Philip Bowen (NCE 24 February) states a currach catamaran 'is capable of four knots in up to gale force 4 in the open sea'. These boats are light, flexible, and designed to ride the waves like a seabird. Rigidly lashing one each side of a four tonne stone will destroy the seaworthiness, and they will be swamped and sunk in the notoriously choppy waters of the Bristol Channel.
I doubt if the frames will stand the asymmetrical rowing forces for long, or if ten rowers will be able to move the contrivance to windward at all, even if they have Steve Redgrave on board, which they won't. Nick Price thinks 'if it doesn't work it's still great'. If it doesn't work it won't be great, because you'll have 12 people sitting next to a four tonne stone heading rapidly for the sea bottom.
If they are determined to proceed with this project, they should construct decked-in unmanned flotation units fixed to the stone, and attach two very long towropes to a couple of curraghs. They will need to have someone standing by on each boat with a sharp axe (Stone Age of course) in case things go suddenly pear-shaped.
It would be nice to think that neolithic engineers applied something akin to our approach to the problem of how to get a large stone from Wales to the Salisbury Plain and to have applied the same plan to several large stones - just enough, and not too many. But do you really think they planned and then implemented the feat like a modern day construction management exercise? Do you really think they designed swinging beams, lifting levers and boats straddling jetties rising and falling on the tide in harmony with the forces involved? They had no paper, no telephones, no maps, no CPM theory. It would be nice to think that they could have done these things, but I doubt that it happened like that.
If it was done like that the land would be littered with stones which arrived at the right places as well as stones which were abandoned all over the country when efforts went awry. I think the people who hauled these stones took advantage of a particular circumstance when permanent ice conditions made it possible and this coincided with a large (slave) labour force being available.
Sometime around whenever it was (7,000 BC?) there was a very cold spell - a mini Ice Age - when dragging/pushing large stones around the country was a relatively easy matter.
Rod Northway (M)
Ireland one step ahead
I read with interest the article on the planned recreation of the move of stone monoliths from Wales to Stonehenge.
What surprised me was that there was no mention of the fact that currachs are still in use in the West of Ireland. Has anyone visited the Aran Islands and drawn on the islanders' practical experience both in the construction and use of these remarkable boats?
Berry Kenny, 8 Fardell's Lane, Elsworth, Cambridge CB3 8JE
Currie 'living in the past'
I was disgusted with the ignorance Alex Currie has displayed to the ICE routes to membership (NCE last week). Candidates applying for AMICE are more than likely to have studied at a university, albeit on a part-time basis (but under Sartor 3 full time for an ordinary degree), they can be trained under agreement and DO have to attend a professional review.
The analogy with nurses is misleading, as auxiliaries have rigorous guidelines on what they can and cannot do within their profession. No such guidelines exist within the construction industry.
There exists an Engineering Council booklet named Recommended Roles and Responsibilities but even this accepts that an incorporated engineer's work role merges with that of a chartered Engineer. The best person for the job usually gets the job, whether they are MICE, AMICE or TMICE.
Mr Currie's quote of President George Fleming has been interpreted differently from my understanding. Graduates are now classed as those who hold an academic qualification, which will allow them to undertake a professional review. Mr Currie should keep up with the ICE current guidelines and stop living in the past.
The reference to the ultimate accolade is again misguided - surely, the ultimate accolade is FICE.
Colin Gimblett (T)
AMICE's don't have it easy
I wish to call to issue Alex Currie's evident misconception that associate members have 'had it easy' by achieving their professional qualification by 'a less tortuous means'.
It is my understanding that, unlike many graduates, many prospective incorporated engineers do not have training agreements and gain their experience over a number of years.
Many incorporated engineers will have, for years, struggled to study while holding down a full- time job, followed by years of begging for scraps from trainee graduates' tables, just to enable them to progress to their IPRs. For the successful IPR applicant to progress to their CPR, further academic modules will probably be required over perhaps two or more years, along with perhaps a further 20 or more CET days, all still without a training agreement.
Bearing in mind that many associate members may have studied and worked over a period of ten or more years, possibly gaining a spouse, house and a family along the way, I personally would have found a three year degree course followed by a three year training agreement a most favourable option.
Nick James (A)
Is oversupply to blame?
