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Life Before Rotary: Bob Garman

I was brought up in Yorkshire and attended Harrogate Grammar School prior to studying Mechanical Engineering at Leeds University.
After achieving my degree, I joined English Electric as a graduate apprentice in Rugby. As part of my degree course I had some practical training on the construction of a steelworks in North Sheffield. I therefore opted for construction and operation of power stations in English Electric.
The first major power station I worked on was at Blyth, north of Newcastle where, after two years I became a Shift Leader.
At this time in the mid ‘60s there was major construction of Power Stations both coal and nuclear and my next job was in charge of the setting to work of the steam turbine generators at the first Sizewell Nuclear Power Station in Suffolk.
In 1966 I was transferred back to Rugby H.Q. where I provided technical support to other power stations around the world, plus other small jobs such as attending the sea trials of HMS Fearless which, when in service, was the location of negotiations on Rhodesia between Ian Smith and Harold Wilson.
In 1970 I was seconded to the Sydney Office. As at the time Australia was considering building a nuclear power station south of Sydney the company invited the Agent General from New South Wales to a tour around Sizewell.
My grandmother and her sister and families had emigrated to Australia in the 1920’s. During the war we received food parcels from them which started my stamp collection and sparked my love affair with Australia. In Australia I helped setting to work power stations in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Burnie in Tasmania and Dampier in Western Australia. Whilst on a visit to Dampier, staying at the Mermaid Pub, the lights went out and we had to rush to the power station to sort it out before the beer got warm!
On returning to the UK I was promoted and given the task of looking after and organising the setting to work of all the power stations the company were involved with around the world including a nuclear station at Ringhals in Sweden and one at Ahwaz in Southern Iran.
I joined an engineering consultancy in Brighton in 1980 and moved to Seaford.
My first assignment was working with Shell on an LNG complex at Dampier in Western Australia!
I had a chequered career working for oil companies on power requirements for platforms and refineries and ended up in charge of the oil and gas activities with offices in Brighton and Aberdeen.
I left engineering consulting in 1995 and joined a Dutch company as the Far East Manager based in Bangkok selling smaller gas fired power stations (similar in size to Shoreham). This lasted for 2 years before the Asian financial crisis and I was back in Seaford.
My last job was as General Manager of Asia Power the first international independent power station in Sri Lanka built by companies from Germany, Denmark and Japan with funding support by the UK, German, Danish governments and the World Bank. When we first arrived in Colombo the LTTE Tigers had just bombed the Central Bank and the Galadari Hotel. We were booked into the old Intercontinental Hotel located half way between them! At that time construction of the power station had just commenced.
On completion the power station was opened by the Minister of Power and Deputy Minister of Defence, General Anurudda Ratwatta, uncle of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. He arrived with a troop escort of 600 soldiers and I had been “requested” to provide lunch for them.
Once operational, my principal job was to keep it going and ensure we were paid on time so that we could buy more fuel. During our 6 years in Sri Lanka the war in the North was continuous and travelling to the power station was often through villages with white overhead bunting indicating death of a soldier.
In April 2000 at the battle for Elephant Pass around 800 soldiers were killed by the LTTE and it was a very sad time. The nearest I came to the conflict was on my way to work one morning, as I passed the Prime Minister’s office the security officers who were querying a woman were obviously on high alert. She blew herself up just a few minutes later, after I had passed, killing 11 of those around her.
During the last two years in Sri Lanka I took advantage of attending various conferences around the Far East prior to leaving Sri Lanka in 2003.
We had decided to retire to Australia and bought a homestead originally built by one of the earlier settlers in Margaret River in Western Australia, which we moved to after returning to the U.K. for about six months to sell our house in Seaford.
Australia, as mentioned earlier, had been a life-long interest. Our homestead was five minutes from the golf course and three kilometres from a surfing beach amongst the wineries and the National Forest. We had a very happy time for 10 years until age and a bush fire caused us to consider returning to the U.K. - a move applauded by our children.
I was recently asked by one of my grand-daughters which countries I had worked in and surprised myself when the total reached 38.



posted: Sunday, 1 May 2016

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