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News > OW News > Catch Up with Jonathan Russell (T.1966-71)

Catch Up with Jonathan Russell (T.1966-71)

Jonathan visited Wrekin over the summer and has now provided a summary of the many adventures he has enjoyed during his career in Risk Mangament which has taken him to over 40 countries.
13 Nov 2019
United Kingdom | United States of America
OW News
Jonathan A. A. Russell Tudor House 1966-71.
Sun Lakes, Arizona, US.
Born 7, October 1952, George Town, Penang, Malaya during the Malayan Emergency (1947 – 1961). My parents lived on a remote rubber plantation located near the town of Teluk Anson, in the State of Perak, Malaya. My father, a Rubber Planter/Engineer, was General Manager of several rubber and palm oil plantations in the State. Our home was often attacked by bandits; our name given to Communist Chinese Terrorists who wished to turn the Peninsular and Singapore into a Chinese Communist utopia and kick out the “Running Dogs” aka the British. My parents lost their first child during a bandit attack, consequently my father borrowed the Teluk Anson’s Harbour Master’s launch and sailed my mother to Penang for my birth. My father was a member of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force fighting the Japanese in 1941 and after capture, as a Scot was billeted with the 2nd Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. A survivor of the death march from Changi, Singapore to the River Kwai, central Burma; he was not going to give in to terrorism. 
Growing up, the perimeter of our gardens was patrolled by armed soldiers, the main floor of the bungalow was surrounded by sand bags with Bren guns at each aspect. Before attacks started, my mother would place me in an old iron bath tub with my amah, surrounded by sand bags and then go joined my father and defend our home along with soldiers from various British and Commonwealth units. I vividly remember troops coming out of the ulu (jungle) and my mother and our servants providing first aid to troops prior to helicopters landing in our front garden to take out the wounded troops. If one has not been in primary jungle, it is hard to explain what it’s like.
Seeing the memorial in the chapel to Old Wrekinians who lost their lives in Malaya during the Emergency was, for me, poignant, especially as I believe I was at Moorland House, Heswall with the son of E. W. Draper, the first name on the plaque. If E. W. Draper was a helicopter pilot shot down over the jungles of Malaya, there is a strong probability of that connection. Please see the attached letter I wrote to the Manager of the Veterans Warfare Service UK and the Right Honorable Teresa May. This followed a letter to H.M. the Queen. The attached letter paints a vivid picture of one side of our life in Malaya.
I have some very vivid memories of our life in the twilight of the British Empire.
  • My parents, annually hosted a birthday party for my father’s badminton partner and about 150 for Uncle Mooda’s friends. Uncle Mooda was the Sultan of Perak later Agong (King). The Sultan was a fan of Roger Moore, the Saint with his white 1600 Volvo coupe and I recall sitting on his lap steering around our gardens while he operated the pedals.
  • As a senior ex-pat, my parents hosted many amazing people; for example, Douglas Bader would stay at the bungalow and play golf with my father. Bader was a scratch golfer. At the local RAF base, my father arranged for Bader to borrow a Tiger Moth and we flew over our home.
  • Eric Williams, Wooden Horse fame, was similarly a rubber planter.
  • Living near the port town of Teluk Anson, Royal Navy ships would patrol the Straits of Malacca for pirates and Indonesian marines. Whenever one of HM Ships called into port, my parents would invite the enlisted and NCOs for lunch and the officers for dinner at the bungalow. I have a photo sitting in the Captain’s bridge chair with my father and the Captain of HMS Amethyst standing behind. Circa 1956/7.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Lee, the President of Singapore and his wife, were frequent house guests.
  • I can honestly say I’ve dined with both royalty and head hunter / cannibals.  
This was a full-scale war that was called an Emergency as War Risks are regarded as sovereign risks and are excluded under most polices of insurance and as Malay produces 2/3s of the global latex supply and a considerable portion of the global supply of tin, the British Government called a war an Emergency. Due to the Emergency, for schooling, rather than run the daily risk of ambush, my parents sent me to Uplands School, Penang from 1957 to 59. After some incidents which included seeing my closest friend gunned down by bandits leaving our bungalow before the dusk to dawn curfew, defending my mother and baby sister against an armed bandit and being bitten by a king cobra, my parents sent me to be educated in the UK. My father, a Scot had put me down to attend Fettes, in Edinburgh but eventually settled on Wrekin as my maternal grandparents lived on The Wirral. 
September 1959 to June 1966. Moorland House, Heswall. Coming from a highly privileged background, where life and the climate was so very different was difficult. As the colonial boy who struggled with Latin and Greek but was fluent in Malay, Tamil, Cantonese, English and Urdu, with a suntan, in winter, marked me as being “different”. Not hearing gunfire or being surrounded by heavily armed adults was different! Going for school walks was different; where I came from, you simply did not do that! Whenever I heard a car “backfire”, as taught, I’d drop to the ground, much to the amusement of the other boys. Where I came from, if you were British / European, regardless of age or gender, you were a target. 
September 1966 -71 Tudor House, Wrekin College. The environment was simply amazing and so very different from Uplands and Moorland House. Wrekin treated pupils as young adults, with the associated responsibilities. We were encouraged to develop both mentally and physically and dreams encouraged. My teachers opened a whole world of possibilities with a foundation that set me on a path to where I am today. I visited the school in late June 2019 and the memories came flooding back. The Wrekin of today is even better than in my time; the expansion and development were truly impressive. Any pupil who attends and embraces Wrekin has a distinct advantage over others who are perhaps less fortunate. 
