Left: Chris Jackson Right: Joe Fitzgibbon

Celebrating the Father's of Engineering

As Father’s Day celebrations begin this Sunday these stories salute two fathers who supported and influenced two little boys in the 1950/60s to pursue a career in engineering. The stories look at how the two boys grew into ‘Grandfathers of Engineering’ and the two different routes they took to build outstanding careers; one through a traditional university education and an enlightened view of the world, the other through school of life and an unwavering work ethic.

Leading Civil Engineer Joe Fitzgibbon – My Father Was In Civil Engineering

Joe Fitzgibbon’s life shaping our world as a civil engineer began as a ten-year-old in Manchester. His father, William, who emigrated from Tipperary in 1946, was engaged upon a variety of Civil Engineering projects both as a groundworker and later as a supervising foreman.

Working regimes in the mid sixties included a six-day working week as standard and where Saturday was the opportunity to bring your son or daughter into work for the experience.

Mrs Fitzgibbon packed sandwiches and Joe jumped in the van with his father and other members of the site team. His duties for the day included tidying the site cabin and cleaning the engineer’s instruments. In return, he would be shown some of the tools of the trade: how to use setting out instruments like levels, theodolites and understand how dumpers and excavators worked.

One day whilst on site, an ocean tanker drifted past him 30 metres away through what seemingly appeared to be the middle of a field. Joe was awestruck. William explained that this was the Manchester Ship Canal linking the Irish Sea to Manchester and the rest of the world.

How does it work? How deep is it? How was it built? How deep is the ship? Man could shape the world: man could change the world. Joe’s inquisitive determination was nurtured in those early days watching William.‘There wasn’t much chance to laze about’ Joe said. As a child he worked in his mother’s greengrocers, weighing potatoes and selling the fish on Fridays. Hard-working values and the communication skills fostered by the craic on construction sites saw Joe become Head Boy at school.

But William never pushed his son towards Civil Engineering, he simply ‘kept a tag’ on Joe’s knack for practical thinking. While Joe studied for A-levels in English and Science in the seventies, Mr Fitzgibbon talked to his boss about the best routes into Civil Engineering.

During the holidays Joe worked as the chain man, organising the setting out tools and assisting the engineers on construction sites. He never stopped asking questions. He wanted to learn more.

This lead Joe to an HNC in Civil Engineering from Wigan Mining College which enabled him to secure his first job working on nationwide projects with FJC Lilley.

In 1977 Joe joined T. Kilroe & Sons Civil Engineering, a tunnelling specialist firm, where he was able to rise, becoming a contract manager and in 1992 achieving his first Directorship, running highways and local authority groups. Joe now runs Centum which he founded in 2003 and is board director for CECA NW, representing civil engineering contractors across the region. Joe credits his father with instilling many of the values by which he lives his life and through which he has achieved his success.

‘My dad put in a decent weather vane for right and wrong’ says Joe. ‘He was not an academic man but he was an intelligent man and they are two different things.’

Leading Civil Engineer Chris Jackson: My Father Was an Engineer

Transport Initiatives Director Chris Jackson was introduced to civil engineering at an early age through his father, Maurice, who left the forces to pursue engineering. Maurice secured his son work placements from the age of 15 up until Chris left Doncaster Grammar School to study engineering science at Durham University.

Throughout Chris’s career, beginning with a graduate training scheme with Costain Civil Engineering, Maurice was a font of knowledge and advice, encouraging Chris to become involved with professional bodies such as the Institution of Highways and Transportation, of which Chris ultimately became the National President.

Maurice advised Chris to ‘keep a wide view of what is happening in the industry’ so that he could ‘build a good network of contacts.’ This advice paid dividends and Chris was involved in a long list of projects from highways to reservoir work.

His industry ascent reached new highs in 1997 when Chris was appointed project manager for the construction of the second runway at Manchester Airport, making Manchester the only airport in the UK other than Heathrow with two runways. From here Chris went on to another national first, as Head of Community and Public Relations during construction of the M6 toll, the nation’s first toll motorway. But Maurice wasn’t only inspirational in Chris’s career, he also nurtured an interest in amateur dramatics, giving Chris the confidence to develop his presentational skills and a mutual love of rowing saw Chris become a member of Durham University’s prestigious rowing club.

Chris believes his success is due to ‘always being interested in what’s going on next door,’ and thinking of the bigger picture; values instilled in him by his father, which he has since passed down to his own children and grandchildren who all ‘have an appreciation of the value of infrastructure in our society.’ Engineering touches all of our lives, whether we appreciate it or not and without fathers like Maurice Jackson inspiring industry leaders like his son, we would live in a very different world.

‘Be happy. Follow your talents and your success will follow,’ says Chris, ‘and take note of the advice you get from your parents.’

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