Well, how can one become an Engineer without a plan? Well, if you are born of rich parents… or, you are very clever and you won a very valuable scholarship…  John modestly claimed that neither of those were not within his scope. So how? Well, you can start at Mount Isa, where he was brought up. Early in his presentation, John screened some pictures of the town of his upbringing, from the 1940’s, 1962 and one from the 1970’s which featured its biggest smokestack, built in ‘continuously poured concrete’. And the stuff billowing from them, Sulphur Dioxide, is not necessarily ideal for the community’s health…  But then, Mt Isa by Night almost looks like Las Vegas…  (photo right)
John briefly elaborated on the days of his youth, particular his very strong affinity to competitive swimming.  His team included a chap named Bill Sweetenham who became a famous international and national coach, with big names such as Tracy Wickham and Michelle Ford under his wing. John himself represented his town in championships in Townsville and Brisbane, and obviously excelled across the board: He also played baseball, won the Lion’s Youth of the Year award – “my first association with service clubs”, and he later joined Apex. He also became poisoned by Heavy Metals. But back to becoming an Engineer…
When childhood comes to an end, what is one to do in Mt Isa? One signs up to a 4-year Electrical Fitting Mechanic apprenticeship with Mount Isa Mines (MIM). He extended this to include advanced training in process control and industrial electronics.  And “lady luck intervened again” and he won a scholarship to study Electrical Engineering at James Cook University, Townsville Campus. “I didn’t want to go to Mt Isa again, but Lady Luck was on my side again: I was offered a position in Brisbane to work on a coal project and set up a plant control system.  My first big project!”

Ah, by the way: during that time he also met his wife, Carmel… [Engineers can be just so… romantic, can’t they]. John was in charge of setting up the
Control Systems for the new Abbott Point Coal Terminal near Bowen. That came to a conclusion in about 1984, and “then I was again without a plan” , or so John tried to convince us. Lady Luck led him to Port Headland (at the time described as ‘the ugliest town in Australia’), working for Mt Newman Mining.  This time not the black stuff, but the red stuff: iron ore. “Work was OK – very hot and dirty – Carmel had settled in, the money was good and our first daughter was born. Lady Luck arrived again in the form of a new CEO with expansion plans and “Without a plan at all, I found myself in Perth.”  There their second daughter was born. But Perth is so far away! A newspaper job ad not only offered better money again, but the job was in Brisbane! Brisbane? Actually, it was on the OK Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea!  Average annual rainfall: “8 meters, approximately”. Very interesting, but after about 2 ½ years, it was time to go home.  The family ended up in Wellington Point, where for the next 21 years John worked with Sinclair Knight Merz, providing engineering services to the mining industry, attended conventions, speaking on 3D design software.  There he also joined the local Rotary club as a Foundation Member. The company then was sold out to an American company, Jacobs who offered redundancies when the mining boom collapsed. “Again, here I was, without a plan!”
John and Carmel then “retired” to the Gold Coast. Besides being an active Rotarian, he is also very active with an organisation called the ‘Blokes Lounge’ of which he became President.
Hard on the heels of Peter Morgan’s presentation a couple of weeks ago, once again we are amazed at the width and breadth of our members’ calibre! “Without a plan”?? Not entirely sure about that!