THE poor public image of manufacturing industry in the UK has

concerned many people, not least the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Francis

McWilliams. He feels sufficiently strongly about it to put his name to a

foundation to be launched in September. ''It will be a Chatham House for

Industry'' he says.

Its aim is to provide a forum for discussion on how to solve many of

the problems facing industry in areas such as securing finance and how

to attract the brightest and best people into manufacturing industry,

thereby advancing the cause of Great Britain plc.

Sir Francis is that rare breed, someone who has trained in a

profession and worked in manufacturing industry. He was born in the

Portobello suburb of Edinburgh in 1926. Educated at St John's,

Portobello, and later at Edinburgh's Holy Cross Academy, he was awarded

a scholarship to Edinburgh University to read Civil Engineering when he

was just 16.

After graduating in 1945, Sir Francis worked in the office of

Edinburgh's City Engineer and then as a civil and structural engineer in

other authorities.

In 1953 he emigrated to pre-independence Malaysia with his

Edinburgh-born wife Wyn and first child. He stayed for 23 years and it

''was lovely''.

He had his own consulting engineering practice and ''nothing to worry

about except my golf handicap''.

He still visits the country regularly after having ''a daft notion to

become a barrister'' in 1976 at the age of 50, a decision which saw his

return to Britain.

This was due to his interest in engineering arbitration work which

required a greater knowledge of law. He found his spell as a student at

Lincoln's Inn in London an enjoyable and rejuvenating experience.

The decision to practise as an Arbitrator allowed Sir Francis to use

both his engineering experience and his legal knowledge. Since 1979, he

has been involved in the settlement of disputes in England and in many

other countries, although not yet Scotland (he is open to offers!).

As well as being a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and of

the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, he was elected a Fellow of the

Royal Academy of Engineering in 1991.

By chance Sir Francis and his family lived in the Barbican in London

on their return to the UK and he got involved with the Residents'

Association. This brought him into contact with members of the

Corporation of London and subsequently to his present position as Lord

Mayor, a role which he sees as ''ambassadorial in representing the

financial City to the world outside''.

He acknowledges that many people think the Corporation is

old-fashioned ''because they see us dressed up in fancy clothes''. But

he feels the local authority is ''well ahead of the game in many


It had a green belt policy for London in 1876 when it acquired Epping

Forest for the people, and probably the first Clean Air Act in the


The promotion of the City of London as one of the world's three major

financial centres -- along with New York and Tokyo -- occupies much of

the Lord Mayor's time. Although London has been successful in attracting

many overseas financial institutions, including the European Bank for

Reconstruction and Development, there is no complacency.

This is acknowledged by Sir Francis, who believes strongly that the

physical infrastructure of the City of London, such as its public

transport, has to be improved.

The recent IRA bombings in the City raised fears that firms might

relocate to other capital cities, but this is not expected to occur. The

Corporation was quick to respond by setting up roadblocks and generally

making travel more difficult for motorists in the Square Mile.

In such a busy life there is not much time for leisure activities, but

Sir Francis and his wife both enjoy gardening, golf, and ski-ing; having

taken it up at the age of 60. Sir Francis is a member of Muirfield and

is bringing a team of golfers up in August to play the Lord Provost's


Having had three professional lives, as a civil engineer, arbitrator,

and now Lord Mayor, you would think that was enough for one person.

However there may be a fourth chapter in his working life.

He jokingly says he might consider working as a ski instructor until

the age of 75. Given what he has achieved so far, I should not be