“Born on the 4th of July” – not many of us can claim that, and even fewer are buried on the same date, but that was Joe Nugent. Joe died on the 26th June, aged 91, having outlived beloved wife Patty by just a few months.
As a very green young lad back in the eighties, employed by Leighs Paints to look after technical sales to the oil, gas and structural steel industries up in the North East, I was lucky to have come under the stewardship of Joe Nugent, irreverently known as Uncle Joe to us young pups at the sharp end.
Back then, Joe was manager in charge of Technical Service and based in Bolton, ably assisted by Rod Sandiford (another company uncle) and Bhiki Patel.
As always with protective coating application on big projects, things could easily go wrong. Any delays caused massive pressure with the risk of liquidated damages, so if we local lads couldn’t find a solution, we used to send for the cavalry in the form of Joe and Technical Service from Bolton.
Joe had two great attributes. He not only unfailingly found out the root causes of exactly what had gone wrong, but he generated goodwill out of the disaster by providing a fast response along with practical solutions.
This was always done with humour and positivity, so that Joe’s arrival on site was something people welcomed. He took the heat out of a difficult situation and actually turned it into an advantage by finding solutions and providing great service, so we didn’t lose customers.
When Joe and Rod were combined, they were unstoppable, with Rodney acting a bit like Dr Watson to Joe’s Holmes. I can honestly say I never saw them beaten, as they always found the technical reasons for failures as well as solutions. Sadly Rod, also another excellent technician, died a few years ago.
Joe gave me two invaluable pieces of advice, which I still teach my students when I’m lecturing today, as “Nugent’s Laws”. I remember these so well, as they are humorously true, and he always started with “Young Frost” as the precursor to any words of wisdom.
The first (this still applies for anyone in paint Technical Service):
“Always leave the car pointing out of the car park. Be ready for a quick getaway. I guarantee paint will make a fool out of you frequently during your career!”
The second:
“Never believe anything anyone tells you. Beware, as everyone thinks they’re a paint expert. Gather scientific fact and empirical data from sound science and testing and only base your conclusions on that”.
He also explained that it is impossible to think diagnostically while a frustrated client is breathing fire over your shoulder. Try to get quality time on your own to gather data on which to base your conclusions. Never be rushed or pressured into making an ill-considered response.
When working with Joe, this inevitably led to analysis in the nearest local hostelry, where I have fond memories of slightly blurred discussions. It must be said that the partaking of ale in good company was an important component in Joe’s life and he also had a great nose for finding the best bacon sandwiches.
As well as being ethical, unfailingly good natured and likeable, Joe had an immense knowledge of protective coatings technology derived from long experience. He had the sort of knowledge you can only learn from working in the field and not from university. He was also a great people person, which all adds up to an unbeatable set of diverse talents.
Joe was an excellent teacher and put a lot back into training young “up and comers” in the industry. He and Leighs actively supported ICorr, working on various committees to help raise industry standards. He was well known to the oil and gas corrosion engineering heavyweights of that era, like Fred Palmer of BP, Dr Ross Connell of Shell and Walter Lunt of Marathon.
Looking back, I have only fond memories of working with Joe, which was educational as well as fun. I know this view will shared by all those of my colleagues and customers who also knew and worked with him up until his retirement in 1992.
Sadly, they don’t make ‘em like Joe any more.
Dick Frost (Leighs Paints’ past Managing Director: