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William Lawrence Barrett 1937 - 2009


Bill Barrett was a gentleman in the true sense of the word – a modest man, but one whose achievements throughout his life and career were remarkable. He was born on 10 June 1937, in Fort Portal, Uganda and attended the Duke of York Public School in Nairobi, Kenya, where he excelled at shooting, cricket and hockey – in later life he was to play hockey at international level.

At Aberystwyth University he studied Geology and gained a Postgraduate Diploma in Micropaleontology. It was at Aberystwyth that he met Isabel, his future wife. In 1961 he returned to Africa, where he took up his first appointment, with Kilembe Copper Mines in Uganda, as a Field Geologist. Isabel joined him and they were married in 1962 at Virika Cathedral in Fort Portal. Within seven years Bill had risen to Senior Mine Geologist and had the three children - Mark, Andrew and Gill - before moving with his family to the UK to complete his doctorate, at the University of Leeds, on the Stratigraphy, structure and mineralisation of the South East Ruwenzori Mountains.

On returning to Kilembe Mines in 1970, Bill became Chief Geologist before the political and economic climate became too unstable under Idi Amin in 1973, when the family was moved again to the UK. Bill joined Tarmac in 1974 as their first Geological Manager and spent over 25 years with them before retiring in 2000. The early years were quite primitive by modern standards but Bill relished those pioneering days and helped lay down the foundations for a career as a geologist in the quarrying industry.

As the company grew at such a phenomenal rate, Tarmac relied very heavily upon his judgement throughout numerous acquisitions and mergers, which extended overseas into North America, South Africa, the Middle East and Europe and he therefore learnt to speak both French and German proficiently. He loved the little challenges associated with this work - flying through a thunder storm in a light aircraft in America or eating ducks’ feet in China.

Bill’s influence extended beyond his role with Tarmac. He was a member of the first Extractive Industry Geology conference held at Burlington House in 1978 and became chairman of the Organising Committee for the 1989 event at Birmingham University. He was actively involved with a variety of government and national bodies, including the Programme Board of the British Geological Survey, and contributed to a range of publications while also acting as an external examiner at Leicester University.

However, perhaps the thing of which he would have been most proud professionally was the recruitment and training of numerous young geologists. He gave them the skills and confidence to progress – many to attain senior roles throughout the quarrying industry.

Bill Barrett was indeed a remarkable man. He advanced the role of the geologist within the quarrying industry and nurtured so many geologists. His companionship and considered judgement will be greatly missed.

Paul Brewer