Meeting - April 2014

Friday, 25 April 2014 - 7:30pm
Thomas Telford
Roger Cragg

Including his Midlands achievemants
A PowerPoint presentation


Thomas Telford (1757-1834), founder and first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, was the subject of a presentation at the Society’s April meeting given by Mr Roger Cragg, a retired Civil Engineer and lecturer at Coventry College.
Many of those present were of course aware of the name Thomas Telford and some were also aware of his notable Civil Engineering works in and around the Midlands but Roger Cragg not only talked about Telford’s work and contribution to Civil Engineering around the world but also spoke of his humble beginning in life as the son of a shepherd near Westerkirk in upper Eskdale, which is close to Langholm in Dumfriesshire. In 1757 this was a very remote area and we learned that Telford’s father died shortly after he was born and he was brought up by his mother with the help of other poor farming tenants in the area. He was educated, again mainly by his mother, and when old enough went to herd sheep for local farmers until, when old enough, he was eventually bound apprentice to a stonemason who mainly built stone walls and bridges across streams. It was from these simple beginnings he developed into the world renowned Civil Engineer he eventually became. His lifetime work involved designing and building canals, roads, bridges and buildings in Britain and other industrial nations.
During the discussions which followed the talk one member of audience drew attention to two books, which he had brought with him to the meeting, which dealt in depth with Telford’s life and achievements, one being part of a “First Edition” set of three books published in 1862 entitled “Lives of Engineers” by Samuel Smiles and a more modern book by the author L T C Rolt entitled “Thomas Telford”, also one of a set of three dealing with well known Engineers. The Rolt book, which had been bought second hand in 1963, was also found to contain an interesting typewritten letter from Rolt, dated 25th April 1958, addressed to a Mr C V Hancock who is believed to have been a Birmingham book critic. The speaker and several members of the audience were very interested in these items.

Brian Sadler