Website Banner. John Monash: Engineering enterprise prior to World War 1.

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People who interacted with JM
Notes on special individuals, Page 2.

On this Page:

Gregory, John Steven.   Gummow, Frank Moorhouse.   Harvey, William Wyatt.   Laing, John Albert.

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John Steven Gregory

Gregory first turns up in our research notes in October 1899 when he signed a letter on behalf of Monash, and January 1900 when he prepared a pencil drawing for the ill-fated first King's Bridge, Bendigo. In March, Professor Kernot recommended him to Monash & Anderson for full employment. He had just completed his BCE course and had helped Kernot with consulting work on the Flemington Grandstand. On Monday 19th, Monash wrote to JSG: "Following upon our conversation on Saturday … we shall be glad to see you make a start here as soon as you can, say Wednesday morning". (The terms agreed are not set out in this letter.)

There is little material evidence of JSG's initial work, though he made drawings for the Barber's Creek and Tambo River Bridges, and assisted JTNA with M&A's consultancy for the Shire of Healesville. From October 1900 on, there is much more evidence, including calculations and drawings for the Coliban Monier arch bridge and the eight Bendigo bridges.

At the end of November, M&A wrote a reference recommending Gregory for the position of Secretary and Engineer for Healesville Shire. They described him as "a gentleman of high University qualifications" and noted that "much of the professional work we have performed in your Shire during the past 12 months has been done by him". The application was unsuccessful and JSG continued to work on the routine of Monier arch design for M&A, amongst other duties. Of course, all his calculation and drawing would have been carried out under the supervision of Monash and/or Anderson.

The collapse of the first King's Street Bridge on 14 May 1901 spurred a review of those already built. The first arch strip of the High Street Bridge was turned on 18th; but it was "built to the wrong curves". On 28th JSG wrote to M&A's Bendigo office that "When I stated that the curve of the arch was not affected by the slight correction to the main triangular forces, I stated the case too well so I am enclosing a tracing of the arch and curve so that you may judge for yourself". Monash travelled to Bendigo on the 4.50 p.m. train that day, to attend the remainder of the inquest. The following day Gregory made a careful analysis of the thrust line under dead load alone and wrote: "The curve is similar to the one I sent up yesterday and comes within 2 inches of the underside of the arch ring at half the span". He, like Monash and Anderson, must have had some sleepness nights around this time; though the inquest absolved all concerned and modern analysis suggests the bridges were not over-stressed.

Modern understanding of this type of bridge is that the theory prevailing in 1901 was capable of predicting whether a Monier arch of given profile and concrete strength would support a specified load safely (assuming the arch was approximately square to the river and foundation movement was small); but it could not predict the position of the thrust line with the accuracy quoted by JSG. (For a highly-skewed arch such as King's Bridge, the theory was severely deficient.)

In August 1901 Gregory again applied for a position in local government. A letter from M&A to Councillor Walker, Town Hall, describes him as having been "in our employ as Assistant Engineer for 18 months" and "most satisfactory". Again, JSG was unsuccessful, and he continued to work on the remaining bridges to be built under the Bendigo contract, and on the replacement King's Bridge until November. He then disappears from our research notes for a while, until April 1902, after which he seems to be doing odd jobs on a variety of projects: hydraulic calculations; surveying; and design of arch bridges for Grant St, Ballarat and Ford's Ck, Mansfield.

A crisis came at the end of November 1902. On 19th JSG wrote to Monash from 'Rosedale', Inkerman St, St Kilda, to say he was indisposed and would be absent from town for a while. On the 24th he was acting as Engineer to the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria in connection with the installation of Monier pipes at the Flemington Showground. On 3 December Monash wrote saying he had been hoping JSG would call in to the office. JM did not want "to put him in difficulty"; but due to lack of business and the outcome of the Fyansford case, it was necessary to "reduce the expenses of the office". He offered JSG the use of the office for any business that might come his way and assured him he would get first refusal when things picked up.

Our notes show only small jobs for M&A in March and June-July 1903. JSG was disappointed with a reference written in April that merely recorded his experience with the firm; and it was reworded to say that his work was of a high standard, he had a thorough grasp of scientific principles, and M&A could confidently recommend him for "a position where a thorough knowledge of these principles is essential".

In January 1904, Monash offered Gregory a post as site engineer on his first reinforced concrete girder bridge at Stawell St, Ballarat East, promising him the support of a "good, reliable foreman". This was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate his abilities while Monash was commuting between Melbourne and Koondrook, preoccupied with the troublesome foundations of the bridge over the Murray. Unfortunately, Monash wrote to JSG's address in Lorne when the latter was temporarily in Melbourne. By the time he received the offer, JM had appointed another young engineer. He telegrammed JSG: "Very sorry was compelled in interim make other arrangements" and further apologised in a follow-up letter, telling JSG to keep in touch.

