Adam Hunter
introduction  •  early years  •  Sir William Arrol & Co  •  cranes, bridges & workshops  •
at his peak: 1920s  •  the 1930s cut short  •  an appreciation  •  professional affiliations  •  selected works  •  sources
Cranes, bridges and workshops
In 1895, Adam Hunter was 25 years old and promoted to Chief Assistant Engineer at the London offices of Sir William Arrol & Co. Still working with James Tuit, his mentor from day one, and tackling similar projects to those of earlier years, he steadily gained more responsibility.
In London he met Lottie Ruth Patrick (1872-1951) from Harleston in Norfolk, whom he married in July 1900 in Marylebone. The couple lived at 49 New Clive Road in Lambeth, where their daughter Ruth Whiting Hunter (1901-92) was born.
Tuit suffered from ill health and, possibly because of this, Hunter was Arrol's Acting Chief Engineer from March to May 1904, throughout 1905, and up until Tuit's death on 20th February 1906. Tuit was only 46 when he died.
Meanwhile, Hunter was responsible for the first constrained steel cantilever bridge in Britain — Dalginross Bridge in Scotland. A blueprint of the bridge dated 26th February 1904 is signed J.E. Tuit, Director, drawn by A.G. Harrison and checked by A. Hunter. He worked also on the Swale Rolling Lift Bridge on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. This was replaced in 1960 by the Kingsferry Vertical Lift Bridge, for which Arrol engineered the machinery.
Other construction work in the UK and Ireland included an electric derrick crane with a 152 tonne lifting capacity at Clydebank (now demolished), the New Clyde Bridge and Glasgow Central Station Bridge for the Caledonian Railway, Jubilee (Walney) Bridge at Barrow-in-Furness, Rosslare Harbour Viaduct and Barras Swing Bridge in Waterford.
Work started to take him overseas too, beginning in 1904 with bridges for the Suakin-Berber Railway between Suakin on the Red Sea and Berber in eastern Sudan. He moved north to Egypt for the design and construction of large bridges across the River Nile in Cairo — one of the Nile Bridges was 535m long. He acted as on-site technical adviser from November 1905 to March 1906.
After Tuit died Hunter became Arrol's Chief Engineer. At about the same time, the London office moved to Glasgow, with Hunter directing operations from the new civil engineering department at the company's headquarters at Dalmarnock Iron Works in Dunn Street. The fledgling Hunter family moved to a semi-detached house at 4 Viewpark Drive, Rutherglen, south east of Glasgow in Lanarkshire. This was to be his home town for the rest of his life.
In his new role he supervised the construction of all Arrol's major works. During 1906-9 he worked on projects in Ireland, the UK and north Africa. These included the River Suir Bridge and Barrow Viaduct in Waterford — Barrow was the longest viaduct in Ireland at the time, and supported on foundations almost 36m below high water.
Scottish works began with a 152 tonne capacity hammerhead-type electric Titan crane, the precursor of a series of giant cantilever cranes. This one survives and is now open to visitors. It's located on the west side of the former John Brown & Co shipyard basin in Clydebank. The derrick crane was on the east side.
At least forty-two giant cantilever cranes were erected in various locations around the world. Arrol constructed at least 14 of them (probably 21), including six of the eight built in Scotland. Fewer than 15 still exist anywhere.
Apart from a shale conveyor plant at Addiewell in West Lothian, where oil was extracted from shale spoil heaps, Hunter's other Scottish projects relate to railways — bridges over Kingston Street, Nelson Street and Wallace Street in Glasgow for the Caledonian Railway, plus additional work at Waverley Station and North Bridge in Edinburgh.
In England, Hunter worked on the widening of London's Blackfriars Bridge, the Stockton Heath Swing Bridge on the Manchester Ship Canal and another giant cantilever crane for North Eastern Marine Engineering Co at Wallsend, north Tyneside (now demolished). Elsewhere, there was the Kings Dock Swing Bridge in Swansea, and cranes and gantries for a new slipway at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast. In Egypt he was involved in the Dowrie & Co works in Port Said and the Assiut Barrage Lift Bridge, and in central Sudan with the Jebel Aulia Barrage lift bridge and lock gates.
Arrol — and therefore Hunter — also specialised in erecting buildings for heavy industrial processes. Up to 1910, the company built at least 40 of these, about two thirds of which were in Scotland and the remainder in England.
Hunter's varied experience led him to prepare a guide that would standardise Arrol's methodology in its specialisms. This was published in July 1909 as General specifications, formulae and data, for cranes, bridges and workshop buildings embodying the practice of Sir William Arrol and Company, Ltd in the journal Engineering. Hunter would later revise and extend it into an authoritative textbook — Bridge and Structural Engineers' Handbook (1920).
In 1910 Hunter became a director of Arrol. He extended the company's expertise with giant cantilever cranes, erecting one of 203 tonne capacity at the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd basin at Govan in Glasgow (demolished 2007), and 254 tonne capacity machines at Rosyth Dockyard in Fife (demolished 1992), at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard (demolished 1984) and at the Imperial Japanese Navy Dockyard in Sasebo, Japan.
Steelwork for overseas projects was usually fabricated at Dalmarnock Iron Works and shipped in sections. This was certainly true of the Tapti River Bridge at Bhusaval in Mahashtra, India, built for the Great Indian Peninsula Railway.
World War I broke out in July 1914. As a married man, Hunter was exempt from having to join the army. This rule would be abolished in 1916, and conscription for men aged 18-41 years (later 17-51 years) was introduced. Even so, he was an engineer working in industry, a reserved occupation.
Before and during the war, Hunter was responsible for significant works carried out by the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry. One of his Admiralty projects was the Royal Navy Oil Terminal at Lyness on the island of Hoy, Orkney, where Arrol built a steam-powered pumping station and four 12,190 tonne oil storage tanks. Another was the Harland & Wolff shipyard at Govan. In 1916, Hunter worked on tube furnaces for the Tsaritsyn Gun Works in south west Russia.
He also continued to work on bridges and cranes. Two more giant cantilever cranes were built — one of 203 tonne capacity for HM Dockyard at Woolwich Arsenal, London,and another of 152 tonne (the King George V Crane) at James Watt Dock in Greenock, Inverclyde.
There was the construction of bridges in Britain and abroad in 1916-8. The first was Keadby Rolling Lift Bridge (engineer: James Ball) in Lincolnshire, which has a Scherzer mechanism with the largest span of its type when built. This was followed by the reconstruction of Downs Road Railway Bridge in Hackney, London. Other bridges included the Makhaleng Bridge on the South Africa/Lesotho border and a bridge for Chemin de Fer de l’Est, the Eastern Railway of France.
The war ended in 1918, leaving widespread devastation in its wake. Hunter was consulted by the War Graves Commission on engineering matters and visited France several times. The post-war period brought a lot of work to engineering firms such as Arrol and the 1920s would see Hunter working harder than ever.
introduction  •  early years  •  Sir William Arrol & Co  •  cranes, bridges & workshops  •
at his peak: 1920s  •  the 1930s cut short  •  an appreciation  •  professional affiliations  •  selected works  •  sources
All items by Adam Hunter  •  Everything built ... 1869 - 1933
main reference  BDCE3
portrait of Adam Hunter  courtesy Roland Paxton

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Adam Hunter
This biography was funded by
the ICE R&D Panel
Institution of Civil Engineers
© 2022 Engineering Timelines
Dalginross Bridge
Photo: © Jim Barton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Titan crane, Clydebank
Photo: © Stephen Sweeney and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
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