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Paul Clasby 1931 - 2011


Amateur geologist who became an acknowledged expert on the fossils of the Barton Beds

Paul ClasbyMany Fellows will be saddened to hear of the death of Paul Clasby on 21 February, whose expertise in Tertiary palaeontology and unstinting generosity with his time was an inspiration to all who knew him.

Paul was born in Malta on 26 August 1931, where his father was serving with the Royal Navy. The oldest of three children, his early childhood was spent in various places where his father was posted, with the family eventually settling in Beckenham. He became an unhappy evacuee to Wales during WW2, and was sent instead to the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook in Suffolk where his aptitude for figures became apparent. A career in banking beckoned on leaving school, and he remained with what became NatWest (briefly interrupted by national service in the RAF) until retirement.

Paul’s passion, though, was for science, and his interest in geology developed when he was posted by the bank to Lymington in 1966. He and his wife Jennie (m.1953), lived there ever since, close to his beloved Barton Beds of whose fossils he amassed an extensive collection, becoming a leading expert despite his initial lack of qualifications. His collection, kept at home, was always open to invited groups and individuals. He was a founder member of the Tertiary Research Group.

The Open University was a godsend to him, allowing him to pursue his fascination with the sciences at degree level. He joined the Open University Geological Society soon after its formation and frequently led trips to Barton. His financial skills led him to become national Treasurer of OUGS for a couple of years in the 1980s. He will be remembered with gratitude by the many OU geology students who have attended the London branch revision days at Egham. Paul led the palaeontology section for the day every year until 2005.

Paul was interested by Charles Lyell, with whom there was a local connection (Lyell spent his childhood at Bartley Lodge in the New Forest). Paul researched the history of Bartley Lodge, and published a pamphlet on it. It was Lyell too who brought Paul to his position as Honorary Associate Curator at Oxford University Museum of Natural History where Lyell’s fossil collection had been languishing uncatalogued and uncurated until Paul started work on them, working there occasionally before his retirement from the bank in 1990, and regularly since then. Paul was an active member of the Geological Curators’ Group.

Paul, a keen sailor, once sailed in the Fastnet Race, and more frequently in the Round the Island Race and in cross-Channel races. His astronomical interests led him to establish a small home observatory, and to join the Wessex Astronomical Society. Paul was even instrumental in setting up the Lymington U3A table tennis club for over-50s, serving as Lymington U3A branch chairman from 2006 until 2010. He was made President of the group on 1 April 2010 in recognition of his work. Paul was also a volunteer in the Open University Disabled Group, and spent a week or a fortnight every year for a number of years, travelling with them as a helper.

Whatever Paul set out to do, he did wholeheartedly, and his enthusiasm and warmth were an inspiration to others. He always set himself high standards, and encouraged others to do the same. He is survived by his wife Jennie, their three children Caroline, Clive and Louise, and six grandchildren. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
  • Donations in memory of Paul are for the RNLI or for Hampshire & IOW Air Ambulance, and can be sent c/o Diamond and Son, 9 – 11 Lower Buckland Road, Lymington, Hants. SO41 9DN (T 01590 672060)

Barbara Cumbers