I would like to give you an idea of the person in front of you and having to deal with!. Not easy to do. I could ramble on through a list of achievements and failures, that could leave you all muttering – get on with it! What a morosoph (learned or wise fool)! Not going to do that.

I find myself at this stage – semi retired, in the autumnal phase of life looking not so much forward, but a lot more back. I will try to clarify how I got here in the first place and in front of you all today.

Narrative 1: My mother was an Afrikaner and my father 1/2 Jewish – Afrikaner. I was born in in Germiston, South Africa.

Notable Events:

My mother was introduced to my father by my aunt at a traffic light at the Johannesburg City Hall just after the war. They were married a week later.

He served with the SAAF at in Libya, Italy and Palestine as an aircraft mechanic; my mum as a parachute packer.


I was born shortly after. Two brothers and two sisters followed in the ensuing 11 years.

Narrative 2My father at the age of 12, had to support his entire family during the depression, before the war.

Notable Event:

His father was dying of miner’s phthisis. He sold the Star Newspaper to put bread on the table. 


He only had a primary school education when war broke out. His mantra was “you have to get an education” and “be the best in class – not 2nd, 1st”. 

Narrative 3: My mother’s forbears, settled on the farm Alexander in the Transvaal, after the Great Trek in 1830’s.

Notable Events:

Both my grandfather and great grandfather fought against the British & Australians.

58 of my other relatives, women and children, all living on the farm were interred in a concentration camp, together with my  POW grandfather and great grandfather.

The farm was burned and my great grandmother hid her crockery in the creek bed.


Many of my relatives died in the camp – this cast a pall over our family for many years.

Ironically I saw many ex Boers buried at Delville Wood who answered Kitchener’s call! 

Narrative 4: In 2010, a diabolical event was to occur again with the murder of my cousin on the farm.

Notable Event: 

Bandits shot him while he was out with farm duties early on a Sunday morning.

My aunt – in here 80’s had to walk for 10 km to get help.


The farm is now unattended – we will be visiting there in October. 

A visit to the family cemetery will clear up many misconceptions as to “who’s who” and fill the gaps in our family tree.

Narrative 5My father worked on various mining projects in the 1950’s and 1960’s. We lived in: Klerksdorp, Messina, Vanderbijlpark and Nababeep over a period of 15 years.

Messina on the border of Rhodesia and South Africa in the ’50s was wild country. From my classroom window we could see baboons looking through the window at us – in dismay. A leopard frequented the golf course.

Nababeep, in arid, beautiful Namaqualand, was arid country. Travellers from all over the world visit for the flowers early spring.

 Notable Events:

In Klerksdorp a cyclone passing over, dumped many inches of rain causing the local creek near our house to burst it’s banks in 1955. I thought my parents had bought wisely – the water stopped shy of a few meters from our back door!

In Messina, we galloped on horseback across the dried ‘sands’, the mine tailings solid effluent, chasing Kudu, Impala and Zebras. As the smallest kid I used to race on a little mare called Poppet – always lagging behind.

Our teacher in Std 3, a Mr Bowling – trained his dog, a massive bull terrier, to fetch the cane from a cupboard in the classroom, on the command “fetch Caesar!”. This was the most obedient class in the school.

In Vanderbijlpark, at the age of 11, I played rugby- until the inevitable happened. In the first match of the season, I got up after being  tackled and realised that my right arm was bent the other way! I had to learn to write again, and advised never to play sport again.

I finally boarded at Wynberg Boys’ High School in Cape Town. I was the senior bugler/trumpeter in our school band. We won many national titles – my only non-curricular activity achievement. The fact that I received the Maths and Science Prize barely raised an eyebrow in the sports mad school environment.


A wonderful, carefree childhood and school days.

 I was awarded a Newmont Mining Bursary to attend University, studying Chemical Engineering.

While working at the mine during holidays. I often wondered about the dreadfully low standard of safety – especially after 3 people collapsed one day and died after working in the Sulphuric Acid Plant.

We used to choke on the smoke and fumes from the smelter that passed through a huge smoke stack. Management had the worst of it. No-one thought of the prevailing wind direction when manager’s houses were built.

Narrative 6: I served as a Gunner and Lance Bombardier in the heavy artillery and anti-aircraft after school.

Notable Events: 

It was a great experience, but very little attention was paid to health and safety.

A number of my good friends were killed, electrocuted while pushing a truck.

Impact/consequences: My ears were permanently damaged, with the prospect of suffering complete hearing loss in the near future.

Narrative 7: Qualified as a Chemical Engineer at the University of the Witwatersrand; a Masters’ degree at the University of Pretoria and Ph.D at the University of Natal.

Notable Events

I met my  wife Dedrie at Pretoria University. She grew up on the farm Blouboskraal (Black Wattle Paddock) in the Eastern Transvaal.

