Malcolm Cross (1925-2015)

Malcolm Cross

Written by David A Cross

Occupations: Engineer and Museum Founder

Early Life, Education and Family

Ernest Frank Malcolm Cross was born at ‘Andorinha’, Hardenhuish Lane, Chippenham, Wiltshire on St George’s Day, 23 April 1925.  He was the only child of Col. Alfred Frank Cross M.C. [1896-1980], a senior tax inspector and officer of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who fought in both world wars.  His mother was Beatrice Gladys Gunson [1897-1951], a pharmacist and the daughter of Ernest Gunson [1869-1940], a Manchester architect and surveyor, the senior partner of W.T. Gunson and Son, who was a surveyor of the route of the Thirlmere water pipeline in his youth and later the external rating surveyor for Cumberland.  

In 1930, the family moved to Purley Bury Rd., near Croydon, where Malcolm spent three years at a nursery.  He was then educated at Cumnor House, a day prep school in Purley, where he learned to swim.  Next they moved in 1936 to Princes Gardens, Cliftonville, Kent, where he attended the junior department of St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, becoming senior boy and scout patrol leader and then aged fourteen moved to his father’s old school Denstone College, Staffordshire.  In his last year at school, 1942-3, as house captain, he recalled being on the school roof on fire watch patrol when several Lancaster bombers flew up the valley below him. His housemaster John Adamson introduced him to Rugby fives and his maths master, the brilliant Jim Brear, encouraged him to apply to his own university of Cambridge.  Brear’s support led to Malcolm being awarded a state bursary by Sidney Sussex College, enabling him to read for the Mechanical Sciences Tripos as a wartime degree.  At Cambridge, his professor was John Fleetwood Baker [1901-1985; ODNB], a structural engineer and later Baron Baker of Windrush, whilst one of his key lecturers was the remarkable Constance Tipper [1894-1995; ODNB], metallurgist and crystallographer, who established the ‘Tipper test’ to determine the degree of brittleness in steel.  The two year course was extended with a fourth ‘long vac’ term, providing seven terms in all. Malcolm also became the stage manager of the ADC, England’s oldest university playhouse and as a keen oarsman, learned to row a single scull.  His father hoped he would become a diplomat but his enthusiasm for marine engineering won through.

Graduating BA in 1945, he joined the Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve, trained for six months at Devonport Dockyard and began his National Service as a midshipman on HMS Indomitable.  This, his first ship, sailed down via Suez to Perth, Australia and involved the ‘crossing the line’ ceremony; he then transferred to HMS Vengeance sailing to Columbo, Ceylon.  From Trincomalee, he went mostly by train to Karachi and in crossing the subcontinent to join his ship found himself, as a mere Sub-Lieutenant, the senior white British officer and consequently responsible for a consignment of gold bars. This involved counting the bars on and off the train; somehow, one bar went astray en route and Malcolm had a few weeks of anxiety wondering whether the value might be docked from his wages !  This delay caused the ship to sail without him, so he then flew to Bahrain to join HMS Norfolk and sailed from the Gulf to Simonstown, South Africa for a refit.  For a significant period he was also aboard HMS Nigeria, the escort vessel for HMS Vanguard when George VI was returning from South Africa. By that time he had obtained his watch-keeping ticket. 

Following this naval experience, Malcolm was recruited in 1947 as a graduate apprentice with Vickers-Armstrongs at Barrow-in-Furness and his first eighteen months in the yard involved spending time on the shop floor in several departments in turn, observing and learning the modus operandi of each.  Soon after his arrival, he met Sybil Hayes [1925-2011], a local teacher of English and games, who was a keen amateur actor.  Sybil was the younger daughter of Samuel Victor Hayes [1884-1954], a retired electrical engineer with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and his wife Lilian Alice [nee Binks; 1884-1974].  They were married on 1 April 1950, at St Paul’s Anglican church, Barrow and had four children: David [1951], Richard [1954], Rose [1957] and Paul [1961].  

