19 March 2015

Henry Featherston Toogood (1879–1962)

  • New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers annual conference, 1934 (detail). IPENZ.

Henry Featherston Toogood was one of the foundation members of the New Zealand Society of Civil Engineers (now the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ)) in 1914. Although he never attained the highest office of the Institution, he played a prominent part in its development. He served on many committees and was largely responsible for many of the valuable reports produced by them. Unfortunately, he was very dogmatic and rather tactless, and antagonised people very easily. These traits probably prevented him from rising to the head of the profession. However, he served as a Council member for several periods.

He was inclined to talk to Members as though he was a schoolmaster talking to his pupils. He realised some of his faults and his weaknesses, but not all of them. Once in conversation with Edward Hitchcock, he said, "Hitchcock, for years I have told myself that I must learn to suffer fools gladly". Then he added, "Now I have altered my rule and I always tell myself that I must learn to suffer other fools gladly."

He was born on 2 February 1879, and his primary education was obtained at the Featherston Public School. After leaving primary school he was apprenticed to mechanical engineers, D Robertson and Company in Wellington from 1895–1900. He later served as a fitter in the New Zealand Railway workshops at Petone.

After some private tuition, in 1901 Toogood matriculated and in 1902 enrolled at the School of Engineering at Canterbury University College. He took the Bachelor of Science course in mechanical engineering as well as some of the courses in electrical engineering, but owing to lack of funds he was unable to complete the degree course.

After leaving the College in 1905 he joined the staff of James Edward Fulton, consulting engineer of Wellington, and was employed by him on various construction jobs, including the Taupo Timber Company's railway and mills.

In 1906 he joined Howarth Erskine Limited, Singapore, a firm carrying out extensive civil engineering works in various parts of the Asia.

In 1910 he returned to New Zealand and was appointed engineer to the Hokitika Harbour Board. After four years in this position in 1914 he established himself in Wellington as a consulting engineer and carried out many and varied civil engineering works, principally for local authorities, until shortly before his death in 1962. During this period in particular, with JR Templin of Christchurch, he carried out the design and supervised the construction of electrical installations for various power boards, and city and borough councils throughout the country.

He was largely responsible for the formation of the Electric Supply Authority Engineers Institute of New Zealand and was its first President. He also had the distinction of being a corporate member of all three major British engineering institutions: the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Institution of Electrical Engineers.

He twice unsuccessfully contested Parliamentary elections but he was elected a member of the Wellington Hospital Board from 1942 to 1951, being its Chairman for the greater part of that period.

Toogood died in Wellington on 1 December 1962.