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John Cole Roberts 1935-2016

dykDistinguished structural geologist who pioneered fracture patterning and its impact on jointing structures.

John, who was known as ‘JC’ to his friends and colleagues, concentrated his studies on structural geology and taught and published on structural topics throughout his career.

John was born in Dowlais, South Wales, and was the first boy to take geology O-level and A-level at Merthyr County Grammar School. He went on to study at Swansea University where he graduated in geology in 1956. He completed his thesis ‘Jointing and Minor Tectonics of the Neath Disturbance and Adjacent Areas’ and obtained his PhD in 1961. JC published his seminal paper on ‘Feather Fracture and the Mechanics of Rock Jointing’ in the American Journal of Science in 1961.

After receiving his doctorate, JC became Assistant Lecturer at University College of Wales Aberystwyth where he met his future wife Susie, then a mathematics undergraduate student.  They were married in 1964. He then moved to Northern Ireland as Assistant Lecturer at University College of Magee, Londonderry, and in 1968 moved to the New University of Ulster at Coleraine, where he remained until he retired in 2001 as Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science.

John’s studies in structural geology concentrated on the South Wales coast and the South Wales Coalfield. He became an expert in the fracture science of the South Wales Coalfields, the Vale of Glamorgan and Gower Peninsula. One of his favourite localities was the beach at Lavernock Point west of Cardiff, where he enjoyed demonstrating the feather fracture patterns in the Jurassic strata before the tide came in! In Donegal, N W Ireland, John focused on the geology of the Inishowen Peninsula and was acknowledged as an expert on the area’s geology, regularly leading geological tours of the area. Throughout his career John published papers on all these areas.

John and Susie lived in Portstewart on the Causeway Coast, and in retirement he volunteered as part of the local Causeway Hospital Radio team as well as being an active member of his local Probus club and Portstewart golf club.

‘JC’ was an enthusiastic and pleasant colleague, famous for his wit and repartee. His colourful waistcoats were a legend at gatherings of Swansea University past geology PhD students (‘The Half Moon Club’), and he was looking forward to the next get together in 2018.

John died on 30 September 2016 from pancreatic cancer and is survived by his widow Susie and daughters Rebecca and Hannah and grandchildren.

By Larry Thomas