union Steamship Company, acting as chief engineer on various steamers for eleven years. In 1881, Mr. Mowatt was sent to Scotland to supervise the construction of the ill-fated s.s. “Wairarapa,” in which he returned to the Colony, and of which he was an officer till leaving the Company's employ in 1884. For over a year Mr. Mowatt had charge of the Belfast Freezing Works, Canterbury. He joined the Government service in January, 1886, as Inspector of Machinery, on the retirement of the late Mr. Nancarrow, and in June, 1892, was promoted to the office of Chief Inspector. It is worthy of remark that, notwithstanding the great increase in the use of machinery in New Zealand, there has been no explosion for the past ten years. Mr. Mowatt is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and has for some years been attached to the Port Chalmers Marine Lodge, E.C. In 1881, Mr. Mowatt married Miss Potter, daughter of Mr. George Potter, of Nelson, and has three daughters and four sons.

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Mr. Henry Alexander McGregor, Inspector of Machinery and Engineer Surveyor of steamers, Wellington, was born at Largamore, Argyleshire, Scotland; but when six years old went to England with his father, Dr. McGregor, who was appointed medical surgeon to the South Hetton Colliery Company, Durham. Here he was educated and served his time as an engineer. On the completion of his apprenticeship (1860) he went to sea, embarking at Liverpool per ship “Lightening.” Arrived in Victoria he joined the engineering staff of the s.s. “Blackbird.” He soon after found employment in the Williamstown Railway Workshops, where he was a shopmate of the present Premier, the Hon. R. J. Seddon. Soon afterwards Mr. McGregor went to the diggings, where he obtained a situation as engineer with an important mining company at Dalesford, known as the “Royal Standard.” Leaving the diggings he took a position as an engineer on the s.s. “Lady Darling,” and later on was transferred to the engineering staff of the s.s. “Tararua.” In 1868 Mr. McGregor made his home in New Zealand. For several years he was engineer on the s.s. “Moa” at Lyttelton, and was subsequently foreman of the Otago Foundry at Dunedin. In 1875 he joined, the Government Service as Inspector of Machinery under the late Mr. Nancarrow. Mr. McGregor had a wide range of experience both by land and sea before he was selected for the position of Inspector of Machinery, and he has been an inspector for twenty years. He is at the present time in the Old Country enjoying a well earned holiday, where doubtless he will make himself acquainted with whatever may be of use to him in his particular line. Mr. McGregor was married at Hartepool in 1860 to Miss Stark, daughter of Mr. Anthony Stark of Durham, and of their nine children five daughters and two sons survive. The eldest son is an engineer on the s.s, “Talune,” and his brother is serving his time with Messrs. Luke and Co., Limited. Of the daughters, four are married : to Mr. John Luke, of the firm of Luke and Co., Limited; Mr. Robinson, engineer on the s.s. “Mahinapua,” Mr. Garratt of Dunedin, who until lately was well known as a chemist in Wellington; and Mr. Chas Aitkin, a traveller for Messrs. John Dmhie and Co., Limited.

Mr. H. A. Mcgregor.

Mr. H. A. Mcgregor.

Mr. Phillip James Carman, Inspector of Machinery, Engineer Surveyor, and Examiner of Engineers, was born in 1847, in Norfolk, where he was educated. He was apprenticed at Duke's Palace Ironworks, Norwich, completing his term in 1866. In the same year he arrived in Wellington per ship “Weymouth,” which brought the first cable for Cook Straits. For about two years Mr. Carman worked at Mr. C. Seagar's Foundry, and in 1868 was appointed second engineer on the s.s. “Ladybird.” After a short time he took a similar position on the s.s. “Wellington,” which he left to enter into business with Mr. William Seagar, under the style of Seagar and Carman. In order to accept the position of engineer for the celebrated Caledonian mine, Mr. Carman retired from the firm within a year. He occupied this position all the time of the great finds, retiring at the end of three years. For some years subsequently Mr. Carman acted as engineer on various coastal steamers; he was second engineer for two years on the ill-fated s.s. “Taranaki,” and for a short time on the s.s. “Kennedy,” chief engineer for five years on the s.s, “Manawatu,” for nine years on the s.s. “Grafton,” and for short periods on the s.s. “Wallace” and s.s. “Mahinapua.” Mr. Carman is the inventor and patentee of the “Smoke consuming bridge,” which he tried with success on the s.s. “Mahinapua.” He has held his appointment as inspector of machinery since 1893. Mr. Carman belongs to the Masonic craft, being affiliated with the Phoenix Lodge, E.C., Westport. He was married in 1869 to Miss Annie Kinniburgh, daughter of the late Mr. David Kinniburgh, of Wellington, and has two daughters and six sons. His eldest son is third engineer on board the Union Company's s.s. “Taupo.”

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Other Officers.

Clerk—R. P. Milne. Cadet—B. Anderson.