Scottish engineer, surveyor and cartographer. William Bald was born in Burntisland, Fife, Scotland, in 1788 or 1789. In 1803 he was apprenticed to the cartographer and engineer John Ainslie. After mapping the Scottish Western Isles, he came to Co. Mayo in 1809 on the recommendation of the officers of the British Ordnance Survey to make a Grand Jury map of the county. At the same time he took a post under the Bogs Commission. His map of Co. Mayo was completed in 1816 and engraved in Paris in the 1820s. By 1824 he had also carried out property surveys in Cos. Sligo, Galway, Roscommon, Laois and Offaly. In Mayo he supervised the construction of a number of roads and bridges. He also supervised the building of four piers in Co. Mayo - at Achill Sound, Inishturk, Saleen, and Tarmon - to designs by ALEXANDER NIMMO  ; but, according to Wilkins, 'on each occasion there was a lack of satisfaction, due largely to Bald's profligate expenditure'.
Bald went to work in France in 1826 but in the early 1830s he returned to Ireland, where he was again engaged on a number of Board of Works schemes. In 1833 he examined and reported upon Drogheda harbour, having been given responsibility for the execution and modification of plans by Nimmo, who had died in January 1833. During the years 1833 and 1834, he was superintending engineer directly responsible to the Board of Works for the Antrim Coast Road, between Larne and Ballycastle. He also designed the Kenmare and Bantry road and the suspension bridge at Kenmare. In 1838 he produced a report on the means of embanking and reclaiming land behind Tramore Strand in Co. Waterford and also proposed the creation of a fishing harbour at 'Lady Cove' on the west side of Tramore bay. The following year he reported on a proposed harbour and pier at Glenarm, Co. Antrim. He was engineer - with THOMAS JACKSON WOODHOUSE - to the Ulster Railway line from Belfast to Armagh and also to a number of other projected lines. He left Ireland in 1839 and spent the rest of his life in Scotland and London, where he died in 1857.
Bald was an active participant in the early meetings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, although not apparently a member. In May and June 1837 he read four papers on Irish subjects to the institution: 'On the velocity of the Water in Belfast Harbour' read on 2 May, 'Account of some blasting operations through the white limestone on the Antrim Coast Road', read on 23 May, 'Further observations on blasting the white limestone of the Antrim Coast' read on 30 May, and 'A practical method of forming the stones of an elliptic arch' (method employed in constructing bridge over the Owenmore River circa 1820). The following year, on 19 June, he read a further paper 'On the construction of roads on deep bogs and moss' He presented a model of Clare Island to the institution in 1838 and a set of his maps of County Mayo in 1839.
Bald's pupils and assistants included PATRICK KNIGHT and JOHN YEATS.
RIA: elected member, 1822.
For a fuller account of Bald's activities as a cartographer see J.H. Andrews, Plantation Acres (Ulster Historical Foundation, 1985), 254,286-9,302,308,351,357,371,380,384,443. Andrews cites two accounts of Bald's life by M.C. Storrie: 'William Bald, F.R.S.E.,surveyor, cartographer and civil engineer', Trans. Inst. Br. Geogr., 47 (1969), 205-31, and 'The man who built the Antrim Cost Road', Geogr. Mag. 43 (1971), 249. The most recent account of his life is by Iain Sommerville in in Burntisland Online: William Bald, http://www.burntisland.net/bald.htm (last visited Aug 2009).
Noel P. Wilkins, Alexander Nimmo, Master Engineer, 1783-1832: public works and civil surveys (Irish Academic Press, 2009), 354.
1st Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1833), 6; he presented a copy of his Report of the Harbour of Drogheda to the ICE in 1838 (Min.Proc. ICE 1, Session 1838, 13).
1st Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1833), 10 & plan; 2nd Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1834), plan 5.
2nd Annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland) (1834), plans 17-19.
Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal I (1837-38), 227-229.256-258.
Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal I (1837-38), 281-282.
Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal II (1839), 82-83(illus.).
Min. Proc. ICE 1, Session 1837, 37-38,40-42,43-44.
Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal I (1837-38), 234.
Min. Proc. ICE, Session 1838, 50-51.
Min.Proc.ICE 1, Session 1838, 19.
Min. Proc. ICE Session 1839, 26.
Jones transcripts from Thom's Directory, 1850.