At Wrekin I developed my swimming which taught me endurance and perseverance. I have Mr. R Watkins, Mr. D Bale and Mr. I. Gale to thank for all their help along with many others.
1971 – 1978.
I entered articles to be trained as a chartered loss adjuster with the firm, Thomas Howell, Selfe & Co in their Liverpool offices. The senior partner, John Hilton Spence was an OW, a fact I discovered some time after joining. The professional education, development and experience taught me much, particularly, a desire to prevent insurance losses from happening and so I embarked on my risk management qualifications, which I continued and completed at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Thomas Howell was a truly wonderful company and training ground; I still keep in touch with former colleagues. 
February 1978.
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
15 February 1978 I emigrated to Canada and join international insurance brokers Marsh. After two years, I decided that insurance broking was not for me and returned to insurance claims as claims manager for Phoenix Continental and Commercial Union in Vancouver. After receiving my Fellowship from the Insurance Institute of Canada and Simon Fraser University in Risk Management I became a Risk Manager.
October 1988. December 1999.
Placer Dome Inc., Vancouver, B.C. Manager Risk & Insurance. Placer Dome Inc., based in Vancouver, B.C., was a multinational gold, silver, copper and molybdenum mining company. The global foot print included investments, exploration, projects and operations.
The shear scope and magnitude of the projects and operations were well beyond anything I had ever experienced. Overnight, the numbers I dealt with went from thousands to billions. My first job, buy a much larger calculator!
I was tasked to developed and run the risk management, security (physical and human assets), business intelligence and insurances programmes for the Corporation, globally. Without doubt, Wrekin and my prior life experiences gave me the self-confidence to manage a challenging job which included, working with insurance and reinsurance underwriters, brokers, host government regulators / ministers, engineers, bankers, lawyers, insurance adjusters and others. The security work involved working closely with companies and individuals, former members of Special Forces and security & intelligence services/agencies from around the world. Many a happy hour was spent planning, then planning to foil, bullion hijacks. Risks ranged from sovereign/political, bullion and currency inconvertibility, social, exploration, operational, environmental, security risks including kidnap for ransom and teaching colleagues and their families how not to be a target whilst on foreign assignment or travelling. 
My first project was an underground gold mine and surface processing project located in the north central Highlands of Papua New Guinea, a very challenging environment to live and work with any degree of safety and where the concept of personal hygiene was and is a concept. In a country with 2/3rds of the world’s languages, the culture includes anarchy, inter-tribal warfare and kidnap which occur with regularity. Extreme violence is a fact of daily life and on an island far to the east of the mainland, I was shown “long pig”; 248 cannibalized human remains from early 1900s kept in a cave.  
Risk and Security Management for a global mining company, is not a 9 to 5 job as it takes you away from home for long periods of time, travelling to isolated and challenging/dangerous places around the world. It is; however, exciting, fascinating and on occasion, frightening but I wouldn’t do anything else. Growing up in a multi-cultural and multi-religious environment I believe prepared me for a lot of what I encountered in my work life.
March 2000. April 2002. 
Phelps Dodge, now Freeport Phelps, Phoenix, Arizona. I joined Phelps Dodge in Phoenix, Arizona as the Assistant Director Risk and Security Management. Phelps Dodge operated copper mines and had subsidiary wire and cable and carbon black companies. Each division had a global footprint and my job included visiting each operation regardless of location. After two years I was approached by a Denver, Colorado mining company and moved back to the gold sector. 
April 2002 to October 2011.
Newmont Mining, Denver, Colorado. Director, Global Risk Management. Similar to Placer Dome Inc., Newmont has a global footprint with the same challenges that any mining or industrial operation faces when working in foreign host communities, in remote areas, some of which were regarded as “hardship posts” with the associated challenges of living and working in some third world countries. 
October 2011 to present.
Principal – Russell Risk Consulting LLC. I now consult for mining companies, specifically, for former colleagues. Whilst life is decidedly less “exciting”, I can focus on the important things in life such as getting my golf handicap into single digits and enjoying life in Sun Lakes, Arizona to the full. 
In 1996 I was diagnosed with hereditary hemochromatosis which in itself made global travel interesting with the need for weekly phlebotomies. Hemochromatosis, destroys internal organs and joints specifically, cartilage. Since diagnosis, I’ve had three knee, two hip and two knuckle replacements. If any OW has a Celtic ancestry, please get checked for ferritin overload. With treatment, regular phlebotomies, one can live a relatively normal life.
In 1980/1, Peter G. H. Weldon, T 61-66 and I met. Peter lives in British Columbia and is both an engineer and chartered accountant specializing in forensics. From that time, I have enjoyed our friendship we have travelled the world together as Peter did all my forensic work from 1988 to the present. Peter brought an added dimension to operational risk reviews. For the first time in mining risk management, using mine plans and budgets, our reports accurately quantified exposures both from operational and enterprise risk perspectives which allowed the corporation and global insurance & reinsurance underwriters to accurately understand exposures and the financial consequences.
In the cocktail hour of our lives, my wife Dale and I, are enjoying all the facets of living in a community that offers a wide variety of fun. Life could not be better. If any OWs live near Phoenix, Arizona, please look us up.
Jonathan A. A. Russell
Sun Lakes, Arizona.
4, October 2019.

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