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Brady, Alfred Barton (1856–1932)

by Paul D. Wilson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Alfred Brady, by Poulsen

Alfred Brady, by Poulsen

State Library of Queensland, 17791

Alfred Barton Brady (1856-1932), civil engineer and architect, was born at Manchester, England, on 1 February 1856, son of William Brady, cotton-spinner, and his wife Eliza, née Barton. Educated locally, he entered the service of C. W. Green, architect, in January 1872; he then became chief assistant to G. W. Stevenson, civil engineer and architect, in London. From March 1881 to October 1882 he was surveyor to the Docking Rural and the Hunstanton Urban authorities in Norfolk, and then engineer and surveyor to the District of Maldon, Essex. On 8 July 1879 he had married Lucy Bywater in the Wesleyan chapel at Prestwich, Lancashire. In 1884 they migrated to Queensland in the Waroonga, arriving in Brisbane on 15 December.

On 22 January 1885 Brady began his thirty-seven years of service with the Queensland government, joining the railways as supernumerary assistant engineer, southern division. He became assistant engineer of bridges, southern and central division, on 1 January 1887, but transferred to the Public Works Department as engineer for bridges on 1 July 1889. The professional branches of the department were amalgamated in September 1891 and Brady took full responsibility; he became government architect and engineer for bridges on 7 April 1892. A lengthy royal commission into the administration of the Public Works Department was held in 1900. Brady received some criticism, but the report stressed the need for a professional head of department and he was appointed under-secretary, government architect and engineer for bridges on 1 February 1901. He reached retirement age on 1 February 1922 and later became government gas referee.

Brady was closely associated with many major public works in Queensland. He supervised the temporary reconstruction of the Victoria Bridge in Brisbane after several spans were destroyed in the February 1893 floods, and was responsible for the design and construction of the new bridge completed in June 1897. He also erected the Lamington Bridge at Maryborough (1896), the Burnett Bridge at Bundaberg (1900) and the Border Bridge over the Macintyre at Goondiwindi (1915), as well as smaller bridges elsewhere in Queensland. Major buildings overseen by Brady include, in Brisbane, the Lands and Survey (later Executive) Building (1905), the Central Technical College (1914), and the Queensland Government Savings Bank (later Insurance) Building (1921) and, in 1900-02, customs houses at Rockhampton, Townsville, Maryborough and Mackay. From 1901 to 1919 Brady had responsibility under a Federal-State agreement for the construction and maintenance of Commonwealth buildings in Queensland; he represented his government in negotiations over valuation and subsequent transfer of State property in the post-Federation period. Within his department he encouraged the use of day labour under the direct supervision of his own officers, and agreed to the introduction of quantity-surveying techniques in 1911-12 after approaches by the building industry.

An associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, by 1893 and a member by 1899, Brady conducted its examinations in Queensland after their introduction in 1896. The institution awarded him the Telford Premium in 1900 for his paper on the Lamington Bridge at Maryborough, and the Crampton Prize in 1902-03 for his paper on the construction of the Victoria Bridge. Brady was sent overseas by the government in 1913 on a tour of the United States of America and Europe to investigate developments in construction and design.

During his 'long and meritorious' service, Brady moved gradually from professional engineering to the varied and wide-ranging responsibilities of a departmental head. He was described as having 'simple directness of speech … sincerity of manner' and 'dignified candour'. An architect termed him 'perfectly fair', though reputed to be 'difficult to get on with', and commented further that, while there was no doubt as to his designing and administrative ability, 'he was more the Engineer than the Architect'.

Brady died of recurring epithelioma on 31 May 1932 in Sydney, predeceased by his wife and survived by five sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • C. M. Norrie, Bridging the Years (Lond, 1956)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1900, 3, 979, 1921, 2, 924
  • Commercial Publishing Co. of Sydney, Ltd, Annual Review of Queensland, vol 1 (1902), no 1
  • Queenslander, 9 June 1932
  • J. V. D. Coutts, Early Queensland Architecture and D. J. Garland, Engineer Names for Canberra Streets (Oxley Library, Brisbane)
  • Department of Public Works (Queensland), Annual Report, 1892-1922
  • register of arrivals, IMM/119 (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Paul D. Wilson, 'Brady, Alfred Barton (1856–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brady-alfred-barton-5334/text9017, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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