Obituary: Jim Currie, engineer and skier

James Willes Currie, engineer. Born: July 25 1924 in Ayr. Died: August 13 2020, aged 96

Keen skier Jim Currie at Zermatt in Switzerland
Keen skier Jim Currie at Zermatt in Switzerland

Jim Currie was born in Ayr and educated at Irvine Royal Academy before enrolling at Glasgow University and the Royal College of Technology (now Strathclyde University), from where he graduated with honours. Called up for military service, he was commissioned in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) in 1944. He served in India and Burma.

After being demobbed in 1947 he joined the Consulting Engineers Kennedy and Donkin and became involved in the design and construction of electricity power stations. He later went to work for Consulting Engineers Montreal Engineering Company in Canada, with whom he spent time in Alberta where he was introduced to skiing, an interest that was to remain with him for the rest of his life. After a brief spell in Venezuela he returned to Britain in 1955. He joined the Scottish Ski Club (SSC) and used the weekend buses to the slopes. At this time he met Mary Procter, whom he married in 1959. They set up house in Cambusbarron and that was to be his home for the rest of his life.

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Soon afterwards he joined the South of Scotland Electricity Board and continued his work in the design and construction of power stations. He worked on the construction of Kincardine, Longannet and Inverkip coal and oil fired power stations. In the early 1980s, with the Board about to embark on the construction of the Torness nuclear power station, he was appointed Chief Engineer, Generation Design and Construction. By this time the Board had strengthened its engineering capabilities, enabling it to carry out such work directly without the assistance of consulting engineers, thus tightening its control of major projects. This and the introduction of innovative forms of contracting, which Jim had a major part in introducing, played their part in ensuring that Torness was commissioned on time and within budget. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was invited to perform the grand opening, a truly memorable day.

To add to his talents as a highly experienced and talented engineer, Currie had a gift for human relations and man management, so that he was greatly respected by all his staff. Nowhere was this better demonstrated than on the day the bulldozers were due to start work at Torness, when the site was occupied by several thousand anti-nuclear protesters from both the UK and across Europe, along with the statutory baby and legal representative. It was Currie who dealt with what could have become a major incident, in his calm and considered way, enabling work to commence.

He continued to ski at home and abroad and played an important role in the development of skiing in Scotland as a member of the Cairngorm Chairlift Company. He retired from the SSEB in 1988 and enjoyed a long retirement filled with many trips and adventures. He was a keen yachtsman and spent much time cruising in his jointly owned UFO 34 cruiser/racer yacht with his family and friends on the west coast. He was also a very good golfer, maintaining a single-figure handicap for many years. Following his time as President of the SSC extending for five years from 1966, he retained an interest in the organisation of skiing in Scotland, and his views remained influential in Scottish skiing for many years.

Jim was a very good friend and a very fine man who had my admiration and affection. He had a wide range of interests, achieved a great deal in his work and was a devoted family man. All those who knew him will miss him greatly. His wife Mary died in March 2012. Jim is survived by his daughter Ailie Ord, son Angus and five grandchildren.

George Stewart (with Bill Aitken, Don Miller and Myrtle Simpson)