Water Journal : Water Journal May 2012
awa news regular features 32 MAY 2012 water It is with great sadness that we at AWA pay tribute to our longstanding colleague and friend Everard Arthur (known to all as Bob) Swinton, who passed away on April 19 after a several-month battle with cancer. Bob, who was 89, demonstrated a spirit of pluck and resourcefulness right up until the end, continuing to work in his capacity as Technical Editor of Water Journal until a day or so before he died. He will be greatly missed by all at AWA and in the water industry. Water Journal was born in 1974 and was initially produced as a quarterly publication. As Technical Editor, a role he took up on retirement and performed admirably for 25 years, Bob sourced and edited technical papers, corrected the galleys before going to print, attended industry conferences and wrote up reports, as well as serving on the Editorial Committee. Prior to this Bob had spent most of his working life at the CSIRO as a scientist applying research and undertaking pilot studies; however, as former CSIRO colleague Brian Bolto recollects, he never quite fitted the public service mould. "Bob was imported by Don Weiss in the early 1950s to do pilot plant work on novel water treatment processes devised on the lab scale. He did things his way, always, and was usually right. Things like jigged bed continuous ion exchange for uranium extraction at Rum Jungle; moving bed ion exchange with magnetic micro resins; de-alkalisation at Deer Park and in the field at Singleton -- and he was involved in the full-scale magnetic ion exchange Sirotherm desalination plant at Leederville. He also ran the physicochemical sewage treatment plant at Lower Plenty for a while, where CSIRO had up to six pilot rigs going for various processes. "Bob was highly innovative, as exemplified by this low-tech example: Working at Fishermen's Bend in wooden prefab huts, there were often floods with pilot rigs. Bob's answer to this was to find the lowest part of the building and drill a big hole in the floorboards. Then there was the notorious episode with the Commonwealth Police. CSIRO shared the Bend site with the Aeronautical Research Labs, so it was a patrolled area. After a roasting from the boss re an ambiguous rate test for salt uptake by resins, Bob decided to go back and repeat it on the Saturday. He couldn't raise the guard, so climbed over the fence and vanished into his lab. The cops, of course, spotted him, but had to spend quite some time scouring the site to find him. They raised all hell." Editorial Committee Chair Frank Bishop recalls: "Several of us on the Journal Committee had the need to contact Bob over AWA affairs, when CSIRO and ICIANZ were developing the Sirotherm process. But he was hard to catch up with. A call to CSIRO Water Group in South Melbourne would have the receptionist announcing he was not there... the same would happen at ICI Head Office and ICI Deer Park, where sometimes you would have success asking to check if he was in the backyard. Bob was the 'Scarlet Pimpernel' of CSIRO. No wonder his supervising scientists found it difficult to control him! "Bob attended all AWA conferences and was well known as an identity. He surpassed all, however, at the 1979 Gold Coast Convention when he arrived on stage at the conference dinner with a lovely bikini-clad Meter Maid on each arm. The reason was never found out, but all were very envious. "In spite of these diversions, the success of the Journal depended in part on Bob's efforts and his ability to develop themes, scratch up papers and edit them to a high standard. Bob was no 'book worm', though; he had a zest for life and wanted to live it to the full and sample the delights of the world, from the frozen wastes of Finland to the Amazon jungles of Brazil or the high-speed trains in Japan." Colleague Peter Griffiths recalls that Bob was awarded the first Michael Flynn Award in 1981 and he was the first to congratulate Bob on this honour. Bob was also for many years active in the Scouts and in 2003 was awarded the Silver Kangaroo, an award given for eminent achievement and meritorious service for a period of at least 20 years. Former Scout Kim Fisher remembers Bob with admiration and affection. "Bob was a wonderful man who taught us Senior Scouts how to have confidence in ourselves, to face up to difficulties and the unexpected," he says. "He gave us a love of the outdoors and we had many extraordinary adventures. He threw us in at the deep end and taught us how to swim, and constantly strove to find innovative ways to do those things. "He was ever cheerful, always looking for an opportunity to teach us how to be men. I remember once on the way to a Scout meeting he picked up a hitchhiker and persuaded him to come to the meeting ... and teach us how to play the bagpipes. He took us to the snow to first build and then spend the night in an igloo. One scouting night he blindfolded us, drove us to an unknown place and left us there, saying we had enough information to find our way back. It took us two hours but we were glad to be alive, forged into a team, confident in our ability and enjoying the challenge. "Over the years there have been many times when Bob's teachings have lent me courage and the wit to respond in a way that has helped me and those around me. I am deeply indebted to Bob and have the utmost respect for all he has done for me. His marvellous education and mighty adventures -- and his cheery and slightly mischievous smile -- will always be a treasured memory." Vale, Everard Arthur (Bob) Swinton With thanks to Frank Bishop, Brian Bolto, Peter Griffiths and Kim Fisher for their contributions.
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