Professional Life         

During his apprenticeship, two large mailboat and passenger service vessels for West Africa, the Accra and the Apapa were being fitted out for Elder Dempster. Then from 1949-1959 he worked in the marine estimating and drawing offices as a design engineer on a series of ships for the Royal and merchant navies.  His meticulous ability as a draughtsman proved very useful here in designing precision pipework. Four early vessels for which he sailed on the trials were the P and O liners SS Himalaya in 1949 and SS Chusan in 1950, on which vessel he observed severe rolling during the testing of the stabilisers; and the BP oil tankers SS British Adventure and SS British Sovereign in 1954. Other memorable projects were the destroyer Nueva Esparta for the Venezuelan navy in 1953 and the Empress of England for Canadian Pacific in 1957 when he was, in both cases, in charge of the demanding repeat trials that proved the speeds on the measured mile and the guarantee figures for fuel consumption were all correct.  This was particularly difficult with the Venezuelans, who guarded the changing of the oil suction valves with loaded rifles. He also recalled the inclining test c.1958 on board HMS Hermes, the British aircraft carrier, achieved by moving heavy concrete blocks on the flight deck and measured by a plumb bob in a steadying water tank. However, the pinnacle of his early career was his involvement in the design detail of the main steam propulsion plant and its complex integration with the large freshwater distilling plant needed for the passengers on SS Oriana, also for the P and O, launched in November 1959.  Oriana won the Golden Cockerel award for being the fastest vessel in the P and O fleet, achieving 30.64 knots.  During this ten year period, a regular bonus for him and his family was the excitement of each launch, with the Vickers Band playing, the appearance of royalty, the huge crowds and the fulfilment of watching the vast hull slide down the slipway.  

As early as 1946, the Royal Navy realised that nuclear reactors would provide ‘longer endurance’, that is they could stay under water for longer than their diesel-electric precursors and that a nuclear submarine programme would maintain Britain’s position as a world power.  The first American nuclear submarine, commissioned in 1954, was USS Nautilus, which achieved the first submerged transit of the North Pole in 1958.  Following the Mutual Defence Treaty of that year, negotiations resulted in the agreement that the USA would supply all the machinery for a Skipjack-class submarine, including a nuclear powered propulsion system, which would be installed in a British built hull to be fabricated at Barrow.  Consequently, Vickers assembled an extraordinary team for this project and Malcolm’s accumulated achievement with steam plant and his ability to deal with the problems on the Venezuelan repeat trials were factors in his inclusion.  Leonard Redshaw, the general manager, was an advocate of welded rather than riveted hulls, and although the American submarine hulls were riveted, he won the day for his welders on the contract for the UK’s first nuclear submarine, called HMS Dreadnought.   So in October 1959, Malcolm flew by a de Havilland Comet, the first jet ‘liner’, via Reykjavik to Philadelphia, USA, to witness the trials of the Dreadnought main turbines at the vast Westinghouse works.  Then he began his training with the General Dynamics - Electric Boat Company, at Groton, Connecticut, in August 1960, while living at Mystic Seaport.  The Americans had launched the USS Skipjack, their second design of nuclear submarine, in 1958 and Malcolm was on board USS Scorpion, its successor, with his senior colleague George Standen, during the sea trials in early 1959.  

Barrow became the lead yard for the nuclear programme which brought together a range of expertise from the USA and Britain including representatives of Westinghouse and Rolls Royce. The keel of HMS Dreadnought was laid on 12 June 1959 and the hull of this first British nuclear submarine was ready for its launch on Trafalgar Day 21 October 1960 by H.M. the Queen.  During the fitting out from 1961-63, Malcolm became the chief propulsion plant test engineer and Derek Fletcher the chief electrical test engineer.  In 1961 he attended a three month crash course in nuclear physics at Salford College of Advanced Technology, which he deemed ‘excellent’ and later that year was required to attend a submarine escape course at Gosport at HMS Dolphin, where he encountered the 100 foot high water tower with multiple airlocks and learned the traditional breathing out system which was ‘quite a traumatic experience’.  During the trials, Malcolm was officer of the watch when the Dreadnought reactors were first turned on in 1962 and in April 1963, he was in the tiny ward room, 100 feet below the Irish sea, when Dreadnought was signed over to the MoD.  

The Americans had commissioned the USS George Washington, their first submarine with ballistic missiles, in 1960 and in December 1962, President Kennedy and Harold Macmillan negotiated the use of Polaris missiles for the Royal Navy.  The warheads were to be designed and manufactured in the UK. So once again Malcolm and his team spent three months from October 1963 at Electric Boat, this time at the weapons systems project office learning about the Polaris programme and the installation of nuclear weapons.  Further training arose with Westinghouse at Palo Alto, San Francisco, California and here, based at the naval yard, he witnessed the test firing of a missile.  Following the government thinking and that of the Vickers board, he acknowledged the importance of the nuclear deterrent against the most extreme threats to national security.  On returning to Vickers, early in 1964, Malcolm was appointed Polaris missile installation manager on HMS Resolution, the first British Polaris submarine, and held this post until 1965, his director and mentor being William C. Robertson.  This was the most challenging technical position of his career and an early report from Malcolm to Redshaw led to the welding of the missile tubes in the workshop, not on the berth as at Electric Boat.  The missile system office required Malcolm to recruit, with Derek Fletcher, two hundred electrical and electronic engineers.  Circularity tolerances and locational tolerances were critical and monthly meetings were held with Redshaw and Sir Rowland Baker [1908-1983] of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.  Despite the fretting of Malcolm’s opposite number, a naval captain, the trials were carried out on time and the accuracy of the firing on the range was within specifications. Though his experience at this point could have taken him almost anywhere in engineering, he liked the South Lakes and decided to stay in the yard.  

From 1965-1969, as marine engineering project design manager, reporting to the director Mark Harper, Malcolm was involved in setting up numerous other innovative teams, integrating ideas and skills across disciplines, co-ordinating research and development and handling feasibility studies.  This had been Redshaw’s plan which they had discussed earlier in the decade and Malcolm soon recruited a new team of twelve engineers, including David Rogers and Anthony Bethune.  Good at selecting staff, he liked lateral thinkers, acknowledging that they were, like him, somewhat often awkward socially; but, in believing in the people he had chosen, he was usually able to get the best from them.  Henry E. Bailey was in charge of an equivalent electrical project office.   For each challenge Malcolm began with a blank canvas and the project would evolve in a way that he later described as ‘walking the plank’, as he often did not know where he was going next.  Frequently successful he satisfied the board, building a reputation for dealing with intractable problems.  He always trained up his deputy to be able to take over his job, which made him readily available for the next challenge.  

From 1861, Lord Kelvin [1824-1907], James Prescott Joule [1818-1880] and James Clerk Maxwell [1831-1879; all ODNB] strove to establish metric units in science and industry but the progress had been glacially slow.  By 1965 the use of metres, rather than yards, was finally government policy and in 1969, the year of the founding of the British Metrication Board, Malcolm was appointed as metrication manager in the shipyard, under the managing director Bill Richardson.  Thus he was given the tricky task of persuading very traditional engineering craftsmen to measure in alien centimetres, rather than inches, and of rationalising standards in conjunction with the MoD. Attending monthly meetings with the Admiralty in Bath, Malcolm made progress with metrication and became somewhat notorious for distributing posters of ‘Metric Millie’, a bikini clad young woman with vital statistics displayed in both imperial and metric units, to all departments at Vickers.

Following an interview in 1973 with the general manager T.K. Postlethwaite, Malcolm oversaw the construction, commissioning and subsequent operation of the remarkable Submarine Machinery Installation and Testing Establishment, known as SMITE, from 1973-77 on the side of Walney Channel, in association with his next director, John Braddyll.  This innovative installation, erected in association with the structural engineers R.T. James, was designed to take over the functions of the Admiralty Development Establishment Barrow [ADEB] which had encompassed testing from 1939.  A self-contained establishment within the boundaries of the yard, with internal overhead cranes, SMITE enabled the main and auxiliary propulsion plant to be connected and monitored by computer whilst still on the benches. Consequently, the team of 130 staff could deal with malfunctions before the gear was installed in the hull.  The power was produced by twin boilers, in lieu of the nuclear plant in the vessel, and the pump house on the channel was designed to produce sufficient cooling water for the condensers at full power.  It was in this period as if Malcolm was running his own company, viewing it as ‘the most dynamic job in management’ and the one he found most engaging.  In 1976, towards the end of his time with SMITE, he was invited, via the vice chancellor of Sheffield university Professor Geoffrey Sims, to apply for the chair of engineering but he declined as he was enjoying his current role.

Following nationalisation and the establishment of British Shipbuilders in 1977, the Vickers board decided they needed a Corporate Planning Manager ‘to co-ordinate the planning of the various divisions and profit centres of the Group’ and Malcolm once again fulfilled a new role encompassing varied tasks in financial and strategic planning in association with the finance director, Julian Davies.  He was tasked with analyses of all aspects of the business, including the development of new products and new facilities, having attended useful courses in finance at Barrow College of Further Education.  In 1979 Vickers expanded into Health Engineering and tendered for a contract for a state of the art hospital in Saudi Arabia with an innovative transport system with conveyor belts and lifts within double walls, all computer controlled.  Malcolm was appointed as technical manager and attended meetings in London at Vickers Tower on Millbank and at various embassies, but it soon became clear that elements of corruption were undermining the viability of the project, so he advised Vickers to withdraw.  This they did before too much money was wasted.  

In early 1980, the government considered the new Trident submarines to supersede the Polaris system and as the key element was the cost, Malcolm was tasked with estimating the total price of Trident.  Soon afterwards, in July 1980 the government announced their decision to replace Polaris with new Trident submarines, agreeing once more to build the first vessel in Barrow.  Continuing in his Corporate Planning post Malcolm became a member of the eponymous Institute and attended regular meetings in London, again at Vickers Tower, sometimes flying down in the company plane from Walney airport. As this role required a greater knowledge of economics, he drew up a reading list by corresponding with Frances Cairncross [b.1944] and other specialists and read voraciously, also attending meetings at the London based Long Range Planning Society in 1982.  Offered a post at Vickers headquarters, he turned it down as he still did not want to leave Cumbria.  From his office at the top of Craven House he had tremendous views of the Lakeland fells and here he generated an annual business planning cycle for the board, involving two financial planning models; in 1981 he also became management development adviser for the company.  Among his recommendations, at this time of decline in shipbuilding, was the importance of diversification.  

Next, from 1983-88 he worked as project manager for Richard M.B. Emslie, director of personnel.  During this time he re-organised the grading and salary structure for all the management of Vickers and was much involved in sharing his experience with new graduate apprentices.  In late 1983 Vickers directors Jim Glasgow and Greg Mott had attended a Business in the Community conference and asked Malcolm to write a report to investigate the possibility of an Enterprise agency in Barrow, led by the company.  At that time, the first in the north-west had been founded by Pilkington’s at St Helen’s, so Malcolm arranged a visit there.  Being very aware of the need for diversification, he recommended to the board that there should be an agency in Furness, to encourage creativity, growth and prosperity and was seconded part time as chairman to set it up.  The Furness Business Initiative, or FBI, soon had a manager with accounting experience and the organisation grew, forming links with thirty three major employers in the district and eventually requiring Malcolm to work full time as executive chairman until 1990.  Among their sponsors were Barclays Bank, British Cellophane, the Furness Building Society, Glaxo, and Burlington Slate Ltd. Amidst considerable technical change, economic pressure and redundancies in the yard, the agency was able to create a supportive local culture, enabling skilled people to set up small engineering companies from scratch, to facilitate offshore technology transfer and to encourage a tourism strategy.  

As the FBI grew, Malcolm established the Furness Executive Group [FEG], a consortium of twenty five local companies, which enabled local MDs and CEOs in Furness to meet monthly from 1985-1992 at events hosted by each company in turn. From this sprang the Furness Technology Centre [FTC], also administered by the FBI, which provided a focus for growth of a consortium of technical companies, particularly with offshore specialisms.  While at the FBI, Malcolm was involved with Action Learning, a means of problem solving for small businesses, finding the management consultant Jean Lawrence enormously helpful.  During this time Malcolm’s advice and opinions were sought by many local businesses and he was frequently interviewed by the local newspapers and Radio Cumbria.  A Manchester Enterprise visitor reported that he was ‘light years ahead’ of all other agencies in the region. 

The Dock Museum

Following several FBI tourist initiatives, Malcolm was appointed chairman of the Furness Maritime Trust [FMT] in 1986 and became the prime mover in the creation of the Dock Museum, an unusual building set in the 1872 graving dock on Walney channel.  The FMT was established as a charity on 21st October 1987 ‘to advance the education of the public by the establishment of a maritime museum in the borough of Barrow-in-Furness and to collect, preserve, restore, improve, enhance, use and maintain features and objects of historical, industrial and social interest relating to the past and in particular to the maritime history of the Furness District’ [Charity Commission].  His interest in this project probably had its roots in his time at Mystic Seaport, USA where the square rigged Joseph Conrad is moored.  He organised the architect’s competition, won by Craig and Green in 1988; appointed a fundraiser, who secured much of the capital; and was closely involved with Leck Construction, the structural engineers.  Malcolm also appointed as the first curator, Ian Robinson, who had worked on the first ironclad battleship Warrior alongside Nelson’s Victory in Portsmouth harbour.  He also bought the schooner White Rose, built by Ashburner Brothers in 1899; the Emily Barrett, the last trading schooner built at Millom in 1913; the Morecambe Bay prawner Nance, built by F.J. Crosfield of Arnside and negotiated the gift of the Herbert Leigh via the RNLI. Some fine quality ship models and the Vickers photographic archive, many of them on fragile glass plates were also secured.  One early aspiration, which, despite an American precedent proved too challenging to achieve, was the inclusion of the decommissioned HMS Dreadnought in the collection.

Though there were local councillors on the board, they were not fully committed to the project and were sceptical of the projected visitor figures. By judicious stage management in gathering data, canvassing opinion and forming conclusions, his meetings rarely lasted longer than an hour, a rapidity not always appreciated by the councillors.  On the 8th and 9th September 1990, he and Ian Robinson organised an ‘Extravaganza’ in the almost completed building which was very well attended, despite the predictions of the council nay-sayers. Eventually the council refused to pay the last tranche of money to the contractors unless Malcolm resigned from the Trust, which he did, late in 1990, but by then the majority of the project had been realised.  In 1991 the local authority took over the Trust and its buildings, sacked Ian Robinson and his staff and took control of the museum which has recently been described as the ‘flagship attraction in Barrow’[Marsh].  At this point the Victorian collections from the old town museum were moved from storage into the new building. After a considerable delay, the official opening was in 1994 [NWEM 8th August 2019] and though Malcolm was not invited, he remarkably showed ‘a total lack of rancour’.  Though the FMT no longer runs the museum, it still functions as the charity supporting the Dock.  


Following his Cambridge experience of the theatre, soon after his arrival in Barrow Malcolm joined Ulverston Outsiders, a local drama group, where he met Sybil.  He also joined Barrow Operatic and Dramatic Society and was soon on the committee, chaired by Dr W.J. Liddle [1899-1976], from whom he learned useful skills of chairmanship.  In 1952, a group of young actors established a break away drama group in Barrow called the Elizabethans, named after the young queen.  Malcolm was appointed as their first chairman, their inaugural production was Autumn Crocus, by Dodie Smith, and the society remained active for more than twenty five years. 

Malcolm was always passionate about the sea, ships and charts and in the school holidays, he and his father learned to sail at Potter Heigham on the Broads and then off Ramsgate, in a gunter-rigged clinker dinghy, Iris.  They joined Margate Yacht Club to compete in regattas and in his teens he often sailed single-handed along the coast, on one occasion from Ramsgate to Faversham, a trip of almost 30 miles.  Once in Barrow, Malcolm decided not to sail from Roa Island, but on Windermere, where ‘the tide was always in’ [Notebooks]. In 1948 Iris arrived by train at Lakeside and was beached on the shingle across the lake at Fell Foot, an attractive National Trust property with castellated boathouses, where in 1961 Bernard Rhodes and Malcolm were the driving force behind the founding of the South Windermere Sailing Club.  Bernard, a gifted helmsman, had built several wooden sailing canoes and went on to break the record for the fastest single-handed crossing of the Atlantic in 1966.  At Fell Foot, Malcolm was active in manual pile driving for jetties, laying slabs for slipways and the planning of racing programmes. As commodore, he oversaw the building of the wooden clubhouse, opened by ‘Cubby’ Acland the National Trust agent in 1963, which had a floor raised above the highest recorded flood level.  He and Sybil enjoyed racing most weekends in their fibreglass Kestrel dinghy and in 1967 won the Waterhead Race, sailing twenty miles from Lakeside to Ambleside, in very windy and challenging conditions: the only vessel to complete the course.  Weather had always fascinated Malcolm and for decades, his arrival home was heralded by the tapping of the barometer in the hall.  A fanatical amateur meteorologist, he recorded the daily air pressure, rainfall, wind direction and number of hours of sunshine, all archived on a series of printed annual Chinese weather trees, each having twelve branches and 365 leaves.  Numerous graphs and histograms showing annual figures survive in his papers.  

Upon his retirement in 1958, Malcolm’s father, Frank Cross remarried and bought a gamekeeper’s cottage and a small estate of oak woodland outside Wimborne, Dorset.  Here he designed, laid out from scratch and maintained in succession two large gardens of flowering shrubs, which gave Malcolm and the grandchildren tremendous experience of operating and handling a range of gardening machines and tools.  Like his father, Malcolm loved trees and shrubs and over the fifty years he lived at Croslands Park, the garden with its original fruit trees gradually became a miniature arboretum.  He helped his children to set up a tree house in adjacent woodland and rigged an annual aerial lift which brought enormous pleasure.

From 1994-5 he studied for the Lake District Studies Diploma at Lancaster University and wrote a dissertation: A Landscape History of the Lickle Valley, which has been cited in subsequent publications.  At Sandscale Haws he became keen on geomorphology, recording the changes to sand dunes, inland slacks and the beach, particularly after storms.  Malcolm attended meetings and lunches with the Cambridge Society branch in Cumbria, being active in assisting the first society conference in the north-west in 1999. He also joined the Romney Society and was pleased when, after a long campaign, a medallion monument to the artist was unveiled on Kendal town hall. 

Community Involvement

Despite his privileged background, Malcolm saw the importance of contributing to the local community. With Michael Scott of Vickers Oceanics, he set up Barrow Education Action Group [BEAG] to lobby in the mid-1970s for the retention of the grammar schools at Barrow, once the comprehensive school programme was announced.  In the late 1970s, Dr Catherine Waind, a family friend, encouraged Malcolm at the inception of Cumbria Marriage Guidance [CMG; now Relate] to become their first male counsellor. Having trained at the CMG establishment at Rugby, he joined the local team; he was soon appointed chairman of the Furness area and later was involved with fund raising, as county chairman.

As Norman Nicholson [1914-1987] had long observed, tourists had tended to concentrate on the central lakes and ignore the west coast and the two peninsulas of Cartmel and Furness.  As part of the FBI involvement with local tourism in May 1985 Malcolm was elected chairman of Barrow Civic Society, with Dr Bill Rollinson [1937-2000] as president and Alice Leach as secretary and a wide programme of talks, visits, publications, erection of plaques and campaigns ensued.  As part of this drive he also established in 1992 the Friends of Furness Abbey and organised services in the ruins, an Urswick flower festival, concerts by visiting choirs with mulled wine and an annual abbey Christmas card.  Notably, they held a summer ‘Fayre’ with the Vickers band, tours of the ruins, demonstrations of monastic physic remedies, craft displays, a maypole, Morris men and clog dancers. 

The last organisation Malcolm joined was the Friends of Dalton Castle, where he and Sybil did regular stints of Saturday stewarding for the National Trust. Soon after Sybil’s death in 2011, he lived in Stornoway with his daughter Rose, where he rowed in the harbour, sailed several times with the North Lewis Trust and assisted with boat restoration. He died aged 90 on Christmas Day 2015 and was taken back to Furness for his well-attended funeral on 21 January 2016 at St Paul’s Barrow.  In due course, his ashes were buried with Sybil’s under a simple slate tombstone at Barrow cemetery.


Once Malcolm had finished his apprenticeship, he always reported to a director but was never appointed to be one himself, perhaps as he was too gentle and gentlemanly.  Sometimes these bosses were helpful, sometimes they were obstructive, but of these men, he had the greatest respect for W.C. Robertson and Bill Richardson.  He began his professional life as a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1948 and eventually became a fellow of the Institutions of Mechanical, Marine and Nuclear Engineering.  Fellowships are awarded to those who have ‘demonstrated exceptional commitment to and innovation in engineering’ and those who display ‘superior responsibility’ for conceptual design [Institution websites].  It is a rare engineer who is a member, let alone a fellow of three different professional institutions [archivist, IMechE]. As he disapproved of the Cambridge tradition of the unearned MA, he took that degree in 1970, twenty five years after his graduation and thus after twenty five years in industry, considering by then that he had earned it.  In 1998, fifty years after his membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, he was made an honorary fellow, an unusual distinction.  

His breadth of knowledge and judgement led to his setting up of several new departments. As a ‘multifaceted’ ideas man, he offered a constant flow of useful innovations by engaging with his creative and problem solving abilities.  A senior colleague observed that he had never known Malcolm ‘duck a question or avoid anything difficult,’ adding ‘the Navy had a huge respect for him and level of trust in him’.  The firm recognised his skills and versatility and he probably achieved as much as any of his senior colleagues during his forty years in the yard, being adept at inventing new jobs for himself when they did not arise within the existing system and learning on the job in a very flexible way.  In his latter years, as a free thinker, he did not always go down well with the Vickers board who struggled to find him a suitable role, but then he was co-opted to liaise with the economic development bodies where he manifested further ingenuity in following up numerous opportunities for the FBI.  Malcolm was well able to select staff and several of the young engineers he trained went on to be prominent in major firms.  He believed in these people, he expected the best of them and generally they responded to this.  With his broad expertise he could have moved on but he liked Barrow and enjoyed the succession of technical challenges, always displaying a positive attitude and considerable enthusiasm.  After Malcolm’s death George Henson of Vickers Offshore wrote of his kindness and support and Roger Chapman of Rumic recalled Malcolm’s ‘special ability to envision future projects in the yard’. Stuart Kloszinski of Barrow Council acknowledged his remarkable success ‘in a leading role…… having the vision to change the area’s outlook’ and noted his contribution to numerous organisations over many years.  

Sources: Family information; Malcolm Cross’s own extensive autobiographical notebooks; his papers deposited at Barrow Record Office; professional certificates obtained in the UK and USA; letters received post obit; Civic Society minutes; Friends of Furness Abbey minutes; Cambridge Society minutes; Dalton Castle Friends minutes; the eulogy by David Cross given at his funeral; obituary North Western Evening Mail 25 January 2016; obituary Westmorland Gazette [online]; obituary Pheon, Sidney Sussex College magazine, 2016; North Western Evening Mail 30 March 1991; Engineering Institutes’ websites including; Charity Commissioners’ website; Leslie M. Shore, Vickers’ Master Shipbuilder: Sir Leonard Redshaw, Black Dwarf, 2011; Terry Marsh, Towns and Villages of Britain: Cumbria, Sigma Press,1998

June 2020