DEATH OF MR. THOMAS
We record with very great regret the sudden death of Mr. Thomas Higinbotham, engineer- in-chief of the Victorian Railways, at the age of 60 years. Mr. Higinbotham resided with his brother, Mr. Justice Higinbotham, in St. Kilda-street, West Brighton. During the week he enjoyed his usual good health until Saturday. On Friday he attended to his office duties at Spencer street railway station, and on returning home that night said that as there was nothing requiring his personal supervision at Spencer street, he would not go on Saturday to town. On Saturday morning he complained of chilliness, and endeavoured to keep himself warm at the fire. His brother and the servants observed that he was not looking well, and inquired what was the matter with him. He replied that it was nothing serious - only a feeling of coldness. On Sunday morning he was absent from the breakfast table. Soon after the breakfast hour, at abont 20 minutes past 10 o'clock, Mr. Justice Higinbotham went to call his brother. He knocked at his bedroom door, and received no answer. Knocking again with the same result, his Honour entered the room and found his brother lying in his bed to all appearance dead. He was lying on his side, his face had a placid appearance, and there was no sign of any struggle. Medical assistance was sent for immediately. Dr. Casey, who first arrived, stated that life must have de- parted several hours previously. His opinion
was that the cause of death had been apoplexy, but he also stated that it may have been caused by a rupture in connexion with the heart or by disease of the brain. Dr. Motherwell, the medical adviser of the de ceased, states, on the other hand, that the appearances are not those of apoplexy. In accordance with Mr. Justice Higinbotham's expressed desire an inquest will be held to-day, and until then the actual cause of death cannot be ascertained Mr Candler, the coroner, has requested Dr. Tovell to perform the post mortem examination.
Mr Higinbotham was a native of Dublin. He learned the rudiments of his profession in the Royal Dublin Society House, and about the year 1838-9 he went to London and entered the office of Sir Wm. Cubitt. Subsequently he was appointed as assistant-engineer of the South Eastern Railway, between Dover and Canterbury. Afterwards Sir Wm. Cubitt, who was advising engineer to the Great Northern Railway Company, had him
appointed as resident engineer of that railway
and he superintended the construction
of the line to Huntingdon. In 1853
his brother came out to this colony,
and he followed him in 1857. At first
he took an office in Temple-court, and
practised his profession in the ordinary way. In January, 1858, he was appointed by Captain Clarke as inspector-general of roads for the colony. Under the supervision of the then engineer-in-chief (Mr Darbyshire),
the contracts for the lines to Sandhurst and Ballarat were let. Some difference then occurred between Mr Darbyshire and the Government of the day, the result of which was that the former left and Mr Higinbotham was in May, 1860 appointed as his successor, and carried out the lines referred to. All our lines of railway constructed since then up to 1878 were built under the direction and supervision of Mr Higinbotham, the value of whose ability and services became more and more apparent as time rolled on. Under his regime the cost of constructing railways was reduced to less than £5,000 per mile. He played a prominent part in the inquiry held over the Malmsbury reservoir, and as will be remembered, when the breakdown in that undertaking predicted by Mr. Higinbotham occurred, Messers. Christopherson, Shakespear, and John Woods were dismissed. In 1871, when Mr Longmore was Minister of Railways, a strenuous effort was made to break the gauge of our railways. Mr. Higinbotham almost single-handed opposed this, and contended that all our railways should be made on the same gauge. He carried his point, and afterwards received the thanks of all parties. In 1871, he left the colony for the purpose of inspecting the British, Continental, and American railways, and on returning, after two years absence, he presented a valuable report on the construction of light and cheap lines. Mr. John Woods having attained to office as Minister of Railways for the Berry Government, Mr. Higinbotham was, on the 8th January, 1878, dismissed-- in fact, found himself one of the Black Wednesday victims. His dismissal was, indeed, the most sensational event of the day, for it came with a shock upon the community at large. In May, 1880, the Service Ministry having come into power restored Mr. Higinbotham to his former position, and his reinstatement not only gave almost universal satisfaction, but it was believed that no future Government would ever disturb it. Mr Patterson, the present Minister of Railways, states that a pleasant feeling existed between him and the engineer-in-chief and that although differences of opinion about the construction of works sometimes occurred between Mr. Higinbotham and other officers, there was never anything approaching to a rupture. Mr. Patterson further states that it was not the intention of the present Government to remove Mr. Higinbotham, that the only time Mr. Higinbotham's case came before the Cabinet was when Mr. Ford's reappointment was resolved upon and that then the expression of feeling on the part of the Govern- ment was in favour of the deceased. It appears, however, that on Thursday last Mr. Higinbotham consulted with a friend as to his position m the Railway department, with special reference to the reinstatement of Mr. Ford. He appeared to be very much disturbed, and was undecided about the course he should adopt. After talking the matter over his friend pointed out to him that the only course open to him was to resign, and it was understood that he had made up his mind to follow that advice.