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McCUBBIN, David Aitken

Born: 1870 01 22
Died: 1948 08 07


LRIBA 1912; FRIBA 1927; past Pres ATA 1917; Mem SAIQS; past Pres SAIQS

Played a significant but as yet unexplored role in the architectural department of the SOUTH AFRICAN RAILWAYS AND HARBOURS in Johannesburg where he was the chief architect from 1910 to about 1929. Born in Bootle, Lancs, England, he was educated at private schools and Liverpool College. He was then articled (1886-91) to J H Havelock Sutton, Liverpool and received certificates for Building Construction examinations from the Liverpool School of Science. On completion of articles he became an architectural draughtsman, Royal Engineers Civil Staff, Barrack Construction, Dublin from 1891 to 1893. He received railway experience during a short one and a half month period with the Cheshire Lines Railway Co in 1893. He then worked for over a year with Park & Sons, Preston and briefly with Maxwell & Tuke, Manchester, before setting up on his own account in Manchester. He was engaged in competition work. In 1896 he left for South Africa, employed as an architectural assistant on the temporary civil engineer's staff attached to the ROYAL ENGINEERS in Cape Town. He became an assistant surveyor in the service on the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. He then worked as a quantity surveyor on the staff until 1902, when he resigned to take up a position as managing assistant to AH REID & W REID (cf REID, AH & W) of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Oudtshoorn. He was manager at Cape Town and at Oudtshoorn before moving to Johannesburg for the firm in 1903. In his papers for Fellowship of the RIBA in 1927 McCubbin listed the following buildings executed while with AH & W Reid: the Mutual Bank Buildings and the Mosley Buildings, Johannesburg; Germiston Town Hall, the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk at Molteno in the Cape; Standard Bank, Oudtshoorn, Cape.

In 1906 he left to join the Central South African Railways as a quantity surveyor under Thomas MOODIE who was the architect for the Central South African Railways and Harbours (CSAR&H). In about 1908 McCubbin was appointed principal architectural assistant and in 1910 was appointed to the post of architect of the Central South African Railways and Harbours Board in Johannesburg.

As railway architect McCubbin was responsible for the design of a number of railway stations throughout the Union as well as various railway institutes and garden villages for railway employees, among these being works at Colenso, Ladysmith and Vryheid in Natal. He designed many of the larger station buildings such as those at Germiston, Braamfontein, Potchefstroom and Benoni in the Transvaal, Stellenbosch, Malmesbury, and Muizenberg in the Cape and Kroonstad and Bethlehem in the Orange Free State. He also designed the Railway Institutes in Pietermaritzburg, Durban (sports), Germiston, Johannesburg and Klerksdorp; he was responsible for a number of South African Railways war memorials but is probably best-known for being appointed coarchitect of Johannesburg Railway Station (1926) in association with Gordon LEITH and Gerard MOERDYK, who were joint architects. Drawings of the Station were exhibited at the 1927 South African Academy Exhibition under the joint authorship of McCubbin, Leith & Moerdyk. On retiring from the railway service in 1929 he entered private practice in Johannesburg. He married in 1897; his son, an aviator of fame 'brought down the famous German airman Immelman' (Jnl ATA Mar 1917:16).

(Jnl ATA Mar 1917:16, 57; LRIBA nom papers (1912) 2015; FRIBA nom papers (1927) 2542; SAAR Dec 1948:340 obit; SAR&H Mag Oct 1929:1603; UTD 1915)

Publ: Jnl ATA Dec 1916:44; Layout of University site, Milner Park, Johannesburg. corres; Building Jun 1919:262-63, assessor's report.



Architect to the S.A.R.& H. Administration.

MR. D. A. McCUBBIN, F.R.I.B.A., after a long and distinguished career with the Railways in South Africa, has gone on leave prior to retirement from the Service.

Thirty-three years have elapsed since Mr. McCubbin first came to South Africa, and his early years in this country were spent in the Imperial Service, in which he was employed in his professional capacity in connection with the remodelling of fortifications, barracks and other Government buildings. In 1899, upon the outbreak of the South African War, Mr. McCubbin's services as an Assistant Surveyor, R.E. Civil Staff, were continued upon a war footing when he ranked as Hon. Lieutenant on the Staff of Sir William Morriss, C.R.E., Lines of Communication.

