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ICE pays tribute to Scottish legend


Legendary Scottish engineer, Alexander Simpson, has been honoured by the ICE for his outstanding contribution to civil engineering.

ICE's Glasgow and West of Scotland Association unveiled the plaque at central Glasgow's St Enoch Underground station.

Chair of Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT), Councillor Eric Ross performed the ceremony which was also attended by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Alex Mosson.

Two direct descendants of Simpson, his great grandson, Jim Shipway and Shipway's daughter Morven, were proud to attend the ceremony. Shipway is a distinguished civil engineer in his own right and a Fellow of the ICE.

Known as 'The Subway', Glasgow's underground system is the jewel in Simpson's crown and when opened in 1896, was the third city underground system to be built anywhere in the world.

The award is the first of a series that will focus on individual civil engineers. Past chairman of ICE's Glasgow and West of Scotland Association, Gordon Masterton, explained, 'Most people recognise the contribution of civil engineering, but many overlook the talented individuals behind these achievements.'

Throughout his glorious career, Simpson was involved in some of the most prestigious jobs of the age. His story started in 1832 when he was born in a small village between Airdrie and Coatbridge, called Coatdyke. Having served his engineering apprenticeship under his elder brother George, he then went to America in 1852 to work on the railways.

In 1857, he returned home to work with George as a civil engineer with their firm playing a major role in the Lanarkshire mining industry. This, together with work on the Glasgow & District Railway in 1886 led to their appointment to build Glasgow's underground system. Simpson could never let go of his most acclaimed achievement, and later chaired the Glasgow and District Subway Company from 1905 to 1921.

His other notable engineering achievements include his work on the second phase of the West Highland Railway between 1897 and 1901. During the 1890s he was the sole civil engineer working on the Dominican Republic railway's construction. Then in 1907, Simpson was handed the task of managing the delicate underpinning and restoration of the Auld Brig of Ayr, a 15th century medieval bridge.

Alexander Simpson died in 1922.

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