Page 4934 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 25 October 2011

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Cotter Dam

Mr Ted Pegrum

MR DOSZPOT (Brindabella) (5.27): With the Cotter Dam project reaching the stage where the existing original dam will be virtually eliminated as it disappears under 50 feet of water of the new Cotter Dam, I think it is timely that we reflect on the original pioneers of this infrastructure that has served our region so well since the 1920s. Canberra owes a lot to those folk who built the things that we now take for granted and I am sure that there are many experts and historians who are well qualified to further document and comment on the ongoing Cotter Dam project and at the same time include recognition of the many individuals whose efforts and initiative were so critical to the establishment of the Cotter Dam.

I would like to remember one of those individuals and the part that he played in the growth of the Cotter Dam capacity in the early 1950s, including his journey to Australia. I refer to the father of Mr Roger Pegrum. Mr Pegrum is a highly respected and prominent Canberra architect and one of my constituents. His late father, Harold Edward “Ted” Pegrum, is the gentleman I am referring to. I am pleased to note that Mr Roger Pegrum is in the Assembly gallery with us today and I would welcome him here.

Ted Pegrum was born in Norfolk, England in 1908 and studied as a civil and structural engineer. In 1934, he joined the office of the Civil Engineer-in-Chief of the British Admiralty at Portsmouth and in 1936 was posted to Singapore. A month before sailing, he married Eileen Florence Adams in London. The Pegrums returned to England at the outbreak of the Second World War. They settled at Chatham in Kent, where Ted was based at the naval dockyards on the Medway River.

During the war, he was involved in a number of secret military engineering projects including operation PLUTO, which piped fuel under the English Channel to France, and the prefabricated Mulberry harbours that were floated across to Normandy for the invasion on D-Day 1944. There is renewed interest in these remarkable military engineering achievements, several of which were described in the film A Harbour goes to France. I understand there are records available of an excellent talk that Ted Pegrum gave on these projects to the Canberra Division of the Institute of Engineers Australia.

In the years following the end of the World War, it became clear to Ted and Eileen Pegrum that a better life for them and their family could be found away from England. The Australian government was looking to recruit architects and engineers for infrastructure works in Canberra. One of these projects was to increase the capacity of the dam on the Cotter River, which had provided the city’s water supply since 1915.

In early 1948, Ted Pegrum was interviewed at Australia House, London and was offered a position as a structural engineer in the Australian Capital Territory branch of the commonwealth Department of Works. Ted Pegrum’s experience with both reinforced concrete design and hydraulic engineering and with tight timetables made him an ideal person for the work at the Cotter Dam.

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