Railway engineer and Commissioner of Public Works. William Le Fanu was born on 24 February 1816 at the Royal Hibernian Military School, Dublin, where his father, the Reverend Thomas Philip Le Fanu, was then chaplain. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, later well-known as a novelist, was his elder brother. William Le Fanu was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, receiving the BA degree in 1839, and was then apprenticed to JOHN MACNEILL . With the coming of the railways, he was chiefly employed by MacNeill on railway work, and in the 1840s, during the construction of the sections of line which were to become the Great Southern & Western Railway, he and MATTHEW BLAKISTON were MacNeill's principal assistants. In 1846 he became resident engineer in charge of the completion of the Cork terminal of the railway, and in about 1853 he succeeded MacNeill as consulting engineer to the railway and superintended the extensions to Killarney and Tralee, to Tullamore and Athlone, to Roscrea, Parsonstown and Nenagh, and from Mallow to Fermoy. He was also engineer to the Cork & Bandon Railway Co. and to the Dublin, Wicklow & Wexford Railway Co. and designed and carried out the Limerick and Foynes line and the Bagenalstown and Ballywilliam line. From 1861 he also acted as consulting engineer to the Ballast Board.
In 1863 Le Fanu gave up his private engineering practice on being appointed deputy chairman of the Board of Public Works, a position which he filled with conscientious application until he was retired under the age regulations in 1890. After his retirement he published his memoirs, Seventy Years of Irish Life (1893). He died at his house, Summerhill, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, on 8 September 1894. He had married Henrietta Victorine, sixth daughter of Sir Matthew Barrington, on 15 January 1857, and had eight sons. His third son, Brinsley Rankine Le Fanu (1862-1945), was an engineer with the Office of Public Works.
Le Fanu's pupils and assistants included CHARLES ROBERT ATKINSON , FOLLIOTT BARTON , WILLIAM JOHN BIRD CLERKE , ROBERT DENNY and JOHN LESLIE WORRALL.
Inst.CE: elected member, 24 May 1853.
RIA: member, 1845-1852. Royal Zoological Society of Ireland: council member, 1863, 1864; vice president ,1865,1873-75.
Addresses: Rathpeacon House, near Cork, 1846; 7 Fitzwilliam Square North, <=1857->=1858; 59 Fitzwilliam Square, <=1863->=1875; Summerhill, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, <=1874 until death.
See WORKS, BIBLIOGRAPHY.
All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from the obituary of Le Fanu in Min.Proc.Inst.CE 119 (1894-95), 395, and from Burke’s Irish Family Records (1976), 707.
Jones transcripts from Thom's directories.
See note 1, above.
From Thom's and Post Office directories.