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Noel Grange – Who Am I?

I was born on Christmas Day 1935 – hence the name Noel – in Ballyclare, a small town in Northern Ireland near Belfast.   Employment was mainly provided by a paper mill and a textile plant.  My father was a production foreman in the latter.  An uncle traced the history of the Grange family to France.  Being Protestants they were expelled at the time of the Huguenots.  I’ve learned that some of the Irish Granges became quite well-to-do landowners but thanks to too much booze, slow horses at the track and fast women the money soon disappeared and the rest of us have had to work for a living.

While I was growing up, I participated in the usual sports – soccer, cricket and tennis.  Later I did a lot of cycling going all over Ireland and Scotland.  I attended local schools and then Belfast College of Technology, graduating in Mechanical Engineering.  My fist jobs were with British Thompson Houston Co. and Davidson & Co.


When I am asked how I met my wife, Margaret, I say “I picked her up on a boat”.  The boat was an overnight ferry from Belfast to England.  I was travelling on vacation with friends to the coast of Yorkshire and Margaret and a girlfriend were travelling to the Lake District.  As luck would have it we were on the same boat on the way home 2 weeks later.  We had a few dates when we returned but Margaret left for 1 ½ years in Edinburgh to further her nursing training.  On her return we resumed dating and were married in 1963.  A year later our first son, Jeffrey, was born.

We were interested in travel and pursuing opportunities elsewhere.  Also as parents we were reluctant to raise a family in the fragile and partisan religious atmosphere of Northern Ireland which unfortunately erupted 5 years later.  I negotiated with a few engineering companies in Canada and we sailed in Sept. ’65.  After 3 weeks with old friends in Montreal, we moved to Sherbrooke where I had a manager’s position with Ingersoll Rand.  After a year I moved to Montreal with Pratt & Whitney.  In the year of Expo ’67 our second son Michael was born. 

After 4 years I moved to Dominion Bridge Co. in Montreal and was involved in a new division to engineer and build main components for nuclear stations in Ontario and Quebec.  I was always interested in working in consulting engineering so after another 4 years I joined SNC which later merged with Lavalin Eng. to from the largest consulting engineering company in Canada and one of the largest in the world.  In 1976 I was transferred to Toronto where we ended up living in the Bloor West area.  After nearly 10 years I was approached about a job at the Irving family’s shipyard in St. John, N.B.  Our

sons were both at university and my wife and I thought this opportunity could be an adventure so we headed to the Maritimes for an interesting and fun filled 16 years – first in St. John and then in Halifax.  We found the people very friendly and outgoing.  I retired from the Irving Company.

A year after retiring, with both sons married, we decided to return to Ontario.  We settled in Waterloo in 2001 as it was central to family and friends.  We are the proud grandparents of 6 grandchildren – 5 boys and 1 girl – so guess who gets spoiled.  Our oldest son, Jeffrey, has lived in New Jersey for 13 years.  He graduated from McGill and joined CHUBB Insurance in Toronto.  He was transferred to their head office in the US.  Last year he joined a UK insurance company – Torus Specialty Ins. And is Senior VP for Global Development.  Our second son, Michael has a Masters in Journalism and has spent his career with the Globe and Mail - mostly in the Sports Dept.  He did cover the Beijing and Vancouver Olympics and has published 2 books.

Retirement has been interesting, fulfilling and enjoyable.  Margaret and I are both healthy and fit.  We both play tennis at the Waterloo Club and I play badminton in the winter.  We enjoy tuning up each March in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Music and theatre have always been a big part of our lives and we have always been church choir or choral society members.  In Montreal, Margaret sang in the Montreal Elgar Choir and we are currently both members of the First United Church Choir.

With travel, the culture scene and grandchildren’s activities – the days just fly past.


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