UK honours decades of tunnelling expertise 26 Oct 2017

TunnelTalk reporting

It was remarked during the occasion of the annual tribute luncheon that the gathered recipients of the BTS (British Tunnelling Society) James Clark Medal Award represented a collective professional experience of more than 800 years! An extraordinary claim - but true.

Group of Medal recipients at the 2017 lunch <br>     (Click on the photo to match faces with names)
Group of Medal recipients at the 2017 lunch
(Click on the photo to match faces with names)

Of the 37 recipients of the accolade since its inception in 1981, 18 were at the tribute lunch held at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London. Among them they gather together careers of 45 years and more as professionals in the tunnelling industry as consultants, contractors and professionals in the insurance, risk management, health and safety and research sectors of the business. While some recipients are now retired, others remain very actively involved in projects and industry assignments both in the UK and around the world as advisers, experienced experts and industry professionals.

BTS Chair Mark Leggett welcomed recipients to the annual lunch which was hosted by Chair and members of the BTS management committee.

The James Clark Medal Award was established in 1981 in memory of the career in tunnelling of James Clark who worked for Charles Brand & Son and was instrumental in establishing the BTS in the early 1970s. The Medal is presented each year to a leading UK engineer or professional to recognise a major contribution to the industry, a contemporary achievement or innovation within the industry, or having been responsible for a large underground construction project.

Josie Gallagher, Award recipient of 2017
Josie Gallagher, Award recipient of 2017

Chair Leggatt in particular welcomed the 2017 recipient of the Award Joseph Gallagher, known to his many friends and colleagues around the world as Josie.

Josie came to London from his home country Ireland in 1965 at age 19 where he began his first tunnelling job with John Mowlem working as a miner on the Victoria Line. From those early beginnings Gallagher remained in the tunnelling industry working on the Cargo Tunnel at Heathrow, the experimental New Cross bentonite slurry machine project in London, the Carsington and Blisworth tunnels among many others. His career is founded in roles and responsibilities ranging from labourer, miner, lead miner, pit boss, to foreman. This experience gives Gallagher an unquestionable knowledge of the construction field from the workers’ perspective. He knows first hand what can be achieved and how to achieve it.

In 1982, he formed his own company, Joseph Gallagher Ltd, working in particular as the labour resource subcontractor to major tunnelling projects, including projects in other countries of the world. In that capacity the company worked on projects including the Channel Tunnel, London Power Tunnels, the Jubilee Line Extension of the London Underground and many others. Josie remains hands on and is well aware that the success of the business is dependent on the front end site team being productive and efficient. He has built a business on an unswerving desire to be the best and on professionalism, motivation and loyalty of the workforce. His dedication to the workforce and the continual professionalism he applies to the business earned him the recognition of the BTS and his industry peers.

Recipients joined by BTS Committee member hosts
Recipients joined by BTS Committee member hosts

In gathering at the ICE in London, the luncheon group was reminded that the Institution at One Great George Street is the longest established engineering institution in the world and will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year. Founded originally by professional civil engineers of the time in 1818, the ICE now has more than 75,000 members world-wide and is the prime qualifying body for civil engineers in the UK. Through its history, the Institution has selected many a famous tunnelling engineer as its President. Major celebrations are being planned to mark the bicentenary in 2018 and will follow on from a comprehensive exhibition about the tunnelling and underground construction sector of the civil engineering profession currently on display in the ICE Library.

The exhibition, which is open to the general public, has been a significant draw for visitors and especially for inspiring young visitors. Displays include virtual reality demonstrations that take wearers of the headset on a virtual journey underground into magnificent caverns and impressive tunnel drives excavated for London’s current Crossrail project running beneath the heart of the city. Other displays include videos, interactive models, many publications and brochures that are on free distribution and a gallery of photos, paintings and posters all celebrating the underground construction industry. The exhibition closes in November with a few remaining weeks for making a visit. Since it opened in May many thousands of visitors have appreciated this special insight into a world that is so rarely appreciated by the general public.

The 2018 recipient of the James Clark Medal will be announced at the BTS annual general evening meeting in May next year. Consideration by the Committee of contenders is already underway. Visit the BTS website to see a full list of the 37 recipients of the accolade which will swell by another in 2018.


Add your comment

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. You share in the wider tunnelling community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language professional.
In case of an error submitting Feedback, copy and send the text to
Name :

Date :

Email :

Phone No :

   Security Image Refresh
Enter the security code :
No spaces, case-sensitive