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Life George ‘Geordie’ Laverty worked magic with machinery and learned to play the bagpipes at 70

George “Geordie” Laverty: Engineer. Sailor. Craftsman. Father. Born Oct. 22, 1930, in Clydebank, Scotland; died June 6, 2018, in Victoria, of pneumonia; aged 87.

Geordie (as he preferred to be called) grew up in hard times. There was always food on the table, but there were no luxuries. Being from an Irish Catholic family in a Protestant Scottish town meant always having to prove how tough he was, and Geordie learned early on how to stick up for himself and his younger sister, Nancy.

The war years that followed the Depression were no easier. The family home was destroyed by German bombing in the Clydebank Blitz of 1941. After the war, Geordie did well in school, but there was no money for university. He apprenticed as a machinist in the same factory where his father and grandfather worked, until he was conscripted into the Royal Navy in 1949.

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George 'Geordie' Laverty.

The Globe and Mail

He was posted as a medical orderly in England, where he met and married his first wife, Janice, a nurse, in 1954. He applied to the Fleet Air Arm for pilot training but was directed to become an aircraft mechanic instead. Geordie was a classic Scottish engineer, endlessly fascinated by technology and able to work magic with machinery of any kind. He was sent to Canada for cold-weather testing of a new jet in 1951 and decided that Canada was the future for him. He applied for a transfer to the Royal Canadian Navy. His wife, parents and sister soon joined him, settling in Edmonton. His first son, Ian, was born in 1954, and in 1957 his second son, Keith, arrived prematurely in Rugby, N.D., while the family was driving cross-country on a navy transfer from Halifax to Victoria.

Geordie entered officer training with the RCN and finally achieved his dream of being able to go to university. He graduated from the University of Alberta with a BSc in applied physics in 1959. He travelled the world on lengthy at-sea deployments, and became engineering officer of the destroyer HMCS Yukon, but the absences took a toll on family life. In the 1960s, when computers were new technology, he left the navy to become an IBM systems engineer, studying programming at home at night. When he wasn’t studying, though, he’d make things – toys, musical instruments, even a sailboat.

When Geordie and Janice divorced, he settled in Edmonton. He started a second family with new wife Kathleen, and had a third son (Colin). He retired for the first time in 1993 but then volunteered with an aid group working in Kiribati in the South Pacific. He did IT work for the government and trained local workers while running the island’s machine shop. He loved the work and the people and stayed for a year and a half until a brush with dengue fever made him glad to return to Canada.

In his 70s, Geordie learned to play the bagpipes, and he proudly donned the full Scottish piper’s regalia for public events.

Geordie’s sons all became engineers, inheriting his fascination with technology and his love of working with his hands. All of our homes are filled with the beautiful things he made.

Ian Laverty is George’s eldest son.

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go to tgam.ca/livesguide

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