From Barrow to Baghdad by Philip Caine

Philip took us on an amazingly zealous whistle-stop tour of his diverse career which started when he left school in 1966 aged 16. Men who lived in Barrow in Furness at that time were almost duty bound to work in the shipyards, so Philip’s dad was a bit taken aback when he announced that he wanted to be a chef instead. Fortunately for him, his obvious passion overcame any family opposition and, after qualifying, he moved on to gain experience in the Lake District, then Harrogate, then Cheshire, then the Ritz, then Paris. He eventually returned to Barrow to work as head chef in a local hotel and it was here that he met his wife.


After several years of working very unsocial hours for seven days a week, his canny wife suggested he move into hotel management so, he successfully gained a position in Aberdeen however, after three years, he was back in Barrow as a general manager. By now it was the late ‘70s and life was good but Philip was becoming bored so, his canny wife suggested he apply to be a chef on a North Sea oil rig. After only a year of being based in Aberdeen, he was promoted to chef manager, then facilities manager then he joined the BP management team where he stayed for 17 years. By now, Philip was financially stable, his kids had flown the nest and, encouraged by his canny wife, he looked for a new mission in the oil and gas industry; it came in the form of a job offer as a project manager in the Algerian desert. The fact that it was also tax free might have spurred him into accepting although not surprisingly, he did such a good job, he was asked to split his time between there and carrying out a similar role in the Nigerian jungle.

By now it was the early ‘90s and his reputation for getting the job done successfully went before him so, he was headhunted to take on a lucrative assignment in Kazakhstan in the hydrocarbon industry. Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet Republics to declare independence during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Philip’s role as Operations Director brought him into ‘dodgy’ (his words not mine) contact with the KGB and the Moscow mafia, both of whom he worked closely with.

On the back of his ongoing success in Kazakhstan and Russia, Philip resigned his role, combined with a colleague and went into the hotel industry again however, sadly his success was short lived as the business failed and left him somewhat financially embarrassed however, his phone rang. On the other end was a friend offering him a job in post war Baghdad overseeing the building of US military accommodation for 31,000 marines. During the seven years he spent working for the American coalition managing this project, he recouped his finances then stepped down.

He went on to spend the next four years successfully running oil services companies in Dubai and Iraq but by now it was 2014 and his canny wife decided it was time for him to retire. To put it bluntly, he did not take to it like a duck to water so, he decided to fill his time writing about his work experiences disguised as thriller novels and, also undertaking public speaking and, aren’t we glad he did. Forty-five minutes whizzed by as he laid bare his thirty-five years’ experience of operating projects across three continents in remote and hazardous locations. From Barrow to Baghdad is not a travelogue as you might expect from the title, but a frank and passionate account of Philip’s career told in a very down to earth manner.

About Nadia Dawson

Retired primary headteacher now working at Lincoln University
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1 Response to From Barrow to Baghdad by Philip Caine

  1. SarahT says:

    He was a brilliant speaker and it was a shame that more members weren’t able to be in the hall today.

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