You will come across references to the County Surveyor in Grand Jury and County Council Minute books and in the local newspapers. County Surveyors became County Engineers in 1944. County Engineers became Director of Service in 2001.

County Surveyors had some statutory powers which transferred to County Managers in 1942.

These extracts relating to County Meath are courtesy of

The Irish County Surveyors, 1834 - 1944, A Biographical Dictionary

by Brendan O'Donohoe Four Courts Press.


Samuel Stephen Searancke: ( 1811-1885).

Meath County Surveyor May 1834 to July 1874.

Born in England on 15th October 1811. He served his time with the prominent engineer Charles Blacker Vignoles. He was appointed the first County Surveyor for County Meath on 17th May 1834. He lived initally in Trim later moving to Violet Hill, Navan.

There were 1700 miles of road to maintain.He was allowed one assistant by the Grand Jury in the 1840s. The assistant was his brother William Nicholas Searancke. His brother's salary was £50 per year but Samuel Stephen paid his brother an extra £10 out of his own pocket. William Nicholas later went to new Zealand.

During the famine years, Searancke was called on to assist in the planning and supervision of relief works in County Meath. He encountered difficulties in enforcing task work. He reported in 1847 that the labourers in one area had ' turned out ' against the system and had 'perambulated the country adjoining, calling on gentry and farmers, on whom by the intimidation of numbers, they levied blackmail".

Searancke had constructed eighty five miles of new road in County Meath by 1868. He complained that there was frequently a private understanding among the bidders for a road contract and that some bidders were simply stalking horses for thir friends. He reported that he was frequently offered presents by road contractors and that country people often delivered gifts of poultry to his sevants. On one occasion a sheep was put into his paddock. He felt that this was going too far, so the animal was turned out onto the road instead of ending up on the surveyor's table.

County Surveyors were allowed to have a private practice but Searancke had only a limited private practice. He served in Meath for forty years, but was seriously ill for some years before being forced to retire for health reasons in July 1874. This was just a year before the law was amended to allow pensions to be paid to surveyors. He married Caroline Isabella Jackson Provis in 1835. Their son Samuel was born in 1846 and they had a daughter Ellen Isabella. Searancke died in Wales in 1885.

Joseph Henry Moore: (1844-1912)

Meath County Surveyor August 1874 to June 1907.

Born in London 26th August 1844. He was educated at Drogheda Grammar School and at Lewisham Grammar School, London. In June 1862 he entered Trinity College, Dublin and graduated with BA and BAI degrees in 1867. He worked as an engineer in the Dublin Port and Docks and in Antrim. He took first place in a county surveyor examination and was appointed to Westmeath inin December 1870. He was appointed County Surveyor, Meath in August 1874.

In an address to the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland in 1907, Moore strongly criticized the arrangements for road maintenance and improvement which had been introduced by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. The initiatve in proposing any work rested with the district councils rather than the county council. This meant that the district councils not only controlled the level of expenditure but could dictate the specification for road projects, demand the use of inferior local stone, oppose the use of steamrollers and give priority to roads of purely local importance instead of the main roads. According to Moore 'their chief idea is to make every lane leading to a few houses a county road, or even to make new roads to accomodate half a dozen occupiers.'

Moore was an early user of a form of reinforced concrete for bridge works. In 1903-1904 he designed and built the four span Watergate Bridge in Trim. In 1879 he reconstructed and lowered Somerville Bridge over the Boyne Navigation which had been erected by Richard Evans in 1792. The bridge was improved and widened by E.J.Duffy County Surveyor in 1936.

Between 1890 and his retirement Moore carried all his inspections of roadworks by bicycle. He was said to be 'a man of much mental culture and many activities' He was an active member of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, the Georgian Society and the Meath Archaeological & Historical Society of which he was secretary for a period.

In 1871 Moore married Elizabeth Jane King from Antrim.The family lived in Navan in the 1880s but later moved to Dublin. He is buried in Mount Jerome cemetary.

