Oral history of British science

Head, Peter (Part 4 of 14)

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  • Subjects

    Civil Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    The British Library

  • Interviewees

    Head, Peter, 1947- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4 [47:40][Interview Two: 10 September 2012] Remarks on working at FFP in 1970s: innovative company with track record in long span bridges; lack of technical understanding underpinning new types of structures, anathema to PH's Imperial College training; safety considerations, use of existing codes of practice on structures outside scope of new structures, risks of buckling in structures; PH lack of visibility of senior partners, such as Oleg Kerensky and Bill Brown, at time of collapses and working in different office in Degas House to problem bridge construction team in Alliance house. [04:30] Description of Avonmouth Bridge: long span requiring unusual variable depth girder. [06:35] Remarks on Avonmouth bridge building: PH split of time between site and office; activities on site, benefits of PH experience in design and construction experience; PH position in bridge construction team; anecdote about resident engineer Leslie Ellis falling asleep in meeting; resident engineer duties; [10:04] high technology advances in bridge, welding of steel plates, X-rays of welding; Fairfield Mayhew's Anthony Freeman, duties on site; PH learning about welding; need for understanding to innovate; PH worries about costs and safety, value of Bernard Wex's support. [15:09] Remarks on: Imperial research program into plate buckling, Merrison rules; learning from other industries, meetings with John Dwight and Professor Faulkner; similarities of construction issues in bridges, aircraft and ships, ship research laboratory in Scotland. [19:05] Story about long running contact with Professor Faulkner from Glasgow University; PH idea of enclosing Tees Viaduct Bridge in Middlesbrough to protect from enclosure; Faulkner and PH at conference, Faulkner support for fibre reinforced polymer use, previously used in mine hunters; PH starting journey into composite material use. [21:55] Description of building bridge: division of bridge into transportable components; assembly of steel prefabricated parts; cantilevering out; concreate topping and road surfacing; risks of cantilevering; construction times. [25:35] Remarks on: other duties alongside Avonmouth bridge; PH long working hours; PH working at home, calculations; importance of independent checking processes, good relationship with Arup checkers; previous checking arrangements; greater experience leading to lower stress levels whilst working on later bridges, which had different construction concerns. [31:15] Remarks on life outside work: living with wife in Beckenham; children, starting family; not having car or television in 1970s; anecdote about buying first car, a Hilman Imp from Avonmouth bridge engineer; two children; move to Scotland when PH was assigned to Friarton bridge in 1975; children Andre and Melody; PH feelings about having children, concerns for worked of grandchildren; civil engineer salary, earning similar level to teacher wife; civil engineering pay levels; money concerns bringing up children, having to be frugal, anecdote about saving lunch vouchers; [38:10] advantages in favourable property sales after 1973, buying flat buy not being able to afford furniture in flat, oil boom pushing up value of house in Scotland; lunch vouchers provided by company; perks of job and being part of lucky generation, pension, property profits; sharing knowledge with teacher wife about people management; [42:58] limited civil engineering social life working in London; consulting engineers cricket teams; better social life living on site in Scotland; PH limited activities in engineering institutions due to intensity of learning at work; handyman work around the home; frequent moves in 1970s and 80s.

  • Description

    Interview with civil engineer, Peter Head

  • Related transcripts

    Peter Head interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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