About Roddy Urquhart

Portrait - Roddy Urquhart

I was born in Canada in 1957. Before I was a year old, my parents returned to the UK and we settled in East Hampshire. From an early age I was interested in maps, wildlife and mountains.

When I was 11 years old, I was taken on a geography field trip to the South Downs and we took bearings on different hills and made our own map using kilometres. The advantages of the kilometre-based National Grid were duly appreciated. I did not live in a mountainous area but was impressed by the scale of mountains when visiting my grandmother in the Highlands and on a family trip to Switzerland. When I was 12, my school switched to textbooks with decimal currency and metric units; suddenly my maths proficiency took a massive step forward. I really began to see the benefits of using metric, which my teachers were telling me, would shortly be universally adopted in the UK.

My first Prominent Peak ascent was Snowdon on a school trip when I was 15. A year later I ascended several P500s/Munros in Kintail, Western Highlands, on a family holiday. I also completed some long distance footpaths in the south of England in my late teens.

I studied Electronics & Electrical Engineering at the University of Glasgow. Among other things, this gave me a chance to get to know part of the Southern Highlands and Arran. My doctoral research involved computational geometry a research area relevant for geographic data analysis, image processing and pattern recognition.

My career has been in the electronics industry, mainly in integrated circuit (silicon chip) design. I lived for a decade in Germany where it was enjoyable to reap the benefits of using one system of measurement i.e. metric. Germans are no more intelligent than the British but generally seem to be much more practically numerate and measurement aware. The current UK measurement confusion obscures understanding of many practical issues.

After returning to the UK, I was shocked to see that nothing had moved forward on adopting metric. I was particularly surprised at the absence of hill lists based on metric criteria when maps had been metric for more than two decades. I am not the most accomplished hillwalker and have not completed any list yet. However, I have introduced my family to appreciating Prominent Peaks in the UK and abroad.

Some years ago I found out about the UK Metric Association (then only a website) which I felt was a lone voice on an almost taboo issue. I duly joined and served as the first UKMA Secretary from 2002 to 2005.

I am married with three children. I am actively involved in my local church and am also a member of the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.