GEORGE MACDONALD, who has died aged 93, was a European languages translator in the steel industry on Teesside, and also in Scotland, with the former British Steel Corporation.

He was transferred from Scotland to Teesside in 1974 and subsequently witnessed two very different decades of dramatic changes across the steel industry. The 1970s saw the opening of some major new steel facilities, including Redcar Blast Furnace, while the 1980s brought significant closures, job cuts and restructuring.

In his free time, George MacDonald was a keen nature conservationist. He was particularly interested in ponds, rivers and wetlands, was a volunteer with the Cleveland Wildlife Trust, now the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, and helped at a number of nature reserves.

In his family life, he renovated a number of old houses and smallholdings in Great Ayton and later Hutton Rudby. He built a small network of builders, tradesmen, handymen and gardeners to help him over the years, had a great respect for their skills, and enjoyed their company.

In the community, he volunteered with school parent-teacher associations and was a Methodist church steward for some years.

Born in 1928, he grew up in Inverness, Scotland. As a youngster, his hobbies included fishing and cycling, along with music. He liked jazz and big bands and played clarinet in a dance band which toured Highland village halls. He had a gift for foreign languages and studied languages at Aberdeen University.

After university and national service in the Army, he began a career in languages. He first worked in London during the mid-1950s then returned to Scotland, where he joined the Colvilles steel business, based in Motherwell. The company was connected to various plants including the huge Ravenscraig works.

During that era, George lived in Glasgow and met his future wife, Irene. She was a young draughtswoman in Parkhead who worked for the Beardmore iron and engineering company. She produced technical drawings for heavy castings and engineering components including locomotive axles. They were married in 1958 and lived in Glasgow and then Motherwell.

In 1967, steel plants around Motherwell became part of the new British Steel Corporation (BSC). Likewise, steel companies on Teesside were also nationalised.

By the early 1970s, BSC aimed to consolidate its operations in five UK regions including on Teesside. Construction of the huge Redcar Blast Furnace began around 1973. Some Scottish steel industry employees moved to Teesside, with George MacDonald among them. He, Irene and their three young sons moved to Great Ayton in 1974.

On Teesside, George spent some early time working in an old office near Middlesbrough's Newport Bridge. Later he moved to the new BSC research laboratories at Ladgate Lane, Marton.

He translated steelmaking, scientific and research reports. His main languages were German, French and Italian. But he also did some face-to-face interpreting at steel plants between British and foreign representatives. He also made overseas trips to countries such as Luxembourg and Germany.

In that era, BSC operated a number of Teesside laboratories and offices. These included Steel House in Redcar, opened in 1978, just before the new blast furnace began production in 1979.

Also during 1979, Margaret Thatcher's government was elected at Westminster. The political change would later bring huge changes to the steel industry in the 1980s including closures and job losses.

Later amid the changes, George was relocated to BSC's laboratories in Grangetown, Middlesbrough. The district then included the nearby Cleveland Works, coke ovens at South Bank and the Lackenby works.

George's lunch breaks often involved a quick walk beside the steel, shipping and engineering environments around South Bank and the River Tees. Despite the industry and pollution, he knew of many streams, becks, ponds and marshes that were important for natural wildlife along the course of the Tees. He championed awareness of such sites and carried out conservation tasks single-handedly and with others, supporting water plants, frogs, toads and newts.

British Steel was privatised in 1987 and George took early retirement in 1988, aged 60. But he continued with freelance translation work. He worked from home but regularly visited Middlesbrough Central Library for resources. Over the years, he built some long-term friendships with a number of overseas customers, especially in Germany's Ruhr region and the city of Duisburg.

In his spare time, he helped Cleveland Wildlife Trust, at sites such as Egglescliffe, Portrack, Guisborough, Margrove, Coatham and Saltburn.

At Cod Beck Reservoir near Osmotherley, he campaigned for road warning signs and physical measures to help toads cross a moorland road. Hundreds of toads were being flattened by traffic while trying to reach the reservoir to spawn. He also helped organised volunteers to carry the amphibians safely across the road in buckets, working with the North York Moors National Park Authority and the National Trust.

At home, renovating old houses and keeping smallholdings with vegetables, fruit and some animals were joint interests for both George and Irene. They did this at Gribdale, near Great Ayton, and later at a house on Belbrough Lane, Hutton Rudby.

In the early 2000s, George and Irene moved back to Great Ayton to a modern house needing less work. He found time to play the clarinet again and attend concerts in Darlington, Stokesley and Helmsley. He also had a photograph of the Redcar Blast Furnace and its coastal setting by landscape photographer Joe Cornish.

George enjoyed good health for most of his life but suffered some strokes in his later years. In August this year, he had a serious stroke and was treated at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and then Northallerton's Friarage Hospital. He was well cared for, but died on September 15.

He is survived by his wife, Irene, and sons George, Niall and Robbie and their families.

Yesterday, a short committal service for the family was held at Teesside Crematorium, followed by a longer thanksgiving service for all at Great Ayton Methodist Church.