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The Scottish Nation

GIBB, JOHN, an eminent civil engineer, was born in the year 1776, at Kirkcows, a small property near Falkirk, then belonging to his father, an extensive contractor in that quarter, who died when he was only twelve years of age. After having served a regular apprenticeship to a mechanical trade, at that time considered an indispensable part of training, either as a civil engineer or contractor, he received his first professional instruction at the Lancaster and Preston canal, from his brother-in-law, then engaged in the construction of that canal, under the direction of the late Mr. Rennie. He was next employed by Mr. Easton, his father-in-law, at the formation of Leith docks. From 1805 to 1809 he was employed by the magistrates and town council of Greenock, in the execution of what was then called the new harbour in that town, under the direction of Mr. Rennie, and while engaged there he gave such proofs of his ability as to attract the attention of the celebrated Mr. Telford, who was then looking out for a resident engineer to the harbour works at Aberdeen. He went to that city in 1809, and built the extensive piers at the entrance into the harbour there. At an after period he executed, along with his son, many important improvements in deepening and building quay walls, preparatory to the harbour at Aberdeen being made a wet dock. In reference to these works Mr. Telford, in his Life, published by his executors, thus mentions him: “Mr. Gibb, with unremitting attention, superintended every operation connected with these difficult works, in which he had distinguished himself by remarkable ingenuity and perseverance.” There not being that field for engineering in the northern district in which he resided, which a man of his active mind and talents required, he became an extensive contractor for works principally in the south; and his exertions at the first contract he executed, which was at the Crinan canal, are thus described in their annual report by Lords Castlereagh, Binning, Glenbervie, and Melville, then parliamentary commissioners for the improvement of the canal: “The canal was closed at the end of February 1817, to admit of the necessary operations, for the completion of which we allowed the contractor (Mr. Gibb of Aberdeen) a twelvemonth, expiring February 1818. But his activity has outrun our expectations, the canal having been actually opened for use in the beginning of November last. On a review of what has been done by Mr. Gibb, we cannot but be gratified at such an instance of exertion.” Mr. Gibb was afterwards engaged in a large number of important public works, the last one of any extent in which he took an active part and completed, along with his son, being the Glasgow bridge, (designed by Mr. Telford,) which is faced with Aberdeen granite; and in the published account of that work by the executors of the late Mr. Telford, it is stated: “The bridge trustees were so well pleased with the execution of this splendid structure, that they presented to the contractors two elegant pieces of plate, in testimony of the high sense they entertained of their zeal and fidelity.” Mr. Gibb died at Aberdeen, on 3d December, 1850, being at the time of his death one of the oldest members of the Institution of civil Engineers of London.

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