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Remarkable ICE fellow celebrates 100th birthday

18 March 2022

ICE regional director, Steena Nasapen-Watson, visited the centenarian John Gill in his home to mark the occasion and hear about his civil engineering career.

Remarkable ICE fellow celebrates 100th birthday
Gill worked in Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service and served in Cameroon (its capital Yaoundé pictured above) for several years. Image credit: Sidoine M/Shutterstock

ICE Fellow John Gill celebrated his 100th birthday on 7 March 2022.

Marking the occasion, Gill said: “I am blessed that even on reaching my century I can still keep up with the civil engineering profession by regular discussions with my son Harry who is still an active bridge designer and MICE.”

ICE regional director for the North East and Yorkshire and Humber, Steena Nasapen-Watson, visited Gill in his home and presented him with an ICE gift.

Nasapen-Watson said she was honoured to meet Gill on this important birthday and find out about his remarkable life and involvement with ICE.

Active north-east member

Gill was chairman of what was known then as the Northern Counties Association, which included Cumbria, in 1980. He also chaired the Northumbria branch the preceding year.

Retired ICE member Mike Gardiner remembers Gill's regional chairman address:

“A significant memory of mine was his regional chairman’s address which included a short 8 mm record of one of the jobs he was involved with in Africa. At that time, 8 mm film was regarded as cutting-edge technology; a far cry from PowerPoint!”

Global adventures

Gill has led an extraordinary life.

He served in the army in the non-combat corps (NCC) from 1942 to 1946. He then graduated in municipal engineering from Manchester University and completed his professional training under the City Engineer of Hull.

Afterwards, he joined the Colonial Service, later renamed Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service, and served in Nigeria and Cameroon for 10 years.

While in Africa, and with assistance of a graduate civil engineer, Gill constructed a new connection toward northern Nigeria which opened new country to agriculture and trade, completed the building of one hospital and partly constructed another.

Subsequently, back in the UK, he worked in local government, rising to be city engineer and surveyor of Nottingham and then director of technical services for Tyne & Wear Metropolitan County Council.

Keeping busy in retirement

On retirement he served for nine years as a member of the Lord Chancellor's Panel of Independent Inquiry Inspectors.

He has also written and published several technical papers and magazine articles, and has been an active lay preacher for many years.

Gill then wrote a book about his time spent serving in Africa entitled ‘Cameroon Trilogy’. He dedicated it to the men and women who served in Africa to bring ‘peace, better living conditions and prosperity’.

Any profit from his book is given to the Nigeria Health Project Trust.

Steena Nasapen Watson and John Gill at his home
ICE regional director for the North East and Yorkshire and Humber, Steena Nasapen-Watson (left) and ICE Fellow and centenarian, John Gill (right).
  • Joanne Stephenson, communications lead at ICE