Charles John Alford died of pneumonia in Rome on May 26th, 1914. Born on August 2nd, 1844, at Rugby, he was the eldest son of the Rev. Charles Richard Alford, at that time Vicar of St. Matthew’s, Rugby, and afterwards Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong.
He was educated at the Doncaster Grammar School, at King’s College, London, and at a school of science in the City. He gained his early mining experience in Wales and in Cornwall, his ﬁrst independent prospecting work being among the mountains of Connemara, and in the North of Ireland.
In 1868 he was appointed manager for an English mining company with large interests in the Island of Sardinia, Italy, and Greece, and in these and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean he was engaged in successful work for nearly 11 years. During 1879, at the request of the British Government, he furnished an instructive detailed report on the mineral resources of Cyprus. After this period Mr. Alford’s professional work led him much farther aﬁeld, and he undertook the management of large mining operations in various parts of the world. To enumerate the long list of mining interests with which his name is associated, would he beyond the purposes of this short sketch of his professional career.
Few men have travelled farther, for he had visited almost all the centres of mining industry in the world, and led expeditions in quest of mines into parts of countries not previously explored. In Africa he made his way through dense bush and tracts of country infested with the tsetse ﬂy, to the Zambesi River, and located certain coal-bearing rocks in that region. Part of the country through which he passed had then been unvisited by any white man since the days of Livingstone. In Egypt some years later he led two small expeditions into the then almost unknown Egyptian desert, lying between Assuan and the Red Sea, and rediscovered, and reawakened into activity, gold mines which had lain idle since the days of the Ptolemies.
With the trained eye of a careful observer, he noted not only the physical features and geology of the countries he visited, but also the fauna, ﬂora and characteristics and customs of the native population. The records of some of these journeys appear in his published works.
During the year 1887 Mr. Alford visited various mining districts in the United States of America. The next ﬁve years he was mainly employed in the Transvaal. At Barberton he did much useful work, and his name is associated with the early development of the now famous group of mines at Johannesburg. For a period he was engineer to the Transvaal Coal Trust.
From the South African Republic he moved farther North, and was engaged as consulting engineer to several mining companies having property in Rhodesia. He also developed mines belonging to the Portuguese Government in their East African Colony. Just about this time, 1895-6, the mining interest shifted to Western Australia, and there, in the neighbourhood of Coolgardie, Mr. Alford spent several months, and returned to the same goldﬁelds the following year. Towards the end of 1897 he went into New South Wales, visited the Lucknow Mine — then in charge of the late Mr Warnford-Lock — and reported on gold properties near Yass, and also some in the neighbourhood of Orange, and coal at Lithgow. In 1898 he was in Queensland investigating certain tin and copper properties, and shortly afterwards went to examine a number of small mines near Croydon, in the northern part of South Australia. In the same year he chose the Paciﬁc route to England, and on his way across Canada spent a few weeks in the mining district of Nelson.
During the year 1899, during a three months’ trip to West Africa, Mr. Alford unfortunately contracted malarial fever, which he was never able entirely to eradicate from his system. Returning to Canada he spent a short time at the State Islands, where prospecting work for gold was being carried on. Proceeding to Vancouver he turned north to the Berners Bay Mines, and after visiting the wonderful Muir Glacier, and the old Russian town of Sitka, he spent some time at the Alaska Treadwell Mine.
The remaining years of Mr. Alford’s active professional work were passed in Upper Egypt, in the development of the ancient gold mines he had rediscovered, to which reference has already been made. Unhappily in February, 1907, while returning to Luxor from the mines, Mr. Alford met with at serious accident camel-riding, which caused grave internal injuries and obliged him to retire from active work.
Mr. Alford’s life was one of great interest and usefulness. He was the author of several technical works;— ‘Engineering Notes on Cyprus,’ 1880; ‘Geological Features of the Transvaal,’ 1891; ‘Ancient and Prospective Gold Mining in Egypt,’ 1900; and later, an important work on Mining Law.
In the work of the students of the Royal School of Mines, and the Associates of the Institution Mr. Alford took a warm interest. He welcomed them into his employ whenever an opportunity occurred, and when they left his service, he seldom lost touch with them.
He was a member of several of the learned societies, and his deep interest in all that concerned the welfare of the Institution dated” from its inception. He was one of the original Members of Council, and at the time of his retirement, Vice-President. But failing health precluded him from taking any further share in the work of the Institution, and in 1909 he resigned his vice-presidency. This step his colleagues greatly regretted, and by a cordial and unanimous vote, elected him an Honorary Life Member in recognition of his services to the Institution since its foundation.
Vol. 23, Trans IMM 1913-14, pp.519-21