Anthony John (Tony) Cessford, 1938 to 2010.

Tony was born in Corbridge Northumberland in July 1938: His earliest memory was sitting on the wall at the Mount overlooking the River Tyne, watching the bombs drop on Newcastle. The family moved back to the industrial town of South Shields where Tony was educated. He was one of only two boys from his primary school to pass the 11+ exam to go on to grammar school, and the only one to go on to University. Tony was very much a product of the grammar school system.

He studied Geology at Kings College Durham – now Newcastle University. He chose geology because it allowed him to be on the rocks – he was a mountaineer first, and a geologist second. However when he graduated there were only two jobs on offer – 3 years in Antarctica in a small hut with 10 other men or three years in East Africa prospecting for diamonds with De beers. Needless to say he chose the latter. His mother saw him off at the station, crying “don’t come back married! He did, of course.

He worked in Tanganyika as it still was for two years and later in what was, then Bechuanaland – he saw the British flag come down both times. He was doing heavy mineral sampling for kimberlite indicator minerals, which entailed much walking but very little mountain climbing – so he took up big game hunting instead – in those days still a respectable occupation. He found one of the first diamonds in Botswana during panning for heavy minerals, a find that led ultimately to the discovery of Orapa Mine

At the end of his stint in the new Botswana, he gave himself two years to get an advanced degree at Wits, and a wife, or he would go back to the bush. Again, he managed to do both, taking a postgraduate honours degree at Wits in 1964, meeting Saranne and marrying just as he graduated. This signalled another change as he was offered a job through good friend and stratigrapher George Hart, to do some mapping in the Karoo Basin related to oil exploration.

So the newly married couple, after a brief honeymoon in the UK for Saranne to meet his family, bought a 15 foot caravan and a Jeep Gladiator pick-up, and headed into the Karroo – first to a farm, Abramskraal, some 50km from Beaufort West, and later in Graaf Reinet and Middelburg, where Tony did a lot more walking, mapping out some very subtle structures to try to find a location for a well to be drilled. A final stint was in Langebaan at a time when there were only a few cottages and a hotel there, and Cape Town where Tony and Saranne’s daughter Fiona was born.

At the end of the contract Tony received news that his father was very ill so the family relocated to England, and Tony found a job with a small American independent oil company – well sitting in the North Sea! During this period Duncan was born. From there on his career was entirely with American independents, and included stints in Ghana, London, Houston Texas for eight years, then back to London and Tunisia and finally Indonesia where Tony served as Exploration Manager for UTP Petroleum.

In 1988, having survived more than one economic downturn in the oil business, he had to take early retirement, and the family, with the children now grown, settled back in the UK, first in Newbury where Saranne got a job with Rio Tinto, and then when this proved to be not enough challenge, to a 30 acre farm on Exmoor where they raised sheep and poultry – and Saranne continued to work part time for Rio Tinto, until they returned to South Africa in 2002.

In Cape Town Saranne became involved with the Western Cape Branch of the Geological society, and strong-armed Tony into accepting the role of the Treasurer – a job which he did with his usual meticulousness. He served on the organising committee for the 2008 AAPG Convention and got the Branch’s books into really good shape

Tony was a great list-maker and filer: He even made lists for Saranne who very much resented it, but has to admit now that it was hugely helpful – everything in apple-pie order and documented. Tony and Saranne argued often and vehemently about rocks, and about politics and pruning, but agreed on many other things. Something only a few people will know is that Tony played the Northumbrian bagpipes, as far as we know the only Northumbrian piper in Africa! He had many enthusiasms, like stick making, long-bow archery, vegetable gardening and latterly exploring the remoter parts of this country. He loved his family, his dogs and his garden, and was very happy here in Cape Town – he always said that he felt more alive in Africa than he ever did in England.


Delivered by Peter Goddard

I’ve been asked by Saranne to say something of Tony. I’ll try to do so, but, of course, my knowledge is much less than Sal’s, Fiona’s or Pamela’s. Please forgive the incompleteness of this.

Tony was born in Corbridge, Northumbria, on 24 July 1938, son of Jack & Peggy Cessford and brother of Pamela. He told of one of his earliest memories, being taken out by his father to watch a bombing raid on Newcastle. He was educated in South Shields and studied geology at Kings College, Newcastle.

Tony retained a lifelong pride in his Northumbrian heritage, which manifested itself in his bagpipe playing – he was probably the only exponent of the Nothumbrian pipes in this country!

