Development & Alumni Relations Office 


Dr Robert (Roy) Joseph Ervine Glenny PhD, BSc, CEng, FIMMM (died 26 August 2020, aged 97)


Obituary provided by daughter Helen


Our father (RJEG) was born to Elizabeth Rachel Ervine and Robert Glenny in Belfast. He should have had a sister, Emily Frezonia, four years his senior, but she died when only 15 days old in the Spanish flu epidemic in 1919. 


He was educated at Methodist College and Queen’s University Belfast – where he met his wife, Joan Phillips Reid, in 1941, a fellow recipient of a student bursary for the same chemistry degree course. During World War 2, they both commenced their careers at the English Electric Company in Stafford. Working in the Nelson Laboratories, he developed an interest in metallurgy and decided to study for a part-time degree in the subject. 


They were married by Joan’s father, a Presbyterian minister, in Loughbrickland, near Banbridge, Northern Ireland on 16 December 1947. 


In the same year, RJEG joined the National Gas Turbine Establishment (NGTE) that had been formed in 1946 from a merger between Power Jets Ltd, a company set up by Frank Whittle and two colleagues in 1936, and the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Turbine Division. His role was to undertake research into high temperature materials, focusing particularly on their thermal fatigue behaviour – work for which he was awarded a PhD by London University and later gained international recognition in that field. NGTE later relocated from Whetstone near Leicester to Pyestock, Farnborough and so RJEG moved from Leicester to Church Crookham in 1955. He was by then a father to Helen (born 1953). His son Michael was born in 1957.


RJEG was appointed Head of the NGTE Materials Department in 1963 and then in 1970 moved to the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington to become Superintendent of its Division of Materials Applications. After 3 years of commuting before the days of the M25, he was delighted to return to Farnborough in 1973 as Head of the RAE Materials Department. He ended his Civil Service career as Group Head (Aircraft), overseeing the work programmes of the RAE Materials, Structures and Aerodynamics Departments.


His work enabled him to travel, notably to the United States and Australia, but also to India. On retirement from the scientific civil service in 1983, RJEG became an independent R&D consultant to the EEC, UK industry and government. He also acted as UK government coordinator for the collaborative 5-year LINK Structural Composites Programme. As recently as 2014, he gave a Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST) talk on carbon fibre. This high performance material was invented by 2 members of the RAE Materials Department – Bill Watt and Bill Johnson – in the 1960s. Like many brilliant British inventions, it had languished but on becoming the departmental head a few years later, RJEG recognised its potential and promoted its further development.

RJEG’s entry in ‘Who’s Who’ records that his recreations were reading, gardening and walking. But, of course, he had many other interests: cricket, bridge, stamp and coin collecting, geology, woodwork, DIY.  In his later years, he attended many local talks and belonged to a U3A poetry group. And he liked to get about on his son’s old bicycle, despite the rather wonky pedal!


He particularly enjoyed family holidays in the West Country: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and the Isles of Scilly. Not just whilst his family was growing up but almost every year thereafter, as they all enjoyed them so much!


In 1988, RJEG became a grandad when Jonathan was born. Sadly, RJEG lost Joan, his wife of 69 years in April 2017. He remained stoic and uncomplaining, and coped with a knee replacement aged 94 and a hip operation aged 95.


For all his achievements throughout his career, RJEG will be remembered the most by family, friends and colleagues alike for being the man he was: kind, gentle and fair, always a good listener and able to relate to anyone no matter their station in life. In the words of his carers during his final years, he was a lovely uncomplaining gentleman that they looked forward to visiting in his own home, right to the very end.


He had a very long, healthy and fulfilled life, with few regrets that he ever expressed other than that so many of his friends and family passed away before him. They are all so lucky to have known him, whether as a father or a friend.


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