At that time the company had only 20 employees crammed into The Old Tram Shed in Bristol City Centre. He started around the same time as Barbara Hinch and between them (and other senior engineers) they have helped shape the success story that is Structural Soils.
In fact, many of our senior staff date back to the period just after Mac joined and, perhaps surprisingly in this day and age, they have all remained with the company through thick and thin.
As with most young graduates, Mac was very keen, but had a lot to learn about site investigation. However, he was always ready to tackle the difficult jobs and soon became a great asset. Possibly due to his love of water (he is a canoeist and sailor), he was always first in line when any overwater contracts appeared.
One of these jobs was just south of Chester on the River Dee and I remember hearing stories of our barge drifting out of control through the city with Mac aboard, fending off expensive yachts. As usual, I am sure I got the blame as the towing boat was not powerful enough to tackle the tidal currents!
As a result of Mac’s overwater expertise, the company saw big financial opportunities in overwater work and invested in a jack-up pontoon, bought from John Howard. John was a particularly colourful character (amongst his past exploits he had once been a lion tamer!) who seemed to get on well with Mac. So Mac ran the overwater operations, which generally ended in disaster, through no fault of his own. After too long the jack-up was sold, to Mac’s great relief.
Other contracts that Mac ran included a site investigation in Buckingham Palace (where we managed to set off the fire alarms and Mac was nearly shot – they thought he was an intruder), at Padstow lifeboat station, and at Mersey Gateway amongst numerous others.
When we won a term contract for Thames Water, Mac became the obvious choice to run it. He excelled in this role and we soon became Thames Water’s preferred site investigation contractor. That led to even bigger things when we tendered for the SI for the proposed new nuclear power station at Hinckley Point.
Mac and I attended a meeting in London with EDF from which we both left feeling somewhat sick, having heard about the H & S requirements that would be imposed upon us if we won the contract. However, our discomfort obviously didn’t show as they awarded us the contract, and Mac took control once again.
Again he impressed the client and we were subsequently awarded the SI contract for Sizewell. Word of our capabilities in the nuclear industry spread and Wylfa was added to our impressive contract list.
I retired around this time and, with some trepidation, handed over the reins to Mac. At that point we had about 150 staff, but Mac achieved impressive growth and the company grew to almost 300 in 2021. I shouldn’t have worried. With him at the helm, most of the senior engineers who joined the company after him are still there and, together, they make an impressive team.
This resulted in several industry awards being bestowed on the company. For example, in 2020 Structural Soils took home three awards from the Ground Investigation Awards: Contractor of the Year, Ground Investigation Specialist of the Year, and Ground Investigation Project of the Year with Highways England and AECOM for the proposed A303 improvement and tunnel near Stonehenge.
Difficult times lay ahead, most notably the Covid pandemic, which could have halted work for the company. However, unlike many of Structural Soils’ competitors Mac decided to continue working whilst taking appropriate precautions and the company continued to prosper. With nuclear work running down, Mac oversaw tendering work for HS2. Structural Soils were awarded several contracts and these were performed well, with the client reserving special praise for our reporting capabilities.
Although the site investigation industry has become a bit quieter over the last year, I am confident that the company will continue to meet new challenges and climb new mountains under Mac’s leadership. From humble beginnings as a junior graduate engineer to managing director in the same company, his journey is something to be admired.
Well done Mac.