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William Douglas Cruickshank (1837–1912)

With the announcement of the death of William Douglas Cruickshank, made in the Herald yesterday morning, another of the fast disappearing links connecting the present school of Australian engineers with the sturdy pioneers of the old brigade has been severed. Those are names which are worth remembering, for their owners have left their marks on the development of the State. Fyfe, George Davidson, Norman Selfe, McDougall, Burns, Wm. Davidson, Halliday, Ferguson, Cromack, Broderick, Long, Hunter, Gray, Thompson, and Cruickshank — those are the names of the members of the old brigade who have crossed the great dividing line, while those still with us are Henry Selfe, John P. Franki, and Robert Pollock.

The late W. D. Cruickshank died at his residence, Kinvarra, Ewenton-street, Balmain, on Monday last at the age of 75 years. He leaves no family. His wife pre-deceased some years ago, and Mr. William Davidson, chief engineer of the E and A liner Empire (a nephew), and two sisters of Mr. Davidson, are the only living connections of the family. The life of the deceased, however, was remarkable from many points of view. As a young man he was not only in the front rank of his profession as an engineer, but the force of his personality placed him in the lead of the industrial affairs connected with his calling. He was instrumental in the settlement of many industrial disputes before the days of arbitration, and in recognition of his services as a mediator he was appointed as one of the three members of the original Arbitration Court, Judge Cohen and Mr. Sam Smith being his colleagues on that important tribunal. As a young man in the front of his profession he took a keen interest in the studies and struggles of those who were qualifying to enter the ranks of engineers. He established a class at the Sydney School of Arts, which was practically free to students, and to which he devoted much of his valuable time. He was well known as a large-hearted, open-handed man, benevolent to a degree, a wise counsellor, and a steadfast friend.

The late Mr Cruickshank was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and served his apprenticeship to engineering at the celebrated establishment of Messrs. Hawthorn and Leslie, at Newcastle-on-Tyne. He came to New South Wales as engineer on the steamer Auckland in 1864. Soon after his arrival he accepted the post of engineer on the steamer Hunter of the Illawarra Company, and subsequently became managing engineer for that company. From that he went to the Marine Board as assistant engineer to the late Mr. Henry Broderick, and when that gentleman retired in 1882, Mr Cruickshank was given the appointment as chief marine engineer (marine superintendent) for the State, Mr Henry Selfe stepping into the post of assistant. Upon retiring from the Marine Board, the deceased was appointed to the Arbitration Court on which he served a full term of seven years. He was stricken with paralysis during one of the sittings of the Court and had since then lived in retirement at Balmain.

In 1894 Mr. Cruickshank wrote and published a book on boiler construction, which immediately became the standard Australian work on that subject. A revised and enlarged edition, of the book was brought out in 1908.

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Citation details

'Cruickshank, William Douglas (1837–1912)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland


11 November, 1912 (aged ~ 75)
Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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