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Shirley Louise (Lou) Donovan, 1935 – 2007

Shirley Louise Donovan (née Saward), known to many as Lou, took life very seriously and was always prepared to fight for what she thought was right. She was passionate about geology and through dedication and tireless effort managed to undertake field work in many countries, and to carve out a varied and diverse career.

After graduating with a BSc in geology and zoology from Bristol University in 1957, and attending lectures for the geology honours course, she began her wide-ranging and varied working life. Her first job was in the Palaeontology Department of the British Museum (Natural History) (1958-59). Following her marriage to Desmond Donovan and the birth of her three children, Tom (1961), Tessa (1963) and Daniel (1965), she was awarded a diploma in town planning from University College London in 1971. In 1972 she left the family home to continue her interrupted career, working in planning departments at Cheshire County Council (1972-1974) and Greater Manchester Council (1974-76) before taking a job as Deputy Minerals Officer at Staffordshire County Council (1976-1978). She later retrained as a well logger and well site geologist and worked for the UK state oil company BNOC/Britoil (early 1980s), and finally the Geological Survey in Edinburgh (1985-90) before returning to London, where she was based for the rest of her life.

She became a fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1958, and was also an active member and strong supporter of the Geologists Association, the Edinburgh Geological Society, the Hull Civic Society and the Yorkshire Geological Society. She served on the Society's External Relations Committee (c.1996– 2000) and was a vocal supporter of governance reforms at the Society's AGMs, frequent correspondent to the Geoscientist, and a great champion of women in geology.

But his reveals only part of the story. Lou's interests were truly global, and she was a passionate supporter of many causes. She was a lifelong socialist, marched with CND and campaigned on the ground at Faslane and Greenham Common. She also lent her support in industrial disputes, such as the 1984–85 miners' strike, and campaigned on local issues. She saw much that she believed was wrong in the world, and led a determined fight against what she considered to be sexism, favouritism and needless bureaucracy .

Although she could come across as abrasive and argumentative – she was always willing to enter the fray in defence of her beliefs – she was above all, sincere in all she undertook. She showed a lot of kindness and encouragement to many, including myself.

In spite of growing mobility problems she remained very active to the end of her life. Her last illness was unexpected, and she died of ovarian cancer at the Royal Free Hospital in London on 19 February 2007. She was, notes former Council member David James, 'the best sort of gadfly, born of ethical conviction rather than career opportunism, and will be much missed.'.

She is survived by her husband, Desmond, emeritus Professor of Geology at UCL, her three children, Tom, Tessa and Daniel, and her much loved grandchildren, Tom's daughter Laura (1994), and Tessa's daughters, Emily (1999), Keira (2001) and Darcy (2003).

Nina Morgan