1 April 2022

Obituary – Professor Jonathan Frederick Tunnicliffe Hon FIMMM FREng CEng

John's career took him from industry to academia and throughout his life he was committed to the development of young people and their skills

Professor Jonathan Frederick Tunnicliffe HonFIMMM FREng CEng

Professor John Tunnicliffe passed away on 15 December 2021. He was born on 20 September 1929 in Grassmoor, UK, with an immediate introduction to the mining industry, as his father was a colliery manager. His education moved from Derbyshire to Yorkshire where he entered the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, UK. There he excelled at sports, being captain of cricket, captain of athletics and vice-captain of rugby. He met his wife Barbara and were married for 65 years and went on to have four children.

He studied mining engineering at Leeds University and graduated in 1954 with a BSc (Hons) and completed his mining qualifications in 1956. John rose through the manage-rial ranks to become manager at Snydale Colliery at the age of 30 before moving to spend four happy years at Newmarket Silkstone. There followed General Manager appointments at other West Yorkshire collieries before he moved to the new Selby coal field as the first colliery manager covering Gascoigne Wood, Wistow and Stillingfleet mines. During that time, the two surface drifts at Gascoigne Wood were successfully driven and sealed against the water bearing strata.

During this time John was heavily involved in both the local and national mining Institutes. He was Honorary Secretary of the Midland Institute from 1974-1979, President 1978-79, Honorary Treasurer 1985-1992 and the National President of the Institution of Mining Engineers 1987-1988.

John initiated the J F Tunnicliffe competition in 1978 to encourage younger members to become more competent in public speaking by delivering a presentation on a topic within the mining and minerals industry. This has been combined with the C S Littlewood award to form part of the IOM3 Young Persons’ Lecture Competition. This was the earliest example of his ongoing commitment to the development of young people and their key skills.

John left the mining industry in 1981 to pursue a career in academia, becoming a Professor of the Mining Department at Newcastle University 1982–1990, a move that was entirely consistent with his enthusiasm for encouraging young engineers also becoming a member of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. He transferred to Leeds University, UK, as Professor of Mining Engineering, becoming an Emeritus Professor on his retirement in 1991. Many young engineers benefitted from John’s expertise and experience in assisting young people to achieve their full potential.

John was elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1989. From 1995–2013, he was Chairman of the Headstart Board focused on students with good results at O-levels who held a possible interest in an engineering career. John was a Trustee of the Panasonic Trust, also administered by the Academy from 1992–1997.

In 2020, John was presented with the IOM3 Outstanding Contribution Award in recognition of his prolonged and major contribution to the Institute’s core activities. Professor Tunnicliffe has made a unique and sustained contribution to the mining profession and in recognition of the long and outstanding contribution the Trustees of the Midland Institute of Mining Engineers and the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers agreed to present a medal in his honour to be awarded annually to an outstanding young engineer. The first competition was held in 2021 and presented by Professor Tunnicliffe personally to the winner at the Mining Technology Division Conference in November 2021. This award made a fitting conclusion to his career – encouraging a young person to follow a path that gave him personally so much satisfaction.

Bob Siddall FREng CEng FIMMM