Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future Ed Means Column - Learn about Ed Means
Ed on a boat on the Falkirk Wheel
in May 2011
Autobiography, Part 1
I was born in Inverness, Scotland on 5 April 1936, the first
child of Catherine (Katie) MacKenzie of Inverness and Thomas Escue Means
of Georgia, USA. Mother and Father had met in 1918, when she was 17 and
he was 18. Father was a U.S. Navy wireless operator at a naval
communications station by the Muirtown Bridge over the Caledonian Canal
in Inverness. He maintained wireless communication with vessels laying
mines between Scotland and Norway in a British-American operation to
prevent the German fleet and U-boats escaping from the Baltic to open
Mother’s father, Alexander MacKenzie, was born in 1868 in
Ullapool, the main harbor and fishing port in the Western Highlands. He
became a seaman on the Caledonian Canal steamers Gondolier and
Glengarry. He died in 1904 when my mother was three years old.
Mother’s mother, Annie Ferguson, was born in Inverness in 1872 and died
at the Ach-an-Eas home in 1952. After Grandpa died, Grandma supported
herself and three daughters by making their tiny row house at #10 Wells
Street – just four houses from the River Ness – into a bakeshop. Mother
and her sisters helped with the baking and delivered bread, rolls and
scones to Grandma’s customers. My mother did well at the Central School,
was considered a “lass o’ pairts”, completed her studies at the
Inverness Royal Academy, and was employed by the Inverness Parish
Council until she married Father in 1927 and went to America with him.
Father was the youngest son of a farmer in rural central
Georgia. The Means family were Ulster Scots in County Tyrone, Ireland.
Family members had been straggling into America since 1718. James Means,
the first of my direct line in America, arrived around 1782-3 in
Savannah, Georgia. He initially lived with relatives near what is now
Charlotte, North Carolina. His son, also named James, was born in 1790.
The younger James married Mary Ann McKenzie in 1812. She was born in
North Carolina in 1787. She was the daughter of William McKenzie, born
in 1758 in Cork, Ireland (where his father was probably a British
revenue official), and Ellinor (or Eleanor) Campbell, who was born “near
Inverness, Scotland” in 1760. Father’s mother was descended from a Scot,
William MackGahye, who was a landowner in Virginia in 1654. He is the
progenitor of all the McGehees, and many of the McGees, in America. He
was probably born in Galloway.
After World War I ended on 11 November 1918, Father remained
in Inverness while the former mine-laying team were clearing the mines.
He returned to America in mid-1919 and was honorably discharged from the
Navy. He became a radio officer on merchant ships and signed onto ships
bound for the Glasgow area or northern England. While the ships were in
port he would travel to Inverness to see my mother. He later became a
stenographer for the U.S. Senate, where he recorded and transcribed the
proceedings of Senate committees. When the Senate was in summer recess,
he would be off to Inverness again. In 1927 my mother finally agreed to
marry him, but first made him promise that all her children would be
born in Scotland. That was a major commitment in times before
transatlantic air service, but Father honored it.
Father and Mother were married in Inverness on 28 October
1927. She subsequently accompanied Father to Washington D.C., where she
worked for the Washington agent of Lloyd’s of London. She was greatly
surprised to become pregnant in 1935 after eight years of marriage. She
returned to Inverness for my birth and left me with Grandma when she
returned to Washington some months later. She returned to Inverness in
1938 for my brother Tommy’s birth on 10 August 1938. In 1939 Father
became seriously ill. Mother returned to America with me. She left Tommy
in Grandma’s care, never dreaming that war would prevent our return
until 1945. During the war she took a job in the US Defense Department.
When she retired in 1967 after 26 years’ service, she was awarded the
Defense Department’s highest award for distinguished service by a
civilian. The Secretary of Defense personally presented the award.
In 1940-42 I lived with
the family of one of my father’s sisters in Macon, Georgia. In 1943 I
moved to the Naval Air Station on the island of Key West, Florida, where
my uncle Edward was stationed. He had been in the Navy from 1912 to the
early 1930s and then retired to the Naval Reserve. He was recalled to
active duty in early 1942. The Key West Naval Air Station was a base for
seaplanes which hunted German submarines that were attempting to torpedo
oil tankers sailing from the Gulf coast oilfields to east coast ports.
