Saturday, 18 July 2015

Obituary: Tony Colmer (1940-2011)

This obituary was published in the Friends of Fairlynch Museum newsletter, Spring 2015



Tony Colmer was born in Merton, near Wimbledon, on 15 March 1940 - the Ides of March, as he would say. The Second World War was still raging and this must have affected his childhood. Tony was an only child but the Colmers were quite a large family and he had several uncles and cousins with whom he kept up all his life.

He was particularly proud of his grandfather, Francis Colmer (1873-1967) who was a gifted artist and painted many views of Buckinghamshire where he lived. Many of the latter's paintings are now in the County Museum in Aylesbury. 

Tony's interest in archaeology would certainly have been encouraged by his grandfather, whose artistic output included drawings of Saxon weapons found at Bourne End.
Tony was brought up in Wimbledon where he went to school and subsequently went to The Queen’s College, Oxford. He studied there from 1959 to 1962, taking a degree in Modern History. Although he was studying modern history he was still able to pursue his interest in archaeology and natural history. 

He spent his working life with the Inland Revenue as one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Taxes and found himself, at various times, living in London, Wigan in Lancashire and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

Tony met Angela Traylen in the late 1960s through their shared interest in archaeology and they married in Guildford on 1 May 1971. They were very alike with their enthusiasms and with a similar outlook on life. After a brief spell in Wigan they settled in High Wycombe, where they were chairman and secretary of the Buckinghamshire Natural History Society and used to organize walks for the members and have them home for tea afterwards. 

They were particularly active as recorders of wild life sightings such as taking part in Bird Watch. Angela's interest in local archaeology was stimulated by her discovery of Francis Colmer's notes concerning finds such as the Bronze Age flint arrowhead found near High Wycombe.

After Tony retired in 2002, they decided to make their home in Devon and in 2006 came to live in Budleigh Salterton. The talented and friendly couple quickly made their mark as members of the community. They became active members of both Fairlynch Museum and the Otter Valley Association. 

Angela, having studied Archaeology, and as the experienced daughter of an antiquarian bookseller, contributed much to the Fairlynch archaeology collection, while Tony catalogued the Museum's map collection and joined the OVA Built Environment Committee, keeping an eye on local planning applications to enable the Association to comment appropriately.

Angela's death in 2007 after a very short illness was a major blow. In rebuilding his life as a widower Tony was greatly aided by her family as well as by supportive neighbours and friends. As a very methodical man he re-established a routine and gradually acquired new interests and activities, including playing Mahjong and having lunch at Tea & Tittle-Tattle on Budleigh's Fore Street.

Before long he decided to continue Angela's work on the revision of the Fairlynch archaeological collection, and he remained dedicated to that task until the recent diagnosis of his own illness. He had recently paid for Fairlynch's acquisition of a mediaeval silver-gilt finger-ring found at Newton Poppleford, intending that it should serve as a memorial to her.

In many ways of course he was ideally suited to take over her role of responsibility for the Museum's archaeology section. The meticulous approach to work which had served him so well as a tax inspector made him a valuable member of the Fairlynch curatorial team.

His family and friends were shocked by his sudden illness and death as until a few months ago he seemed so fit. Last October, he spent a day at Bicton Park with all his family including his great-niece and nephew. It was a lovely day out which they will all remember.

Those who saw Tony in his last few weeks were impressed by his quiet courage as he worked with rapidly declining energy to ensure that he had left no 'loose ends' in his life. He expressed no complaints, only appreciation of the support he received both at home in Budleigh Salterton and in Exmouth Hospital, and was careful to the end to cause no trouble that he could avoid.

He was a wise and a gentle man, and he will be much missed.

Tony Colmer, former tax inspector and curator at Fairlynch Museum, was born on 15 March 1940. He died on 18 September 2011, aged 71.


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