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Obituary: Gordon Lemon MBE (1942–2023)

Gordon Lemon MBE
Gordon Lemon MBE

IQ saddened by the passing of well-known bituminous materials expert and industry troubleshooter

GORDON was born in 1942 in his grandmother’s house in Attleborough, Norfolk, the youngest of Thomas and Edith Lemon’s three children. After an idyllic country childhood on his father’s small farm, he began his working life as a laboratory technician testing bituminous materials with Ayton Asphalt, having rejected the job his father had arranged for him with the local corn merchant. After five years Gordon moved to Oxfordshire to work for what was then The Amey Group, based at Sutton Courtenay, remaining with them until 1987. While with Amey, later Amey Roadstone Construction (ARC), he worked initially as a technician on various UK road contracts including the M1 as it pushed further north, before moving to Rotherham to work on the M18. He began his ‘troubleshooting’ career by sorting out a problem at Staveley Lime, in Derbyshire, regarding the supply of limestone aggregate to the M1 Darton to Wakefield job site. At some point after this he returned to the head office at Sutton Courtenay where he recruited school leavers and graduates into the technical department, many of whom went on to greater things in the industry. He also began his overseas travels as he was ‘subcontracted out’ to work on various contracts. The then chairman had a connection with Joannou & Paraskevaides (J&P) and Gordon worked for them in Cyprus and Dubai, troubleshooting on airfield contracts, which became his field of expertise. Further overseas work followed with contracts in the Middle East and Africa, specifically Nigeria, where he spent long periods away from UK. Further contracts followed in Shetland as a result of the North Sea oil boom.

Gordon’s final big contract with ARC was when the company became part of the LMA (Laing, Mowlem, ARC) consortium to build the new Falkland Islands’ runway after the war. Often called at short notice to sort out problems, he travelled there many times, flying on a VC10 from Brize Norton to Ascension Island, then transferring to an RAF Hercules for the remainder of the flight – an uncomfortable journey of many hours with in-flight refuelling. Often Gordon was the only civilian, the other passengers being paratroopers, Gurkhas etc. It was this part of his career that HM Queen Elizabeth II mentioned when he received his MBE in 1996, ‘For services to the construction industry’. Tiring of overseas travel, in 1987 Gordon joined RMC who were expanding their bituminous materials business. Based at a new office in Bromsgrove, he and his wife Anne (who he had employed as a technician at ARC and later married in 1981) moved to Worcestershire. Having successfully applied for the advertised post of national technical manager for RMC (now Cemex), he had the challenging task of setting up a new department to deal with technical issues relating to asphalt and quarries, again mainly troubleshooting. He was often invited to speak at seminars and write articles for industry journals. Gordon remained with RMC until his retirement in 2005, when he went on to act as an industry consultant, before retiring from that after the financial crisis of 2008. In retirement he was a listening volunteer and also a trustee with The Samaritans of Newbury, and for a time was responsible for grant applications to support their work. 

 
 

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