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Gibson, Roger Barraclough (1909–1977)

by Ann Moyal

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Roger Barraclough Gibson (1909-1977), mechanical engineer, was born on 31 May 1909 at Mosman, Sydney, third child of Alexander James Gibson, an engineer from London, and his native-born wife Marion Ellen Florence, née Hitchman. Educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), Roger graduated in engineering technology at the University of Sydney (B.E., 1934). On 24 August 1934 he married Myrna Rosamond McNaghten Dickey at the Shore chapel; they were to be divorced in 1957. After working for the Australian Gas Light Co., in 1937 he joined his father's engineering consultancy firm, Julius, Poole & Gibson, despite some rumblings from the old guard that his irreverent wit and humour were not compatible with the serious profession of engineering. Using a hydraulic model especially built for the purpose at Sydney Technical College, he helped his father in making intensive calculations to increase the discharge capacity of Burrinjuck Dam, thereby ensuring its safety in time of flood.

Having been commissioned lieutenant in the Militia, Gibson was seconded on 1 January 1941 to the Australian Imperial Force. In 1941-43 he served with the Australian Army Ordnance Corps in the Middle East. Back home, he was promoted major and in 1944-45 was electrical and mechanical engineer, Northern Territory Lines of Communication Area Workshops. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 3 November 1945 and rejoined his father's firm.

Gibson's originality in design and his imaginative approach to problems involved him in a diverse range of engineering projects: the design of coke ovens and conveyor systems for the Mount Pleasant and Illawarra collieries, the design and development of aircraft undercarriage support and cargo-handling equipment for Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, and of power-operated hangar doors at Mascot airport (a technology transferred to the United States of America), solving pumping-station problems at Mildura and adapting mechanical designs for amusement equipment at Luna Park, Sydney. For many years he also served as the firm's expert on engineering valuation in New Zealand (in regard to earthquake insurance), notably for New Zealand Forest Products Ltd. He married a widow Marjorie Cecilia Cudmore, née Carroll, on 22 June 1963 at the district registrar's office, Chatswood.

One of Gibson's last major projects was the detailed design of special mechanical devices for the Sydney Opera House which included winch systems for television-light battens, loudspeakers, glass-wall cleaning mechanisms, and the 'lenticular' or doughnut-shaped acoustic cloud reflectors in the concert hall. He loved machinery and gadgets, and was a lively innovator. For a problem requiring imagination rather than disciplined engineering, 'you sent for Gibson'.

A tall, dark-haired man who frequently displayed his teeth in laughter and vivid speech, Gibson was a witty raconteur with an eye for the human and the absurd. Sharp minded and articulate, he was often sought by the legal profession to act as an expert witness, work he responded to with relish. He died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm on 31 December 1977 at his Waverton home and was cremated; his wife survived him, as did the daughter of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Anderson and P. Cochrane, Julius, Poole & Gibson (Syd, 1989)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ann Moyal, 'Gibson, Roger Barraclough (1909–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gibson-roger-barraclough-10301/text18227, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 13 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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