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William Iredale Stanton 1930-2010

Willy Stanton
Dr William (Willie) Stanton MBE died in his sleep on 30 January 2010 having been diagnosed with bone cancer. Willie was a well respected geologist, hydrogeologist, caver, author, and in many ways a man before his time.

Willie grew up in his beloved Mendip Hills, gaining an unrivalled knowledge of the area’s geology. Apart from undergraduate and post graduate study at Imperial Colledge London and 20 years of his early career working on African mines, Willie spent the remainder of his life living, working, caving and gardening on The Mendips.

He spent the next 20 years of his career with Wessex Water, and saw many name changes. Willie’s knowledge of the area was a huge value to the organisation and admired not only by his fellow employees. He was often asked to comment on radio and television, and was a regular contributor to Geoscientist and New Scientist.

Friends describe Willie as a most charming, modest man, who got on well with everyone. He was keen to share not only his knowledge, but his research, experiments, and thought provoking opinions. Everyone who knew Willie will have a story to tell. While I worked with him in the 1980’s the environment, rising sea levels, population control, and his beloved Renault 5 and its contribution to the failing finances of the French Government were all discussed over his coffee, with four sugars, and a mars bar.

Research centred on limestone, caves and the hydrogeology of the Wessex region, the concern of the effect of quarrying on the Mendips and the implications for the Hot Springs in Bath, artificial recharge, and many weekends spent with water diviners who contacted Willie requesting to undertake his ‘test’. Willie would take great delight on a Monday morning, producing a map of known cave systems overlain by the latest water diviner’s assessment of the underground features, showing obvious differences.

Willie then worked four days a week to allow him time to develop systems to allow rainwater to wash debris from Mendip Roman lead mines and caves, or to check whether the garden snails had dissolved any limestone boulders they had been encapsulated with, or the slugs had met their end in the, then unheard of, beer traps.

Following retirement from the Environment Agency, Willie continued to research his concerns over world population growth, publishing a book in 2003 ‘The Rapid Growth of Human Populations’ arguing that the population explosion marks a shift from Darwin’s theories on competition and that wars are and will, arise due to the world’s dwindling resources.

This, and his other interests, continued to keep him active through his illness. As has been widely reported, Willie’s experiments kept him going right to the end of his life with his devoted wife Angela, and their two daughters. Willie will be remembered by many people for his different interests and enthusiasms, chiefly for a man who would give things a go, live by his beliefs, and share them widely and generously.

Rebecca Exley