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Mervyn David Watkins, 1938-2003

Born and brought up in Moretonhampstead, Dartmoor, surrounded by almost unparalleled geological variety, Mervyn became fascinated by geology at an early age. He won his way to the University of Exeter in 1957 gaining a BSc (Geology) in 1960. From Exeter Mervyn obtained a position with the Water Development and Irrigation Board in Tanzania where he worked until 1965. During this time he became a Fellow of the Society (1961) and also decided that he wanted to focus on engineering geology and hydrogeology. He obtained his DIC in these subjects at Imperial College in 1963 before returning to complete his work in Tanzania. He became a Member of the Association of Engineering Geologists in 1969 and of the Institution of Geologists in 1979.

He returned to the UK from Tanzania in 1965 and joined Binnie and Partners with whom he was to remain for the rest of his working life. After working out of the London office on a range of mainly UK dam projects until 1970, Mervyn had the opportunity to work in Hong Kong on the High Island project. He was resident with his family for five years as Project Geologist. Key activities during this period were the training and mentoring of local staff, together with the provision of technical advice and support to the construction teams – tasks which Mervyn carried out throughout his career with skill, enthusiasm, great patience and notable success. From this base he also carried out groundwater work in Malaysia on several projects. Over the next nine years, with a short spell working from London but mostly in SE Asia, Mervyn was engaged in management of projects dealing principally with the development of groundwater for irrigation in Indonesia, but he was also Team Leader of the Central Java Groundwater Study (1980-81).

His next major engagements were in Peru, a country in which he spent much of the next 10 years until 1995 as Project Manager of a consultancy consortium working on the water supply and sewerage of Lima. Since then Mervyn carried out a number of challenging consultancies, based at Redhill, including major inputs to work in Peru, Indonesia and Bangladesh. His most recent major project was as Team Leader of the National Water Resources Master Plan for the Sultanate of Oman, which he completed in 2001.

The cultures and languages of the countries he worked in were always a source of fascination for Mervyn and his success as a manager were no doubt partly due to his interest in the people with whom he worked. He was a fluent speaker of Swahili and Bahasa Indonesia, as well as Spanish.

He died on February 28 at home in Chagford, close to his birthplace, where he had made his home after returning from Hong Kong. Mervyn is survived by his wife Gwen who travelled widely with him, and by his children Nick and Tracey.

Ken Edworthy