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Archives reveal past poet engineers

Most people, if asked to name an engineer with literary connections, would struggle.

Some might recall Nevil Shute, or perhaps Robert Louis Stevenson who trained as an engineer before achieving fame as a novelist.

I was recently asked to consider the subject. I recalled Telford’s poems and a number of Victorian engineers who wrote travel literature, but struggled to bring the story up to date, until last week.

Then, through the good offices of Professor John Burland I was put in touch with Laurie Richards. Laurie has kindly presented the ICE archives with a bundle of material relating to the foundation of Géotechnique, which he had been given by Hugh Golder.

Golder at that time worked for Soil Mechanics, an offshoot of the contractors John Mowlem established in the wake of the Chingford Dam Failure. In charge of that job was R M Wynne-Edwards. At the time this group were involved in establishing the Géotechnique in which a Christmas exchange of rather biting poems took place:

Come, Soil Mechanics, Inc. of dust,
Come, stabilize yourselves a crust
Upon the thixotropic sand
Surrounding us on either hand
So that we can more safely glide
From one side to the other side
As is expedient; deviate
In our opinions from the straight
Trixially or even more
And still be reasonably sure
No one will let us down, no one
In Europe that is − once that’s done
We can relax, for none can pay
Dollars for truth from U.S.A.
Write to the suckers, form a clique
Offer to publish once a week;
Admire each greatly, don’t despise
The fellow travellers − each supplies
A pound if suitably impressed.
And as a hallmark of the best
Let’s patronize the name of Terz
To fill the coffers of the Burts.

The Archives display on lower ground floor two at One Great George Street is changing this month. With the help of ICE Wales we are displaying the Web of Iron − a history of the early development of suspension bridges.

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