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TUCKER, John Scott

Born: 1812
Died: 1882 01 18


Also referred to as SCOTT TUCKER, John.

Born in the United Kingdom. He completed an apprenticeship in engineering and then worked on railway construction under IK Brunel and on harbour works in the Azores, Bermuda and Malta. As a young man he painted in water colours, exhibiting his work in London in 1836.

He came to the Cape Colony in 1854 and that same year investigated and reported upon the port of Table Bay and its improvement. His report included a plan of the harbour works. The next year he also drew up a plan of Table Bay, with soundings, which showed the harbour works proposed by Lieutenant-Colonel CC MICHELL, a Mr Rendell, and himself.

In 1857 he delivered evidence before a parliamentary select committee appointed to plan the first railway construction in the colony. The committee recommended that a railway line be built from Cape Town to Wellington. The contract for the work was awarded to the CAPE TOWN RAILWAY AND DOCK COMPANY, with which Tucker had been associated in England.

Meanwhile he left and was busy with railway construction in Brazil. He was appointed as first Colonial Engineer in 1858, succeeding G PILKINGTON and so returned to the Cape to take up the position in January 1859. That year he compiled a map of Table Bay with magnetic bearings of the lighthouses at Green Point, Mouille Point and Robben Island; a plan of the Mouille Point lighthouse; a plan of the lighthouse on Robben Island; and, with E Pickering, plans of Somerset Hospital, Cape Town. One of his functions, until January 1860, was to supervise the building of the railway. Later the post of chief commissioner of roads was combined with his post of colonial engineer. He did not occupy the post for long. The Secretary of State in London referred to the mismanagement of the Public Works Department in 1863 and stated that Tucker was to seek other employment. Already in 1862 M.R. Robinson was acting colonial engineer and his appointment was confirmed the next year. He retired later under a cloud, in 1863 and was succeeded by M ROBINSON.

In 1860 a Meteorological Committee (later renamed Meteorological Commission) was established at the Cape to organise, supervise and publish regular meteorological observations throughout the colony. It was chaired by Sir R. Southey and Tucker was one of its eight members. The committee brought out its first report in 1862.

While at the Cape in 1859 Tucker established and commanded a corps of engineer volunteers named the 'Cape Sappers and Miners'. The corps was renamed the 'Cape Engineers' in 1861. After leaving the Cape Colony Tucker worked as a consulting engineer in London. In 1865 he submitted proposals for railway construction in the Cape Colony, but nothing came of this initiative. He ended his career as superintendent of public works in Barbados.

Scott Tucker as he was known, prepared designs for the Cape Parliament buildings in 1860. His drawings were not used. There was an enquiry in 1876 apropos the new Houses of Parliament during which the evidence of an expert, AW ACKERMANN, was sought, asking whether or not the accepted new design 'Spes Bona' (C FREEMAN's design?) could be considered a copy or piracy of Scott Tucker's design submitted in 1860. The suggestion was refuted by Ackermann. (Minutes of Evidence Select Committee on the New Houses of Parliament May 1863:13)

[Entry extensively expanded after Plug (RCF 2018 08 03)]

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Lighthouse: 1862. Robben Island, Western Cape - Engineer
Somerset Hospital - Second: 1859 -1862 . Cape Town, Western Cape - Design Architect *

Books citing TUCKER

CPIA Committee. 1983. The Buildings of Cape Town 1983 : Phase Two. Volume Three : Catalogue and Classification. Cape Town: Cape Provincial Institute of Architects. pp

Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pp 57, 61

Hoberman, Gerald. 2011. Lighthouses of South Africa : pocket edition. Cape Town - London - New York: The Gerald & Marc Hoberman Collection. pp 69

HSRC. 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV. Pretoria: Butterworth & Co (SA) for Human Sciences Research Council. pp 665

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 48, 49

Radford, D. 1979. The architecture of the Western Cape, 1838-1901. A study of the impact of Victorian aesthetics and technology on South African architecture. Johannesburg: Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Dept of Arch. University of the Witwatersrand. pp

S2A3 (Plug, C - Project Leader and main compiler). 2002-. S2A3 biographical database of southern African science. Webspace: WWW. pp Accessed 12 January 2016

Williams, Harold. 1993. Southern Lights : Lighthouses of Southern Africa. Cape Town: William Waterman Publications. pp 57