Builder, brickmaker and engineer
Alexander Mitchell, builder, brickmaker and engineer, was born in Dublin in 1780 before moving with his family to Belfast in 1787. Despite progressive sight loss in his late teens, he continued to manage a brick making business until 1832. However, it is as the inventor of the screw-pile system for erecting structures on uncertain marine foundations that he is best remembered.
Married in 1801, Mitchell set up home in Ballymacarett, Belfast. The Mitchell screw-pile and mooring was patented in 1833, allowing the construction of lighthouses and other coastal structures in Britain, Ireland, the United States and India. He was awarded the Telford medal by the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1848 and retired in 1862.
A lifelong music lover, Mitchell was a friend of Edward Bunting and was elected an Associate of the Belfast Anacreontic Society in 1844. He died in 1868 and is buried in Clifton Street cemetery.
Alexander Mitchell, The Famous Blind Engineer of Belfast (1907) by FJ Bigger; A Dictionary of Irish Biography (1978) by Henry Boylan; The Dictionary of Ulster Biography (1993) by Kate Newman.