In February 1904, Gregory asked JM to endorse his application to become a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers [London]. He wrote: "I have fixed the date of my severing connection with the firm as September 1903 although of course I had not been in continuous employment during 1903". In March, M&A supported two more applications: for 'Examiner of Patent Applications' and for 'Assistant City Surveyor'.

In April JSG paid a visit to Sydney. In his letter of introduction to GF&Co, Monash wrote: "Mr Gregory has been for the past year (almost continuously) a member of our staff. He has not been intimately concerned with reinforced concrete work [as opposed to Monier arch work], although, of course, he has been in touch with same". There were further fitful attempts to find jobs for him in the M&A office until February 1905, when he applied for a position with the Victorian PWD. The reference supplied by JM included the statement that JSG was "under engagement" to M&A for nearly 4 years as Principal Assistant Engineer. Gregory thus found himself in March working for Catani and liaising with Monash on the tender for the St Kilda St Bridge, Elwood. He supplied JM with survey information (on Catani's instructions) and carried out some calculations, perhaps in connection with the PWD's analysis of the bridge, which led to some alterations to JM's design.

Thereafter, there is no record in our research notes of any further involvement with Monash. Gregory's Report and Letter Book from the PWD for 1904 to 1908 is in PROV (VPRS 4377). The Varsity Engineer (magazine of the Melbourne University Engineering Students' Society) November 1910 states he was then Assistant Engineer at the Briseis Tin Mine, Derby, Tasmania (p.34). The Victorian Municipal Directory shows him as Shire Engineer at Swan Hill from 1911 to 1915 at least.


Frank Moorhouse Gummow (1862-1946).

Photo (FMG is 2nd from right).

It is difficult to separate the story of FMG's relationship with JM from the story of the relationship between their two firms, because FMG's generosity is mostly demonstrated in financial and technical terms. However, the intention here is to concentrate on the man and his relationship with JM. He was of major importance to Monash's pre-WW1 engineering.

FMG's father, Benjamin Gummow, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, arrived in Australia in 1857 with his wife and one son (B. H. Gummow, q.v.). They were invited to settle at Swan Hill, where they became important in the church community. Three more sons were born, one on the Loddon, two in Swan Hill. The last was FMG, born in 1862. [Info from Ballarat & District Historical Soc.] FMG's student record shows he studied civil engineering at Melbourne University from 1879 to 1881 and took out an H2 in the February 1882 Honours exams. He married Annie Stratton in 1885 and they had a daughter Ida in Paddington (Sydney) in 1888 [B&DHS].

Don Fraser states (1985) that after graduation, FMG "worked on the Bondi sewer, the Hyde Park sewer, excavations at the Potts Hill reservoir and other similar works in Sydney. In 1892 he was awarded his first contract for water supply works in Adelaide". From at least 1886, he was involved with several partners in a number of commercial entities tendering for civil engineering works in Sydney and Adelaide. These mainly operated under the name 'Carter Gummow & Co.' When W. J. Baltzer was unable to interest his PWD employers in the Monier system, FMG and his partners took Baltzer on as their technical expert and joined him in taking out Australian patents under licence to Wayss in Germany.

Althougn Gummow's handwritten letters to Monash display considerable technical knowledge, a comment in one of his later letters confirms he was more interested in the executive side of engineering. It is likely that much of the technical content came from Baltzer. Carter Gummow & Co's first major Monier structures were the aqueducts at Annandale (Sydney). They went on to build Monier arch bridges, and later service reservoirs, girder bridges and buildings in reinforced concrete. They also established a factory in Sydney making Monier pipes. After the death of Carter in 1898, FMG briefly operated as 'F. M. Gummow & Co', then joined with another partner to form 'Gummow Forrest & Co'.

FMG was in Melbourne in September 1897 for a conference which gave prominence to the Monier system. At the time, Monash was in Brisbane assisting with an arbitration case. His partner J. T. N. Anderson took the opportunity to approach Gummow and persuade him to accept Monash & Anderson as CG&Co's representatives in the Colony of Victoria. Gummow agreed, but the relationship between the two men did not go smoothly over the next few years.

A major factor was that Anderson felt Gummow was not sufficiently aggressive in his commercial dealings with the Victorian PWD whilst securing the contract for the Anderson St Bridge. Anderson tried to take matters into his own hands. When Gummow was next in Melbourne he avoided JTNA, who described him, in a letter to JM, as sulking like a schoolgirl. Subsequently Gummow told Anderson some details of his personal wealth, and the latter decided this, combined with temporary complications arising from Carter's death, explained FMG's relaxed approach to business and his lack of interest in expansion outside NSW.

