‘HP 57 - FIFTY SEVEN AND MORE MEMORIES OF HARRY PIPER’
Edited by R. Neil Munro
Version: 31 July 2006
(A) MOSTYN MORGAN, COMRIE, SCOTLAND
1. When in Tigrai with HTS (1974-75) Harry approached Mostyn (MMP) and said:
'Do you know what they call me? The TWB, Twisted Welsh Bastard'.
'No Harry' said Mostyn, 'it's the Tricky Welsh Bastard'.
'Oh, that's not so bad then'.
(At the funeral of HP, 19.07.06 Mostyn was universally credited with this nickname. Ed.).
(B) ALAN R. A. STAPLETON, DEVON.
2. Click back to 27th December 1974, I was 21 years old and when the aeroplane landed in Addis at dawn, the heady scent of Eucalyptus oil in the air pushed Harry’s warning to the back of my mind, “You’ll find yourself working with a very strange man (= Brian Anderson RIP, a.k.a. The Marabou Stork,. Ed.), but he’s a soil scientist and they are all a bit odd so you should fit in well.” He was right!
(C) DAVID E. PARRY, JAKARTA
3. A true legend, a great boss and a good friend for a 'TWB'. He once accused Martin Adams and myself of conspiring with the gods in Southern Darfur to wash away a camp site that he was due to visit after very rough 12 hour Land Rover trip.
4.He was the only HTS Director who insisted the 'squaddies' sit up-front when travelling with him on the same 'plane - the one and only time I've ever flown first class, to Nigeria of course!
5. I doubt we'll see his like again in our business - more's the pity. Current crop of senior managers seem so risk averse, politically and environmentally correct and just plain dull that's it's a wonder anything ever gets planned, designed and built!
(D) IAN C. BAILLIE, BEDFORD
6. My most memorable HP moment when was one when he stayed silent but skewered me with the pursed lips and a long stare. It was in Ivory Coast and he had arrived fortuitously at a time when it was necessary to do an essential but messy Personnel hatchet job. I suggested that - like Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis - this was a week when he really earned his salary. If looks could kill....
(E) JEFFREY G. LEWIS, TANZANIA
7. Harry was risk averse at times. When I joined HTS in Makelle in 1975 Harry was there on a visit. The first thing he told me was that he had strongly advised Vernon Robertson against my recruitment.
8. I am told that he had a Nigerian priest give him the Last Rights. I could not help but wonder whether Harry asked to check out his Terms of Reference before starting.
(F) AUSTIN HUTCHEON, NEW ZEALAND
9. Sorry to hear that news, but he was a very friendly, helpful TWB. Soon the sons of the dinosaurs will be all that are left
10. I do recall one from the ‘Rumour or Doom’ days, or soon after, when one of the soils worthies was complaining about the low level of Overseas Allowances (OSA). As far as I can recall Harry responded: “Well then as you think the OSA is worth bugger all I think it is high time HTS increased this considerably. How about 50% increase? Now to put that on paper 50% of “bugger all = bugger all!”. I cannot remember who it was but someone like the late Doug Low! (‘Rumour or Doom’ © was a nickname coined by RNM for the Umm Er Radhuma Project, Saudi Arabia .1977-80. Ed.)
(G) ALAN RENDELL, GIRTON, CAMBRIDGE
That's right Austin - not a bad TWB. He recruited me in the old bar of
12. Harry was also a great ballroom dancer (Silver medallist) and once demonstrated his abilities in the dining room of Abraha castle hotel in Makalle.
(H) CLIVE (Olive) ENGLISH, KIGALI, RWANDA
13. Darfur: the constant problem of what to do with UNDP per diems - paid to HTS or to the individual staff member. Tony Watkins and I finally decided to confront HP with the question to get a final ruling before we departed circa 1985. Watkins asked, "what do we do with the per diems Harry?" Harry sat back in his chair looked at us both and said: "I don't bloody care what you do with them". The type of management decision-making is sadly lacking these days. We kept the money and transferred it out of Sudan via Chris Howse's bank account. Harry you were always very supportive and polite to me in my early 'wet behind the ears' years. I will always be grateful for that. We are saddened by the news but with good heart say farewell.
