Vacation work at BP petroleum refinery, Isle of Grain, Kent, UK

During my first two university years 1963 and 1964, I had ‘graduated’ to a different level of holiday job, at the Isle of Grain Kent Refinery. This of itself was a great honour as it was a very large and complex facility admired by all, with 1500 employees and of great importance during war time. For the first vacation I again worked in a chemical laboratory, on completion I wrote my work up in some detail and handed the report to my line manager. I was clearly not expected to do so. I recall him being so overwhelmed after he had read it that I remember his exact words “You have restored my faith in humanity”.

Abandoned car park This long-abandoned car park served a now demolished office building which was part of the Grain oil refinery complex. The structure in the centre of the picture is a navigation beacon, while the building looking as if it is floating in the mist above the horizon is Grain Tower (Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons, attributed to Richard Dorrell)

During the second vacation, 1964, I was joined with some other colleagues as a team of undergraduates at the refinery, tasked with improving the efficiency of the sulphur recovery unit. This was the beginning of actually being a chemical engineer. It was interesting working as a team and we also had some good informal times. In one of them, the subject under discussion was who is going to present our findings. There were several such groups and we were one of them. We were all expected to elect a spokesman and present verbally with slides, to management. I don’t know how it happened but the others picked me. At the time I was infinitely shy and always had been but being ‘forced’ to do it was the unavoidable breaking of this trait and apparently the presentation was well received.

List Image Credit: Jon Lyall /