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A Nostalgic Visit
John Lisman was a civil engineering student at Strathclyde University when, in 1954, he was offered a one year practical experience job with Glasgow firm, Whatlings Ltd. Within a few months, the Inverness born student was despatched to Dounreay where the firm was awarded the main building and civil engineering contract. His ‘home from home’ became the Boston Camp.

Recently John, now living in British Columbia, made a nostalgic visit to site where he visited DFR for the first time in almost fifty years, and was able to see the fruits of his student labours.  “I helped with the setting-out of the sphere’s base. This was done by working closely with the joiners. The engineers took the levels, checked the dimensions from the drawings, and from that information the joiners prepared the formwork. Once that was done, the levels and dimensions were checked again, and when everything was in order, the concrete was poured.”

Malcolm Clasper from DFR showing John Lisman (right) a photo of the DFR sphere foundation works in the '50s.

He found camp-life acceptable, but lonely. “You were young and probably found the whole experience exciting. However, without a car and there were not many about, getting to and from Thurso was a problem. My abiding memory of my short spell at Dounreay was the almost constant daylight in the summer.”

After his spell at Dounreay and qualifying as an engineer he worked at Hunterston and in his home town of Inverness, where he was involved in the redevelopment of the town centre, where buildings like Littlewoods and the town library are currently located. In 1971 he emigrated to Vancouver to work for the city’s highway department, and where he married. Nowadays he works as a consultant, specialising in highway safety, a role that has taken him around the world. Currently he is en-route to Madagasgar and decided to break his journey for a few days to visit his sister Moira in Tillicoultry whose husband Neil is a brother of the Rev Ronnie Johnstone, Thurso, whom they visited. It was in Mr Johnstone’s manse that a chance meeting with Malcolm Clasper led to his DFR visit.