Countless people across the maritime industries will be saddened by the death on 28 September of Duncan Lyon. Throughout his long and distinguished journey through many areas of the marine world Duncan made friends with his charm, generosity and good humour. The mention of his name in the most unlikely corners of our global business arena could generate smiles and stories told with fondness and respect.
Duncan Lyon was born in Glasgow on St George’s day, 23rd April 1924 and passed away peacefully after a short illness on the 28th Sept 2013. As a proud Scotsman sharing a birthday with William Shakespeare he was at ease on both sides of the border making friends across the social spectrum with style and eloquence.
Duncan attended Glasgow Technical College (later to become the University of Strathclyde) to study marine engineering with an apprenticeship at Harland & Wolff and subsequently joined Port Line and then Cunard. After acquiring his chief engineer’s ticket, Duncan joined the world’s most famous ship – the RMS Queen Mary realizing his boyhood dream and went on to become her Chief Engineer. He often told the tale about a rain-drenched afternoon in September 1934 as an 11-year-old boy with his pal Roddy McMillan, they listened attentively to his schoolmaster deliver the news that Hull No 534, nearing completion at John Brown’s shipyard on the Clyde, was to be named “Queen Mary” after the wife of King George the V. At the time the ship was the wonder of the world and it is no surprise that it inspired him to become a marine engineer. The teacher was Duncan MacRae who went on to achieve fame as a thespian with a maritime flavour in the film “Whisky Galore” while pal Roddy also shared the limelight in the TV series “Para Handy” about a Clydeside “puffer”. With no pretence Duncan became a character in the real world of marine engineering moving on to one of Britain’s greatest shipping companies -The Blue Funnel Line.
He came ashore to join Texaco/Caltex Group in London where he utilized his maritime engineering skills in the fuel and lubricant business later joining Ocean/Antar Oil as director. He subsequently moved on to become the MD of Gamlen UK Ltd supplying chemicals to ships and then to Magnus Maritec in a similar position. As the marine supply industry consolidated and environmental issues became a priority he found a niche opportunity with ITT marketing oil-in-water monitoring systems. This involvement led him to the position of MD of Marine Pollution Control Ltd and European Coordinator of the global consortium Maritime Response Alliance based in Seattle and set up to deal with oil spill incidences.
A scion of the City Duncan remained active long past the normal retirement deadline and in touch with his friends and colleagues in the marine world. On his 80th birthday 46 of the great and the good of the industry feted him with a grand dinner at his beloved Caledonian club with old friend and US based jazz legend Annie Ross flying in to serenade him. This splendid occasion reflected the great affection with which he was held by his contemporaries across a number of generations. With his good humour and topical interest Duncan remained popular with the young and not so young well into his late 80s.
Duncan was a Freeman of both the cities of London and Glasgow; a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company Shipwrights; a Craftsman of the Incorporation of Hammermen of Glasgow; a member of the Anchorities and the Caledonian club and past president of the London chapter of the Propeller Club of the United States. For the services he rendered to the Institute and to the Maritime Industry as a whole he was appointed as Honorary Vice-President IMarEST. He was also a Fellow of the Institute of Petroleum and, more recently in 2011, he was elected as an Honorary Fellow of the International Spill Control Organization which he first joined in 2005.
Duncan is survived by his wife Liz, four sons, four daughters and 9 grandchildren. His sparkling conviviality, companionship and warmth will be sorely missed by all who knew him. His funeral was at Chiltern’s Crematorium, Whielden Lane, Amersham, HP7 0ND on Tuesday 15th Oct 2013 at 14.45.
The original version (with photographs) can be found in ISCO Newsletter 406 of 14 October 2013