(7th March 1924 - 5th December 2003)
‘Jack’, as he was known throughout the industry, was born John Deryk Lavender at Pitsmoor in Sheffield in 1924. Despite an early inclination to pursue an outdoor career in the Merchant Navy or the Forestry Commission, the lure of the steel industry proved to be too powerful and in 1939 he took his first job in the cogging mill at Firth Brown. Afflicted since childhood with asthma which prevented him from joining the forces, this tended to seal his fate and concentrated his mind on the steel industry. In Jack’s early work at Firth Browns he became involved with the X-ray examination of castings for aircraft. Later, joining the physics department, he became interested in X-ray crystallography and microradiography. It was at this time that he made his first contact with Roy Sharpe. He also began working on the development of high quality steels for the jet engine. Early influences on his career were such well respected men as Charles Sykes, Freddie Jones, Harry Kirkby and John Morley. During the 1950s Jack became Foundry Metallurgist at Firth Vickers and then in 1957 he moved to British Steel Casting Research Association at East Bank Road, Sheffield. Here Jack was introduced to the work which gave him the greatest personal satisfaction – developing ultrasonic techniques for castings.
In 1962 he started to develop training courses for operators testing castings, and courses and examinations for the Central Electricity Generating Board and City and Guilds formed the next phase of his work. During this time he had close associations with Harry Leah, Brian Jackson, Henry Carson and Charlie Abrahams, all of whom, throughout his lifetime, influenced his thoughts on aspects of NDT.
During his 20 years with BSCRA Jack made many contributions to the world of non-destructive testing in the form of lectures, papers and articles. He continued with research and he conducted training courses around the world. He was involved with Ron Halmshaw in early fluoroscopy and worked on the High Energy radiography of castings. He also patented a C-scan system. He contributed to committee work for British Standards, the International Institute of Welding and the City and Guilds of London Institute. He was a one-time secretary of SONDE, and on the Editorial Board of NDT International.
In 1967 he lectured in Montreal at EXPO 67; in 1969 and 1975, he was awarded the Diploma of Honour by the Steel Founders Society of America through his lectures in Cleveland, Ohio. He was instrumental in establishing the SNT group under the British Institute of NDT following his organisation of an initial meeting in Sheffield with George Wheeler, a past President of ASNT in the early 1980s. Following on from these meetings, the ASNT North Atlantic Section was born in 1993 and Jack was one of its founder members.
In 1976 his son David encouraged Jack and his wife Joyce to establish the J D Lavender Partnership and together the three brought the Company into the eighties. The operators’ needs for high quality NDT training are, Jack always believed, best met by the SNT system of training and qualification.
Consequently, he became its champion in the UK. Jack himself became one of the first ASNT Level 3s in 1977 (UT, MT, PT, RT, FA 726), a Member of the Institute of Physics, a Chartered Physicist, a Fellow of the Institute of Metallurgy and a Fellow of the British Institute of Non-destructive Testing. In 1991 he became a Fellow of the American Society of NDT and later in 1997 an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute.
Son Stephen joined the family business in 1982 and together the Lavenders have continued to develop services to non-destructive testing with particular emphasis on quality training of operators. Jack’s ambitions for the Partnership are now being realised with the development of the NDT Centre at Penistone Station, Sheffield. Jack Lavender’s life has been devoted to the steel industry and, in particular, the NDT operator. All who have crossed his path will remember him as an honest and typically blunt Yorkshireman with a genuine concern for the NDT industry and the people in it.