Obituary: Henry T Powell BSc, scientist and campaigner

Scientist and campaigner worked tirelessly for the community. Picture: ContributedScientist and campaigner worked tirelessly for the community. Picture: Contributed
Scientist and campaigner worked tirelessly for the community. Picture: Contributed
Born: May 1925. Died: 2 January 2016 in Oban, aged 90.

Henry Powell (known as Harry), a seaweed scientist, community stalwart and campaigner, was born and brought up in Abergavenny, Wales and studied at The University of Wales, Aberystwyth duringthe Second World War. In 1946 he was awarded a 1st class Honours degree in Botany and worked for two years at the University of Bangor before joining the Scottish Marine Biological Association (SMBA) in Millport, Isle of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde in 1948, an institution where he was to remain for the rest of his career. SMBA would later become known as the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

It was at Millport that he met his future wife Grace, who was there as an undergraduate studying on a field course. They married in 1956 and later their two children, Anne and David, were born there. During Harry’s early career he worked on barnacles, but his main interest was in seaweeds and, in particular, their ecology on rocky shores. He carried out seaweed surveys all around the Scottish coast, publishing several significant papers, including two in the highly prestigious journal Nature, and conducted important studies on Fucus species (wracks). He was the founding secretary of the British Phycological Society in 1952 and was also a founder member of the Institute of Biology.

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In 1967 the SMBA relocated to Oban and Harry was a member of the small group who came to oversee the building of the laboratory at Dunstaffnage. His family moved to their new home in Connel that year, but Harry also negotiated with the council housing department to allocate a number of new homes in Dunbeg to ease the resettlement of the remaining staff from Millport. During that period he was a union rep, chairman of the SMBA IPCS union branch, and was active in the SMBA social club and management of the canteen.

An important piece of work led by Harry in the late 1970s was the ‘Survey of the Littoral Zone of the Coast of Great Britain’ for the Nature Conservancy Council, involving a large team of scientists.

Following retirement in 1989 Harry was a driving force as chairman of the Lorn branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust Support Group for many years and was chairman of Connel Community Council. Harry’s scientific training and career had made him an extremely precise, inquisitive, and determined individual, a master of detail in everything he did.

In 1967 Harry, Grace, Anne and David moved to Connel and bought a house in Grosvenor Crescent. They named it ‘Cumbrae’ to remind them of the very happy days they had spent in Millport.

Harry soon became heavily involved in village life. He was a founder member of Connel Community Council and enthusiastically supported the work of the Association of Community Councils in Argyll and Bute. Harry’s meticulous hand written minutes and voluminous correspondence from his years as Secretary of Connel Community Council remain a vital library of information recording almost every aspect of the village for the last 30 years. It is fair to say that without Harry Powell there probably would be no modern village hall in Connel. Harry worked tirelessly to secure funding to build a first-class venue for a wide variety of users. He was rightly proud of what had been achieved and he continued to serve on the hall committee and to take a real interest in its affairs right up until his death.

Harry was also a hard working committee member of the local branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The annual fundraising day at Achnacloich, near Connel, was a great favourite and was always financially very successful for the trust. His other lifelong interest was in the Liberal party, where he was a committed volunteer and campaigner.

Aside from his community work, his main love was for his family: his late wife Grace, his children, Anne and David, and his grand-children, Jenny, James and Maxwell.

On his death in Lorn and Islands Hospital, Oban, at the age of 90, he left behind a wonderful legacy to his family, to marine biology and to the village he loved.

A memorial service will be held at 7:30pm on Thursday, February 18 in St Oran’s Church, Connel.