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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Angwin, Hugh Thomas Moffitt (1888–1949)

by Suzanne Edgar

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Hugh Thomas Moffitt Angwin (1888-1949), engineer and public servant, was born on 8 October 1888 at Angaston, South Australia, son of Thomas Britton Angwin, Wesleyan clergyman, and his wife Mary Jane, née Moffitt. Hugh attended South Broken Hill Public School and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, before studying at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian School of Mines and Industries (B.Sc., 1910; Dip. Electrical Engineering, 1912). In 1911 he joined the Public Works Department as a draftsman and won the Angas engineering scholarship which enabled him to work in England in 1912. Next year he rejoined his department and converted his degree (B.Eng.). Serious, meticulous, gentle and self-effacing, he was 5 ft 8½ ins (174 cm) tall, with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. Late in 1917 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, but only reached France in October 1918. Before returning home, he inspected river and dock works in England.  

Appointed assistant resident engineer, River Murray Works, Angwin was stationed at Blanchetown from 1919 until promoted assistant constructing engineer in Adelaide in 1924. At the Methodist Church, Renmark, on 16 August 1928 he married Edna Turnbull, a 21-year-old Englishwoman. Two years later in Adelaide he became chief engineer to the South Australian Harbors Board. He joined the board as a commissioner in 1935 upon his appointment as engineer-in-chief of the Engineering and Water Supply Department. Plans for the state-aided industrialization of South Australia involved co-operation with Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd which needed water for a blast furnace at Whyalla. Angwin's project to pipe River Murray water from Morgan to Whyalla and the north was completed in 1944 and praised by Premier (Sir) Thomas Playford as 'one of the most important public works ever undertaken in the State'. That year Angwin was appointed C.M.G.

During World War II his department, though understaffed, handled large projects, including the mining of brown coal at Leigh Creek. Having visited Canada and the United States of America in 1944-45, Angwin reported to the State government in 1946 on the use of low-grade coals in North America. In that year he became chairman of the new Electricity Trust of South Australia; the government was criticized for burdening him with an additional demanding job. Angwin was efficient and impartial: he delegated authority, noted his staff's needs and tactfully eased departmental formality. Among his achievements were the Barossa-Salisbury and Mannum-Adelaide pipelines, the design and construction of sewage-treatment works at Glenelg, major barrages, irrigation drainage plans, the completion of Mount Bold and the design of South Para reservoirs, as well as a contribution to the Metropolitan Floodwaters Scheme.

Chairman (1941-46) of the Adelaide division of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, and deputy-commissioner (1946-49) of the River Murray Commission, Angwin was a councillor of the South Australian School of Mines and Industries, an active Methodist and a Rotarian. In 1947 he had been a member of the royal commission into the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. Angwin died suddenly of coronary thrombosis on 12 September 1949 in Grenfell Street, Adelaide. Parliamentary tributes belatedly acknowledged him as a fine public servant who should not have been overloaded. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he was buried in Centennial Park cemetery; his estate was sworn for probate at £5120. He is commemorated by an annual prize for mechanical engineering at the South Australian Institute of Technology.

Select Bibliography

  • D. A. Cumming and G. C. Moxham, They Built South Australia (Adel, 1986)
  • M. Hammerton, Water South Australia (Adel, 1986)
  • Parliamentary Debates (South Australia), 1949, p 652
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 1 Jan 1944, 13 Sept 1949
  • News (Adelaide), 31 Aug 1946
  • private information.

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar, 'Angwin, Hugh Thomas Moffitt (1888–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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