After V-E day we moved back to Uncle Edward’s home in Portsmouth,
In the summer of 1945
Mother and I returned to Inverness and #10 Wells Street. My re-entry to
Scotland was eased by the wonderful staff of Central School. I knew
little about £-s-d, stone, hundredweight and the like, but Mrs. Cameron,
my 3-B teacher, put extra effort into remedying that. She prepared me
well for Miss MacDougall's 4-A class. Miss MacDougall had also taught
Mother and remembered her well. She and other teachers had done well for
my mother, who, although a poor lassie who delivered buns from her
widowed mother's bakery, qualified for and was very successful at the
Inverness Royal Academy.
I spent many hours on
the green by the River Ness playing scratch-up football (soccer). Once,
several playmates and I ran along the river bank trying to stone a
sgarbh, which only years
later I discovered was the Gaelic word for cormorant. One of the boys
had heard there was a bounty (five shillings as I recall) on them. We
didn't collect. I also remember going “oot the Longman” airfield to play
in the wrecked airplanes. And then there were the piper and the organ
grinder who played (not on the same day!) at our end of the Greig Street
Bridge. Sometimes we would “help” them by dancing, but when they
finished a tune they would fiercely chase us away.
And I will never forget
being on Culloden Moor for the commemoration of the battle exactly 200
years before, when “Bonny Prince Charlie’s” army was crushed by British
regulars with artillery, aided by government-supporting clans. The
subsequent wanton destruction of the Highlands was not the British
Empire’s finest hour. I still regret my inability to attend the 250th
anniversary on April 16 1996.
Mother returned to
America with Tommy and me in 1947. Scottish education proved very
helpful: Tommy and I were tested by education officials and assigned
immediately to advanced classes. I was advanced three levels, which in
retrospect was not a good thing because I was not allowed to do many
things my classmates could do. Luckily I had grown tall at age 11 and
most of my classmates never knew my real age until the graduation
ceremony. I was fourteen years and two months old. The usual graduation
age was 17 or 18. I tried going to a regional college, but I realized I
wasn’t mature enough and dropped out.
For the next year I
worked first as a grocery clerk and later as a newspaper copy boy,
having added three years to my age so I could get the jobs. Tommy and I
then moved to Washington and lived with Mother, who continued to work at
the Defense Department in the Pentagon. Tommy continued in high school
and I worked first as a newspaper copy boy, a notoriously low-paying
job. I switched to being an office boy/messenger in the Washington
office of Pan American World Airways, which paid a tiny bit more but
gave me the huge benefit of an almost free flight after a year’s
service. Christmas 1952 (and “Hogmanay” 1953) was my first return to
Inverness since leaving in 1947.
I left Pan Am a few
months later for much better pay as an offset press operator at the
Washington gas company. This machine turned out to be the Corporate
Secretary’s new toy. Within half a year I was promoted to be a clerk in
his office. I then took another shot at college in evening classes, but
couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I did know I didn’t
want to go into the Army for the required two-year draft, so in January
1955 I enlisted in the Air Force for four years instead.
That was one of the
best decisions I ever made. I grew up and – after basic training – had
fun while doing it. I was trained as an intelligence specialist and then
assigned to an air rescue squadron near Kaiserslautern, Germany, between
the Rhine and the French border. My squadron was equipped with
amphibious airplanes and helicopters. It was charged with maintaining
high readiness for finding and rescuing airmen downed behind enemy
lines. As an intelligence specialist I maintained details of small
airfields, lakes suitable for water landings, and radar and antiaircraft
installations and capabilities in iron curtain countries. I would assist
the intelligence officer brief our aircrews on this information before
missions. Our squadron prepared to deploy to Cyprus when the infamous
five-day Suez war started in 1956, but the war ended before we could
deploy. We were also on full alert for a week or so during the Hungarian
revolution, but otherwise all was peaceful.