Gummow left the University of Melbourne, aged about 20, just as Monash entered it, aged 16. They may have met socially before or after; but the first meeting of which I have knowledge is when JM was in Sydney in connection with the Riverina water rights case. He visited Carter Gummow & Co on 25 and 26 March 1898 to study their pipe-making techniques and the Monier system. JM must have been relieved when completion of his legal work in Perth (July 1899) allowed him to return to Melbourne to use his tact and diplomacy to smooth over misunderstandings between FMG and JTNA.

From then on, Monash took over management of relations between the two firms. The personal relationship revealed in lengthy hand-written letters is warm. Monash's tone was initially so respectful that, before I was aware of the small difference in age, I assumed FMG was from an older generation. To some extent he played the role of mentor. At the end of 1899 JM, after "yielding to pressure", joined the Board of Enquiry into the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works, potential massive users of Monier pipes. When Chief Engineer Thwaites announced he felt unable to place any orders with GF&Co as long as Monash was part of the Enquiry, JM wrote asking Gummow's advice. FMG replied with "warmest congratulations", adding that JM's move would bring indirect benefits to both their firms.

Gummow seems to have been imperturbable as a businessman. He played a good game of poker with Catani over the price for the Anderson St Bridge, despite JTNA's forceful attempts to persuade him to lower it. When Monash reported that architect/engineer Charles D'Ebro had possibly breached the Monier patent in the foundations of a new Melbourne hotel, FMG replied that "some classes of architects sail close to the wind, but it is advisable to leave them alone, as better classes of architects will come to headquarters and take no risks". In December 1900, consoling JM on his failure to obtain an eagerly sought contract, FMG wired: "Regret treatment you received over Lonsdale Lighthouse. Agree it is best to be philosophic". He also commiserated over M&A's misfortunes at the Wheeler's and Tambo River bridge projects, and JM replied that the letters were "characteristic evidence of your goodwill towards myself and my firm"

The supportive nature of the relationship did not prevent Monash from keeping his business interests clearly in mind. Gummow's response was understanding. Late in 1899 he agreed to to await better times when JM wrote that M&A would be unable to pay the £320 it would soon owe in royalties, because of the adverse judgement in the Fyansford Bridge case.

Gummow seems to have been cautious by nature. From the start of the relationship with M&A he was worried that enthusiasm to gain contracts at cheap prices might lead to low quality work, which would damage the reputation of the new material just as GF&Co was struggling to establish it in the face of stiff opposition from vested interests. One of M&A's memos to foreman Buick reads "We are sorry to tell you that Gummow's views on the Monier are slightly more conservative than ours, and it will no doubt end in our having to make the Monier a little heavier than we at first intended". Fear of industrial espionage was also a constant worry for FMG.

Early in 1900, Gummow submitted a thesis on the Monier system to Melbourne University to obtain his Master of Civil Engineering degree. This was an expansion of a treatise issued in 1896 by CG&Co. According to Don Fraser, this in turn was based on notes compiled by Baltzer in 1892-5. At the end of March that year, FMG and his wife left for a trip "of 3 or 4 months" to Japan. In August he came to Melbourne, and Monash invited him home for the evening where they discussed the establishment of a pipe factory. In December he wrote on Carter Gummow & Co letterhead to inform M&A. "that our company is and has been in liquidation since August of last year and it is our wish to finally dissolve the partnership at an early date". He presented an account for £175-19-11 for royalties still owing to the firm.

The Gummows sailed for England on 26 January 1901 on the Himalaya, calling at Melbourne on 28th and 29th. Thus, FMG was away when the Kings Bridge disaster occurred. Correspondence indicates that he visited Germany and sent information about the latest Monier techniques back to Sydney. Serious negotiations on the establishment of the Pipe Factory and the question of rights and royalty occurred during this time, JM putting his case with typical courtesy and firmness in a 6-page letter.

The Gummows reached Sydney again on 17 October 1901, from Vancouver, but FMG had sustained a broken foot which impeded his work for some time. JTNA visited the firm at this period and pursued negotiations regarding formation of the Monier Pipe Co in Melbourne. M&A had found it necessary to involve David Mitchell to provide the capital necessary to build up a stock of ready-made items. FMG indicated he was happy with that, and said he would have approached Mitchell himself, if M&A had not been interested in the venture.

In May 1902, FMG provided strong support in Sydney to M&A's tender for the Barham-Koondrook bridge, supplying business intelligence, and persuading the NSW PWD that M&A was sufficiently experienced and dependable to take on the job.

