Scottish civil engineer known for bridges including the Humber, the Severn and the Forth Road

Born: December 19, 1921;

Died: January 5, 2019

ROBERT Wood, known as Bob, who has died aged 97, was one of the foremost civil engineers of his generation whose 44-year career saw him take a lead role in major construction projects across the UK and the rest of the world.

In particular he built his reputation on iconic bridge construction projects, a number of which represented some of the largest and most challenging of their time. Built from the 1950s through to the 1980s, these included the Forth Road Bridge, the Humber Bridge and the Severn Crossing, as well as major river and estuary bridges and other construction projects in Australasia, South America and the Middle East. Whether directly, or through project joint ventures, he worked for some of the leading engineering and construction companies of the time, including Sir William Arroll & Co, Redpath Dorman Long, Cleveland Bridge and John Holland.

His full and active long life included many notable achievements and events, in his work as well as his family life. In the mid 1950s he ventured with his wife Audrey, who had never before left her native Scotland, to the heart of Iraq to build the Samawah Highway suspension bridge over the Euphrates. During one trip across a desert road to Baghdad they could easily have perished when their car broke down and they were left stranded for hours in searing heat.

Some 33 years after the completion of the bridge in Samawah, Bob and Audrey sat in their home in Barnton, Edinburgh in February of 1991, and during a BBC news report of the first Gulf War, watched as laser guided bombs descended on and destroyed the bridge.

With his depth of civil engineering expertise and his calm but determined approach, Mr Wood became known for his ability to take over and turn round projects that had run into trouble, including the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne, which had tragically suffered a collapse mid-construction. In 1965, he was honoured with a MBE for services in the construction of the Forth Road Bridge, and then in turn with an OBE in 1975, for services in constructing the Rio Niteroi Bridge in Brazil.

Over the course of his life he developed a great affection for the many places he lived and worked in, as well as with the many people he met and worked with. In particular three countries stood out. First Chile, where his English father and Scottish mother had moved, his father to work on the new railway system, and where Bob was subsequently born.

Second Scotland, where he grew up in Cambuslang with his maternal grandmother and aunt, and was educated in Glasgow at Allan Glens school and then Glasgow University; he always thought fondly of his Scottish roots and always included a saltire in the final span ceremony for each of the major bridges he was responsible for.

And thirdly Australia, where he and Audrey became regular visitors to Melbourne, where his eldest daughter made her life after the project he had worked on was completed.

Bob Wood was greatly admired and respected by his many colleagues around the world, as well as loved by family and friends alike who warmed to his gentle sense of humour, combined with a determination to do the right thing in the style of a true gentleman of the ‘old school’.

He was predeceased by his wife Audrey, by some five years, during which he sadly had to face the final great challenge of his life with progressive Alzheimer’s disease, throughout which he nevertheless retained the positivity for which he had been an inspiration to so many.

He is survived by his two daughters, four grandchildren and two great- grandchildren.