Ingram, John (1887–1973), engineer, educationalist, and civil servant, was born 5 February 1887 in Derry, the son of William John Ingram, of Shipquay Street, Derry, a civil service clerk. He attended the Londonderry model school as a presbyterian, before transferring to St Columb's College, Derry, as a catholic. His early religious experiences enabled him to relate very successfully to all Irish people, of both the north and the south. Like his older contemporary Fr Thomas Finlay SJ (qv), whose father was also presbyterian, he had the respect of all Irishmen, and his tireless work to promote a non-denominational system of technical education bore fruit in the 1930 Vocational Education Act.
Ingram won a scholarship to the Royal College of Science in Dublin, which he attended from 1904 to 1907, being first secretary, and then president, of the students’ union. He was assistant to the professor of mechanical engineering in the college from 1907 to 1911, a junior inspector (Ulster district) in the technical instruction branch of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (1912–18), then district inspector (Munster district) (1918–22), and senior inspector, Department of Education (technical instruction branch) (1923–37).
In 1926–7 he was chairman of the commission on technical education, which issued a detailed report. The findings of the commission were unanimous and were embodied in the provisions of the 1930 Vocational Education Act and the 1931 Apprenticeship Act. In 1927 Ingram was an official delegate to the Imperial Education Conference in London, and met many prominent educationists from other countries, with whom he later kept up contact. He noted: ‘Many of the countries represented had educational problems similar to those in Ireland and the interchange of views on those problems was both interesting and valuable.’
He was promoted in 1937 to chief inspector, technical instruction branch, in which post he combined the roles of principal officer (with control of both administration and finance) and chief inspector of the branch, until 1943. He was also a member of the Secondary Teachers’ Registration Council for four years (1928–32), the official representative of the Department of Education on the Gaeltacht (economic development) committee (1928–43), which set up Gaeltara Éireann (later Údarás na Gaeltachta) in 1928. A member of the RDS and of its council, he was active on the society's committee of science which conducted a scheme of extension lectures throughout the country from 1928.
With a committee appointed by the minister in 1936, he devised a new scheme of technical school examinations leading to the award of trade and technological certificates. This was put into operation immediately. The number of entrants for the examination increased from 9,158 in 1936 to 13,183 in 1943. He also took a special interest in the design of school buildings and made a particular study of the subject in various other countries.
He was chairman of the advisory committee of the Metropolitan School of Art (1934–41), (which was reorganised during the period of his chairmanship), and of the research grants committee of the Industrial Research Bureau (1935–41). In 1936 he formalised a report to the commission on occupational training in reformatory and industrial schools. The report was adopted in full by the commission and incorporated without change in the commissioner's report to the minister for education. In 1943 he was the official representative of the Department of Education on the commission on youth unemployment, and was elected chairman of the first sub-committee appointed by the commission.
An examiner for the civil service commission (1934–43), he acted on many interview boards for the local appointments commission (1926–50), the last of which was the board appointed to make recommendations for the posts of county managers. The chairman of the commission, in congratulating the members of the board on their work, stated that no board appointed by the commission had been called upon to ‘deal with such a large number of important appointments and to assess qualification of so many candidates’. During the 1939–45 emergency he acted as regional commissioner for the counties of Louth, Monaghan and Cavan under the emergency scheme of regional administration: ‘In connection with this work I have gained a considerable knowledge of local government law and administration, and the local functions of the various departments of state.’
In 1944 he left the technical instruction branch of the Department of Education and became assistant secretary in the Department of Industry and Commerce, with charge of planning of post-war building, until 1948. He was appointed chairman of the Advisory Council for the Building Industry and chairman of the Building Research Committee. In 1946 he was a member of the council, and chairman of the standards committee, of the Institute of Industrial Research and Standards. As deputy chairman of the labour court (1948–59), he was involved in dealing with many local and national industrial relations disputes. He was seventy-two at the time he left this post.
His heart was still with technical education, and in 1956 he acted as chairman of a committee appointed to inquire into, and make recommendations on the future of, technological education in the city of Dublin vocational education committee. This committee published a report that became the blueprint for the development of technological education in Ireland. In recognition of his service to technical education, Bolton Street College of Technology in 1962 awarded him an honorary diploma in engineering. He was elected an honorary member of the RIAI, and was also a member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Ingram died in Dublin on 10 December 1973, aged eighty-six. He married in 1911 Edith (who predeceased him), daughter of R. J. Kelly KC; they had two sons and three daughters. John Ingram was the most influential figure in the development of vocational and technical education in the new Irish state. His seriousness, charm and diplomacy, and his reputation for openness and fairness, made him respected by all. A portrait by Leo Whelan (qv) hangs in the boardroom of Bolton Street College of Technology.