About this time, JTNA left Melbourne to become Chief Engineer of the Dunedin (NZ) Sewerage Board. Monash wrote a long letter to FMG explaining in detail the circumstances of the move, the disastrous financial situation within M&A and the firm's chances of recovery. After further exchanges FMG agreed to allow M&A to supply pipes to Dunedin, should JTNA place an order. JM replied: "Apart altogether from the keen appreciation, which I have, of the liberal business treatment of the matter discussed, and the kind consideration you have shewn to me personally in the nature of the terms proposed, I recognise in your whole attitude, a testimony of your confidence in me, which I value more highly than even the material advantages which may flow to me from the successful prosecution of the enterprise dealt with." In letters about this time, FMG drops the 'Mr' from his letters, and addresses JM as 'Dear Monash'; a sign of friendship in those more formal times. However, to the best of our knowledge, JM continued to address his letters to 'Mr Gummow'.

In December 1902, FMG's partner George Forrest died unexpectedly. This must have thrown a heavier workload onto him, and added to the pressure for a settlement of M&A's debts.

At the start of 1903, Gummow became seriously concerned about industrial espionage and warned JM in many letters to be careful whom he allowed into the Pipe Factory, and what he showed them.

From mid-1903 there was much juggling over the possibility of supplying pipes for the Hobart (Tasmania) sewerage scheme. JM was keen to get permission to tender; but it seems FMG decided in this case to keep matters in his own hands. He went to Hobart and got caught in a smallpox scare, spending a week in quarantine before being allowed to enter Sydney, and had to cancel a plan to come to Melbourne. To make matters worse, a mistake in calculations by one of the parties led to his losing the contract to a maker of stoneware pipes by a narrow margin.

In July 1903 JM broached the possibility of moving into the pipe-making business in South and Western Australia, noting "I have in the past gathered your disinclination to operate, with an active interest, in other States, a point of view which was the basis, no doubt, of the licenses to us in Victoria, and [to] Messrs Finlayson Bros in Queensland". (The Queensland initiative lapsed.)

In August 1903, explaining why he was unable to repay the £146 still owing to GF&Co, JM wrote another long letter frankly revealing the detail of his business activities and financial circumstances. He thanked FMG for having "stood by, without a vestige of security, and on the faith of our efforts" in the face of M&A's financial difficulties. FMG continued to press gently for payment of debts and royalties. Many of his letters at this time are on his own letterhead: 'F M Gummow, MCE, Civil and Consulting Engineer'.

Throughout this period, and up to about 1909, JM wrote constantly to GF&Co for technical advice regarding computations, construction practice and the chemistry of concrete. On one occasion Gummow replied that he would have to refer "to Europe" (presumably to Wayss & Co) so that a response would not be forthcoming for two or three months.

In December 1903 JM again explained at great length why his financial difficulties prevented him from clearing debt owed to the estate of George Forrest. He sent a part-payment from his personal earnings on the Koondrook project, asked for "further indulgence" and, having received a favourable reply, thanked FMG for his "considerate letter". (When JM was finally able to send a cheque clearing the debt in April 1905, FMG implied that he had quietly settled the Forrest estate some time previously, putting in his own money on JM's behalf.)

In mid 1904 there was close consultation over attempts by the Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia to challenge the Monier patent and move into Victoria. (The challenger had links through Mouchel in Britain to Hennebique.) Monash, of course, was able to contribute his knowledge as a lawyer and patent agent.

April 1905 saw first negotiations for the dissolution of M&A and the formation of RCMPC. Gummow wanted to omit from the new agreement the provision that allowed Monash to look to GF&Co "for advice and information", but his resolve was not strong. JM wrote about this time in a letter addressed to the firm that he "was not intending to trouble you, but as you kindly invite it, will send drawings of [the proposed] Elwood Bridge for criticism". On the theme of maintaining the reputation of the patent, he continued: "I may say, that Mr Gummow's observation (that he thought we, here, were not so conservative in design as you), was not lost upon me, and while avoiding extravagance, I am striving in all my designs, to keep to the soundest and safest standards". By November 1905 the technical relationship was back on track with JM asking frequent questions regarding design approach and detail, and receiving copious answers.

Information flowed in the other direction in June 1905 when JM sent a copy of his paper 'Notes on tests of reinforced concrete beams', presented to the VIE in May. JM had included methods for calculating the strength of beams and was concerned that FMG would consider he had breached secrecy. He assured him "Among the men among whom this journal circulates there is, I think, no fear of would-be imitators".

A letter dated December 1905 reveals that FMG had just been to New Zealand to look at reinforced concrete wharves built by the Ferro-Concrete Company. In April 1906, he came to Melbourne to meet Mr Robertson of the Ferro-Concrete Company, along with Monash and Gibson, to "discuss arrangement re mutual interests".

In the second half of 1906, Monash's wife 'Vic' was advised by her doctor to spend 3 or 4 weeks in a warmer climate for bronchitis. JM felt able to ask FMG to recommend a good hotel in Sydney, and sent him £10 to be held in reserve in case Vic ran out of cash. Strangely, Vic was informed of this arrangement.

