|Seymour Clarke (1814-1876)||
Obituary from the Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers, vol. 44, pt. 2 (1876), p. 225: |
Mr. SEYMOUR CLARKE, the second son of Mr. Frederic Clarke, was born at Streatham, Surrey, in the year 1814. About the year 1834 he was introduced to the late Mr. Isambard K. Brunel, Vice-President Inst. C.E., in whose office he commenced his engineering studies, and whom he assisted in the preparation of the designs for the Monkwearmouth Docks, the Clifton and the Hungerford Suspension Bridges, and more particularly the Great Western railway, and its various branches, all the details of the surveys, calculations, &c., passing through Mr. Clarke's hands.
When the Great Western Railway Company were about to arrange the staff preparatory to the first opening between Paddington and Maidenhead, Mr. Brunel introduced Mr. Clarke, of whiose judgment and abilities he had conceived the highest opinion, to the notice of the Board, as being in his view the most suitable person for the appointment of Superintendent of the London Division of the railway. This led to Mr. Clarke's engagement in October, 1837, when he was directed to proceed to the north of England and to Belgium to study the systems there established for the working of railways. He was also instructed, in conjunction with the late Mr. C. A. Saunders, to organize the whole of the establishment requisite for the service, the preparation of the necessary carriage and wagon stock, and all the details appertaining to the traffic department.
Shortly after this the well-known question as to the gauge was mooted, and during the long and important investigations by Messrs. R. Stephenson, N. Wood, and Hawkshaw, MM. Inst. C.E., at the instance of the Directors of the Company, Mr. Brunel was assisted by Mr. Clarke, together with the late Mr. C. A. Saunders, and Mr. (now Sir Daniel) Gooch, in conducting the experiments in proof of the soundness of the theory as to the broad-gauge system,in opposition to the views expressed against it. He also gave evidence before the Royal Commission appointed by Parliament on this important subject in 1846. With the gradual extension of the Great Western Mr. Clarke was intimately connected, and he was, in 1840, placed in charge of the line from London to Swindon.
In May, 1850, Mr. Clarke became the General Manager of the Great Northern railway, when he resigned the post he had so long held with credit to himself and to the advantage of the Great Western Company. His admirable administrative abilities, his coolness of judgment in the most trying circumstances, had gained for him the respect and esteem of the Directors as well as of a numerous staff. On leaving the Great Western his late colleagues, with a large number of the staff, evinced their personal regard and appreciation of his merits by the presentation of a handsome testimonial, consisting of a portrait of Mrs. Clarke and her family, with a complete breakfast service of silver plate.
The extension of the Great Northern line from London to Peterborough took place shortly after his appointment, when he was enabled to commence his efforts in developing the traffic of that important system. The success of his policy was soon felt by the Great Northern proprietors in the altered position of the undertaking, which rapidly assumed a first rank in competition for the traffic of the Northern and Midland counties and Scotland, together with the establishment of the large and important traffic between London and the northern and southern Yorkshire coalfields. Notably he was instrumental in devising and carrying through the Gladstone Award, or "Ten Towns Agreement," for the division of the traffic between the Great Northern of the one part, and the London and North-Western, Midland, and Sheffield railways of the other part. In framing the various treaties and agreements with other companies, the discretion and far-seeing policy of Mr. Clarke soon became evident. His singular accuracy of mind and clearness of statements, which have stood the test of experience, placed him second to none in these negotiations. His knowledge of all railway details and his high sense of honor, candor, and straightforward fixity of purpose gave weight to his opinions; and the evidence he was constantly called upon to give before Committees of both Houses of Parliament, both on behalf of the Great Northern as well as of other companies, commanded and insured attention.
These qualities, and his indefatigable perseverance in all business transactions, led to Mr. Clarke's selection by the ministry of the time (1867) as one of the Eoyal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the position, prospects, and value of the Irish railways; to examine into their various incomes and expenditure, assets and liabilities, &c.; the state of repair of all the lines; and the value, &c., of the rolling stock. In this commission Mr. Clarke was associated with Sir A. Spearman, Messrs. J. Mulholland, John Fowler, and C. Johnstone. Their report was mainly his work, in connection with Mr. Fowler, Mr. Clarke having made a personal inspection of the whole of the Irish railways.
His constant and arduous attention to these various duties proved so great a strain on his constitution that, after twenty years' unremitting hard service, he was compelled, in September 1870, through a most severe illness, to resign the appointment he held in the Great Northern Company, and to retire into private life. On this taking place Mr. Clarke received from the railway managers and engineers of the kingdom a handsome testimonial, together with another presented by the officers and employes of the Great Northern Company. At the same time came another most valued expression of goodwill from the principal gentlemen officially connected with the Indian railways; nearly all of whom had either been in the service of the Great Northern Company, under Mr. Clarke, or had been well known to him during their career in this country. These several recognitions were received by Mr. Clarke with unalloyed satisfaction, and tended not a little to alleviate the sorrow and disappointment he sustained at being "thus early compelled to abandon his professional career.
Enforced quiet conduced to a partial re-establishment of health, and in 1874, when the change took place in the direction of the Great Western Railway of Canada, Mr. Clarke was induced, by those connected with the company who knew of his great experience in railway affairs, to accept the office of Vice-President of that undertaking. He was also the Deputy Chairman of the Banbury and Cheltenham railway. These offices he held up to the time of his decease, which occurred, after a few weeks' illness, at Walthamstow, on the 15th of March, 1876.
Mr. Clarke was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 5th of December, 1865, and on the creation of the Engineer and Railway Volunteer Staff Corps in the same year he received Her Majesty's commission as a lieutenant-colonel in 'that corps.