After I had been retired from IGS (or BGS as it has mercifully now become) for around a year, and we were feeling semi- settled at Whirlow in Ottery St Mary’s West Hill, I was surprised to receive an invitation to take a two-year post-retirement contract in Fiji. The job was with the Mineral Resources Department of the Government of Fiji, and the invitation was initiated by Richard Holmes.
Richard Holmes had joined my Continental Shelf Unit in Edinburgh in the 1970’s after completing post-graduate marine studies at Imperial College London. He was a serious and upright young man, one-time member of the Territorial Army, who wrote papers and letters in convoluted prose and near-unintelligible handwriting. In Edinburgh we had produced a joint paper on a difficult aspect of North Sea geology.
Although still on the staff of IGS, Richard had been seconded to the ‘geophysical branch’ of MRD, as part of a UK technical aid programme designed to build up its offshore geological survey capability. Once there, he had discovered the existence of a vacancy for another geophysicist/marine geologist, and had suggested I be approached, although the actual letter came – I believe- from Abdul Rahmen, Deputy Director of MRD.
We – Lucette and I – did not immediately accept, partly because the salary offered was minimal, funded by a voluntary organisation. I pointed out that we would be out of pocket at the rates proposed, and the reply came that MRD would seek proper funding for the post from CFTC (the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation). On this basis we accepted. So; we knew we would probably be going to Fiji, but we did not know exactly when.
We started making preparations on this basis. Most importantly we found a residential home for Grandpa (my father – JAI Eden) where he was comfortable – Gittisham Hill House – a former country house set on its own in nice gardens, woodland, and pleasant autumn sunshine above Honiton. He had been with us at Whirlow for nearly a year, but agreed to move to Gittisham when I explained my work was taking us away for a while. Because of uncertainty about the date, he actually moved there several months before we left, and this provided a useful settling-in period. I visited him most days, and before we departed thought it safe to bring him back for tea at Whirlow, which he did not remember but found familiar in some way he could not precisely pin down. Sad. But he was well fed and comfortable – he enjoyed having the young nursing attendants fussing around him. He had the benefit of females fussing around him most of his life, lucky man.
We eventually departed on 24th February 1982. Bill and Margaret Singleton, next door neighbours, were to keep an eye on Whirlow and pay the gardener. They took us to Exeter St Davids Station in their car. We travelled via Freeport, Grand Bahamas, where we stopped off…