(I) R. NEIL MUNRO, DIRLETON, SCOTLAND
14. Borehamwood, circa 1980. I was looking at reports in the HTS library. The shelves were then right outside his office. He stopped on his way back into his office, glared at me, caught my attention and said 'You are supposed to write reports Neil, not read them !' He was, as always, right of course: I scuttled off back to my horsebox (aka desk) to do as he commanded. He was tough. He was good for HTS. He was good for me too, though I am sure I did not recognise it at the time. His kind will be sorely missed.
15. One day one an HTS colleague came into the office in Borehamwood and opening his bag took out a very large and seemingly authentic grey revolver.
“Good lord” I said, “what are you doing with this thing?”
“I am going to assassinate Harry Piper: I have had enough of Nigeria”, said X.
“Is it really necessary?” I asked.
The pistol was a fake of course - well, it seemed to be - and in any case HP survived the day, and never knew. I always wanted to tell him, so if you are hearing this now Harry, don’t be too hard on X.
16. For some years I was a Member of the HTS Consultative Committee. One attraction of this was that Members were invited to the splendid lunch after board meetings in the private dining room at Elstree. But we did do useful things I like to think. At intervals HTS held annual seminars in December and I took shorthand notes of proceedings. Christmas was then spent typing them up. Later transcripts were sent off to all projects for staff who had been unable to attend these interesting and often quite enlightening events. Copies were also, of course, circulated in head office to staff and management. Shortly afterwards I found a small note on my desk: ‘Pls see me. HP’ (I still have that cryptic note, plus the transcripts). Knee trembling (for such a request suggested an urgency that struck fear in anyone on standby: where was I being posted to now, perhaps to some remote spot for months with the dear old ‘Marabou Stork’ again?) I stood in front of an alarmingly angry Harry who demanded of me “Who gave you permission to tape record the seminar?”. ‘Er , umm, No, No, it was not recorded at all, I wrote it all down’, and ran off to show him the notes. Somewhat reluctantly he accepted this. “Well, next time, I want to see the transcripts before you circulate them”. Yes sir. But I gave up doing them after that /or there were no more seminars /or I went overseas: I forget which.
17. At that particular seminar an HTS notable waxed lyrically about a certain project, not in ‘Harry’s Africa’ I might add, and how it was most interesting technically; and how it was most appreciated by the beneficiaries; and also that they had had a really splendidly good social time, and were also able to tour the mountains, walk in the forests etc etc. After he sat down Harry got up with his bottom line: ‘And you should have added that the project made a big loss for the company ’.
(J) KEITH J. VIRGO, SUFFOLK
18. I remember introducing a potential recruit to TWB at the Beach Club in Mogadishu, courteously introducing the candidate to "Mr Harry Piper", whereupon my colleague said "Oh, I thought you were called TWB?”. Harry was completely unfazed! I felt very embarrassed!
19. I also remember Harry meeting our alcoholic sociologist lady in Ivory Coast (she was a sandwich short of a picnic and was interviewing villagers with a bottle of gin). Harry sacked her but then found he was sitting on the same plane back to UK and kept his head well down!
20. In Guiglo, Ivory Coast, Harry stayed with Sandy and me in our slum of an HTS house. Sandy complained about the place and especially the rats in the kitchen. "Oh, it's not that bad" replied Harry, "they are only mice in the kitchen, don't worry". Next morning at breakfast he looked a bit shaken "They were rats!" he said. Apparently two had run over his bed during the night!
21. I remember Harry once asking Iain Baillie why he had taken so long to get back to work in Ivory Coast after a UK break - he had actually taken exactly 25 hours between home and setting foot on the first traceline in the Guiglo forest! And that was 1974. (cont. p 94).
A lovely man and so perceptive! I shall treasure his memory.
(K) FRED COLLIER, LLANDUDNO, WALES
22. Very sad news as the TWB seemed indestructible. Definitely the best director for HTS over a very long period and the one I preferred to work for, despite his hard man front. You will all recall his proud claim that he took Welsh as his first language in his school certificate (as exams were called in the dim and distant past - I know because I took the penultimate school certificate exams myself) and English as his foreign language.
