Frederick Tyrrell, member of the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers, was employed in the Indian Public Works Department for many years. His experience there formed the basis of publications on Public works reform in India (London, 1873, 57p) and Waterways or railways; or, The future of India (London, 1874). In 1879 he applied for employment in the Natal civil Sercive, but instead was employed in the Public Works Department of the Cape Colony. During the early eighteen-eighties he drew up plans of an office building in East London (1881), War Department property in King William's Town (1881), a section of the road between King William's Town and Umtata (1882), Izeli Post, near King William's Town (1882), and a township at Umtata (1882). By the middle of 1887 he had arrived at the recently developed gold fields at Barberton. At that time he had 40 years experience in his profession. In June that year he and seven others founded the Barberton Association of Civil Engineers - the first professional engineering society in southern Africa - to protect the interests of properly qualified local engineers and the firms that employed them. Tyrrell was elected chairman for the first year. Despite its restrictive name the association was open "to all competent men; we include the Civil Engineer (proper), the Mining Engineer, the Railway Engineer, [and] the Mechanical Engineer" (Barberton Herald, 27 July 1888). None the less the association's membership increased to only 15 at the end of its firs year, including S.H. Farrar*, A.H. Halder*, and J.M. Liddell*. In September 1887 the association requested the government of the South African Republic (Transvaal) to grant it official status, but this request was turned down. On 24 July 1888 the association held an aniversary dinner (at Barberton's Horseshoe Cafe), but Tyrrell was unable to attend owing to illness. The society faded away soon afterwards.
In September 1888 Tyrrell became a member of the Barberton Scientific and Literary Society, which had been founded a few months earlier. At its first annual general meeting in June 1889 he was elected a member of its management committee, but this society too ceased to be active a few months later.
In 1887 Tyrrell wrote an article, in two parts, on "Water power" for Barberton's Gold Fields Times (17 and 28 June), dealing with the applications of water power on the gold fields. After leaving Barberton he settled in East London, from where he corresponded with the government of the South African Republic on waterworks in 1892. Three years later he wrote a pamphlet on Irrigation in South Africa: Its actual position and capabilities (Cape Town, 1895, 24p). He was still active in 1905, when he corresponded with the authorities in the Transvaal Colony about irrigation. In 1902 he became a foundation member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. At that time he still resided in East London. His membership ended before 1906.