Alexander Murchie B.Sc (Mech. Eng)

Charted Engineer, Fellow of the institution of Mechanical Engineers.

After completing Service with the R.A.F. Alex returned to Edinburgh University in 1948, as a mature student He graduated in 1952. We then married, and my husband and I  left  immediately for the Caribbean. Alex was to take up a post in a relatively small refinery in Trinidad. In 1958 Texaco took over the Refinery and began a period of expansion which lasted till 1973. The last Unit to be completed was the Desulphurization Plant.

The expansion resulted in the Refinery becoming one of the ‘Top Ten’ worldwide.

Alex loved his work and was very dynamic. He could always be found, day or night, in the Refinery, checking, organizing, making sure that schedules were on time etc. He led a team of Engineers, who worked on the off-site facility needed for support, while the contractors (Bechtel) worked within the plant boundaries. This facilitated a smooth transition.

During those years Alex acquired a nickname – The Flying Scotsman’.

The following story is often recounted:

The Cooling Towers at Western Topping were due to be broken down for replacement.

“One Friday afternoon at a meeting in the General Manager’s office, the decision was taken to remove them and Willie Shaw mentioned it to Alex before going home. Since there was another job going on in the area, involving a lot of heavy equipment Alex utilized this over the weekend, during some of the slow periods, when they were not in use, and down went the Towers.

On Monday morning, the General Manager, at another meeting said, ‘I have been thinking it over. The Cooling Towers will have to stay for a while longer’. Willie Shaw got up and looking out the window (the view normally dominated by these extremely high Towers), he said ‘What Cooling Towers ?‘ The G.M. said, ‘You didn’t mention it to Alex Murchiie, did you ? “

This story is typical of Alex’s forward thinking and his energetic activity!!

Another example occurred when a tank was ‘floated’ to make way for the piperack from No. 8 CDU. The Chicago Bridge expert, who had done this before in the Middle East, was there at the time and gave Alex’s Team of Engineers, the benefit of his experience. That Sunday morning they filled the bunded area with water and waited for the tank to ‘pop’. It was then guided by the team to the designated location, in an area of the Island further South.

Everyone present found this to be a great occasion. Trinidadians had a truly diverse population due to many different races arriving historically. There were also mixtures of these due to intermarriage.

Many worked, in the Refinery, alongside Ex-pats. We had an efficient and happy workforce.

Later, in 1984, the political situation changed and the Refinery was nationalised. Expats were no longer deemed necessary – but – although we could have remained as citizens of the ‘Republic’. We, with some regret, made the decision to leave.

We were lucky to have spent so many happy years bringing up our children in the tropical islands of the Caribbean.

Coming from the restrictions of a war-scarred Europe (we still had rationing of food), it seemed like paradise.

Our children (Vanda, Kevin, Nigel and Stuart) golden and sun-tanned, enjoyed their outdoor life. The climate was balmy with a gentle sea breeze. We did have a wet season but it was never cold.

They loved the coral beaches and the turquoise sea, running  barefoot on the sand and learning to swim even before they could walk.

We now have idyllic memories of these wonderful years.

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