On the business front, Gummow continued to supply JM with intelligence, recommending the new engineer of the Geelong Harbor Trust as "a very nice young fellow", but warning him to be cautious in dealings with the Engineer-in-Chief of South Australia (see e.g. CSR Wharf Glanville). In April 1907 he asked JM for a copy of his draft for the City Building Act "as this question is coming up in Sydney now".

In December 1907, as part of his campaign against the competing Expanded Metal Company, Monash described "Mr Gummow, of Sydney" as one of "the only three Engineers who have seriously and scientifically practised Reinforced Concrete in Australasia". (The other two were JM and Robertson.) In March 1908 he wrote to his sister 'Mat', "Gummow in Sydney and I in Victoria have simply and boldly been the pioneers of a new era in Engineering. We are the precursors of a new development in the engineering profession, viz: the Civil Engineer of the future will be first and foremost the commercial directing head of Engineering enterprise and industry … the scientific side of him will be merely an adjunct or subordinate function to the main purpose of his being a personal Director of Engineering enterprise".

After December 1908, our research notes contain no requests to GF&Co for technical advice. This may be an accident of the way we structured our research, or of the fact that we have not mananged to locate some of the letterbooks around this period; but it is more likely that Monash no longer needed such advice, and with increasing competition, GF&Co could no longer afford the time to supply it. The Monier patent for Victoria expired in February 1910, relieving JM of the need to pay royalties.

In August 1910, Gummow came to Melbourne to help lobby for the use of reinforced concrete for the Port Melbourne Pier. That is the last major instance in our notes of serious cooperation. In April 1911, JM wrote to FMG explaining the mathematics of purchasing an annuity, which suggests he was thinking of retirement. He was then about 49 years of age.

Early in 1913 JM congratulated Gummow on a deal he had made. FMG replied: "as you state, the deal fits in with my personal wishes and health. I hope matters will be cleaned up by the end of the month, in the meantime I am up to my eyes in it fixing up inventories &c".

I have not yet sighted anything to explain what this deal involved. It may have been a case of FMG selling his interest in GF&Co to his colleagues. The pipe factory was sold to the NSW Government in 1914 or 1915.)

FMG's thoughts on the civil engineering profession are summarised in a letter to JM in April 1913 congratulating him on trying to raise the standard of engineers in Australia by his Presidential Address to the VIE. FMG wrote:

"I am afraid time only, and the placing of College trained men at the head of affairs will bring it about. Early in life it struck me that the University trained man was at a discount hence my turning[?] what ability I posessed in taking on the Commercial side, and using my engineering knowlege to help me, and as time went on gradually dropped being an Engineer, of course. I know this is very wrong, but Engineering holds out very little inducement either financially, or socially, owing to what you point out in your address. Your aim is a high one and requires strong men and measures to attain the objects desired, and which I fear can never be attained whilst Australia has such strong Public Departments, Local Governments &c, who take the majority of Engineers. The life and environment especially of Public Departments tends to jealousies and hence no cohesion as is necessary if what you desire is to be reached".

He urged JM to "strive on" but was "pessimist" enough to feel that Monash would "only lay the seeds and future generations will benefit".

I know nothing about FMG's subsequent activities. A notice in the Sydney Morning Herald on 5 June 1946 said that he had died in Sydney on 3rd and had been privately cremated. Nothing appeared in the SMH 'In Memoriam' column on 5th. I have been unable to find an obituary in SMH for the following few days (up to 12th), or the Ballarat Courier within a similar period, or in the Journal of the Institution of Engineers Australia.


William Wyatt Harvey.

This account is somewhat lengthy because Harvey's story must be placed in the context of the early history of the SARC Co and Monash's approach to management. It says much about the responsibilities of a young civil engineer at the time.

After passing his fourth-year exams at the University of Melbourne in November 1905, Harvey was recommended to Monash by one of the lecturers, T W Fowler. JM wrote to him on 9th offering a few months' practical experience "of a type which would suit a fourth-year man". However, there would be no pay "beyond a nominal sum to cover the necessary incidental expenses of travelling about and wear and tear". Harvey accepted, and was set to work on the Hide & Skin Store. JM must have been satisfied with his work because from March 1906, perhaps after attempting the Honours exams, he appears as a full-time employee.

In 1906 Harvey contributed to computations for the AML&F Offices in Melbourne, Universal Chambers, the Dental Hospital, the Kilmore Bridge, the covering over the Pigdon St Drain and, significantly, the railway bridge at Hindmarsh River, Victor Harbor, South Australia. Regarding the Drain Cover, JM wrote "Have looked over design which appears excellent - give Lynch orders to carry on".

