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Benjamin Robinson, 1932-2004

Ben Robinson passed away aged 72 on 8 November 2004, succumbing after the bravest of struggles against the cancer that had afflicted his final years. Ben, a unique and intellectual person in so many ways, will be remembered with great love and fondness by his second wife Jan (formerly Riches) of five cherished years, and his children Jane, Paul and Helen, from an earlier marriage to the late Terry. Ben was a devoted grandparent and step-grandparent, not to mention a loyal stepfather to Jan's children from a previous marriage. A passionate family man, he was extremely proud of all their endeavours.

Ben graduated in 1956 with a BSc in Geology and Chemistry, and soon after, started his professional career with the NCB Opencast Executive as a prospecting officer. He remained there until 1960, whereupon he moved to the Air Ministry's Central Airfield Testing Laboratory in Bedfordshire and worked diligently as an engineering geologist. During 1964, Ben accepted a position at West Riding County Highways Laboratory (1964-67) and later the North East Road Construction Unit (1968-74). Over this period Ben was involved in a number of major road projects, including the M1, M62 motorways, and later the York, Thirsk, Sunderland and Hexham bypasses. He was responsible for the organisational and supervisory elements of these ground investigations, while enjoying a significant role in the interpretation and reporting of the conditions revealed.

In 1974 he joined Tyne and Wear County Council where he was instrumental in setting-up the Materials Laboratory for the compliance testing of civil engineering materials. Ben's responsibilities broadened successfully to encompass the rigours of managing a busy laboratory, without compromising his passion for ground investigation or the provision of insightful, fair and honest geological advice. He continued in this role until 1997, retiring just before the advent of his 65th birthday. Ben was a chartered Fellow of the Geological Society for many years and a regular attendee at regional events, as well as an active participant of the County Surveyors Society.

Anyone who had the pleasure of spending time with Ben would be astonished by his wealth of knowledge, a comprehension fashioned by a lifetime of experience and dedication. He was modest and a true gentleman - totally unassuming in his approach, with views that were implicitly respected. His authority on Northeast mining issues (and associated hazards) made many fellow practitioners seek his counsel, and they were seldom dissatisfied. Ben read widely, upholding a keen interest in meteorology and history, which was frequently factored into his work. He found time to indulge in gardening and enjoyed a life-long interest in archery - even making his own longbows. Although he treasured geology, being actively involved even after his retirement, Ben was first and foremost an ardent family man; a truly remarkable person who will be immeasurably missed by all those who knew him and had the pleasure of working alongside him.

Nick Vater