My two children, Peter and Hilda were born while completing the Ph.D.

I worked at the Universities of Durban-Westville and Stellenbosch as a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering in this period.

Dedrie and her parents taught me to play tennis – my arm, had improved to such a degree that I developed into a below average player. At the age of 70, classed as marginally above average.

Eventually appointed as Professor in Quantitative Management at the University of South Africa.

While raising our children, Dedrie obtained an honours degree in Mathematics and Physics, following her qualification as a Speech Therapist. Hearing problems prohibited her from practicing as a therapist.

Impact & Consequences:

I developed a life-long interest in the mathematical modelling of chemical and mineral plant unit operations. Published in International Journals such as Chemical Engineering Science and the International Journal of Mineral Processing.

Dedrie was able to work as a teacher in South Africa and eventually Australia.

Narrative 8: Worked at SASOL as a Principal Process Engineer and then as a Project Manager on the Mossel Bay Offshore and Onshore Oil and Gas Plant. 

Notable Events

The move to SASOL was traumatic, going from the grandeur and splendour of the Boland to the polluted, flat Highveld. Never forget the smell of Butadiene!

I acted as Project Representative for the government, working with Badger Engineers and Fluor in Boston.

I was called up again to do military service at the ripe old age of 40. This was pre- Mandela release days.


I  learned about synthetic fuels and the oil and gas industry, contributing to the modelling and design of synthetic fuel reactors.

The call up for service and riots occurring in South Africa, spurred me on.

I spent July 1985 in Australia, looking for employment.

BHP offered me a job at the MRL in Melbourne to work in the Synfuels area.

Narrative 9: We migrated to Australia – Dedrie completed an Education Diploma at Monash University. I had various jobs from 1987 to 2002

Notable Events:

The BHP job was short lived due to the project being discontinued; as was the job with Bond Petroleum, as a Gas Projects’ Manager.

The job with Bond involved investigating mothballed Methanol Plants in Korea; new Methanol Technology in Canada and design of the pipelines from PICL to Karratha.

Dedrie took up a position at the Perth Finishing College, teaching Physics and Mathematics.

Then disaster- the Perth Finishing College went bankrupt and the Bond Corporation unravelled. I was told “you’re lucky – you’re the only one getting a package – last one in – first one out!  We decided to return to “safer” climes.

I worked for ExxonMobil until 1996 – Optimisation and Yields Engineer on the Crackers at APC in Altona and Esso in Sale and Melbourne Central. In the Safety and Environmental  Group, and as Chief Process Engineer for the company.

Dedrie cemented her position as the senior Physics and Mathematics Teacher at Fintona Girls School.

Both my son and daughter graduated at Melbourne University with degrees in Commerce.

I was retrenched in 1996, aged 50. A highly traumatic experience!


I gained a wealth of experience in risk management and safety engineering.

I took up a position as Dept. Head of Chemical Engineering at James Cook University in Townsville – for some respite. 

Dedrie took a job at Townsville Grammar as Mathematics and Physics Teacher.

A Shell B Double Tanker on the Bruce Highway narrowly missed us one day, turning over and spilling fuel over the highway – we rescued the driver – a good introduction to risk management!

Narrative 10: We moved back to Melbourne in 1997, where I was Victorian State Manager for Alara and Liberty Risk Services.

The work load was too much and Dedrie, with her Physics background, was persuaded to leave teaching and work as a consultant for Liberty.  

Dedrie and I set up Matrix Risk Pty Ltd in 2000. Until retirement and the sale of Matrix.

Dedrie developed state-of-the art modelling programmes for fire, explosion and toxic releases – using her Physics background.

Notable Events:

This was a productive and challenging period.

We perform safety and risk studies for Esso after the Longford Fire and during the Royal Commission. We were assisted and trained by ExxonMobil personnel to perform these studies. 

We were involved in preparing Safety Cases for a number of Major Hazard Facilities in Australia.

Our risk reports were used by the PTC, Connex, Yarra Trams to justify safety projects, such as the removal of the tram-train level crossings in Melbourne.

We completed most of BP and Caltex storage terminal and refinery fire safety studies in Australia, New Zealand and internationally. At one stage we employed 6 Process Engineers.

We consulted on many risk and safety projects to Hexion, Aurecon, BHPBilliton, Rio Tinto, Orica, Ports of Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Geraldton, Fremantle.

We jointly presented overseas training courses in Process and Fire Safety, in the Middle East, SE Asia and Africa.

We sold Matrix to the Aurecon Group in 2014,  but still work as casual contractors.

Both of us still play tennis – Dedrie is a very good player – I am more interested in the physics and mathematics involved in Tennis.

Both my children survived the many changes – we have a grand daughter and some step grand children.

My son works for Lonsec as a risk/funds manager. My daughter will be working at the St Jude’s school in Tanzania in the marketing area.