William Archer Porter Tait

William Archer Porter Tait FRSE FRMS MICE (1866–1929) was a 19th/20th century Scottish civil engineer and part of the Guthrie Tait dynasty. He was Vice President of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1929.

Tait's birthplace at 6 Greenhill Gardens, Edinburgh


Talla Reservoir
The grave of William Archer Porter Tait, St John's, Edinburgh

He was born on 25 March 1866 at 6 Greenhill Gardens in south-east Edinburgh, the second son of Peter Guthrie Tait and his wife, Margaret Porter.[1] He was named after his maternal uncle, William Archer Porter.

He was educated at Edinburgh Academy. From 1881 he studied Engineering at Edinburgh University under Prof Fleeming Jenkin[2] graduating BSc in 1885. He was then apprenticed for a year at Brown Brothers Engineering on Broughton Road in Edinburgh. In 1886/7 he did work creating the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway. In 1887 he was articled to Sir John Wolfe Barry then to Henry Marc Brunel. Here he worked on the foundations of Tower Bridge and on the Barry Docks. He continued with Wolfe Barry for three years after his articles were complete, and accompanied him on several court hearings[3]

He returned to Scotland in 1891 as assistant engineer to the Glasgow Subway project under Charles de Neuville Forman. In August 1894 he joined Leslie and Reid alongside Alexander Leslie to replace Robert Carstairs Reid. His main project was Talla Reservoir on the Talla Water in the Scottish Borders which played a major role in serving Edinburgh and allowing its expansion.[4]

In 1898 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, Charles Alexander Stevenson, George Barclay and John Sturgeon Mackay. He received an honorary doctorate (DSc) from the University of Edinburgh in 1910. He served as Vice President to the Society from 1921 to 1924.[5]

In 1910 he had offices at 72 George Street in Edinburgh's First New Town and lived at 38 George Square.[6]

He died in Edinburgh on 23 June 1929. He is buried with his parents and siblings in st John's churchyard at the west end of Princes Street in Edinburgh.[7] The grave lies on one of the lower eastern terraces, behind a grey granite Celtic cross to his brother, Frederick Guthrie Tait.

He bequeathed his collection of legal books to the library at One Great George Street in London.[8]


His siblings included John Guthrie Tait and Frederick Guthrie Tait.


  • The Talla Water Supply of Edinburgh (1907)[9]


  1. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1866
  2. ^ https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/William_Archer_Porter_Tait
  3. ^ https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/S0370164600026596
  4. ^ https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/William_Archer_Porter_Tait
  5. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  6. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1910
  7. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/139839598/william-archer_porter-tait
  8. ^ From Kendals Coffee House to Great George Street, Gwilym roberts
  9. ^ Tait, W A P. (1907). "The Talla Water Supply of the Edinburgh and District Waterworks. (Including Appendixes and Plate at Back of Volume)" (PDF). Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. 167 (1907): 102–152. doi:10.1680/imotp.1907.17170.