William George Nicholson Geddes

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William George Nicholson Geddes
Born (1913-07-29)29 July 1913
Oldhamstocks, East Lothian
Died 10 November 1993(1993-11-10) (aged 80)
Nationality Scottish
Citizenship British
Engineering career
Engineering discipline Civil engineer and Structural engineer
Institution memberships Institution of Structural Engineers, Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, Institution of Civil Engineers
Practice name Babtie Shaw and Morton
Significant projects Allt-na-Lairige Dam, Backwater Dam
Significant awards CBE

William George Nicholson Geddes, CBE DSc FRSE FEng (29 July 1913 – 10 November 1993) was a Scottish civil engineer.

George Geddes was born in Oldhamstocks, East Lothian and studied civil engineering at Edinburgh University, gaining a "blue" in football. He worked for the City Engineer in Edinburgh, then Sir William Arrol & Company, and F.A. Macdonald & Partners under William Fairhurst, before joining Babtie, Shaw and Morton in 1942. He became a partner of the firm in 1950 and senior partner from 1976 to 1978. His specialist experience was structural engineering which led to an interest in hydro-electric projects, dams, shipyards, docks and industrial developments.[1]

One of Geddes' most notable projects, under the overall direction of James Arthur Banks and later constructed by the contractor Marples Ridgway,[2] was his contribution to the design of the Allt na Lairige dam in Argyllshire in the 1950s. This was the first concrete dam in western Europe, and possibly the world, to be prestressed by using high tensile steel bars, bolted either end, to compress the structure.[2]

Later Geddes was in charge of Backwater Dam, the first in the UK to use a chemical grout cut-off. One of his outstanding achievements was the major shipbuilding dock at the head of the Musgrave Channel in Belfast for Harland and Wolff. The dock was the largest in the World when it was completed in 1970, having been designed and built scarcely two years after the decision was taken to proceed.

As well as being active in Scottish branches of professional institutions, he was elected President of all three of the Institutions in which he took a keen interest: the Institution of Structural Engineers in 1971-72, the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland 1977-79, and the Institution of Civil Engineers between November 1979 and November 1980.[3] In 1975, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,[4] and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1978. In 1980 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Edinburgh.[5]

Geddes was an accomplished footballer, playing for Queen's Park F.C. in 1936,[6] and serving from 1985 to 1988 as their President[7] and eventually becoming a Patron of the Club, the oldest in Scotland.


  1. ^ "A century of achievement. Babtie 1895-1995". Published by Babtie Group Ltd, 1995.
  2. ^ a b "Reginald Ridgway". The Daily Telegraph. 29 March 2002. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  3. ^ ICE past presidents
  4. ^ "Royal Society of Edinburgh Obituaries". Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  5. ^ "University of Edinburgh honorary graduates list". Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  6. ^ They Wore the Glorious Hoops - past players listing at http://www.queensparkfc.co.uk/firstteam/playinghistory/archive/players/g.html
  7. ^ "Queen's Park Football Club". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 

Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
Reginald Coates
President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
November 1979 – November 1980
Succeeded by
Peter Arthur Cox