23. I remember sitting in a lounge in Abidjan (1976) with Harry and a waiter came along. Harry said 'Hello' and the waiter went away and came back with a bottle of water, much to our amusement and Harry's bewilderment (in case you don’t get it = ‘ de l’eau’. Ed.)
(L) DAVID W. SMITH, LEEDS
24. Harry was unique - if only for the fact that he called a spade a shovel and was respected by all - colleagues, staff and clients alike. His passing is a sadness.
(M) DAVID M. BALL, DUBLIN
25. It's comforting to know that some of the 'dinosaur generation' are still around. Harry was an unwilling mentor, though at times, from a smoke-filled room, a tormentor. I think he also concluded that I should not have been employed by HTS. He rightly insisted on high standards of geology, mapping and professional integrity. I remember arguing with him about whether an inferred geological boundary should be scribed as a 1 pt or a 3 pt line on an acetate. In exasperation he summed up succinctly; "If you are confident - make it 3 pt. If you don't know, then make it 1 pt" - and ... pecked".
26. I remember him in 1976, being proud to hear that a 'high-up' in FAO-UNDP justified their continued engagement of HTS in Sudan, with the compliment that " HTS may not be the most up to date, or slick firm of consultants, but we always know that when an HTS soil surveyor puts a dot on a map, he actually went to that exact place, made an auger hole or dug a soil pit, and then described his findings."
27. I am sorry to hear that Harry has died. I am grateful to him (and Wiktor Bakiewicz and Alan Rendell) for my training, and for one of the best experiences, which was to be sent to join another Welshman in Darfur. Those distant days, when members of HTS could wander around Africa looking for something interesting and useful to do. Sending me to Darfur seemed to be his compensation for failing to get me to Tigre. I think that the TWB had a perverse desire to inflict me on Trevor Wilson. Every time he packed me on a flight something nasty seemed to happen to Haile Selassi. Each time I was en route, Addis was closed down, and my plane re-directed to either Frankfurt or Rome. I never made it. Eventually Harry got his wish, reversed the travel direction, and sent Trevor to where I lurked in Jebel Marra. I benefited from his life.
(N) ROGER ROWE, WORMINGHALL, OXFORDSHIRE
On Blue Nile many years ago with MMP we suffered a supervision. It was
of course a very hot day in Khartoum. The MMP director (name escapes
me, jolly and a bit rotund) entered the office first, wearing a Hawaiian
shirt and long khaki shorts, followed by Harry in his dirty brown mac,
saying he hadn't intended to stay long and it was raining in London!
(O) GEOFF LAWRENCE (HG&G), KNEBWORTH
30. I'm very sad to hear of Harry' s death. He was a great encourager, leader by example and his common sense and sharp humour were legendary. I was drawn to him by a shared healthy disrespect for cant and managerial haughtiness and respect for sound geological observation and energetic fieldwork................wonderfully down-to-earth............quite literally sometimes.
31. He was always "shorts" to me, a nickname that derived from Harry's photo in an early publicity shot...I think from that massive project in Jordan in the late 50s, maybe 60s, wielding a hammer to sample an outcrop, bedecked in wonderful post-war colonial style army shorts.
32. I have Harry, also, to thank for meeting my wife...she was his temporary secretary in 1972, where we met: the rest is history!
(P) FRAN SCHOFIELD, HARPENDEN
33. Harry also told me and Nigel to: ‘GET MARRIED!’ We did.
(Q) BRIAN W. KERR, AMPTHILL
34. My story is that he wandered down the office in Elstree and said to me. 'Have you ever been to Sudan? Making it sound like a holiday destination. When I replied 'No', his response was, 'Better get a visa then'. The rest is history, as they say.
