ALEXANDER NIMMO  1783 - 1832


Alexander Nimmo (1783-1832) was born in Cupar, Fife  and later moved to Kirkcaldy, Fife, he attended Edinburgh University where he studied physics, ethics, and mathematics, and St. Andrews where he studied Latin, Greek, mathematics, logic, ethics, and natural philosophy. His mentor was Thomas Telford, one of the leading civil engineers of the 19th century. On his recommendation Nimmo resigned from his teaching job as Rector (headmaster) of Inverness Royal Academy in 1811, and moved to Ireland to take up  appointment with the Irish Bog Commission.


His engineering career in Ireland would see him become the most important and influential person undertaking famine relief works and engineering development in the west of Ireland. The physical legacy he left includes over 500 miles of roads, 30 documented bridges, around 50 piers and harbours and numerous public and private surveys. He also designed and planned the layout of  Knightstown on Valencia in County Kerry, one of  very few ‘planned towns’ in Southern Ireland. He surveyed two thirds of the coast for the Irish Fisheries Board looking at the fishing industry and its associated infrastructure, this included Cushendun.


 This contribution arose in an attempt to address the problem of poverty using the example of the Scottish Commission for the Highland Roads and Bridges carried out by Thomas Telford. What Telford, his mentor, was to the Highlands, Nimmo was to parts of Ireland. He was the most active of a group of Scottish, or Scottish-trained engineers, including William Bald, Telford, the Rennies, and the the Stevensons, who contributed to bringing the industrial revolution to Ireland after the Act of Union in 1801.


As well as working on a series of maps and reports for draining and cultivating bogland in Roscommon, Kerry, Cork and Galway which covered some 2000 square miles, he produced proposals for canals, river navigation and roads. He also contributed academically with original papers for The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia on 'Boscovitch's theory', the theory of bridges, the theory of carpentry, and 'Draining' (1812)


While his physical legacy to Ireland is huge, he is remembered today for the tremendous contribution he made to the development of the Connemara infrastructure including the the village of Rounstone in Connemara and the carriage way from Clifden to Oughterard. He had a close affinity with Connemara and built a home by the Bealanabrack River,  Maam Cross. The house was on the carriage road that he later built from Maam Cross to Leenane. He also kept a house in Dublin to facilitate his practice in England and the rest of Ireland. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1811), member of the Royal Irish Academy (1818), member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in (1828).


Image: Bust of Alexander Nimmo - Courtesy of the National Science & Engineering Plaques Committee