James Quigley: (1869-1941)

Meath County Surveyor August 1907 to1923.

Born in Newbliss, Co. Monaghan on 30th January 1869. He was educated in St. Macartan's School in Monaghan. He joined the French Foreign Legion in 1892. He completed a BE course in Galway between 1902 and 1906. He was an assistant county surveyor in Clones. The job of County Surveyor in Meath was advertised in March 1907. There were nine candidates . Quigley was voted into office by the County Council in August 1907. His remuneration was £500. But out of this he had to pay for a clerk, travelling and other expenses. He got fewer markes than any of the other candidates at the qualifying examination in July 1907 so he appears to have being more successful at canvassing for votes from the County Councillors.

Based on his own accounts Quigley was a successful County Surveyor. Writing in 1923, by which time his salary had been increased to £1,000 per year, he stated that when he took up duty sixteen years earlier he found the Meath roads to be the worst in Ireland but they were then the best. At the second Irish Roads Congress in Dublin in April 1911 he described how, folllowing the success of 'a sort of tentative scheme that certainroads were to be made by direct labour...there was not a single voice raised against the proposal to work all the roads in the county - some 1600 miles- with direct labour... After three years, there was nobody that ventured to say we did not do a lot better than the contractors had done at the same money'. One of those who worked as a road labourer under Quigley during these years was the poet Francis Ledwidge ( (1887-1917) who, ironically, died on the western front while engaged in road building.

In January 1920 Quigley was appointed to represnt the County Surveyors on an Irish sub committee of the Ministry of Transport Roads Advisory Committee. He was also appointed by the British Government to act on a committee to investigate claims for war damage to roads in Ireland. These appointments could be taken as evidence that Quigley was fully on the side of the authorities and the establishment between 1916 - 1922. But this does not seem to have been the case. He was involved in the establishment of the National Volunteers in Navan in 1914. Later that year he became secretary of the County Meath National Volunteers.He helped to organise a parade of 2,500 volunteers in Slane in August 1914. Quigley wrote in 1927, he had 'risked my position and my livliehood all the way through' and he was always 'on the side of Ireland' whereas, he claimed, none of the other County Surveyors had risked anything in the national struggle. He was, in fact , fortunate to escape with his life and liberty when he unwittingly became involved in the events of Easter Week,1916. On Friday 28th April 1916, when the Fifth Fingal Battalion of the Volunteers under Thomas Ashe and Richard Mulcahy was in action in the battle of Ashbourne a section of the ambushers moved to a position in a deep ditch on the side of the main road north of the village so as to cut off any attempt at escape by the police. The battle led to the deaths of eight members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the wounding of another fifteen. Colonel J.V. Lawless, one of the participants , in an account of the battle published in 'Dublin's Fighting Story'(Tralee,1948), described Quigley's involvement:

"Having noticed a motor cycle standing on the opposite side of the road, I then observed a man in civilian dress crouched near it in the hedge, and was about to fire on him when he saw me, and stood up with his hands raised. He said his name was Quigley and that he had been trying to get in touch with us, to warn us of the coming of the police convoy. Actually I did not believe him, and, somehow, perhaps because he was a very tall man, I thought he was connected with the police. But there was a doubt in the matter. I told him to leave his machine where it was , and to clear off across the fields. I afterwards learned that Mr. Quigley was the County Surveyor of Meath, and a good nationalist and supporter of the volunteer movement."

But that was not the end of the matter. Quigley was 6 foot 4 inches tall and his presence at the scene of the ambush had been noticed by the police. He was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with aiding and abetting the commission of an act prhibited by the Defence of the Realm Regulations by conveying information to persons who were taking part in an armed rebellion, and with having possession of a rifle, shotgun, explosives and seditious literature which had been found at his home.The County Council declared that they 'refused to believe that such a manly, generous hearted official would have been part to the Ashbourne outrage'. The authorities believed otherwise and arranged for Quigley to be court martialled in Dublin in June 1916.

