Strathclyde roads chief who played key role in creation of the M8

Born: April 29, 1929;

Died: April 14, 2018

WILLIAM McAlonan, who has died aged 88, was one of Scotland's finest civil engineers, involved in the creation and expansion of many of our roads and motorways. He played a key role in creating the M8 which links Glasgow to Edinburgh and the Highlands or, linking with the 74, with the south and London.

Yes, we sometimes still get frustrated on the M8 inner motorway but those of us of a certain age remember trying to get through the old streets of Glasgow before Mr McAlonan and his team had the vision to build the motorway and overpasses we now take for granted. For 12 years, he was director of roads for Strathclyde region, one of the biggest road authorities in Europe.

He also oversaw the design and improvements of the A82 from Glasgow, past the Trossachs to Fort William and Inverness, one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It allows tourists to enjoy the scenery and petrolheads to put their foot down with perhaps a stop at the original Loch Fyne Oysters. Bill McAlonan can also be largely credited with extending the A83 from the western banks of Loch Lomond to Campbeltown at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, another scenic route raved about by tourists though sometimes now taken for granted by locals.

Knowing that getting cars to the Highlands was just a start, Bill McAlonan went on to focus on the maintenance and renewal of the piers and jetties which are now crucial to getting Hebrideans to and from the mainland. In Glasgow itself, he helped create the Central Integrated Traffic Control System (Citrac), which, despite our impatience and criticism, helps us move through Glasgow as fluidly as possible, particularly during security or other emergencies.

William Skilling McAlonan was born in Craigneuk, outside Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, on April 29, 1929, to John McAlonan, a steelworker at Ravenscraig, and his wife Margaret. After attending Wishaw High School, he started off as a surveyor before joining Lanark County Council's Roads Department. From that moment, he was hooked on roads. In East Kilbride, he was part of the team who designed the complex and controversial roundabout known locally as "the Whirlies" but by critics as "the Nightmare Roundabout." These critics say it has too many lanes for a roundabout and is constantly "an accident waiting to happen."

After further training in Nottinghamshire, Bill, as he was always known, did his national service with the Royal Engineers in the mid-1950s, where he entertained fellow servicemen and women with his ukelele. He also met his future wife Laura (Burrows) and they married in 1955.

In 1964, he received a diploma in town planning at the Nottingham School of Planning and five years later gained a master of sciences degree from the University of Nottingham. After a spell as deputy city engineer in Stoke-on-Trent, his native Glasgow beckoned and his reputation won him the job of deputy county surveyor and engineer for Lanarkshire.

He retired in 1989 at the age of 60 but remained active in his local community, tending the rambling gardens of his 19th century cottage in Carmunnock and devoting his spare time to the Carmunnock Preservation Society.

When he retired, Mr McAlonan said: ''In many ways I am sorry to go because there are so many significant projects coming in the next few years. One of my biggest disappointments has been the sustained lack of funding for maintenance work. This has been outwith the control of this council, of course, but I would like to have seen more money spent maintaining what we already have.''

In retirement, he was a highly-respected consultant for First Glasgow (No.1) Limited, Mackenzie Construction Limited and the Institution of Highways and Transportation.

Bill McAlonan died on April 14, 2018. He is survived by his wife Laura and their children Elsa, Kirsten and David.