There are clues that Harvey showed responsibility and a willingness to take decisions on site in JM's absence. He was offered the post of Resident Engineer of the recently-formed South Australian Reinforced Concrete Co, based in Adelaide, and arrived there on 30 April 1907, on a salary of £25 per month. The position was a considerable responsibility for a recent graduate. He was to be directed and advised by JM on engineering matters; but mainly by letter. Monash could visit Adelaide only at irregular intervals as business and military duties in Melbourne permitted. I have not yet checked Harvey's birth date, but if he followed the usual course of entry to University at 16 or 17, he might have been 21 or 22 when he took up duties.

The first task was making and driving reinforced concrete piles for the Hindmarsh bridge, a very new technology in Australia. There was a constant stream of letters from Harvey to Monash - who in turn referred often to Gummow Forrest & Co in Sydney - but WWH must have learned much by trial-and-error on site. Judging from our research notes, JM's first visit to Adelaide following the appointment was in July/August 1907. Travelling on the overnight train from Melbourne, he arrived on Wednesday 31st July to talk with S.A. Engineer-in-Chief, A B Moncrieff, about planned projects; and with architect Herbert Jackman about the proposed Kithers Building. Harvey was probably included in these discussions. Early on 1st they travelled to Victor Harbor to observe the pile-driving. At noon on 2nd Monash returned to Adelaide to complete business there, and left on the afternoon train for Melbourne on Saturday 3rd. (The pile-driving was successful.)

The same month, negotiations were commenced for the Hindmarsh-Thebarton Tramway Bridge, the Glanville Wharf, and the Register Building. The talks would have been handled mainly by SARC's Managing Director, E H Bakewell, but again WWH must have been involved. He sent the quote for reinforced concrete work on the Register Building to architects Garlick & Jackman on 27 September.

Late in October Harvey failed to act on an urgent telegram that arrived while the Managing Director and Company Secretary were out of town. He must have been reprimanded by Monash, because on 24th JM characteristically told Harvey not to take the matter too much to heart - at the same time reminding him that he had been the senior company officer under the circumstances.

At the end of November, the Hindmarsh bridge was tested successfully and WWH reported on the technical details and the attitude of government engineers. In December SARC's tender for work on the Register Building was accepted. Monash told Harvey he was too busy to come to Adelaide, so wanted WWH to go to Melbourne to get the three looming jobs sorted out. Harvey could "have a short holiday, which I understand your health requires, to brace yourself up for the work imminent at the opening of the New Year". Harvey wrote "I will be able to bring the final (?) plans … I was surprised to find the indefinite state of the architect's decision on numbers of matters of importance". (The question mark is Harvey's.) WWH's holiday cannot have lasted long, because on Boxing Day he submitted a report on a bridge project at Craigieburn (Victoria) and by 7 January 1908 he was back in Adelaide reporting on the test bores at the Glanville Wharf.

Harvey was soon carrying out computations for the structure of the Register Building and drafting the Specification. He sent all to Melbourne for vetting; but JM told him "The continuous hot and oppressive weather here is greatly affecting the promptitude with which I and my staff are able to deal with business in hand", and later "I have been extremely busy in Victoria with a rush of new business". He warned that Harvey might have to take on a much larger share of local responsibility. However, the result was a flood of correspondence from Harvey to JM about the detailed work of engineering design. At this time he was also visiting the site of the Glanville Wharf as work geared up, and investigating the Tramway Bridge site.

In February 1908, Monash set out Harvey's job description:

"Specific & General Duties of the Company's Engineer:

  1. To act as Chief Executive Officer of the Company - subject to control only by the Directors and the Consulting Engineer [JM].
  2. In that capacity to have control of all Works Management, all works foremen, all design work, all professional matters, and also control of all clerical or other assistance that may be provided for him for purposes of his Department.
  3. To prepare all designs, detail drawings, and working sketches.
  4. To make up estimates and valuations for progress and final payments on contracts.
  5. To prepare and issue all materials requisitions and generally supervise their execution - but not to act directly as buyer unless required to do so by the Directors.
  6. To collect and prepare data for estimates for all quotations and tenders to be given by the Company, and submit same to the Consulting Engineer.
  7. To refer all matters on which he requires advice to the Consulting Engineer.
  8. To render to the Consulting Engineer, periodically, such reports and statistics as the latter may require for the purpose of maintaining effective supervision over the Company's operations.
  9. To do everything else requisite to effectively prosecute the Engineering Control of the Company's operations - other than matters expressly reserved for the Consulting Engineer."

In March 1908, Harvey designed steel columns that formed part of the Register Building. JM found the calculations satisfactory; but sent them to Johns & Waygood for a final check. March also saw the start of negotiations on Bowman's Building.

