President of the 'French Civils'.
Caton Crozier becomes 66th president of the Conseil National des Ingnieurs et des Scientifiques de France at Great George Street tonight. His French is not much better than when he left school, and his talk on Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Suez Canal will be in pictures and English.
CNISF, still better known as the 'French Civils,' consists of more than 500 men and women - spouses are always welcome to meetings and dinners - who have an interest in France and an enthusiasm for engineering and scientific matters. They cross the Channel as a club twice a year to imbibe the ambience.
His presentation will concentrate on the tenacity and pre-PFI spirit that drove aristocratic diplomat de Lesseps for three decades before the canal was formed. Some measure of the man -
de Lesseps not Crozier - is that he was 64 when the canal was finished and he married his second wife Helen who was 20 years old. She gave birth to 12 children before he was 80, perhaps explaining why his next project in Panama was not quite as successful as Suez.
While not as prolific as de Lesseps, Crozier has enjoyed a varied career, traditional pupilage interrupted by the RAF, chief designer for 10 years with Kier - including three years on the Medway Bridge - and 10 years consulting as sole practitioner and later as partner of a rapidly expanding practice for which he drummed up business in the middle east and elsewhere.
Then at 50 he returned to what he calls his most satisfying mode, working with people, identifying root causes of incidents - particularly injuries and fatalities, flexing his knowledge and experience into jargon-free precision reports. He has acted as legal expert and adviser to more than 100 solicitors up and down the country involving more than 300 clients.
Topics range from the accidental demolition of a listed clock tower, to the woman who injured her back winding the route indicator on the front of a bus. Most cases sensibly settle out of court, but in 27 cases he has been called to give evidence.
Direct individual responsibility is what appeals to him - face to face with solicitors, counsel and claimants, not diffused as part of an amorphous design team. As chief cook and bottle washer it is hard work even with valiant support from wife Pam. She sighs at the long hours of some cases but concedes: 'His hobby is his work.'
Crozier fully supports vision for the role of expert as given in Lord Woolf's fundamental review of the legal system 'Access to Justice'. This states that the expert's principal duty is to the court not to his client. But he regrets that lawyers themselves do not follow the same principle, being far more interested in winning the game rather than seeking justice.
Engineering, he maintains, is a profession in which you can harvest such satisfaction, appreciation from clients and such a variety of challenges. 'Don't hesitate,' he advises. 'Set off on your own.'