S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

O'Meara, Mr Patrick (civil engineering)

Born: 1834, Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland.
Died: 1 April 1898, Harrismith, Free State, South Africa.

Patrick O'Meara, an Irish civil engineer, studied at Queens College, Cork, where he graduated as Bachelor of Arts (BA). From 1857 he followed an apprenticeship in civil engineering and in 1861 accompanied a team of engineers to Mauritius to undertake the construction of the Mauritius Government Railways. Upon completion of the project in 1865 he was transferred to India, where he worked on the construction of the Delhi and Punjab railway. He next worked for two years on the East Indian Railway and in July 1870 returned to England to become resident engineer on the construction of the East Cornwall Mineral Railway. On completion of this project he went to Hungary, where he was in charge of the construction of the Francis Canal.

Early in 1876 O'Meara arrived in Natal, where he practiced on his own account as civil engineer and surveyor. That same year he applied for a license to practice as a land surveyor in the colony and for an appointment in the Public Works Department. Soon after his arrival he addressed a letter and report to the Durban Town Council containing some observations relating to a water supply scheme that was being planned for the town. These documents were published in Durban under the title Durban waterworks (32 pp) that same year.

O'Meara seems to have remained in Durban until 1880. During his stay he addressed two other engineering projects. First he wrote a report on Railway extension in South Africa on the Longridge system (Durban, 2nd ed., 1877). Next he wrote a critical review of a scheme to improve Durban harbour. His comments were published as a pamphlet entitled Sir John Goode's harbour plans for Port Natal, 1877, with grounds for their entire rejection (Durban, 1878, 16p). Two years later he again addressed the development of Durban harbour in a long article on "The harbour question", published in the Natal Colonist in January 1880 and reprinted as a pamphlet that same year.

Upon leaving Durban O'Meara went to the United States where he worked on the surveys and construction of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway in Colorado and later on irrigation works in the same state. He wrote a long and highly regarded paper on the latter project: "The introduction of irrigation into new countries, as illustrated in northeastern Colorado" was published in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1882-1883), and as a monograph (London, 1883, 96 pp). On returning from the United States he was employed on the construction of the foundations of the Forth Bridge, but in September 1883 went to Brazil as chief residential engineer of the Brazil Great Southern Railway, of which he subsequently became general manager. In 1889 he was appointed to take charge of the construction of the Cearb harbour works in the north of Brazil. He resigned this post in 1893 and after a stay in England returned to South Africa. By 1895 he was again in Natal, where he applied from Pietermaritzburg for employment on a government road party. The next year he wrote to the government about a plan for removing the sand bar at Durban harbour. Meanwhile he was employed on railway survey work in Pondoland, before joining the staff of the Natal-Zululand Railway. On the completion of this work he was appointed on the Government Railways of the Orange Free State (now the Free State) and in April 1897 was put in charge of the construction of the Harrismith-Bethlehem railway. He died the next year after a brief illness. He was an able engineer with good mathematical abilities and wide experience, indefatigable and conscientious in his work, kindhearted and always ready to help those in need.

List of sources:
National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to O'Meara, P.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Obituary: Patrick O’Meara. Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1898, Vol. 132, pp. 383-385. Retrieved from https://www.icevirtuallibrary.com/doi/pdf/10.1680/imotp.1898.19191 on 2019-1-10.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: C. Plug