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Henry Clifford Potter, 1921 - 2004

Henry Clifford Potter (Cliff Potter) died on 20 January 2004. He was an able geologist and a man of outstanding personal qualities. His was a life inspired by humanitarian values, informed by common sense and courtesy.

Born near Newcastle, Cliff went to school in Northumberland. His early studies at King’s College, Newcastle, were interrupted by the outbreak of WW2. He served in the Ayrshire Yeomanry and in 1943 was wounded in North Africa. Invalided out in 1945, he returned to King’s College, and the following year gained first class honours in Geology and won the Labour Prize for Field Geology.

From 1946 to 1952 Cliff worked overseas as an oil exploration geologist: in Venezuela and Canada with Shell, then in Trinidad and in the USA with Domoil. In Venezuela he married Dorothy Enid Jackson (Dolly) whom he had met in England. They had three sons, Harold, John and Eric.

The seven years (1953 to1960) spent in Trinidad where Cliff was Chief Geologist of Domoil were fondly recalled; there they made many friends. Cliff worked on leases in the mountainous rain forest of the Trinidad Northern Range, developing an enduring interest in its geology. In 1962 they returned to England. Cliff read for a doctorate at Hatfield College, Durham on the geology of the Northern Range. His PhD was awarded in 1971.

Cliff and Dolly shared a deep love of fine architecture. In 1964 at a public enquiry in Newcastle the residents of the Leazes and St Thomas’s district, led by Cliff and Dolly, successfully challenged the authority’s plans to demolish these Georgian and early Victorian properties. Thus was saved part of Newcastle’s heritage, now considered a showpiece of inner-city rejuvenation. That was Cliff’s proudest achievement.
From 1964 to 1985 Cliff was lecturer in Economic Geology at King’s College, London. His lectures are remembered for drawing on his expertise in oil exploration geology, delivered with enthusiasm and a sense of fun. He led field courses throughout Britain in all seasons, and after the day’s work he would join the students for a couple of pints. While at King’s College he was also a consultant with the oil industry. His geological work was important in the discovery of the Beatrice Oil Field in the Moray Firth. He later worked for small companies including Newcastle Exploration, until 1999.

Having a lifetime’s interest in left-wing politics, Cliff was elected a Labour councillor for the London Borough of Southwark and became a magistrate. He was deeply involved in the planning process, becoming Chairman of Planning Applications. He held those posts for over ten years.

Cliff’s many other interests included the theatre – he was a brilliant comic actor, catamaran racing, and the welfare of animals. In 1999, John Saunders, a friend and colleague from Trinidad days assisted him in finalising and publishing the geological maps of the Northern Range. In the last years of his life Cliff suffered from Alzheimer’s. He is survived by Dolly and his sons Harold and Eric.

Jim Ward