David Lawrence, 1948–2015

BSc (Eng) (Hons) (University of Cape Town, 1970); Chartered Engineer; Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Ireland; Fellow of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering; Fellow of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy; Registered Professional Engineer. Pr.Eng. (ECSA). There are few who manage to grab an equal best in life from their work as well as their private lives and one of them was David Lawrence.

David managed to fulfil a career in engineering that contributed to the civil development of major mining projects as well as several defining infrastructure projects including Cahora Bassa in Mozambique and Vanderkloof and the Drakensburg Pumped Storage Scheme in his home country South Africa where his connection to the international tunnelling fraternity began.

David died peacefully on 7 July at his adopted home on the Isle of Man in the UK after moving there with his family in the 1990s. A number of David's colleagues, from his early work in South Africa, from Brown & Root, LBA and other UK colleagues and friends joined the memorial service on the Isle of Man on 16 July. A service was also held in Johannesburg on 12 August for South African friends and colleagues.

David commenced his career in Hydro schemes including Cahora Bassa (Mozambique) and Vanderkloof whilst working for LTA and Shaft Sinkers, part of Anglo American Ltd. In 1976 David was appointed General Manager of Shaft Sinkers Pty Ltd, internationally recognised as one of the leading shaft sinking companies in the world. In 1977 David was appointed Chief Civil Engineer on the 1200 MW Drakensburg Pumped Storage Scheme (Head 600m).

David showed his superb engineering capabilities on the difficult and complex Drakensberg project in many ways including the setting up and training of shotcreting operators. The large underground caverns excavated in weak sedimentary rock formations were supported by thin layers of shotcrete(100mm) and rock bolts up to 7m long. After 40 years the caverns remain in excellent shape.

Following Drakensberg, David became Project Manager for the first phase of the Huguenot National Road tunnel, involving major ground freezing works, before he took up the Role of Deputy MD and Executive manager for major Projects for Shaft Sinkers JHB-RSA; this particularly took him into the exploratory contract for the Med-Dead Hydro/P.S.S. in Israel.

A move from Contractor to consultant took him to Clifford Harris (PTY) Ltd as Managing Director and CEO where there were responsibilities for overseeing the construction of the twin track Isangoyana Tunnel in Natal and the Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme in the Cape carried out in J.V. with Holzmann of Germany and Marti of Switzerland.

When Clifford Harris was taken over by Basil Read JHB-RSA, David was asked to take the role of Group Deputy MD and in that role he founded Basil Read Mining and BR Opencast. After nine years with Basil Read, David sought new challenges and joined KBR to be seconded to the Nuclear Industry's Research Executive (NIREX) as Project Director appointed to the Executive Directorate responsible for constructing an underground Rock Characterisation Facility (RCF) in Cumbria leading to a deep level repository. This was an exciting and challenging project but unfortunately it met political obstacles before it could start and David returned to South Africa to become CEO/Managing Director of Steffen, Robertson and Kirsten (SRK), established Global technical consultants to the mining and metals industry based in South Africa.

David was not done with hands-on tunnelling though and when KBR approached him to head up the supervision team on the Dublin Port Tunnel in 2001 he could not resist. This was one of the largest tunnelling projects happening at the time. The twin tunnels form a two-lane dual carriageway connecting Dublin Port, which lies to the east of central Dublin and the M1 Motorway close to Dublin Airport. The tunnels are 4.5 km (2.8 mi) in length and a total project length of 5.6 km (3.5 mi). It had a final cost of approximately 752 million Euro. It is the third-longest urban motorway tunnel in Europe and had all the challenges embodied in constructing urban motorways for a tunnel-inexperienced Client representing a tunnel-inexperienced population. David rapidly established himself as the right man in the right place and with his team and the contractors brought the project to a successful conclusion and in the process established the use of underground space in the Dublin psyche.

The tunnel opened in 2006 and the aftermath was completed by 2008 when David 'retired' to the Isle of Man, still doing occasional consultancy work on risk and programme management. Most recently he was at the British Tunnel Associations' dinner in May with friends from LBA and again in mid-June on the LBA Thames Boat event. His adventurous and committed, yet fun loving approach to a professional career was a significant element in his success and in the esteem that so many hold for him.

David was married to Helen with whom they had three children, Debbie, Charles and Michele. They have 6 grandchildren. Helen supported David throughout his professional career and was ready to relocate and travel to where the next Project took him.

David was a larger than life person, he loved his family and was a loyal and trusted friend. He was a superb engineer and a much respected leader of men.

Martin Knights