Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Second Engineer with the Board of Works, Ireland, 1887-1905. Frederick John Dick was born in Scotland on 25 December 1855.  In 1876, following a four-year apprenticeship in the office of the Dundee Harbour Engineer, David Cunningham, he entered the office of the Edinburgh engineers J. & C. Leslie.   In February 1887 he competed for the post of Second Engineer  to the Irish Board of Public Works and was placed first. He duly took up the position and held it until 1905, when he emigrated to California.(1) At the monthly dinner of the ICEI, held on 4 January 1905, the president, ROBERT COCHRANE ROBERT COCHRANE , expressed his regret that Dick was leaving : 'In fact Ireland was too small for a man of his wonderful capacity and many-sided sympathies, and it is fitting that in leaving us he should have been allotted the whole wide world as his field of labour.'(2)

Dick was a committed Theosophist, and his lodgings at 3 Upper Ely Place became the headquarters of the Dublin Theosophical Society. W.B Yeats in his Autobiography (1922), 193, describes the menage: 'The one house where nobody thought or talked politics was a house in Ely Place, where a number of young men lived together, and, for want of a better name, were called Theosophists. Besides the resident members, other members dropped in and out during the day, and the reading-room was a place of much discussion about philosophy and about the arts. The house had been taken in the name of the engineer to the Board of Works, a black-bearded young man, with a passion for Manichaean philosophy, and all accepted him as host; and sometimes the conversation, especially when I was there, became too ghostly for the nerves of his young and delicate wife, and he would be made angry.' It may have been his wife Annie's death in 1904 which prompted Dick to leave Ireland the following year for the Point Loma Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society Homestead (later the Theosophical University), a Theosophical colony at San Diego, California, which had been established in 1897. He appears to have remained there until his death in 1927 or 1928. He was the author of Notes on Peruvian Antiquities (1915), Ancient Astronomy in Egypt and its significance (1916), Maya Chronology (1921), all published by the Aryan Press at Point Loma.

Inst.CE: elected associate member, 10 Apr 1888; member, 2 May 1893.
ICEI: elected member, 16 May 1900;(3) winner of Mullins Gold Medal for his paper, 'Some notes on waterworks', read to ICEI on 2 May 1900, 5 March 1902; (3); council member, 1902-5.(4)

Addresses:  3 Upper Ely Place, Dublin, 1896; 168 Rathgar Road, 1900; Point Loma, Homestead, San Diego, California, 1906-1919; Theosophical University, Point Loma, 1920.

See BIBLIOGRAPHY  BIBLIOGRAPHY for Dick's writings on engineering topics.


All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from Dick's candidate's circulars for associate membership (1888) and membership (1893) of Inst.CE, kindly provided by Mrs Carol Morgan, archivist, Inst.CE, and from Dick's 1901 census return.

(1) www.ellisisland.org records Dick's arrival in New York in three consecutive summers: in 1903, when he was 47, in 1904, when he was 48 and finally in 1905, when he was 49. He gives his ethnicity as Scotch or English and his place of residence as Dublin.
(2) IB 47, 14 Jan 1905, 30.
(3) TICEI 28 (1898-1901), ?.
(4) TICEI 29 (1901-2), 86.
(5) TICEI 29,30, 31, lists of officers.

Author Title Date Details
Dick, Frederick John 'Some notes on waterworks' 1901 TICEI 28 (1898-1901), 7-38. (Paper read 2 May, 1900.)
Dick, Frederick John 'Notes on the design of breakwaters' 1902 TICEI 29 (1901-2), 86-103.