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Colin Francis Moon, 1948-2000

Colin was born in Uxbridge and attended Uxbridge Grammar school. Of wiry physique, he took up long distance running and track-race cycling. The former led to his meeting (the future) Elton John in a race against Watford Grammar, although Colin was not impressed by the running skills of the (then) Reg Dwight. Cycling strained his knees, causing him problems in fieldwork later on. Colin’s love of cricket was also spawned at this time, a strength when he settled in Yorkshire.

Colin’s career began in Art College. He produced ink artwork of great quality, an asset in drawing fossils, thin sections and maps. He also always had beautiful handwriting, even at speed. In the 1960s Sir John Cass College in the City of London was a collecting ground for students wanting a change of direction or a second chance. The department of geology was led by Ray Skelhorn and J D S McDougall. Many of us fell under their spell, and that of geology. Colin was adept at picking ideas up quickly, picking other people’s brains, and coming up with his own synthesis. He was one of the brightest graduates to emerge in 1970.

Colin went straight to Leeds (MSc, Engineering Geology) which was an innovative move at that time. There he met Ian Smalley, with whom he was to maintain life-long contact, and who set him off researching the minerals and deposits known as “quickclays”.

A year later Colin moved to Sheffield Polytechnic, where he introduced engineering geology and geotechnics into the civil engineering degrees. He was passionately committed to research and worked (with Ian) on the St Jean Vianney quickclays, their properties and the devastating effects of their liquefaction. He completed his PhD on quickclays and produced many seminal papers on clays in general. By using an electron microscope, Colin was able to show that quickclays consist of finely comminuted quartz particles, ground by glacial action.

Colin was an enthusiastic and gifted teacher who instilled his own appreciation of geology into civil engineering students. He led many field trips throughout Northern England both for the Polytechnic and the Open University. He invested much time and effort into his research, which was a particular passion.

Colin’s personality was highly individual; ribald and humorous, with a characteristic laugh. He enjoyed company and arguments and was vehement in expressing his ideas, but with a generous spirit and kindly nature. After much soul-searching he became an active Quaker. The Friends gave him an inner contentment that had not always been present in his life. Colin took on their values and many could see his personality mellow and calm. It also enabled him to combine his love of the countryside with his religious beliefs. He used to say “I investigate the landscape before I enter it”, to indicate how he tried to think before acting. Colin could be hot-headed at times.

The change in university/polytechnic philosophy in the 1990s did not suit him. He resented petty bureaucracy and infighting, changes in standards, the shift from research to mass teaching. Colin became deeply disaffected and sadly, work became a chore. He took early retirement in his late 40s - robbing the country of a gifted engineering geologist and causing the disaffection that blighted his remaining years.

Colin died on Christmas Day 2000, his wife Shirley by his side. His last years had seen his dissatisfaction grow, though his home life achieved a contentment hitherto missing. His love of reading and learning were present to the end. Colin was a great asset in any pub quiz. More especially he was generous and loyal to those people who counted him a friend. We will miss him a lot.

Laurie Doyle