I took evening classes
in German and also in other academic subjects that were taught under
contracts with professors from U.S. colleges. I frequently hooked rides
on our airplanes that were going to Britain. Our aircraft were serviced
at a U.S. base near Warrington in northern England. Since the aircraft
would not return for two or three days, I would take a train to Crewe,
where I could connect for a train to Inverness. Sometimes I could hook
rides on planes going to bases nearer London, where I could visit
cousins. I also hooked rides to Denmark and Norway.
assignment in Germany ended in June 1958. Luckily for me, the U.S.
forces were being downsized at that time. I was discharged six months
before my enlistment expired. I started college that September from Los
Angeles State College and worked part time. The college honored the
classes I took in Germany, so I received a B.S.degree in engineering in
September 1960. I had been working part time as an engineering aide with
Space Technology Laboratories (STL) in Redondo Beach, several miles
south of Los Angeles International Airport. I was promoted to member of
the technical staff in June 1960.Father, who had never recovered his
health, died in July. I went back to Washington for his burial in
Arlington National Cemetery.
At STL I was involved
in determining the performance of the propulsion systems of
intercontinental ballistic missiles. It involved analyzing huge amounts
of data from radar tracking systems and telemetry transmitted from test
missiles in flight. I was bored stiff, but it was a prestigious place to
work, the people were very congenial, the pay was good, and I married
one of the beautiful secretaries, Carol Henderson, that same year. Our
only child, Philip Eric, was born in August 1962. We settled down in the
pleasant town of Redondo Beach.
Besides being bored
with my job, I hated the smoggy, congested Los Angeles area. Luckily
Redondo Beach had little smog, but the congestion was everywhere. In
1963 I discovered that Stanford Research Institute (SRI), a large
military contractor at that time as well as a scientific research
institute, was seeking someone with military experience and an
engineering degree. SRI was located in Menlo Park, California, a mile
from the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto. The Santa Clara Valley
was famous for its cherry, apricot and pear orchards at that time, which
was several years before the rapid buildup and its accompanying
congestion. Alas, the orchards are now long gone, and the valley was
unofficially renamed “Silicon Valley”.
I became an operations
analyst in SRI’s Naval Warfare Research Center. Most of my work was with
the Marine Corps, which needed to modernize its D-Day-type landing
tactics and equipment. I was heavily involved with analyzing Marine
operations and requirements for turbine-powered helicopters and
hovercraft and advanced surface landing craft. It was great fun – I got
to go on training exercises including amphibious landings and helicopter
assaults. But I realized I would never become a Marine general when I
grew up – nor did I want to – so I decided I would like to go into
At that time Stanford
University did not have an evening MBA program, but the University of
Santa Clara, just a few miles from my home, offered a highly-regarded
one. It took three years, but I finally received an MBA in September
1967. Those were the days before MBAs proliferated, but alas! I couldn’t
qualify for a commercial/industrial management consulting job at SRI
because I had no commercial experience.
Hawaiian Adventure and
In 1968 I was offered a
job with Pacific Technical Analysts Inc. (PTAI), a small Hawaiian
company that did data processing for local companies as well as contract
operations analysis and data processing under contract with the
Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPAC). Besides Hawaii, PTAI had data
processing centers in Saigon (Vietnam), Bangkok (Thailand), and
Vientiane (Laos). I was initially assigned to CINCPAC, with the
understanding that I could phase into the commercial operations in a
year or so.
My CINCPAC work was
very interesting. I got to visit Korea, where a senior South Korean
officer gave me a personal tour of the demilitarized zone between South
and North Korea. I also had an assignment in Japan.
Mother died in October
1967 and was buried next to Father in Arlington National Cemetery. My
brother Tommy died in mid-1968.
I became manager of
PTAI’s Honolulu data center. It was located on the 14th floor
of the Ala Moana building, at that time the tallest building in the
Waikiki district. My corner office had a fantastic view toward the ocean
and toward the airport. Almost every lunch hour I walked across the Ala
Moana park and swam out to the reef and back. Two years later PTAI was
acquired by Control Data Corporation, at that time a major computer
company, which had just won a contract for developing an advanced
command and control system for the U.S. Air force in Vietnam.
