Life story

Life story: Dynamic and energetic Canterbury engineer David King was ‘well ahead of his time’

OBITUARY: Engineering, the environment, music and community service were the late electrical engineer David King’s passions, his family and friends say.

Born in Cornwall, England, in 1925 and living in the small nearby village of Lezant, where his father was rector, King was allowed to roam freely as a child, and a love of wildlife soon began to stimulate his curious mind.

After being selected for Exeter Cathedral Choir in the 1930s, he became one of 28 students at the prestigious Choristers School where the emphasis was on musical education and long days of dancing and of singing.

The school was evacuated to the Carylon Bay Hotel during World War II, resulting in many additional duties such as clifftop patrol in the early evening darkness. One boy would be armed with a gun, and the other with a broom, some say.

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King was on a small Cornish train on his way to school one morning when the evacuation from Dunkirk happened, and he found the carriage overflowing with wounded, fatigued and battle-worn soldiers straight from the front.

As a young schoolboy, he gave them the only thing he had – his lunch.

He died on April 8, 2022, just five days before his 97th birthday. His funeral was “choka”.

Giving to others was a trait throughout King’s life, his daughter Celia King said.

“He was my darling father. I absolutely adored him. He supported me and feminism in the 1970s and made me believe that women could do anything,” she said.

“He was also way ahead of his time.”

King enjoyed exploring the Karamea region in his Land Rover when he arrived in New Zealand, friends and family say.

Provided

King enjoyed exploring the Karamea region in his Land Rover when he arrived in New Zealand, friends and family say.

King was an accomplished scholar, earning top marks in all subjects, and when a physics professor suggested engineering as a career, he joined the giant General Electric Company at its Birmingham factory, learning both an education practice and professional learning in engineering.

Due to the austerity of post-war England, King emigrated to New Zealand in 1953 with his wife Olwyn.

It has been employed to reticulate electricity for the new Lake Monowai Dam in Te Anau, as well as extensive rural electrification throughout Southland and southern Otago.

Learning to drive on gravel roads led to the discovery of the joys of New Zealand’s rainforest.

In 1959, he moved to Karamea to work for the Buller Power Station, attracted by the opportunity to build a dam on the Oparara River.

However, geological problems forced a rethink and a major project to create a power line from Waimangaroa above Karamea Bluff, through dense forest and swampland to the Karamea area, was undertaken.

King embarked on a major project to create a power line from Waimangaroa over Karamea Bluff, through dense forest and swampland to the Karamea area.  The line is still in service today.

Provided

King embarked on a major project to create a power line from Waimangaroa over Karamea Bluff, through dense forest and swampland to the Karamea area. The line is still in service today.

The line he researched and built is still in use today.

An avid hiker and birdwatcher, King’s love for New Zealand’s forest and wildlife was passed down to his three children from an early age. In 1962 he moved to Rangiora to become a municipal engineer and later bought 2 acres which became one of the first lifestyle blocks in North Canterbury.

His motivation was to establish an organic garden, as the environmentalist in him was concerned about the widespread and unregulated use of pesticides.

During this period he improved reticulation and safety issues regarding electrical work practices and sank the Dudley Creek well to improve the water supply for Rangiora’s rapidly growing population.

After three years he joined the Department of Public Works in Christchurch as Chief Electrical Engineer, supervising projects in Canterbury, the Chatham Islands and the West Coast.

King participated in the first wind turbine test on the Chatham Islands.  The generator blew once in strong winds.

Provided

King participated in the first wind turbine test on the Chatham Islands. The generator blew once in strong winds.

Projects he oversaw included the Selwyn Bridge Freeze Protection System, the Christchurch North Highway, the reconstruction of Scott Base, the first wind turbine trial on the Chatham Islands and the design of buildings in Christchurch Women’s Prison, University of Canterbury and Christchurch City Centre. police station.

The Chatham Islands generator blew up due to extreme gusts of wind not seen in many other places.

King lived long enough to see many buildings withstanding Canterbury earthquakes, functioning as they were designed.

In 2002, he received the Fellowship of the Institute of Professional Engineers for his outstanding service to engineering. Although retired, he set up the introduction of technical support in schools.

He often encouraged young people to consider engineering as a career, and used his childhood experience in Cornwall by swinging a bottle of milk around his head to demonstrate centrifugal forces at work.

Despite an extremely busy and satisfying career, he never forgot the environment. With Patrick O’Leary, Janet Holm and David as secretary, they founded the Clean Air Society.

They fought many battles over Christchurch’s smog issues, eventually changing regulations for both open fires and insulation standards to ensure healthy homes.

Music also ran throughout King’s life, from playing numerous instruments to singing in musicals and operas.

For many years he sang in the Royal Christchurch Musical Society. A highlight was the singing of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in 1963, which at the time was his fourth performance worldwide.

King is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.


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