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Rickards, (Richard) Barrie (1938–2009), palaeontologist and angler, was born on 12 June 1938 at 8 Wolseley Mount, Burley, Leeds, the eldest child of Robert Rickards, industrial engineer, and his wife, Eva, née Sudborough. After the Second World War the family moved to Penda's Way, in the Cross Gates suburb of Leeds. Rickards attended Manston primary school, but spent much time roaming with friends in the Yorkshire countryside to the east. These expeditions, described in his autobiographical novel Fishers on the Green Road (2002), nourished his talent for observing and interpreting the natural world. The family moved again, to Hook, by the River Ouse in east Yorkshire, where he attended Hook Church of England school. The wildlife was less diverse there, but inheritance of some fishing tackle and a twelfth birthday gift of a fishing book sparked his interest in angling. The outdoors therefore continued to provide most of his education, even following his move to Goole grammar school.

At secondary school Rickards was most distinguished as a cross-country runner and a footballer. He did, however, show enough aptitude for science to get into Hull University, where he graduated BSc in geology in 1960. An undergraduate mapping project in the Howgill Fells, in west Yorkshire, stimulated his curiosity for dead rather than living organisms, particularly early Palaeozoic fossils. This interest led to a PhD degree at Hull, awarded in 1963, for a meticulous revision of Silurian graptolites (extinct invertebrate animals) and their stratigraphy. His academic reputation grew while he held short-term posts at University College, London, the University of Cambridge, the Natural History Museum, and Trinity College, Dublin. He particularly impressed Oliver Bulman, Woodwardian professor in Cambridge, who appointed him to the geology department in 1969. On 26 August 1960, at the register office in Goole, he had married Christine Townsley (b. 1939), a schoolteacher, and daughter of Alexander Thompson Townsley, master mariner. They had one son, Jeremy (1968–2000), later an aeronautical engineer, but the marriage was dissolved in 1991.

The stability of Cambridge allowed Rickards to develop his dual career: as a palaeontologist and as an angler. His internationally renowned geological research, published in over 275 papers and five books, focused on the palaeobiology of graptolites that were skilfully collected by him in Lower Palaeozoic rocks worldwide. He used their rapid evolution to date Ordovician and Silurian strata, and employed new techniques to shed light on their behaviour. With his students he used scanning electron microscopy to show how graptolite skeletons were constructed by the colony of animals that inhabited them. He modelled their hydrodynamics, first with simple models in the Emmanuel College swimming pool and then, aided by his son Jeremy, with wind tunnels and computer models. With R. J. Aldridge and J. N. Theron he found that the enigmatic fossil Promissum pulchrum, rather than being the oldest land plant as then thought, was an exceptionally preserved conodont, a primitive vertebrate.

Rickards's activities as an angler eclipsed even those as a palaeontologist. He wrote more than 800 fishing articles and about 30 books. His guides to fishing technique became bibles to a generation of anglers. Most influential were Fishing for Big Pike (1971, with Ray Webb) and Angling: Fundamental Principles (1986), which sold 25,000 copies in its first year. He later turned also to biography, most notably Richard Walker: Biography of an Angling Legend (2007). His national reputation led to involvement in many angling organizations. Most prominently, he was a founding member and first secretary of the Pike Anglers' Club and a founding member of the National Anglers' Council, president of the Lure Fishing Association (1992–2009), the National Association of Specialist Anglers (1993–2000), and the Specialist Anglers' Alliance (2001–9), and a trustee of the Specialist Anglers' Conservation Group (1995–2000). He became an expert on fisheries management, and a scientific adviser to the Anglian region of the Environment Agency.

Rickards spent most of his career based in Cambridge, successively as lecturer, reader (from 1990), and professor of palaeontology and biostratigraphy (from 2000 until his retirement in 2005). His research was recognized with the Geological Society's Murchison fund (1982) and Lyell medal (1997) and by the Yorkshire Geological Society's John Phillips medal (1988). He was curator of the Sedgwick Museum from 1969 to 2005, and a fellow of Emmanuel College from 1977.

Underpinning Rickards's geological and fishing work was a quiet but infectious enthusiasm for his subjects, and a patient skill in transmitting his enthusiasm to others. In addition to his university lecturing, he taught generations of supervision students in Cambridge from Emmanuel, Christ's, and Girton colleges and on the field mapping course that he established in the Howgill Fells (1970–2007). A Yorkshireman by character as well as birth, he was generous to others but thrifty in spending on himself. He could be confident and forthright, but was more naturally gentle and shy. His students, colleagues, and friends remembered him particularly for his integrity, honesty, and infectious sense of humour. He died of complications from myeloma in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, on 5 November 2009. He was survived by his partner, Amanda Mary Lyne.

Nigel Woodcock


S. Rigby, ‘Obituary: Jeremy Rickards’, Palaeontology Newsletter, 46 (2001), 16 · R. B. Rickards, Fishers on the Green Road (2002) · The Times (21 Nov 2009) · Palaeontology Newsletter, 73 (2010), 16–17 · www.geolsoc.org.uk/en/About/History/Obituaries 2001 onwards/Obituaries 2009/Richard Barrie Rickards 1938-2009, accessed on 24 Feb 2012 · obituary, www.anglingheritage.org, accessed on 24 Feb 2012 · www.fishingmagic.com/news_events/news/14582-barrie-rickards-rip.html, accessed on 24 Feb 2012 · WW (2009) · personal knowledge (2013) · private information (2013) · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.

Wealth at death  

£368,825: probate, 29 June 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales