Roy Meikle was the fourth offspring of Rudolph and Ethlyn McKoy-Meikle’s four boys and two girls. His father was the Balaclava railway station master. Roy’s birth on all fool’s day (April first) 1933, failed miserably to predict the brilliance that would describe his career. Mr. Rudolph Meikle’s death in 1935 precipitated very strained family circumstances relieved partially by Roy successfully getting a scholarship to Munro in 1944. Mrs. Meikle invited Roy’s teacher, Gladys Bailey, headmistress of Hatfield Elementary School to go with them when Roy was to be immersed in his baptism of fire at the city set on the hill. Roy wasted no time.
Munro College Accomplishments
He left Munro in 1952 having his Higher Schools Certificate (Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and subsidiary French) and in the meantime was second in long jump, third in the half mile and in shot put for his house Farquharson, was house and school prefect, Quarter Master Sergeant in the Cadet Corps, and Head Boy in 1952.
Roy won an open scholarship to do Natural Sciences at University College of the West Indies, (UCWI) Mona. After two years he got an Issa scholarship to do Chemical Technology and a master’s degree in chemical engineering. After a year into the master’s program, he was transferred directly to the PhD program. He obtained the doctorate in 1960.
In a pre-convocation interview he was offered a job in the Process Development Department of Alcan Jamaica Ltd. He did work on red mud separation, the research authored by his professor and himself and published in the “Transactions of the Institute of Chemical Engineering” in England. Thus began a life of research and management that yielded significant changes in how things were done in alumina chemistry and the management of individuals and teams to accomplish them.
After two years he attended Centre D ‘Etudes Industrialles, in Geneva, Switzerland, for a year to get a diploma in Management Studies.
Between 1963 and 1966 he was Process Engineer then Production Supervisor, involving him in lime calcination and alumina production. In 1966 Roy transferred to Alcan’s Ewarton Works, where he became Assistant Production Superintendent and Construction Coordinator, during which time he had to oversee construction to double plant capacity. Roy oversaw a digester shutdown which was incomplete at the end of the day shift. They needed to install a flow meter. The millwright crew was prevented from doing the installation by an aggressive union delegate. Roy shrugged his shoulders and was just arranging an overnight shutdown when the crew reappeared and did the installation in an hour.
He later invited the crew for a drink. While drinking, one of the men pulled him aside and explained that he had influenced the men to return to work having met Roy once before. One Sunday afternoon, years before, when Roy was driving home from Alcan, he noticed an Alcan employee in the hot sun of Shooter’s Hill in need of a drive and he obliged. That man now remembered him being a Good Samaritan and returned the favour.
In 1968 Roy joined Alcan Aluminium Corporation, New York, where he was Assistant Manager of Chemical Sales. He operated effectively as sales development engineer for intermediate products and was responsible for aluminium ingot sales for a major part of the US mid-West. He quadrupled the annual sales to General Motors Truck and Coach Division.
When he returned to Jamaica and Alcan Jamaica Ltd. in 1971, he was Chief Process Engineer responsible for all phases of process development, and as such directed extensive professional work teams until 1974 when he became Assistant General Manager of Alcan Products of Jamaica Ltd. In that latter capacity he turned a losing operation to profitability in three months. Within a year he was appointed General Manager, from which perch he handled government negotiations as well as local and export sales.
Success as GM catapulted him overseas again, this time to Alcan Trading Ltd. in Montreal. There he was contract Coordinator and negotiated raw materials contracts worldwide, some more than US$30 million dollars. This involved logistics and technical knowledge of the alumina process and product quality. In 1980 he shifted to Alcan Smelters and Chemicals Ltd. as Sales Development Engineer for two years and then became Senior Research and Development Engineer at Alcan in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. While expanding the Research and Development function and raising the laboratory process to commercial status, he designed pilot plants and created a full-scale commercial plant that raised production from 3,000 to 14,000 tons per year.
In 1991 he moved to Alcan Chemicals, Brockville, Ontario, as Business Manager of Activated Alumina and R&D Coordinator. In two steps he quadrupled plant capacity and increased sales, mostly by increasing exports. Numerous other activities take us to his “retirement” in 1997, when he became part time consultant to Alcan Chemicals and to other companies manufacturing and selling chemical and ceramic products.
Larger than life but human
Those of us intimidated by Roy’s vertical climb and horizontal reach can take some comfort in the fact that this brilliant technician was still human enough to make silly mistakes away from the job. For example, on moving into a cottage in Canada he bought a bottle of wine, cooked a meal, and discovered that there was no corkscrew in the house. For almost a week he pined over the wine but kept forgetting to buy a corkscrew. On Friday finally he remembered and went home ecstatic that he could finally open his wine and enjoy!! Then he discovered it was a screw cap bottle and he never needed a corkscrew in the first place.
Roy Meikle holds an official patent for a process developed by him. In addition, there are several other methodologies that he developed (at Brockville and Kingston, Ontario.) which have not been patented by Alcan but used exclusively by them. Dr. Carlton Davis, one-time Jamaica’s main man in the bauxite industry with both political administrations, told us that Roy Meikle was extremely competent in his field and volunteered and gave his assistance when the bauxite industry was in trouble. Roy is the sole survivor of his siblings and resides in Canada, probably bombarded constantly for the storehouse of experience that sits above his shoulders.
Roy served on the Munro and Dickenson Trust from 1964 to 1968 when he left for New York. On his return to Jamaica in 1971 he served on the Trust until 1978.
For the above and other reasons, Roy Meikle has proudly been inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Hall of Fame.