(R) ROB M. JARROLD, SHEFFIELD
35. Those of you who recall the TWB from the 1970s might appreciate the following tale. It concerns a project in Kenya, which HTS and MMP undertook for the World Bank – The Tana River Project. Jeff Lewis was the livestock specialist and I, as usual, wore two hats; to begin with I was the forestry adviser and then did the project financial and economic analyses. The team leader, whose name I cannot recall, was A Senior Engineer who had to have a junior engineer to carry his brief case – a fact which both Jeff and I found somewhat amusing!
The two of us went on a week – long safari along a part of the Tana River near the Bura irrigation scheme, Jeff to look at the wild life and I the natural forest. We were accompanied by Jay, Jeff’s wife, who organized the whole safari through her contacts in Abercrombie and Kent the Nairobi based safari company. It took two lorries and a couple of Land Rovers to take the three of us plus all the camping gear and the 10 or so staff required on a good safari!
I recall that it did not take the staff long to set up our first camp, the mess tent overlooking the river was the first to be erected, followed by the shower tent and then the sleeping accommodation. The major domo, who supervised the whole show, wore white gloves and asked Jay what meal the staff should prepare for dinner and then asked Jeff which wine we would like with the meal. This is not an exaggeration.
Half way through the week, we got a message to say the team leader would be coming down to Bura in a light aircraft and would like to meet Jeff and I to discuss progress. We replied saying we would be pleased to meet him, provided he brought a case of beer with him, as we were having a rough time in the bush. As you may imagine the meeting went smoothly until the case of beer was finished and then we said we had better return to our simple camp in the bush whereupon our Team Leader said he would like to visit our camp for breakfast next morning.
This caused consternation! I suggested we moved our camp further into the forest and away from the luxury we were living in – just one small tent and no staff. Jay, however, thought this would reflect badly on her organizational skills. And so, we went to the other extreme – the dining table set with a white linen cloth, the breakfast of cereals, egg and bacon, toast and marmalade, was laid out to greet our visitors who arrived at the crack of dawn; the team leader was followed by his junior engineer who carried a sliced loaf and a jar of jam! The silence was complete; our guests departed without a word; and we continued with our safari.
A couple of weeks later the TWB arrived on a supervisory visit and our Team Leader made what he defined as an official complaint about the appalling behaviour of Jarrold and Lewis. Harry’s response was typical. He told the team leader he thought the incident amusing and was not prepared to take any disciplinary measures. Privately, he told Jeff and I that he would “have our guts for garters” if our reports were not satisfactory and on time!
(S) MARTIN E. and GERDA ADAMS, RWANDA and DENMARK
36. We worked with him for ten years from 1971 when we returned to the Western Sudan until 1981 when we left Egypt. Harry was my boss but never wanted to rub that in. He was always very supportive and we were always pleased to see him stepping off an aircraft on one of his not infrequent visits. He became a close friend of the family and a trusted colleague. We are sincerely sorry that we lost touch with him and Peggy.
He liked to project the hard manager, but that never endured more than a few minutes. We respected him as somebody who would fight our corner when he got back to Elstree. He was a strong supporter of the principle that you should assume that the field staff were right. Never second guess their requests. Let them have what they ask for.
(T) R. MURRAY WATSON, in ASIA
37. Harry Piper was the personification of HTS for me - a very honest company and straight forward dedicated professionals doing their best in the field in tough conditions. The consulting field is definitely not the same now - Terminally corrupt and commercial with all the work done in hotel rooms by internet plagiarism. He will be remembered for many important reasons, but most of all one could discuss anything with him frankly. Now very unusual in consulting groups.
(U) MARTIN GILLHAM (formerly MMP), MANILA
38. I am sorry to hear about Harry but I am afraid my memories of him are not the best, the last time I met him in Maiduguri in 1975 we almost had a push-up!! Harry, like us all perhaps had different sides. Up to that incident I thought I had got on well with him, but after that…
MARTIN A. J. WILLAMS, ADELAIDE
39. A character and
no doubt many fine qualities despite his acid tongue. My
(W) CHRIS E. FINNEY, DEVON
40. I first met Harry in 1974, long after I joined HTS, but thereafter worked for him and with him for much of the next 13 years. I found him very good to work for - highly intelligent and competent, good sense of humour, decisive, a pretty good judge of people for the most part and always with the best interests of the firm at heart. Definitely the best of the HTS Area Managers. And he did me the favour, with Tom Boyd's help, of getting me the best job I had in my years with HTS, my 1980/81 stint on the National Irrigation Study in Malawi.
