Obituary – James Buchanan CEng MIMMM FICE FIQA

Fellows' Lounge
30 Oct 2014

Jim passed away on 28 August 2014 after various complications brought about by Parkinson’s disease, which he had, in a typical fashion, fought for a number of years. He leaves behind his devoted wife Nessie, three sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren. 

Jim was born in Belfast from a Scottish seafaring family. He relocated to Liverpool in his early years before his father’s work as a shipping agent took him to Manchester and eventually Romford, where he attended the Royal Liberty School and became Head Boy. He always maintained that his most notable athletic achievement was his winning the one mile race at the school sports day. Jim attended Northampton Polytechnic (later City University), where he graduated with a BSc in Mechanical Engineering and represented the university’s chess team.

He had been in the Home Guard during the war and later enlisted in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, where he served as a Sub Lieutenant on board HMS Obedient, Assistance and Indefatigable. He was demobbed on Christmas Eve 1946 and released February 1947.

On his 25th birthday, he married his wife Nessie, to whom he was devoted, and they raised a family of three boys.

In 1947, he commenced work with W&C French Ltd on a hand-excavated tunnel at Maple Cross. He later worked on tunneling projects for A&M Carmichael and Costains, before joining Sir Robert McAlpine in 1953 until he retired in 1987. He continued to work independently part-time for a number of years. At McAlpine, Jim initially worked on the Birmingham Post Office and then the London GPO tunnels, before moving to Derby to build floodwater relief tunnels. He next worked on site at Dungeness A Power Station, cooling water tunnels – a project using high-pressure compressed air. Jim subsequently returned to the London office and worked mainly on tenders and quality assurance.

Jim was a longstanding member of the British Tunneling Society. He had three spells on the Committee and was Vice Chairman from 1977–1978. He was also a member of various committees relating to compressed air working in tunnels and served on the BS 6164 Committee since its formation in 1975. He was a member of the UK delegation to CEN/TC151 from its first meeting in 1989. Jim received the James Clarke Medal, the highest honour the BTS bestows, in 2003, in recognition of his longstanding and valuable contribution to the tunneling industry.

Jim was involved with MinSouth (and its predecessors) for many years, and was the Hon Secretary combined with Hon Treasurer until 2000. Jim remained an active council member until 2010, at which point he was made a lifetime councillor in recognition of his services to the society. In 2003, he was awarded the certificate for Outstanding Service to The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining for his work in the running of MinSouth. In 2008, Jim was both the instigator and arranger of the 50th Anniversary Luncheon for past presidents of MinSouth and the Southern Counties IMinE (of which he was a past President), and distinguished guests at Carlton House Terrace – an event to be remembered.

Jim was always the go-to person regarding constitutional matters and was the principal contributor to the drafting of the MinSouth constitution. He helped the council ensure that the correct procedures were always observed and that the meeting minutes were produced correctly. His depth of knowledge of the branch’s history was invaluable to the running of the society and particularly for the new council members. Even during his recent illness, he showed great spirit and devotion as well providing constructive criticism towards many MinSouth matters and issues.

Jim enjoyed a wide selection of music and theatrical productions from his home in Duffield, Derbyshire. In recent years, he was the Welfare Officer for the Derby branch of the Royal Navy Association – hence his keen interest to support the Derby City Sea cadets.

Jim was a friend to all MinSouth members and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him, both as an outstanding engineer and a caring human being.

Alan Baxter CEng ACSM FIMMM