I made several trips to
Vietnam and Thailand, plus one to Vientiane, Laos, for CDC/PTAI. I also
managed our Asian operations while our area manager was off on
honeymoon. Our Saigon facility was an ex-French three-storey fortified
"villa" in downtown Saigon. Besides the area manager’s office, it housed
living quarters for American employees who did not live elsewhere in the
city. It had a “roof garden” where the staff would gather and drink beer
in the evenings. I happened to be there at the time the Americans
started to attack the North Vietnamese forces in Cambodia, and I will
never forget the steadily repeatedly "thump-pause-thump" and the flashes
of the heavy artillery at the Cambodian border. It was surreal.
As CDC’s command and
control system development effort neared completion, CDC decided to move
the headquarters of its Western Pacific Division, of which PTAI had
become a part, back to the mainland. The Honolulu data center provided a
revenue stream for TSC, but we knew it was only a matter of time before
CDC closed us down, so we bought the division from CDC and named the new
company – very unimaginatively – The Systems Corporation (TSC). We
completed development of a “turnkey” minicomputer-based system featuring
on-line data entry with real-time editing which eliminated punched cards
and minimized tape-to-tape sorting. It was successfully used in our data
center. I made a trip to American Samoa and Western Samoa to try to sell
them to the governments of American and Western Samoa but they decided
to stay with IBM. No surprise there.
The president of TSC
had even grander plans, derived from an obsession he had developed for
ferrocement boats. TSC built a cavity mold for a 50-foot ferrocement
boat “based on” a power boat design purchased from a well-known naval
architect. The hull was duly completed and fitted out for sea. The
launch, which had been enthusiastically publicized in the Hawaii media,
was a fiasco. The boat was noticeably bow-heavy and unacceptably
sluggish even though the experienced boat builder had precisely followed
the architect’s plans. The boat builder investigated and discovered the
design was not intended for a ferrocement-hulled boat at all. It quickly
became a laughing-stock among Hawaiian boaters. I don’t know what
finally became of it.
Another of the
President’s plans was to take TSC public in a shares offering. This
nearly caused a management revolt. I was named corporate treasurer to
try to keep the money under control. Then I discovered that the
president had made changes to some of the application document which we
submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington.
The changes were false, but my signature was on the original. I told him
to remove my signature from the final application or I would notify the
SEC. Obviously that was the end of my TSC career.
Luckily I had a standing invitation to re-join Stanford Research
Institute (which had been formally renamed SRI International in my
absence), which I quickly did. I resumed doing work for the Marines. I
enjoyed the work and the camaraderie, but I still wanted to try my hand
at international management consulting. That will be the subject of part
Autobiography, Part 2
My early work as a management consultant involved
accompanying experienced consultants on a variety of small projects. One
was to evaluate a small company which had developed a computer for
analyzing Fourier transforms. I had heard of Fourier transforms but had
no clue for how they could be used. This company had applied them to
analyses of the sounds generated by the propellers of submarines. These
“signatures” are unique to each submarine class, and in some cases to
individual submarines within a class. It is obvious that being able to
distinguish friendly from unfriendly submarines is a significant
advantage. The U.S. Navy had set up an undersea test range off the
central California coast to record the signatures of U.S. and friendly
country submarines. The control center was on Santa Cruz Island, which
had a small landing strip usable only by small single-engine planes. It
was an exciting flight and a very interesting project.
The largest project I worked on was in Italy, and my
assignment to it was accidental. One day I got a phone call from my
department manager who was on a marketing trip in Europe. He was in
Amsterdam at the time and he said it was freezing, nasty weather there.
International telephone connections were frequently very poor in those
days, but through the background crackling I heard him say the client
was SIT-Siemens. I said that would be great because I could still speak
passable German learned in my Air Force days. He said no, this was the
Italian associate of Siemens and its full name was Società Italiana
Telecomunicazioni Siemens, the largest manufacturer of telecom equipment
in Italy. It turned out later, after my manager returned to California,
that he had not had my résumé with him and had thought I had a lot of
telecom experience, which I didn’t. I had also never been in Italy. But
he said I would have no problem since the project manager was very
experienced in the telecom field.