(X) BRUCE MISSTEAR, IRELAND
41. Well, Harry recruited me in 1979, as Wiktor was away in Burma at the time (I went to Burma within 10 days of joining the firm). During a quiet period in the office in Borehamwood in 1980, Harry gave me permission to go to Sudan to site wells for an Irish church mission project, where the mission would pay my expenses and HTS over my salary (the firm did not receive any fee). This was far-sighted of him, as it bolstered my still fragile CV, and was obviously of more value than hanging around the office doing the Times crossword.
(Y) GEOFF WRIGHT, LUDLOW
42. Can I be the only one who never heard of the ‘TWB’? Or does my memory just fail me? (Probably latter, I am afraid. Ed.) I’m very sorry to hear of Harry’s passing. He recruited me early in 1971, and I saw a lot of him that first year in Borehamwood as I was waiting for Southern Darfur to start up. Along with Wiktor Bakiewicz, and Lewis Clark he was a major part of my hydrogeological education, for which I will always be grateful. In particular, I remember him forcing me to concentrate on the conclusions of a report. I think it wasn’t until about 2 years after I joined that he accepted I could really do the job! And he was probably right about that, too!
43. I remember Harry’s visit to Nyala (see Dave Parry’s story, above). The families weren’t too happy with the accommodation, and when we had Harry over to dinner, and there was rain in the offing, we made sure his armchair was right underneath where the rain came in through the roof – and, sure enough, the rain didn’t let us down!
Next day we set off for the field, only to become bogged down along the road, so we all got our feet wet while we got towed out and then had to return to Nyala. We made sure he had a good reminder of what field conditions were like, but he took it all in good part. And we knew he had done it all before us!
(Z) DICKIE and NIBS BRIGGS, c/o OUTBACK, AUSTRALIA
44. HP had an unexpected but fantastic habit of always bringing sweets or small presents for project children. Ours were always delighted to hear that he was coming; he became a great favourite with them and with Nibs. As so many contributors say, he was a great director and we will not see his like again.
(AA) ROBIN GOODYEAR, WOODHALL SPA
45. Also remembers Harry’s dancing skills, and in particular watching him dancing for ages one evening at some then-fashionable Lido water-front bar in Mogadishu during the Shebelle River Master Plan project in late 60’s, and … (cont. page 94).
(AB) JIM HARVEY, DFID, LONDON
46. Like everyone, I was very sorry to hear about Harry. Harry took me on in 1974 for the princely sum of £2,500 a year (I was told later that if I'd bargained really hard it might have been £2,550) and tasked me with spending a couple of hundred thousand quid of company money on equipment for South Darfur ... before the contract with ODA had even been signed. It was my first lesson in the 'trust, delegate and deliver - or else' school of management and one I've tried to remember since. My main memory is of the excellent relationships he established with clients including DFID. Harry also cared a lot about his staff, even if he sometimes gave them a hard time. We probably deserved it!
47. My only anecdote is the time he signed off and sent a letter to the "World Bonk".
(AC) DAVID RADCLIFFE, DFID, LONDON
48. Sorry to hear of Harry's death. Guiglo was my first and only experience of working with him in the field - and Keith's is not the only Guiglo story! (so what is yours? Ed.). I did bump into him later in the Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, after I had defected to FAO, but that is now well in the past. Pleased that we crossed paths again at the HTS jubilee event 3 years ago.
(AD) TOM BOYD, HADDENHAM, BUCKS.
49. Harry was a lot more than just a good boss, he was very good fun. He brought wit, wisdom and such a Celtic passion to the work that no one could doubt his sincerity or will to do something worthwhile. When necessary he could be hard as you like and most of us felt the wicked edge of his tongue at some time or other.
