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Nigel Rendell, 1942 - 2007

Nigel developed his passion for geology at Royal Liberty School, Romford, under the tutelage of John Reekie, who inspired so many of his pupils in the subject. He graduated from Durham University in 1964.

After a brief spell teaching, he joined the NCB in 1965 and so began a lifetime’s involvement with the coal industry. He cut his teeth with the Opencast Executive in Northumberland and Durham then moved underground (Yorkshire, 1969) where he was employed on exploration for the new drifts at Royston and Prince of Wales. In 1971 he returned to Durham – initially as geologist with special responsibility for North Durham, eventually becoming Senior Geologist, Northeast Area.

The early years were exciting, with close involvement in offshore drilling and development of new reserves, including a period with the National Exploration Unit drilling in South Warwickshire and North Oxfordshire. He was seconded to Amax in 1974 as lead geologist to an expedition to Spitsbergen, which started his interest in glaciated terrains. Eventually, though, the task of the geologist reversed so that instead of seeking new reserves, he was increasingly called upon to find geological reasons to support write-off of reserves, and subsequent pit closure. This, and the 1983 Strike, was so disillusioning that Nigel resigned in 1984.

He took up a smallholding near Durham where he started a woodworking business, kept bees, rare sheep and goat breeds while undertaking occasional consultancy work. He joined FWS Consultants in 1987 and was re-immersed in coal exploration for licensed opencast and drift-mines, and for CBM/CMM. Overseas assignments in Venezuela and Poland provided sunshine and vodka. Once more the declining prospects of the industry eventually led him to widen his expertise into geoenvironmental studies, to which he readily adapted. His skills as a field geologist were superb and his commonsense approach was much appreciated and admired by all who worked with him. His tenacity was displayed to me once when tramping outbye together along a partly flooded drift, each shouldering hard-won channel samples, Nigel disappeared down a flooded sump-hole (the cover planks having floated away). He reappeared, soaked in oily, coaly water but still clutching the sack!

Despite ‘going to the dogs’ - a retirement bash held at Sunderland Greyhound Track in 2006 - Nigel never really retired, but managed to intersperse professional geology more and more with developing interests in astronomy, genealogy, fishing, boats, travel – especially to Ireland and the Western Isles, gardening, and his beloved grandchildren.

He died of prostate cancer on 26 November 2007 just a few months after diagnosis, with so much still to do and enjoy in life. Nigel was a universal geologist, the best of the old school. He could, and did, turn his hand to everything. He was enthusiastic in every aspect of geology – and was fascinated by science and engineering as a whole. We all learned from him, and his ready smile and infectious laugh are sorely missed. He leaves Anne, his wife of 43 years, three children, six grandchildren, and a host of good friends.

Rick Smith