The company later severed its Siemens connection and was
renamed Italtel. It wanted to expand into the U.S. telecom market. I
worked with them in Italy and the U.S. over a 3-4 year period and had
wonderful times in Milan, Rome, and their plants at L’Aquila, Palermo
(Sicily) and Catania (Sicily), where I spent a weekend at Taormina, one
of the world’s beauty spots, and went to the top of nearby Mount Etna.
My second favorite project was commissioned by the
Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, which wanted me to evaluate
the strategic growth plan of Océ-van der Grinten, a successful office
copier manufacturer in Venlo, a charming town in Limburg in the
southeast of the Netherlands. I worked with them periodically over a 2-3
year period. Océ subsequently became successful in the computer-aided
design business and was acquired by a much larger company.
Some other memorable international projects: Scotland
(Requirements for a microelectronics R&D centre, done for the old
Scotttish Development Agency); England (Gestetner); Ireland (Carroll
Industries); Germany (electrical components); Switzerland (microcircuit
packaging); Government of the Basque Country (computerization of
machine tools); Indonesia (Bandung Institute of Technology), Japan
(microelectronics); and telecommunications projects in Colombia, Mexico,
Trinidad & Tobago, Philippines, Sweden Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong,
and the U.S.A.
In 1983 I got an offer I couldn’t refuse to become president
of a small electronics market research company. That and subsequent
career developments will be the subject of Part 3.
Autobiography, Part 3
Management, Banking and more
management consulting at SRI was slowing down in the early 1980s because
of increasing competition from major accounting firms which were
diversifying into the field and undercutting our prices. When I got an
attractive offer to become president of Gnostic Concepts, a 65-person
electronic components market research firm, I decided to accept it. It
had been acquired by DRI, a much larger market research company in
Boston. DRI was having difficulty managing Gnostic from that distance.
Although still marginally profitable, Gnostic was steadily declining.
Then the giant publishing company McGraw-Hill bought DRI and asked me to
present a detailed business plan to senior management in New York for
making Gnostic profitable. The plan called for substantial investment
and I had little hope for it, so I was not surprised when a McG-Hill VP
came out to California and told me they had decided to close Gnostic
down. He said I had made a valiant effort and much to my surprise
presented me with a quite substantial cheque and McG-Hill’s best wishes.
Coincidentally I had
been approached by the Bank of America – then the largest US Bank –
about a possible job in their Capital Markets Group at Headquarters in
San Francisco. So within two weeks of leaving Gnostic in early 1984, I
found myself a Vice President, Project Finance (Telecommunications) in
the CMG. I had a small private office on the 45th floor of
the tallest building in San Francisco with an unobstructed 160-degree
view from the Golden Gate Bridge to the financial district. The job was
a lot of fun for two years, but then the Bank’s investments in Latin
American loans, California farmlands, and the growth of Dallas, Texas
all went sour at once, and BofA lost $2 billion in 1986. Obviously the
handwriting was on the wall for me.
SRI International was
still hanging onto some consulting work, so I went back to SRI to work
on a large project for Peter Kiewit Sons, a very large construction
company which, among other things, had built the huge Columbia River
Dam. They were working on installing a fiber optic communications
network system in the network of railway tunnels under downtown Chicago.
The tunnels had been built in the 1930s so that coal could be delivered
to the basement boiler rooms of the office buildings and new skyscrapers
there. Chicago Fiber Optics, the company that commissioned Kiewit’s
work, went bankrupt and Kiewit became its owner. Kiewit was cash-rich at
the time and commissioned SRI to recommend whether it should invest it
in Chicago Fiber Optics or other opportunities. We recommended that
Kiewit should invest it in the expansion of CFO because of the growth
potential of new fiber optics networks in North America. Kiewit did
that, renamed CFO Metropolitan Fiber Systems, and invested in its
expansion. MFS became a rousing success. It was eventually bought by
Worldcom at a huge profit to Kiewit.