50. I remember him saying of one colleague " old so & so resigned five years ago but hasn't told anyone yet!".
51. On another occasion when asked before a negotation " what his fallback position was ?" he replied "I havn't any, I don't negotiate with any intention of falling back!".
52. Harry also had an appealing modesty particularly concerning his own worth. Unlike many who worked for the Bank, EU, etc. who were convinced that they earned their enormous salaries, when Harry took a contract with the EU, he described his salary "as like winning the pools".
We were indeed lucky to have worked with him and I will remember him with great affection.
(AE) RAY HOCKEY, AMERSHAM
53. If Harry was a dinosaur, then so am I, having been born in the same vintage year (1927, Ed.). I've known Harry since 1953 when we were both geologists with the Geological Survey of Nigeria. We more or less lost contact between 1956 and 1965 when we met again in Jordan, Harry then with HTS while I was with ODM (later ODA). In Jordan Vera and I met Peg for the first time and our two families got together often. Back in England after I had joined Amoco we eventually lived within a half-hour's journey. The children grew up, we were each blessed with grandchildren and Harry and I retired, for the families to see even more of each other.
54. I have early B&W photos to remind us of our young days (even dinosaurs were once young). In a mud and zana house we built in Ogboyoga (go north from Enugu and don't fall in the Benue) Harry sits on an Oyo pouffe, fag in mouth arms akimbo holding a skein of wool while Vera winds the ball. Another from about the same time, shows Harry in an Aussie-style hat shrouded in netting on which had been embroidered 'Sweat Bees Keep Out'. Either Dulcie or Doris, Australian nurses in Enugu Hospital, was the needlewoman. I could go on and on, but suffice to say all my memories of Harry are good ones. It was good meeting his HTS colleagues on wednesday even though the occasion was a sad one. I'm sure Harry would have enjoyed it though.
(AF) PETER G.THOMPSON, LOWER DUNSFORTH, YORKS.
55. I only knew Harry as a Co-Director who fought his corner with considerable vigour and consequently I do not have any TWB stories to tell. In fact, I had been at Borehamwood for a number of years before I saw a note on a personal file referring to TWB. I took this along to Nigel Schofield and said "I suppose this is a misprint - he must be referring to TMB" (Tom Boyd) - Nigel put me straight!! I last saw Harry at the HTS seminar at Oxford in 2003 - he was on great form and clearly enjoying his retirement.
(AG) MIKE FELTON, HOVE, ENGLAND
56. As one of the old hands on the Tigrai project in Ethiopia, where we were stationed in 1974-75, I well remember Harry as our boss, a man we respected but I think who we also feared a little - young as we were at the time. He had that wry smile and sense of humour and a calm and deliberate way of talking and getting his point across. After months of curfew and risk of kidnapping Harry surprised us by announcing he would pay for a ticket for myself and Peter Devillez to take some R&R in the Seychelles. He suddenly wasn't such a hard guy after all. Very fondly remembered and respected for all he did.
(AH) KARL KUCERA, MOST, CZECH REPUBLIC
57. He was one of the great men representing the "old British values" intellectually and in practice (like most of you who have responded one way or another). We live in the world that is missing the respect for such values as our societies are seeking only short-term material gains. I propose that we launch a society that promotes the traditional values, friendship, trust in each other and understanding between societies so we can all live in peace (relative) and help each other. After talking to Dr. David Parry I think we should form the " Young at Heart Dinosaurs Association ". I think our advice on issues such as soil, water, common sense and down-to-earth non-political correctness analysis of things may be needed in not so distant future. ISO DINO promotion is needed globally.
(AI) ROGER JACKSON, BALI
58. Like everyone else who worked with Harry, I am also very sorry to hear about his passing away. He was a tough boss when I worked under him as a young hydrogeologist with HTS in 1968-1976, but always supportive and backed you up: there was a time when he told the German drilling contractor working for us in Abu Dhabi what he could do with his tool pusher. I am indebted to him for advising me how to write clear and concise technical reports.
With minimal typo correcting (such as the possibly unintentional use of ‘whore’ rather than ‘wore’ in story by Rob Jarrold!) and odd editorial comments by Neil Munro. Other contributions always welcome.