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Charles William Isherwood, 1924-2006

With the death of Bill Isherwood on 22 May 2006, the Society lost a highly accomplished teacher and practitioner of engineering geology.

Born on 4 September 1924 in Cheadle, Cheshire, he graduated with an excellent engineering degree at Manchester University in 1944. This logically led to a commission in the R.E.M.E. in which he served until 1947.

His civilian career started with a year under training at the Mersey and Irwell Catchment Board but it was in 1949 his life-long involvement with engineering geology began. He joined the consulting practice of Edgar Morton, the eminent Reader in Applied Geology at Manchester University as Technical Assistant. Ultimately Bill became the Partner in the restyled firm of Edgar Morton and Partner in Macclesfield and on the death of Edgar Morton in 1973, took over the practice until its acquisition by Sir M MacDonald (later Mott MacDonald) in 1988.

Also in 1949, Bill was appointed Special Lecturer in Engineering Geology at Manchester University and held that position for 35 years.

His principal expertise was in the water industry being responsible for advice to very many, mainly UK, water undertakings and large industrial concerns on impounding dams, groundwater schemes and associated civil engineering works. He also advised on coal mining, rock and soil stability problems, seismicity studies for dams and power stations and waste repositories for the nuclear industry.

With the close proximity of the Cheshire salt-fields to the Macclesfield office and the long historical links of Edgar Morton with the Brine Pumping legislation, Bill developed a very detailed knowledge and interest in the salt abstraction industry and its associated brine-pumping subsidence problems. This was the subject of his first technical paper, The Nature and Effects of Brine Pumping published in 1954 in the Journal of the Institution of Water Engineers. Although elected FGS in 1966, all Bill’s subsequent publications, mainly reservoir related, appeared in engineering journals rather than QJEG.

He was often retained as expert witness for Inquiries and contractual engineering disputes. His logical, practical and clearly presented advice was greatly appreciated. Well before the days of sophisticated 3D computer graphics and spreadsheets, Bill had a real gift for presenting and simplifying geological and observational data. His hand-drawn geological sections, 3D block diagrams, charts and pumping test records were truly beautiful artworks and it is fortunate that most are now preserved in the Morton/Rowe Geotechnical Archive at the John Rylands University Library in Manchester.

Family was always a ruling passion but sadly his first wife, Freda, died at an untimely age while on holiday in Iceland in 1985. Bill is survived by their three children Kate (1956), Charles (1958), and Richard (1962). He married Margaret Carne, (one-time teacher of Charles and Richard!) in 1988 and retired to ‘Old Thatches’ in Hertfordshire to enjoy his great interests in gardening (fuchsias in particular), Beethoven and brass bands.

Bill was universally considered to be a true gentleman and he will be really missed by all who knew him.

John Scriven with the kind assistance of Bill Isherwood’s family.