During MFS’s expansion
SRI decided to exit the management consulting business. I went into
business for myself as MacKenzie & Means. With SRI’s and MFS’s blessings
and a farewell gift of my Apple computer and a filing cabinet, I took
over the small remainder of the MFS contract. I should add I was the
only person at MacKenzie & Means – MacKenzie was my mother’s maiden
name. I worked in the San Francisco Bay area, Washington DC and its
Maryland and Virginia suburbs, and the ‘showbiz’ and ‘ragtrade’
(clothing) areas of New York City. I also did some work in Sweden for
Swedish Telecom to complete SRI’s expiring contract there.
also looked for a permanent job in the rapidly-expanding Silicon Valley
electronics companies. They were hiring lots of young graduates, but
alas, I was already in my 50s, which the Silicon Valley companies
regarded as being ‘over the hill’.
Autobiography, Part 4
CableData et seq.
In 1993, at age 57, I joined CableData in Rancho Cordova
(suburban Sacramento) as a business development manager. CableData was
then the leading supplier of customer management and billing systems and
services to cable television operators in the United States and several
other countries. Competition was beginning to be permitted in the water,
electric and gas distribution markets, and CableData was eager to expand
by providing customer management and billing systems and services to the
My principal achievement at CableData was managing its
$10-million acquisition of Custima, a small but well-established English
company that supplied customer management and billing systems and
services to water companies in the UK and Asia, as well as to a small
water company in the United States.
My business plan for Custima required funding for
“Americanizing” its systems. CableData executives dragged their feet on
the funding and seemed to lose interest in further acquisitions. Even
worse, they were underfunding CableData’s cable television software
development just as competitors were introducing updated systems for the
cable television market. The reason, it soon became obvious, was that
CableData had secretly agreed to be acquired by a much larger company
which provided billing services to medical institutions. CableData’s
management wanted to show high profits in order to maximize its
CableData was duly acquired by DST Systems, a very large
medical billing company. CableData was renamed DST Innovis. DST Systems
made the serious error of taking little further interest in its new
subsidiary for nearly two years. DST finally took notice when DST
Innovis lost two multimillion dollar contracts, but by then the damage
had been done. DST Innovis went into a rapid decline and by 2001 was
less than half its former size. Custima was sold back to the original
owners for far less than CableData had paid for it.
I expected to be laid off at any time, but the company had
foolishly laid off its vendor relations manager and soon was having
trouble with its vendors of computer equipment and infrastructure
software. I was hastily shoved into the breach.
When I joined CableData, I set myself the goal of staying ten
years and retiring in April 1993 at age 67. Somehow or other I made it.
DST Systems eventually sold off what remained of DST Innovis.
Because my computer had
crashed in 2009, I can’t remember the year I established contact with
the Realm of Scotland (RoS) group, but I believe it was 2007. I had been
reading the Scotsman internet edition since about 2001 and had read many
excellent letters and reader comments from Dr James Wilkie, Pressgasse
21/8, A-1040 Vienna, so I contacted him. We corresponded by email and
Jim invited me to join the newly established Scottish Democratic
Alliance (SDA), which I did. (I left the SDA along with most founding
members after a coup by outsiders in April 2013.) I was very active in
posting comments to articles in the Scotsman and later the Herald and
the internet Newsnet Scotland. I worked with Jim to produce the
significant publication ‘Scotland’s National Borders’ in 2009. This has
evolved into the much more comprehensive ‘The National Borders of
Scotland – 13’ published 2 October 2013. (This is not an SDA document.
It is published by Dr James Wilkie & Associates.) It is available for
free download at
On a personal note, In March 1998 I married Annemiek Storm,
who was born in the Netherlands. I had several clients in the
Netherlands when I was with SRI International, but I first met Annemiek
in November 1996 in El Dorado Hills, California. After I retired,
Annemiek and I had a home built on a pleasant 5–acre lot with a
beautiful view about six miles southeast of Placerville, the El Dorado
County seat. In 1849 a Scotsman named James Marshall discovered gold a
few miles north of the town. Alas, it’s all gone now except for a few
flakes turned up by amateur gold panners.
Annemiek had come to the United States in 1956 and had lived
in El Dorado County for about 30 years. She is now phasing down from her
days as a top national long term care insurance agent for Genworth (a
spin-off of GE). I maintain her client records and mailing lists and
assist with her increasing activities for the Alzheimer’s Association
and several local charities. We visit relatives in Scotland and the
Netherlands every year or two and always have a wonderful time.
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