20 August 2015

Evan Parry (1865–1938)

  • Evan Parry. Image from the Energy Library and Information Services Limited.
  • Opening of Otira Tunnel [4 August 1923]. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Evan Parry was born in 1865 at Llanberis, Caernarvonshire, Wales. He worked with Winton and Company, Marine Engineers, Carnarvon, for five years before going to Glasgow University in 1890 where he studied under the late Lord Kelvin. During the latter part of his time at Glasgow he acted as Demonstrator in the Physical Laboratory. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Mechanics.

Early career in the United Kingdom

From 1893 to 1895 Parry acted as Assistant Engineer and Manager to the City of London Electric Lighting Company, and in 1895 he joined the British Thomson Houston Company as a designer.

Between 1897 and 1910 Parry was Chief Assistant to HF Parshall, Consulting Engineer. He was engaged in the design and supervision of the electrical equipment for the Central London Railway and the Dublin, Bristol, London United, Glasgow Corporation and other tramways. Parry was also connected with the early stages, under Parshall, of the Yorkshire Electric Power Company and of the Lancashire Electric Power Company.

Impact in New Zealand

In 1910 Parry came to New Zealand to take up the role of Chief Electrical Engineer to the Public Works Department. Over the next ten years he was responsible for the development of various hydroelectric undertakings in the North and South Island. The Lake Coleridge Scheme was constructed under his supervision, and a great deal of the preliminary work was carried out in connection with the Arapuni, Mangahao and other power schemes.

Parry retired from the New Zealand Government Service in October, 1918, to join the English Electric Company in London as Chief Engineer, but in 1924 he resigned in order to join Messrs Preece, Cardew and Rider as a partner.

Many New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers (NZSCE, now Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, IPENZ) Members would remember, with pleasure, Parry's visit to Australia and New Zealand early in 1938 in connection with work his firm had in hand for Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, and numerous schemes in New Zealand.

Parry was one of the earliest Members of our Institution. In 1935 he was also the first Member to be appointed by the Council as the Institution's London representative.

Influence throughout the British Empire

From 1924 Parry was engaged on a large number of electricity supply schemes in different parts of the world, including many of the Dominions and Crown Colonies. Among the many works for which he was responsible was the power station of the Uhl River scheme in the Punjab, India, built between 1929 and 1933. He made numerous visits to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in connection with development of hydroelectric work in that island, including a large scheme at Watawala.

Cabled news of Parry’s death on 18 December 1938 was received by the NZSCE with the greatest regret for the passing of one who had rendered exceptional services of the highest value to New Zealand.

More information


Proceedings of the New Zealand Institution of Engineers, 1938–1939, pp. 330–31.

Further reading

Frederick Furkert, Early New Zealand Engineers (Wellington: Reed, 1953), p.239.

John E. Martin. ‘Parry, Evan,’ from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30 October 2012.

Additional image gallery details

Crowd at opening of Otira Tunnel [4 August 1923]. Making New Zealand: Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-1691-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Evan Parry is 6th from left, facing William Massey (centre). 

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.