Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Rundall, Francis Hornblow

RUNDALL, FRANCIS HORNBLOW (1823–1908), inspector-general of Indian irrigation, born at Madras on 22 Dec. 1823, was youngest son of the seven children of Lieut.-colonel Charles Rundall, of the East India Company's service, judge advocate general of the Madras army, by his wife Henrietta Wryghte. The second of his three brothers. Captain John William, Madras engineers, died on active service in the second Burmese war on 12 Nov. 1852. Educated at Kensington grammar school and at the East India Company's military seminary at Addiscombe (1839-41), he was gazetted to the Madras engineers on 10 Dec. 1841, and after the usual course at Chatham reached India on 23 Dec. 1843. He was adjutant of the Madras sappers and miners for a few months, but in Sept. 1844 joined the public works department as assistant to General Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton [q. V. Suppl. I] in his surveys for the irrigation of the Godavery delta. After brief duty in Tanjore, to acquire knowledge of the great Cauvery works, he assisted Cotton in the construction of the Godavery works from 1845 to 1851. Warmly attached to his chief, he shared both his rehgious fervour and his enthusiastic belief in irrigation and navigable canals for India. He was appointed district engineer of Vizagapatam and Ganjam in 1851 (when also he was promoted captain) and district engineer of Rajamahendri in May 1855, a position which gave him charge of the further Godavery works then in progress.

In 1859 Rundall became superintending engineer of the northern circle and departmental secretary to the Madras government. He was soon serving in addition as consulting engineer to the government for the Madras Irrigation Company's works. In 1861 he was gazetted lieutenant-colonel and granted special leave to be chief engineer to the East India Irrigation and Canal Company, then constructing the Orissa canals on plans laid down by Cotton. Though water was supplied from 1865, the works were not sufficiently advanced to be effective in the terrible famine of the following year, but under Rundall they constituted an excellent form of relief labour. Cotton's sanguine estimates had to be largely exceeded; the cultivators were slow to avail themselves of the water supply; rates had to be lowered to an unremunerative figure; the company failed to raise further capital, and the canals were taken over by the government in 1869. Though no financial success, they are of great value in time of drought.

From July 1867 Rundall was chief irrigation engineer and joint secretary to the Bengal government, and the Son canals, which had also been projected by the East India Irrigation and Canal Company, for the service of the Shahabad, Gaya, and Patna districts, were commenced under his orders. By them more than half a million acres are annually watered, and they yield about 4 per cent, on the capital invested. From April 1872 he was inspector-general of irrigation and deputy secretary to the government of India, and was thus brought into close touch with the progress of irrigation throughout the country. He gained a reputation for enthusiasm, soundness of judgment, and accuracy in estimates. During his service, which terminated in April 1874, he had only once taken leave home.

Rundall, who had been promoted colonel in June 1868 and major-general in March 1869, was created a C.S.I. in Dec. 1875, and was made colonel commandant of the royal engineers in 1876. He became lieutenant-general at the end of 1878, and general in Nov. 1885, being placed on the unemployed supernumerary fist in July 1881.

At the invitation of the Khedive Ismail, Rundall examined the delta of the Nile in 1876-7, and submitted plans and estimates for irrigation. His proposals, which included the construction of a mighty dam not far from the site of the present one at Assouan, were frustrated by the bankruptcy of the country. Rundall' s services were engaged by a syndicate formed in 1883 to construct a Palestinian canal admitting of the passage of the largest vessels from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, by way of the Jordan Valley and the Gulf of Akaba, but the project did not mature (cf. his ’The Highway of Egypt: Is it the Suez Canal or any other Route between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea?' London 1882). After retirement he lectured on Indian irrigation at the Chatham school of military engineering, and some of the lectures were privately printed (Chatham, 1876). He also wrote the following pamphlets, 'Notes on Report of Ganges Canal Committee' (Cuttack, 1866); 'Memo, on the Madras Irrigation Company's Works at Kumool' (Dorking, undated); and a 'Review of Progress of Irrigation Schemes in relation to Famine Aspects,' placed before a Parliamentary select committee in 1878. He died at Moffat, N.B., at the house of his son-in-law, the Rev. Francis Wingate Pearse, headmaster of St. Ninian's school, on 30 Sept. 1908, and was buried at Moffat cemetery. He married on 8 Dec. 1846 Fanny Ada, daughter of Captain W. G. Seton-Burn, 3rd fight dragoons, and had three daughters and two sons, of whom the eldest is Colonel Frank Montagu Rundall, C.B., D.S.O., late 4th Gurkha rifles.

[Vibart's Addiscombe: its Heroes and Men of Note, 1894; Lady Hope's Life of (General Arthur Cotton, 1900; India List, 1908; Imp. Gaz. of India, 1908, articles on Orissa and Son canals; Journ. of Royal Engineers, vol. viii. Dec. 1908; The Times, 1 Oct. 1908; information kindly supplied by Colonel F. M. Rundall.]

F. H. B.