Obituary: Stephen Patmore; inspirational geoscientist who worked on North Sea projects, and many further afield
Born: 23 January, 1951, in Slough. Died 19 August 2012 in Edinburgh, aged 61.
STEPHEN Patmore’s keen sense of humour was heartily appreciated by his friends, colleagues and family, and when hundreds of them gathered for his farewell celebration service at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, he would have similarly appreciated the witty tribute from his daughter Helen. “You were my rock,” she said. “And yes, for all the geologists present, that wordplay was intended.”
One-time Aberdeen neighbour and skiing companion Tom Brown added an affectionate reference to his sense of adventure – and diligence: “Whichever company gave him a Blackberry made a great investment. He would drill wells in India while sitting on a European ski lift or evaluate the pros and cons of a Chinese seismic crew over a late afternoon Gluhwein. All efforts to lose the phone in the snow failed.”
Stephen, principal geoscientist at Cairn Energy, died suddenly at his Edinburgh home, to be survived by his wife Linda, son Alistair, 19, and daughters Helen, 29, and Caroline, 24 – whose following in his footsteps allowed him teasingly to refer to her (since she became a geologist in an Australian gold mine) as “my daughter, the gold-digger”. There are also two stepchildren, Simon and Jane, and grandson Ta’shan.
Born in Slough, Berkshire, Stephen went to university in Swansea, where in 1973 he obtained a BSc joint honours degree in geology and oceanography. He joined Conoco in London with an eye to fulfilling a love of travel, and took his first short assignment in Chad.
Then it was on to Norway for a longer stint. These initial postings led to many new horizons – China, the US, Egypt and the Congo – before his return to the UK in 1992 with vast global experience as a geophysicist that helped him bring new insights and creative ideas to problem-solving and projects.
In 1995, he moved with the company to Aberdeen where, as a team leader and senior geophysical adviser, he worked on North Sea projects including Atlantic Margin, Banff Field and Central North Sea. In 2003, he left to join Cairn Energy in Edinburgh.
The beauty of the capital might have been the main initial drive for his move, but he quickly realised his luck in being free to dive in at the deep end of frontier exploration. His involvement in the Cairn success in Rajasthan kept him and his team occupied for a few years with an intense period of appraisal and exploration drilling, providing a mass of data needing swift interpretation.
However, such serious professional challenges did not dim his sense of fun. As a new recruit to Cairn, he happily entered into the Christmas party’s performing tradition – as the only male member of a Spice Girls tribute band, and his appearance as Ginger Spice, complete with Union flag mini-dress, white platform boots and red wig, is still the stuff of legend at Cairn.
While there, Stephen took part in field trips to Canada, India, Greenland and more recently – in July – to the French Alps. He had a rare capacity for geological visualisation, to see things at the natural scale, and so improve interpretation of seismic data, especially in frontier areas. He would never rush into producing a piece of work before he was totally happy with it, and so leaves a legacy of technical reviews sure to stand the test of time.
His last field trip was in the back yard of Cairn’s office in Edinburgh, looking at volcanic faces on Arthur’s Seat, during which he showed the same boundless enthusiasm as on any of more exotic trips.
Beyond his technical skills, Stephen’s greatest gifts were his “look on the bright side of life” attitude, his love of fun and the importance he placed on his many friendships around the world. He could always defuse deadline stress with a wicked comment and a laugh.
He would get enthusiastically involved in any charitable events the company would organise, including the gruelling Maggie’s Cancer Centres Monster Bike and Hike Challenge in the Highlands, in which he took part in 2005 and 2006, displaying a resilience and determination of a man half his age.
In recent years, however, he suffered some health challenges, including injuries from a traumatic car accident in Turkey in 2006, and cardiac surgery, from which he seemed to have fully recovered. If anything, such setbacks made him more determined to enjoy life and family to the full.
Stephen’s sudden departure left his family in shock at the loss of a devoted husband and father, and his team-mates missing a great geoscientist and colleague.
But there are consolations, not least from knowing that his life was fun-filled to the very end, as he enjoyed a great evening out with his friends and his wife Linda the night before his death.
Linda paid her own tribute at his farewell service: “Something I will always remember about Steve is his comment, ‘If it means something to you, you will find a way’. One of his challenges was to find roses for Valentine’s Day on a ski trip to Austria. His solution was to buy chocolate roses in Edinburgh and carefully transport them all the way to Austria to be given at a lovely dinner.”
For those lucky enough to know Stephen Patmore, his generous sharing of his vast experience and knowledge has been a precious gift, and his example on how to lead a full, meaningful, much-enjoyed and exemplary life will remain a constant inspiration.
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