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Stephen Marchant, 1912-2003

Stephen was born at Newport House, Weston under Lizard, Staffordshire August 11 1912 and died 30 August 2003. In his early years he acquired a great love and sound knowledge of the countryside. He was educated at Shrewsbury school, following which he spent some years working in London for the Angle Saxon Oil Co. During this time he came to the decision that a university education was the sine qua non for a fulfilling career. In 1935 he was accepted by Caius College, came out with a first in Natural Sciences, taking geology as his subject in part two and supported by Shell for the last year.

He joined Shell and spent his first two years in Egypt as a field geologist. Later he found himself in the jungles of Borneo working up the streams and rivers, the only outcrop sites to be found. In the course of this he contracted a deadly strain of typhoid and always maintained that he owed his life to his Dyak assistants who carried him on a litter back to civilisation. Once out of danger he was evacuated to Australia. Subsequently he always spoke of the Dyaks with great affection.

By this time the world was at war. Stephen served in the Australian forces in New Guinea and New Britain (1943–45) following which he was repatriated. In 1946 he married Mary McCauley, an Australian, resumed his career with Shell and after three years in Nigeria resigned and returned to England to take up an academic post in the Geology Department at the University of Birmingham under Prof. Fred Shotton. For his contribution to the work of the Department he took up mapping on Black Coombe in the south west Lake District.

Academic life did not suit his restless temperament and after a few years he rejoined Shell. However 1963 found him, with a wife and two children (Richard b. 5 May 1951 and Sarah, b. 17 November 1952) in Canberra as supervising geologist with the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Then in 1969 came another move to Melbourne as exploration manager for Woodside, followed by retirement in 1971 to Moraya, New South Wales.

By profession Stephen was a geologist but unquestionably his greatest interest lay in ornithology. In retirement as a member of the Royal Australian Ornithological Union he proved to be the driving force in bringing about major organisational reforms. However hiss greatest contribution to ornithology was unquestionably the preparation of the Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds.

Although Stephen could be intolerant and impatient of those who fell short of his own meticulous standards, to his friends he was a delightful companion, wittily humorous and never without an apt quotation from his much-loved Shakespeare. He was a man of strong personality, and unforgettable.

Don Griffiths