Saturday, June 10, 2006

By the way, you might have wondered....

You will have seen that the Gambia Expedition is officially named "The J.T.Downes Memorial expedition", and you may have wondered why.

J.T.Downes was my father, and he died earlier this year. He was a big supporter of the CFZ, and during his final illness he liked nothing more than to have Richard and Me sitting on his bed, telling stories of our adventures, and plotting ourplans for the future. He spent many years living in West Africa, and was particularly interested in the forthcoming expedition. He had been planning to donate some money towards it, but died before he was able to do so, and so my brother and I decided that some of the money donated at his funeral service should go towards the expedition, which we decided to sponsor in his name...

For those of you interested, here is an excerpt from his obituary:

"John Downes was born in Plymouth in1925. He joined the Merchant Navy in 1943 and served as a Communication's Officer during the Battle of the Atlantic. He returned to shore in 1947, and after marrying his childhood sweetheart Mary, worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in North Devon. In 1952 he joined the Colonial Service in Nigeria and together with Mary, worked in some of the most isolated parts of North Nigeria on the southern borders of the Sahara Desert. Often they were the first Europeans to have visited these remote regions for over half a century.

In 1960 John was transferred to Hong Kong where he rose to the rank of Assistant Colonial Secretary, and as a commisioned officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, founded the Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps. His outstanding work within the Civil Service was duly recognised when he was made a companion to the Queen and awarded the Imperial Service Order. Unfortunately John was forced to take early retirement on medical grounds in 1971, and he and Mary spent the rest of their lives together in Woolfardisworthy, North Devon, where they quickly earned the respect and love of the local community. John became a financial manager for many local businesses, and was a tireless pillar of the community and church. He renewed his love of the sea by becoming the Commanding Officer of TS Revenge, the Bideford Sea Cadet Corps and became an inspiration for generations of young people.

During his retirement, John became an acknowledged author and was an expert in such diverse areas as African History, and Devonshire dialect. He was the author of several books including `A Dictionary of Devonshire Dialect` (1988), `Granfer's Bible Stories` (2005) and `Fragrant Harbours, Distant Rivers` (2006). He was widowed in 2002, and after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease, died peacefully in North Devon District Hospital on Tuesday February 14th aged 81. He is survived by his two sons, Jonathan Downes, (46) - Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology - and The Rev'd Richard Downes BEM CF (42), a Chaplain to the Forces in the Army. "