Engineer and inventor, of Dublin and London. James Hardress de Warenne Waller, the tenth and youngest son of George Arthur Waller, of Prior Park, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, and his wife Sarah, daughter of Guy Atkinson of Cangort, Co. Offaly, was born in Tasmania, where his father had a farm, on 31 July 1884. After attending school in Hobart, he served a two-year pupilage with his eldest brother Richard FitzArthur Waller in Tasmania, from 1902 to 1904. He then came to Ireland, where he studied engineering at Queen's College, Galway After graduating in 1909, he continued his studies at University College, Cork, under Professor CONAL WILLIAM O'DONAL LONG ALEXANDER , obtaining the MSc and ME degrees. While he was in Cork he was involved in the design of a ferro-concrete bridge over a branch of the Lee, which passes through the college grounds. He then acted as clerk of works for building the new bridge over the Slaney at Waterford (1911-13).
In 1913 Waller went into partnership in Dublin with ALFRED DOVER DELAP as DELAP & amp; WALLER . The partnership lasted until Delap's death in 1943 although Waller left Ireland for some thirteen or fourteen years soon after it had been formed. Following the outbreak of the First World War, he joined the 65th Field Company of the Royal Engineers. He served with distinction in Salonica, and was awarded the DSO in 1916 and OBE in 1918. He also developed the idea of a concrete battleship and persuaded the Admiralty to construct a prototype which was launched shortly before the Armistice. After the war he became a technical adviser to the Admiralty and then worked on a large railway project in northern Spain.
Waller returned to Ireland in the late 1920s full of energy and ideas. In 1928 a street of two-storey flat-roofed houses was built by Dublin Corporation in Rialto, Dublin, using his patented 'Nofrango' system of lightweight concrete construction . At Foynes in about 1937 he used a system of filling hessian bags with concrete to construct a new deep-water jetty. In 1940 the Irish Builder reported that he was 'sponsoring a new type of housing scheme for Dublin, with insistence on a rural environment', noting that he had made a special study of housing design and low-cost building materials. In Dublin, he founded the Mount Street Club for the unemployed with Patrick Somerville Large and Alfred Delap's son HUGH ALEXANDER DELAP .
Following the death of Alfred Delap in 1943, Waller, who was eager to contribute to the British war effort, moved to London, where he designed huts, stores and hangars for the War Office as well as utilitarian structures for private clients. Many of these buildings were built on his patented 'Ctesiphon' system. Inspired by the ancient arch of Ctesiphon in Iraq, which he had seen in the early 1920s, he used the purely compressive structural shape of the inverted catenary arch to minimise the amount of reinforcement needed in constructing the shell of a building. False-work arches were erected at about 3-inch centres, over which a layer of jute fabric was spread. Cement plaster was then applied to the fabric both inside and out to form a corrugated surface. After the outside had been lightly reinforced, additional plaster was applied externally to create a shell about 2½ inches thick. Buildings in Ireland constructed by this method include Locke's bonded warehouse at Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath.and farm buildings at Grange, near Trim, Co. Meath. A small hut was erected to demonstrate the system in the orchard of St Columban's Missionary College, near Navan. According to Williams, the economy of the system aroused the hostility of the building trades, particularly the Plasterers' Union.
Eventually, after selling the his 'Ctesiphon' patent to the Seagram Company of Canada in exchange for an annual pension, Waller retired to Devon. He died on 9 February 1968, survived by his wife, Beatrice Frances, née Kinkead (d. 1973), whom he had married on 25 August 1917. He was the father of two daughters.
The Irish Architectural Archive holds an album compiled by Waller which contains photographs of the many buildings constructed according to the 'Ctesiphon' system (Acc. 93/67).
ICEI: elected associate member, 1911; raised to member, 1919; delivers papers, 'A reinforced concrete bridge', 1 March 1911, 'The execution of work in reinforced concrete', 5 February 1913, for which he was awarded the Mullins Silver Medal, and 'Some views on Employment', 1 May 1939; no longer on list of members after 1950.
Addresses: 7 Bridge Street, Waterford, 1911; Bank Chambers, 115 Grafton Street, Dublin, 1920; 16 Albemarle Street, London, W.1., 1922; 2 The Woodlands, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, 1924; 'The Ferrocarvie, Santander, Mediterranean Burgos, Spain', 1926-1927; Streamvale, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 1929; 115 Grafton Street, Dublin, 1932; 16 Molesworth Street, 1934-39; 29 Merrion Square, 1941->=1942; 167 Victoria Street, London SW1, <=1946->=1950.
See WORKS and BIBLIOGRAPHY ; see also works of DELAP & amp; WALLER.
All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from Jeremy Williams, 'An Irish Genius: J.H. De W Waller 1884-1968, Irish Arts Review 12 (1996), 143-146, and Burke's Irish Family Records (1976), 1183. A photograph of Waller is in IB 71, 19 Jan 1929, 50.
IB 82, 3 Feb 1940, 70.
Information about the Ctesiphon building system from Professor Ron Cox.
TICEI 39 (1912-13), 224.
From ICEI membership lists unless otherwise attributed.
1911 census of Ireland, http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/ (last visited Nov 2009).