A few weeks before peace was declared he resigned from the Imperial Service and joined the well-known firm of Messrs. Arthur and Walter Reid, Architects, of Capetown and Johannesburg, with whom he remained as Chief Assistant and Surveyor at both places, and also for a short time at Oudtshoorn, C.P., until October, 1906, when he joined the Central South African Railways as Quantity Surveyor, under Mr. Thomas Moodie, A.R.I.B.A., Architect to that Administration. Upon Mr. Moodie's retirement, Mr. McCubbin acted until he was appointed to the office of Architect, South African Railways and Harbours. He has been responsible for designing many large railway buildings in South Africa, including the new Johannesburg Station, in which work Mr. Gordon Leith and Mr. Gerard Moerdyk collaborated with him.

Mr. McCubbin, who is a past president of the Association of Transvaal Architects and of the South African Institute of Quantity Surveyors, intends to start in private practice in Johannesburg, where he will occupy offices in Grosvenor Chambers, Loveday Street.

Prior to his departure on leave, a large number of colleagues and friends assembled in the Recreation Hall at Railway Headquarters to say good-bye officially to Mr. McCubbin.

Mr. T. H. Watermeyer, Assistant General Manager (Technical), presided, in the absence of Mr. Pybus, Chief Civil Engineer, and, on behalf of the staff, presented Mr. McCubbin with a gold wristlet watch, a silver cigarette case, an Eversharp pencil and offce equipment; and a handbag for Mrs. McCubbin.

In the course of his remarks Mr. Watermeyer stated that it gave him great pleasure to make the presentation, as he had known Mr. McCubbin for a good many years and had come into intimate contact with him. He had always received great assistance from Mr. McCubbin, and the Administration was losing a valued servant. Mr. McCubbin was leaving his monuments all over the country in the shape of new stations, institutes, and various other buildings. It was Mr. McCubbin's intention to remain in Johannesburg and carry on his good work in a private capacity, and all wished him every success in his new sphere and long life, health and happiness for himself and Mrs. McCubbin.

Mr. McCubbin said that it was with feelings of regret that he had to leave his associates and so many good friends in the Service, but he would always look back on the many happy days he had spent with them. He would always feel proud of the fact that he was the first Architect of the South African Railways.

Mr. McCubbin thanked those present for the very handsome and useful gifts and, on behalf of Mrs. McCubbin, for the very beautiful handbag.

Apologies for their absence from the gathering for business reasons were received from Mr. J. R. More, Mr. H. L. Pybus, Mr. W. A. Moyers, Mr. C. G. Rocher, Mr. A. T. GrantDalton, Mr. S. Starkey, and Mr. Arthur Lane.

(Source: SAR&H Magazine 1926-1930, accessed 2024 02 29)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Braamfontein Railway Station: n.d.. Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Design Architect
GH Langlee Bldg, alt: 1930. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House CW Simpson: 1933. Saxonwold, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Park Station : Second Main Station: 1932. Central, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Railway Institute: n.d.. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal - Design Architect
Railway Institute: n.d.. Germiston, Gauteng - Design Architect
Railway Institute: n.d.. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Design Architect
Railway Institute: n.d.. Klerksdorp, North West - Design Architect
Railway Institute: n.d.. Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Benoni, Gauteng - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Bethlehem, Free State - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Colenso, KwaZulu-Natal - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Germiston, Gauteng - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Kroonstad, Free State - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Malmesbury, Western Cape - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Stellenbosch, Western Cape - Design Architect
Railway Station: n.d.. Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal - Design Architect
Railway Station - Second: 1918. Potchefstroom, North West - Design Architect
Standard Bank: 1902-1904. Oudtshoorn, Western Cape - Project Architect

Books citing McCUBBIN

Brown, SM. 1969. Architects and others: an annotated list of people of South African interest appearing in the RIBA Journal 1880-1925. Johannesburg: Unpublished dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand. pp

Fisher, RC, Le Roux, SW. 1998. Architecture of the Transvaal. Pretoria: UNISA. pp 82, 86, 87