In April, JM sent yet another appeal to Harvey to reduce his requests for advice: "There is a severe congestion of work in this office [Melbourne]. I have had to make substantial additions to the professional staff, and this means heavy work in inducting them into their duties. I mention this so that you will please spare me from unimportant detail as much as possible for the next week or two".

Also in April 1908, negotiations started for SARC's ill-fated attempt to build the Glenelg Breakwater. Harvey was expected to involve himself in the politics as well as the technical aspects. Moncrieff had decided he would have to call competitive tenders. Harvey was asked to write a "forceful" letter pointing out the need to avoid "purely speculative tendering by inexperienced persons" - and quote the requirement in the Police and Public Work Act that only competent persons be accepted.

Negotiations on the Tramways Bridge were stalled while the Tramways' civil engineer contemplated designing a reinforced concrete arch himself. JM told Harvey: "When, as in this case, we find an engineer floundering in ignorance of what he wants, and how to do it, the correct policy is always to nurse him and feed him with ideas until he becomes practically committed to you. A stand-off attitude leaves us entirely without any vested advantages of interest". Harvey was to talk about the problem to Bakewell and act as he thought judicious. This was quite an imposition on WWH, who was unable to secure a meeting with the Tramways' Chief Engineer; but did discuss the matter with the culprit. (Design of both Wharf and Tramway Bridge was being carried out in the Melbourne office.)

In May 1908 the Register Building was underway. Gibson spent some time in Adelaide, participating in the administrative work of the firm, and the tender for the Wharf was submitted.

In July, Harvey asked for two assistants for the office. He told JM he needed (1.) a Professional Assistant, preferably "someone who has been through a technical course", whose duties would include tracing, some draughting, keeping of works records and quantities etc. and close supervision of works: "in short, like I did in my first year with you". Second, "a lad to do office work, shorthand and typewriting for the Company, to assist in clerical work, supervision of the pipe and precast products Factory, and analysis (apart from Engineering Supervision)". JM agreed that Harvey should consult Prof. Chapman of the University of Adelaide; but noted that selection should be left to Harvey "as it is all important that they [the recruits] should be wholly subservient to you and that you should be assured of their full capacity for your requirements and of the prospect of their rendering efficient and sympathetic assistance".

In August and September, the Tramway Trust accepted the SARC tender for the bridge, and negotiations for the Kithers and Bowmans Buildings firmed up. Harvey was to do the detailed design for the latter, with JM providing hints and design aids. WWH continued design work and estimates for the Register Building and calculating the piled foundations of the Tramway Bridge. Early work on the building projects was hampered by hostility between the leading foremen. It would have been WWH's responsibility to take the lead in finding a solution. Gibson was then in town trying to buy a pile-driving machine and, according to JM, "worried and fretful" about the matter because Harvey had not told him exactly what he wanted. JM urged Harvey to tell Gibson clearly.

In December 1908, problems with foremen continued. JM wanted the most senior to take up a central coordinating role similar to that which Alex Lynch held with RCMPC. However Bakewell, on site, felt the man's "narrow-minded and jealous" attitude would make this impossible. He thought it better to leave the three foremen individually in charge of the Wharf, Bowman's Building, and the Breakwater; and have Harvey supervise them directly. JM found these arguments "weighty", especially as WWH now had the help of "efficient administrative staff". On the other hand, he worried that as work progressed the arrangement would impose too much detailed work on the Resident Engineer. Two days later he wrote again, concerned by reports that Harvey was not well.

"I am apprehensive lest the enlarged responsibilities which you have recently undertaken may distress you, but I can assure you that all concerned have nothing but praise and admiration for the manner in which you are handling your duties and responsibilities, so that you need not give yourself the smallest concern or worry about any feeling of striving beyond your strength to do more than ample justice to your work. I know well that it is not the mass of work that tells but the worry, and my long experience has taught me that it is very unnecessary and harmful to worry, because no difficulties are so great that if they are patiently faced they will not speedily yield. Consequently difficulties and setbacks should be taken philosophically and calmly and when they occur that is just the time that one requires to keep the coolest head and the clearest judgment. If your indisposition is in any way traceable to business causes, I invite you to express yourself to me quite unreservedly in the matter. Trusting however that you will speedily be quite well again, Yours faithfully, John Monash."

WWH assured him that that problem was not due to stress.

In the next few months the problem of practical supervision worsened. The elderly man JM had head-hunted to supervise construction of the Glenelg Breakwater resigned, finding the rough seas, and the awkwardness and complexity of the piling work too much for him.