Major Kimber, the prosequter, otlined the crown case. During the week of the rebellion, he said, a man named Ashe,who had since been sentenced to death, set out with armed rebels,took possession of various police barracks, made policemen prisoners, and ultimately came to a pitched battle with the constabulary at Ashbourne where a county inspector was mortally wounded, a district inspector was killed, and a number of constables were wounded. He went on to say that Quigley was seen on the road on his mororcycle and later in communication with the rebels, and a search of his premises turned up a rifle, a shotgun, some ammunition and seditious literature. In his defence, Quigley handed in a written statement declaring that he had no hand, act or part in the rebellion and explaining that the expolosives found at his home were for quarrying purposes. He sad that had publicly expressed loyalty to the king and the constitution and was never a member of Sinn Fein. When the split in the volunteers arose in September 1914, the Navan Corps, of which he was chairman, voted to remain loyal to George Redmond and to the Irish Parliamentary Party. Witnesses included the Nationalist MP for North Meath, Patrick White. They confirmed in evidence that Quigley was associated with the National Volunteers and Redmond's party rather than with the more militant groups,and that he had been known to express views critical of Sinn Fein. Quigley's defence was conducted by J.C.R. Lardner KC, nationalist M. P. for Monaghan and by Henry Hanna KC who made what was described as a powerful address on his behalf. After a two day hearing, Lord Cheylesmore, who presided at the court martial, declared Quigley not guilty and he was released.

Quigley was arrested again under the Restoration of Order Act 1920 and according to a note he wrote in 1924 'was imprisoned for the whole of that year (1921) in various workhouses, jails and internment camps, without trial or charge assigned. My house was broken up, my family scattered and my house furniture sold by auction. I was put to hundreds of pounds of expense by the action of the British government, apart from all personal suffering'. He returned to his County Surveyor duties in 1922. In 1923 he was offered a post in the Ministry of Local Government which had been established in the previous April. He retired in September 1934.

He died in 1941 and was buried in Killevan, County Monaghan, where his brother was parish priest. He married Linda Hynes in 1911 and had four sons.

Edward J Duffy( 1893-1947)

Meath County Surveyor October 1923 to February 1947.

Born 22nd June 1893 in Castlepollard, County Westmeath. He was educated in St. Finians College, Mullingar and studied engineering in University College, Dublin from 1912. He graduated with first class honours BE and BSc degrees in 1915 and an ME in 1922. He was a teacher in St. Mary's College, Dundalk 1915 to 1919. He worked in the Fuel Research Board in Turraun, Co. Offaly. In the early 1920s he worked in London for the Anglo-Danish Concrete Construction Company. In October 1923 he was appointed Meath County Surveyor at a salary of £600 per year. He constructed about ten miles of cement bound macadam roads in Meath as part of experiments being conducted on different types of road construction. This was a sand cement mixture laid on a bed of three inches of broken stone and a further layer of broken stone laid on top before rolling. He was also responsible for a number of water and sewerage schemes and rural housing schemes. He was a progressive engineer, always seeking to improve methods and practice in road construction and design.

Duffy was interested in peat development and visited Germany and Russia in 1935 with Dr. C.S. Andrews. Andrews in his autobiography 'Man of No Property' described Duffy. Duffy was basically a mathematician and a man of great intellectual gifts who had no interest in, or knowledge of, political affairs. Duffy was a gentle pious person who was not very happy about being in Russia.

Duffy died at home in Navan in February 1947. His daughter Joyce, who had been Andrew's secretary married him following the death of his first wife in 1967.

Navan and District Historical Society has copied these extracts for genuine and bona fide information dissemination purposes and acknowledges that the source of the information is The Irish County Surveyors, 1834 - 1944, A Biographical Dictionary, by Brendan O' Donohoe.