I first met Eng. A. A. McCorkindale in 1991 to discuss a tutorial article I had written for Kenya Engineer journal titled “Integrated digital local access telecommunication networks”. I had then just come back from the from UK after completing my PhD in Electronic Engineering and was a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Nairobi.
As the Chairman of the Journal Committee, he would personally meet authors of articles at his Shell & BP house office to review the edited and formatted versions of the articles correctly and would arrange to take their photos in his office for first time authors. This was before the days of e-mail, and all the articles published were delivered as hard copies having been typed, printed or simply hand-written. I was surprised to learn that he personally typed all of the articles without the assistance of a secretary. Although Eng. McCorkindale was a civil engineer, he made sure he understood the detailed message of all articles in the different areas of engineering. I guess that was a way to ensure all articles by the IEK members. As a retired engineer, he had also learned how to format the journal and would send a camera-ready version to the printers in industrial area.
As you will see from his biography, Mac had come to East Africa as a young man and had decided to dedicate his retirement days to the service the engineering community by publishing the Kenya Engineer every two months without fail. The only word of Kiswahili he spoke was “bwana”. He did not bother using the title engineer on journal members or himself, it was taken for granted. It was only much later that I learned that one of his two initials A.A referred to Archie. He was just McCorkindale to us.
In 1992, Mzee Mac, as referred to him, invited me to join the Journal Committee of IEK to replace Eng. Kachienga as the representative of Universities engineering department. He did not give me a job description, but he made me aware that I would be responsible for soliciting articles from my colleagues at the university and keeping the journal committee updated on any engineering news from universities and specifically departments of engineering. But Mac also expected that journal committee members would regularly contribute articles to the Kenya Engineer journal.
As I served in the IEK journal committee under the leadership of Mac, I understood the passion for excellence and commitment to the engineering profession of our Chairman. We met every other month at the Intercontinental Hotel – one hour to review the contents of the next issue of Kenya Engineer and make commitments to follow up with the authors. As you all know, most engineers do not “volunteer” to write articles and I soon learned what a difficult job it was for Mac to compile all the articles. Mac knew all the engineers by name who were working on the large engineering projects in government and private sector and would call them to solicit articles. Apart from the engineering articles, Mac also needed to get adverts placed in the journal so that it could for all its costs of publishing the journal. He relied on his large network of CEOs and senior engineers in industry, consultancy world, and government. None of us worried about the sustainability of the Kenya Engineer journal because Mac knew what to do, including using his own resources to pay the printers or some of the staff working for him.
I remember that very soon after I joined the journal committee in 1992, Mac asked me to accompany him to Kericho for the cover story on the new satellite earth station that had just been built in Kericho. This was a big story because it was the second earth station in Kenya after Longonot Earch station that was our international gateway for all international telecommunications. I was able to see how he collected news – speaking to the engineers and taking the cover picture photos. I later realized that although I was supposed to be the telecoms subject expert for the story, he was also teaching me how to be an engineering news reporter and editor. Mac had an eye for engineering stories and projects and would get leads from ordinary conversations or from newspaper articles and then follow them up. He also was good at discovering young engineers who had an interest in writing general engineering articles and stories. He supported the Engineering Students Association at the University of Nairobi and invited them to write articles for Kenya Engineer and to publish their own magazine.
Mac took time to know each of us in the journal committee personally. For example, in 1994, I informed him that I was moving from Department of Electrical at University of Nairobi to the new private university USIU which did not have an engineering degree program. I therefore suggested that he gets a new representative of engineering departments of universities. But he encouraged me to remain a member of the journal committee. I later discovered that developing a new university was really an engineering (and architectural project) in addition to being about education. Mac wrote a story on the construction of the USIU School of Business building in 2003, which was then a large private university project.
Mac therefore taught us in the journal committee how to serve the engineering profession with excellence and as volunteers even in retirement. For example, Eng. J. N. Kariuki continued to serve in the journal committee even after he retired. Mac had the resources to retire and play golf and travel the world.
Although we had accepted Mac as Scottish Kenyan, we all learned that he would visit his family in Scotland once a year, mainly in August when the weather was good in Scotland.
As Mac got older, he passed on the leadership of Intercontinental Publishers to a young engineer Booker Ngesa who continues to publish the Kenya Engineer journal today. And he was getting frail, one day during our editorial meetings at his house at Riverside, he asked me to serve as his Co-Chairman of the Editorial Board for a period of one year. So, I continued to serve as Chairman of Editorial Board even when I thought it was time to retire after close to 22 years. I wonder, where Mac got all that energy to publish the Kenya Engineer journal for close to 30 years after retirement.
What a wonderful life of service to the engineering profession that Mac has taught all of us and especially those who served in the journal committee. Mac did allow us to influence him and to open his eyes to our local “politics” and our social challenges except in the one area of religion. I remember that one day when we were having lunch at Intercontinental Hotel, Mac remarked that he was the only non-Christian among the journal committee members! One of the engineers in the journal committee had just prayed for food. I think he was surprised he had ended up selecting journal committee members who were deeply commitment Christians without being a Christian himself. We all served under McCordkindale’s Chairmanship because mainly because he was highly ethical and trustworthy person who hated corruption and incompetence in the engineering profession with a passion.
It was an honor for me to serve the Kenyan engineering profession under Mac’s leadership for over 25 years. I encourage all retiring engineers to learn something from his life.
Prof Meoli Kashorda
Chairman, Editorial Board, Kenya Engineer Journal