Alex Currie's comments that there is currently a greater number of chartered engineers is correct, but perhaps part of the problem with salaries is an oversupply. Employers have found that incorporated engineers can be called on to perform the majority of engineering tasks, with chartered engineers being necessary for leadership and vision (and I am NOT saying that incorporated engineers are not in possession of these abilities).
Professor Fleming's comment on graduates is totally correct. Mr Currie fails to understand that the term graduate refers to those members who have achieved an academic qualification that will allow them to undertake a professional review. This covers MPR AMPR and TMPR.
Peter Hookham (A)
Merge MICE and AMICE
Closing the gap between AMICE and MICE would be of universal benefit, since it would separate the issues of suitability for membership and qualification.
The vote is the single criterion which makes AMICE a second class grade of membership. Having a single grade of MICE would simplify the structure, eliminate a blatant injustice and address the question of associated professionals gaining membership. The use of suffixes, like IEng and CEng, clearly identifies the level of professional qualification held by the individual, and allows for the painless addition of other suitable designations. This change would modernise and strengthen the ICE, and mobilise energies necessary for the status battle.
Alex Perry (G)
Proposal devalues MICE
I am concerned that ICE is confusing acceptable standards with its desire to increase membership numbers. Why, having set a qualification standard for both AMICE and MICE do we now feel the need to bring these together and leave it for the Engineering Council to provide the differentiation? I disagree Mr Whitby - there is a difference between the grades. We signed up for Sartor. I'm not sure I entirely agree, but Sartor does recognise that degree level qualifications have changed with time and hence our entry requirements should change to reflect this. I believe this proposal will devalue the MICE grade and I will not be voting in favour.
On the other hand I was heartened by the proposal to consider a mature route from AMICE to MICE since career development, experience and contribution to the profession are issues that should be considered for entry to MICE.
Ian Price, 89 Tuxford Terrace, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, US
Just what are the Council members being asked to consider? We are informed that Council has been asked to discuss an initiative which would allow ICE members registered as IEng. AMICE being granted corporate status MICE (NCE 24 February).
However, in the same issue, we are told of a Professional Development Committee paper before Council which states that it may be appropriate for young engineers to qualify early as AMICE as they may find it hard to demonstrate having reached MICE status.
Apparently, Council has to vote on both issues at its April meeting.
It is little wonder there is confusion within the industry surrounding the value of IEng, AMICE. What is actually happening?
Bill Samson (A), 67 Belvedere View Galston, East Ayrshire
Freelancers' NI niggle
Your article 'Freelancers face tax threat' (NCE 17 February) claims that freelance workers 'avoid tax and national insurance'. In addition to paying the usual employee tax and national insurance, those employed by their own companies are also liable for the employer's NI contribution (currently 12.5%).
Under company law, it is possible to draw a proportion of income as dividends which are still subject to the full rate of tax but do not attract national insurance. In this way, it is possible to offset some of the employer's NI paid on that income taxed as salary.
Pay rates in the engineering industry are insufficient to do this for someone with average monthly financial commitments. Add to this accountancy fees, and freelancers find themselves significantly financially disadvantaged compared with permanently contracted members of staff, who also enjoy other benefits. Often this is not a matter of choice.
David Jessop (M), 1 Old Stables, Palace House Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 6HW
What a waste!
It was disheartening to read that the average salary of a civil engineer is only £29,000. The average salary of a refuse collector in the London Borough of Waltham Forest is £26,500 and I expect that similiar salaries are paid in other London boroughs. When one considers that refuse collectors need few qualifications and can begin work at 16, whereas degree qualified civil engineers begin work at 22 and will also incur substantial university debts, it becomes obvious that from a financial point of view it is as advisable to enter refuse collection as civil engineering. This probably explains the difficulty that the profession has in attracting and retaining excellent graduates.
Natalie Dillon, Arup Associates, Boston House, 37 Fitzroy Square
London W1P 6AA
East-west link is not the first
I was surprised to see Nina Lovelace describe the Kennet & Avon Canal as 'the first east-west link in the country' (NCE 17 February).
The previous article describes the Forth & Clyde Canal and under the banner 'Coast to coast' notes this was completed in 1790. Another piece, 'Pennine prize', describes the Rochdale Canal which was completed in 1804.
John Lower (G) 92a Tapton View Road Chesterfield S41 7JY