James Stobie (1895 – 1953) engineer and inventor
James Stobie – a staunch Methodist – designed the Stobie pole which continues to be regarded with affection by many South Australians who consider it part of their heritage.
James Stobie, engineer and inventor, was born on 15 September 1895 at Parkside, Adelaide, only son and eldest of four children of South Australian-born parents James Stobie, grocer, and his wife Alice, née Ingleby.
In 1916 Stobie had joined the staff of the Adelaide Electric Supply Co. Ltd. He continued his engineering studies part time at the University of Adelaide (B.E., 1921; M.E., 1932).
Frederick Wheadon, A.E.S.Co.’s chief executive, became his mentor and the two formed a lifelong friendship. Stobie’s career began to prosper. In 1923 he was appointed chief draftsman.
At the Church of Christ, Unley, on 19 March 1924 he married Rita Muriel Maddern.
South Australia suffered from a scarcity of timber and an abundance of termites. Poles that were brought, at considerable expense, from other States were often destroyed by white ants. In 1924 Stobie invented the ‘Stobie pole’ to carry electricity cables and telegraph wires. It was constructed of two steel-I beams, held together by tie bolts; the space between them was filled with concrete. A.E.S.Co. paid him £500 for the patent rights.
Although hopes of selling the design interstate and worldwide remained unfulfilled, the poles were used extensively in South Australia. In 1936 a Sterling coal truck was converted into a heavy pole-erector, designed by Stobie: it could install 70-ft (21 m) long, concrete-steel poles that weighed 8½ tons.
Stobie was the founding editor (1926-40) of A.E.S.Co.’s in-house magazine, Adelect. Through this publication, he conveyed his vision of the company’s future, interest in research, sense of fun and Christian values (he was a staunch Methodist).
His face, with its full features, deep smile-lines and clear eyes, reflected his jovial disposition. Despite bouts of recurring illness, he became chief design engineer in 1946, when the Electricity Trust of South Australia took over from A.E.S.Co. In 1950 he was appointed assistant to the manager of engineering research.
The Stobie pole continues to be regarded with affection by many South Australians who consider it part of their heritage.
Stobie pole image source : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/06/Adelaide,_South_Australia_-_Stobie_pole_with_street_light.jpg
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