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Ronald John Firman, 1929 – 2005

Ron was born just outside Norwich on 6 May 1929, in a converted railway carriage which for a short time formed his parents' home alongside the LNER. An only child, he remarkably overcame a severe physical handicap to lead a very full and fruitful life.
He attended the City of Norwich School where, at a school with a strong geological tradition, his love of geology was born. The degree to which Ron ignored his physical problems was reflected in his being made captain of the school hockey team - a status he later equalled at his college in Durham. It was at the University on Durham that Ron continued his study under the direction of such notables as Professors Lawrence Wager and Sir Kingsley Dunham. It was Wager who expressed his doubt about Ron’s ability to carry out geological fieldwork by leaving him out of a departmental field trip to the Lake District. Eric Robinson, one of Ron’s contemporaries at Durham, reflects how Wager tended to favour the type of student who could roll kayaks under the cliffs of the Skaergaard intrusion. Following an animated discussion Ron was allowed to join the trip and the obvious success of it was that he participated in all subsequent departmental trips.

Under the supervision of Frederick Stewart and with the continuing influence of Kingsley Dunham, Ron completed his PhD on the Metamorphism and metasomatism around the Shap and Eskdale granites in 1953. He was elected to Fellowship of the Society in 1951.

Ron then became a research assistant to Professor Deer at Manchester University. His stay in Manchester was short but significant; as it was there that he met Pat to whom he was married in 1955, following his appointment to a lectureship at Nottingham.
Although Ron was very much a field geologist he excelled in academic work. He gave a course on Metamorphism and Metamorphic Petrology to the final year honours students in Nottingham and - typical of the man - it was superbly prepared and delivered. Ron’s work was recognised nationally and internationally and his research in the Lake District by the award of the moiety of the Lyell Fund in 1964.
Ron also did a great deal of geological consultancy. He was in great demand for the location of hydrothermal mineral deposits in the Peak District and became an authority on the gypsum deposits of the East Midlands. Perhaps some of his most important work was for Manchester Corporation Waterworks (later North West Water Authority) in the S E Lake District, where he advised during the construction of the West Sleddale, Dam the renovation of tunnels leading from Thirlmere reservoir, and the construction of the Hettondale Tunnel between Ullswater and Haweswater.

We must consider other aspects of Ron’s life to get a full impression of him. Ron was fully involved with the Spastics Society (now known as Scope) and in 1962 helped found their ‘62 Club, a social club run entirely by those who, like Ron, were afflicted with cerebral palsy. From 1973 to 1979 he was the president of the National Association of ’62 Clubs.

Ron became Senior Lecturer in the Nottingham department in 1967, and became Senior Research Fellow on taking early retirement in 1984 – a post he held until the department –much to his chagrin – was closed in 1989, after the controversial Earth Sciences Review.

In spite of all his physical problems Ron was very much a happy man – he enjoyed life, had a very strong sense of humour and in a most delightful way was also quite happy to be the butt of some of it. One unusually warm sunny afternoon in 1955, while Ron was leading the Manchester Geological Association on a field trip to Shap, he and the few keeping pace with him were rewarded for their exertions by the sight of a delectable brunette sunbathing au naturel just above the basal Carboniferous unconformity. The lady's modesty had been restored by the time the laggards arrived. As Ron remarked, they had missed the finest exposure of the day – ample encouragement to keep up with the leader in future.

Ron was also a man of great dignity and compassion - a colleague whom one held in high esteem. In the words of Eric Robinson, Mercia has lost one of its specialist geologists and one who perhaps was not given enough credit during his life in geology.
He is survived by Pat and their three children, Hugh, Rosemary and Alice.

Ian Sutton, Ron Williamson