Graham Kinder

Born: April 27, 1931;

Died: April 4, 2023

Straight from the Royal Technical College Salford, Graham Kinder joined Babtie Shaw and Morton in 1952 as a 21-year-old in its small Blythswood Square office retiring 43 years later as chairman of the Babtie Group, Scotland’s largest firm of consulting engineers.

Initially working on the main dam for the Glen Shira hydro-electric power project near Inverary, he then moved into shipyard reconstruction on the River Clyde at Fairfields Shipyard which later became Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and then Govan Shipbuilders.

Many of his projects were roads and an early one was the design and supervision of the Balgy Road between Shieldaig and Torridon in Wester Ross. This road reduced the round trip from some 56 miles to seven though plagued by rain virtually every day from June 1961 to February 1962. It opened up some of the most magnificent views of mountains in Scotland and is now part of the north coast 500. On completion he enjoyed driving an 80-year-old lady who lived in Shieldaig to Torridon for the first visit of her life. He delighted in attending the 50th anniversary community celebration of the opening of this critical road in 2013.

His professionally most satisfying project was his four years in Belfast from 1966 when he was the superintending engineer on the construction of the then world’s biggest shipbuilding dock for Harland and Wolff. The construction of this massive dock was to a tight schedule as the shipyard had taken orders for two 250,000 tonne tankers for ESSO and they had to be floated out some two and half years from the start of the civil engineering works. He recounted being the only person on site when the dock was flooded which if not managed precisely could have broken the back of the tankers.

The discovery of oil in the North Sea led to the decision to upgrade the A9 between Perth and Inverness and Babtie was involved in a number of schemes. Graham Kinder worked on the design of the Dunkeld bypass a technically challenging section of the new road requiring the diversion of a short length of the River Tay, which carries the highest flow volume of any river in the UK, to allow the new road to run along the river valley. The bypass was opened in 1977 and received a Civic Trust award for how well it fitted into the landscape.

Increasing traffic up the west coast led to extensive work on the A82 Loch Lomond road and he was involved in the initial routing though the construction did not take place until 15 years later, creating the current road with its spectacular views of Loch Lomond. He was made a partner of the firm in 1974.

Babtie expanded into England and in 1981 he moved south to open offices in Preston and Wakefield for multi-disciplinary work and the takeover of the Lancashire and West Yorkshire Road Construction Units from the Department of Transport and their work on motorways and major roads. He was also responsible for developing Babtie’s other offices in England and overseas including Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

Returning to Glasgow in 1988 he was elected senior partner and later chairman of the Babtie Group when it became a limited company in 1993.

Major projects under his leadership were the design and supervision of the construction of the ship lift at Faslane for nuclear submarines on the Clyde, one of the largest in the world. The ship lift can raise a 14,515 tonne (submerged weight) 150 metres by 13 metres wide, Vanguard submarine in operational condition.

A major expansion of the group came in 1993 when he led the externalisation of the Highways and Planning Department of the Royal County of Berkshire. Some 300 staff joined the group in one of the first privatisations in the public sector. This provided private sector skills to Berkshire CC and skills in highway maintenance, regional planning, environmental and waste management, road safety and archaeology to the group.

Following his visit to China in 1986 with the first group of British engineers to formally visit after the end of the Cultural Revolution, he won a contract from the Chinese Ministry of Communication, then the biggest contract they had awarded to an overseas company, to train 500 senior engineers and accountants in western methods of infrastructure development and financial procurement. From 1992-1994 in groups of 25 from every province they studied in the Glasgow offices.

Most were members of the Communist Party and only Chinese speaking and had not visited Europe before. Although any religious activity would not have been possible for them in China, with the confidence of Graham Kinder’s personal involvement as chairman, almost all visited his church St Michael and All Angels in Helensburgh for a Sunday morning service. They were surprised and delighted to be welcomed with warm handshakes and afterwards with coffee by the open-hearted congregation of St Michael’s.

In his last year as chairman, Babtie celebrated 100 years of its foundation by John Babtie in 1995 and held a number of countrywide celebratory events. The largest was a concert in the Glasgow Concert Hall with the Glasgow Orpheus Choir and Capercaillie led by Karen Matheson when he delighted in sharing the platform with her.

In retirement he became chairman of the Friends of Loch Lomond driving its important work to care for this area of outstanding natural beauty and its successful lobbying for the creation of Scotland’s first National Park for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. He set up and was a very effective chairman of the Ardlui Respite Care Trust which succeeded in the building and equipping of Ardlui House, a much needed and highly valued facility for children and young adults with disabilities and complex care needs in Helensburgh.

He met his wife Dorothy at a Sunday School dance in 1948 and they married in 1955 when he was doing his National Service. When Graham returned to Glen Shira, they lived on site at Inverary in a caravan. At the popular weekly cèilidhs he developed his love for Scottish country dancing and its music which was a lifelong joy as were his favourite sports, badminton, cricket, and walking.

Both with close families they celebrated their Diamond Anniversary, with a ceilidh of course, at Duck Bay on Loch Lomond in 2015.

At all their many moves required of a civil engineer, they were involved with a local church and the community. This involved his being appointed the Deputy Registrar of Birth Deaths and Marriages while living in Shieldaig.

On 5th March, four weeks before his death, visiting Inverary with son Andrew, they chanced on meeting the Duke of Argyll’s gamekeeper who took them up private roads for his first visit to the Glen Shira Dam since finishing work there over 60 years earlier. The gamekeeper was incredulous to meet a 91-year-old who remembered and explained details of its design and construction, a meeting hugely enjoyed by all.

Dorothy and Graham had three sons and he is survived by Andrew and Stephen and grandchildren Max, Luke, Gavin, Katya, and Alistair.