Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ronayne, Joseph Philip

RONAYNE, JOSEPH PHILIP (1822–1876), civil engineer, youngest son of Edmond Ronayne, a glass-maker of Cork, was born at Cork in 1822. After an education under Messrs. Porter and Hamblin at a school in Cork, and instruction from Mr. O'Neill in practical surveying, he entered the office of Sir John Benjamin McNeill [q. v.], civil engineer of London and Glasgow. He was first engaged in the design and construction of the main arterial lines of railway in Ireland, and then on one half of the Cork and Bandon railway, a work which he successfully accomplished. In 1853 he proposed furnishing Cork with water by the construction of a lake near Blarney, but this, a gravitation scheme of great simplicity, was not carried out. On 4 March 1856 he became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. From 1854 to 1859 he was in California, where he superintended hydraulic works, bringing down the waters of the Sierra Nevada to the goldfields by means of canals and aqueducts. Soon after returning to Ireland he became a contractor, and executed the Queenstown branch of the Cork and Youghal railway. On the completion of that work he laid out the Cork and Macroon railway. He took payment in shares, and thus occupied the unusual position of engineer, contractor, and the largest proprietor, a combination which led to the line being designed with economy, efficiency, and careful management. He subsequently suggested to the government the construction of a dock in a bay near Monkstown, a plan looked upon with favour by some engineer officers, but the Haulbowline site was finally adopted. On 10 Dec. 1872 he was elected to represent Cork in parliament, in succession to John Francis Maguire [q. v.], and retained the seat till his death. He was a leading member of the home-rule party. Clear-sighted and of the strictest integrity, he was as much respected by his political adversaries as by his supporters. He died at Rinn Ronain, Queenstown, on 7 May 1876, and was buried in Father Mathew's cemetery, Cork, on 11 May. He married, in 1859, Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Stace Wright, commander R.N.

[Minutes of Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, 1876, xlvi. 274–6; Cork Constitution, 8 May 1876 p. 2, 12 May p. 2.]

G. C. B.