In March 1909 Harvey requested another Engineering Assistant for the office; but in May wrote to JM confirming that he wished to resign at the end of the year "as discussed". He continued his duties in testing times: negotiating for the Port Adelaide River railway bridge; tendering for silos, pipe culverts and a coal storage facility; supervising construction work on the projects in hand; and liaising with architects and builders. There was movement and cracking in the completed Glanville Wharf which was thoroughly tested by a surprising number of hard knocks from berthing ships. There were complaints from tenants in Bowman's Building; dampness in the basement of Kither's; and cracking in large pipes supplied to the railways. Harvey considered making claims for delays caused by other firms working on the Register Building, but was advised by JM that they were "always very difficult to establish and maintain".

Appointment of a new foreman for the Glenelg Breakwater, and JM's attempts to urge faster construction, came to nothing when heavy storms in April 1909 played havoc with work already completed, lifted temporary staging, and washed a steam winch and boiler off the pontoon. In June, Harvey was obliged to dismiss SARC's senior foreman. In August he was wrestling with theory and practice in preparation for the launching of a reinforced concrete pontoon. He must have felt relieved in November 1909 when his replacement, H G Jenkinson, arrived to start taking over. HGJ stepped into the position of Resident Engineer as from 1 January 1910, so Harvey's appointment presumably ended on 31 December. On 10th January he wrote to assure JM that all was well with the Tramway Bridge, which had been inspected the previous month at the end of its maintenance period.

In mid-1910 Harvey appears to have been acting on behalf of architects Bates, Peebles & Smart, checking drawings for the reinforcement of the Dome of Melbourne's Public Library, prepared in London by the Trussed Concrete Steel Co Ltd (Truscon). One of their tracings, dated 30 June 1910 bears a note "Recd and forwarded 1st July 1910 W W Harvey". D A L Saunders, who saw the RCMPC file on the Dome in preparing his 1959 paper, states that Harvey was then based in London.


John Albert Laing.

Much of the following information was kindly supplied by David Beauchamp, Forensic and Heritage Engineer, who has researched JAL's work on the Church St Bridge.

Laing was educated at Springfield State School and Scotch College. He studied civil engineering at the University of Melbourne from 1904 to 1907. Monash, as a co-examiner, had watched his progress and offered him a position even before he sat for the Final Honours papers in March 1908. In commenting on his honours paper JM compared him with a fellow candidate: "J. A. Laing's work is markedly the better. He has definite and generally correct opinions, about all points …"

Judging by our research notes, Laing's initials appear on drawings and calculations in June and December 1908, then regularly in 1909. When applying for Associate Membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers (AMICE) in 1918, he dated his employment as a 'Junior Assistant Engineer' under Monash from 1909. He assisted initially with a wide range of projects: the concrete pontoon, a drain cover, two bridges, the retaining wall of the Preston No.2 Reservoir, and parts of buildings. In July 1910 he obtained a position with a firm in Queensland, but was persuaded to stay with RCMPC when his salary was raised to £17 per month. In 1911 he received his Masters degree, based on a paper on what we would now call rigidly-jointed frames (in steel).

He told the ICE that during this initial period he had been able to observe the following works in progress, with a total value of £94,000: the Preston Reservoir, ten subways to carry irrigation channels under creeks near Murchison and Shepparton, the Melbourne City Abattoirs, Melbourne Town Hall floors, Central Telephone Exchange (floors and saw-tooth roof), floors for Reid's and Stuart's Warehouses, McCracken's Building, the Maribyrnong Bridge, Benalla bridge, and Jackson's Creek Bridge near Bulla.

From 1911-13, JAL's title was 'Assistant Engineer' with the task of "designing, estimating and supervising construction, under Sir John Monash, of the works carried out by the firm". These included:

In 1914, JAL became a full 'Engineer'. As Monash became increasingly involved in war preparations and eventually left, JAL worked increasingly under and alongside P T Fairway, who stepped into the position of Superintending Engineer. The projects from this period that Laing thought worthy of mention to the ICE included:

JAL Postscript

After Monash's departure for the war (December 1914), Laing took over as Honorary Lecturer in reinforced concrete construction at the University. In 1919 he left RCMPC to become Director and Engineer of the Concrete Building Company. He also supervised reinforced concrete projects designed by Wm Adams & Co of Melbourne. In 1920 he entered a competition for the design of the new Church Street Bridge across the Yarra. His design was not shortlisted, but he joined with architect Harold Desbrowe Annear, to engineer the latter's winning scheme. When he applied for full membership of the ICE in 1927, Laing stated that he had: "In private capacity as consulting engineer, acting with an architectural firm, designed and supervised" the bridge. "The appointment placed sole responsibility upon the candidate as engineer." (Monash had entered the competition with a proposal for a single-span arch, also unsuccessful.) From 1924, Laing was solely in private practice as a consulting engineer. In 1925 he was appointed to a Concrete Board established by the Government of Victoria to draw up regulations for construction in reinforced concrete. He recommenced lecturing at the University in 1925. In 1933 he was Chairman of the Melbourne Division of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. [Source: David Beauchamp.]