Tim Ryan, who died earlier this year after a short illness, was one of a new breed of conservation engineers and former chairman of the Engineers Ireland Conservation Group.

Tim was born in Croydon, south London, in the 1940s of Irish emigration stock. His grandfather on his father’s side, was from Pallas Green, Co Limerick.

Both parents were teachers, which probably accounted for Tim’s academic prowess and intellectual curiosity, something that always stood to him in later years.

evacuated to the countryside during the Blitz

His early life coincided with the Blitz; he was evacuated to the countryside, like so many children at that time, but in his case it was probably just as well since his home was badly damaged in the bombing.

His schooling commenced at Croydon Primary and concluded with the Jesuits at Stonyhurst. While at Stonyhurst in the remote Lancashire countryside, far from depressed, post-war London, Tim began to develop that cheerful vitality which was to become his hallmark; running for miles through the fells and valleys, swimming and fishing in its rivers, and becoming a marauding flanker on the rugby field.

He later became a civil engineer and pursued a varied career in design and contracting. He at one time worked as a tunnelling engineer on the Victoria Underground line, and once interviewed the late Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners, for a job.

Tim was later to become the civil engineering adviser to the Ministry of Planning in Saudi Arabia. Being of a practical disposition, he derived the most pleasure from doing hands-on engineering work.

Before becoming involved in conservation work, he specialised in sprayed concrete techniques, which he used to construct the domes of mosques in Saudi Arabia.

Author of 'Sprayed Concrete Techniques'

He wrote a book on this process, 'Sprayed Concrete Techniques', published in 1981 by George Goodwin of Fleet Street, which was referred to as a handbook by the Association of Gunite Contractors at the time.

He was later to combine his artistic ability with his sprayed concrete skills when he constructed concrete animals for zoos, to the delight of children in many locations across the Middle East.

As mentioned above, Tim’s working career was varied, and not simply confined to civil engineering. In one interlude from engineering, he ran a tug company on the River Thames, once again never happier than when on board himself, steering a tug and swapping jokes with the East End crew.

At the turn of the century, Tim moved to Ireland with his family and returned to civil engineering, progressively moving into conservation and chairing the EI Conservation Group for a period. He was one of the first Irish engineers to become an accredited conservation engineer, being a Member of CARE (Conservation Accreditation Register for Engineers), and served on the CARE Accreditation Panel comprising experts from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE).

His life was not without its exciting times, and he was passionate about the conservation of our built heritage; he dedicated much of his time locally in this connection, being a one-time supporter of An Taisce. Tim also took a positive and active interest in local politics.

A keen and capable sailor

He was a keen and capable sailor. In his younger days he raced dinghies, and in later years would sail around the French, Irish and UK coastlines, as well as spending some time in the Baltic Sea with his wife, Gabrielle.

They had only recently organised a sailing trip to Venice for the Little Ship Club, London, of which he was a long-time member.

While working in Saudi Arabia, Tim was commissioned to build 12 domes for a mosque, using his Gunite sprayed concrete technique.

To do so, he trained a contractor in its methodology, managed the project and supervised the work. Once he had finished the first few domes, he signed his initials ‘TR’ at the top of each one, just for the fun of it.

Later, when the crew were finishing subsequent domes, he noticed that the foreman had also signed ‘TR’, thinking it was a sign of quality control. So in the end, all the domes ended up with Tim’s initials inscribed on them!

One wonders what future architectural historians will make of this. No doubt, with a little research, they will soon discover that it was the handiwork of one Tim Ryan, the celebrated Irish conservation engineer.

He was a good colleague to work with.

Tim is survived by his wife Gabrielle, his brother Chris, and by his four sons, John Richard, Cieran, Dominic and Benedict.