In June this year, Jennifer & I spent 3 weeks with Tony and Saranne in France. As always, traveling with them was an education in geology – among others, we visited en route the village of Ste Enemie, where Tony had done field work as a student. It was spectacular, and epitomized to me what Tony was when I first met him. The spectacular cliffs of the Gorge reminded me of his interest in mountain climbing, as well as geology. The bleak, lonely countryside reflected his love of exploring remote places.

After university, Tony was offered two jobs – one was in Antarctica, spending 3 years in a small hut with 10 or so other men, the other was exploring for diamonds in Tanganyika. He took the second! Tony spent the next couple of years exploring there and in Botswana. It was (in the early 1960s) a wilder and more remote world, different I think in many ways from now – he hunted lion and elephant in the days when that was still politically correct. I remember seeing his elephant gun – a huge double barreled rifle that took cartridges the size of bananas. He sold the gun to pay for his honeymoon! Among other things, Tony found the first diamond for De Beers in Botswana – it led ultimately to the huge diamond industry which today powers the Botswanan economy. A few years ago I went with Tony and Saranne on a trip through Botswana, which started with a trip to the mines where we had a royal reception because of Tony’s connection with that original discovery.

Tony decided to continue his education and undertook postgraduate study at Wits in 1964. This changed his life in two important ways – he met Saranne, and he moved into oil geology. Oil exploration became his profession and led him around the world.Through Saranne, Tony became part of our family. They married in December 1964 from my parents home in Northcliff, and from there set off to the Karroo with a caravan to look for oil! Since then, their wanderings have taken them to England (North Sea), Ghana, Texas, Indonesia, back to England and back here. Over this time our lives moved through different paths, bumping into each other from time to time – visiting them in Surrey and helping to paint the hall white; meeting in Toronto as they moved to Texas; meeting again in South Africa, England, Bali, Australia or wherever, whenever we were in the same part of the world.

In England, Tony and Saranne became part of Jennifer’s family too – “the Outlaws” – and Fiona became a granddaughter to the Tracy's, her second home when she studied at Bristol. That connection became very strong and, looking at photos of Tony, one sees many of Tracy's at the Thatched cottage or Anstey, or Cessford's at Tracy homes.

Tony and Saranne were married for 45 years. They were a wonderful couple – always interested and doing. They seemed to be perfect foils for each other. Tony’s dry humour, practicality and organization matching Saranne’s flair and originality. Their life had many joys and some sadness. Their joy in their children and pride in their achievements must have made the tragedy of Duncan’s death almost impossible to bear. I think their support for each other carried Tony and Saranne through that.

Tony loved and was enormously proud of his family – he reveled in Fiona’s successes; and was always so proud of Saranne’s flair and accomplishments.

When Tony retired, they moved to the Thatched Cottage and later to Anstey Farm, becoming interested in all sorts of country pursuits – barges and canals, otter conservation, sheep, poultry, walking sticks, longbow making and archery - the list seems endless. Every visit we made led us to another area of exploration, and Tony was always expert and involved. The same when they moved back here, with geology, wildlife interests, visits to Thaba Thabo, trips to game reserves. Together, he and Saranne got involved in the Geological Society and U3A. Their mutual interest in geology provided one of their deep interests in life, connected to their love of the country and its plants and animals.

Their circle of friends was always large – it would be impossible for me to list them, so I will not try. But, to all those friends, to Pamela, to Fiona and most of all to Sal, I can only say that I will miss him and that my life is very much richer for having Tony as part of it.

Extracts from condolences…..

Tony’s cousin, John Burns (UK): Although he was 11 years older than me, I have many fond memories of him taking me, as a young lad and teenager,to all sorts of places in and around Tyneside whenever we visited my dad's friends and relations there. Amongst many other memorable events from my Tyneside visits, as well as cricket in the street, he is responsible for introducing me to Newcastle Brown on draught! [a strong beer] I did manage to avoid the pipe, however. Although from the early 70s we went our separate ways in life, paths rarely crossing, I feel as though a small part of me has gone forever. It was truly enjoyable to meet and talk with him only a few weeks ago. I do not like the idea of never meeting him again.

George Hart, Boulder Colorado: I loved that man like a brother and have so many memories of you both. He was my longest lasting friend and I will forever hold our memories.

James Hart, Houston Texas – recent trip to Botswana: I think of Tony often since our trip with him. He was so incredibly kind to Vaughan, my dad and I. The vast knowledge he had of the plants and animals has amazed me to this day. I keep a picture of that trip (all of us sitting on the hood of a land-cruiser) in my office.

Stuart Marsh, hired by Tony in London in 1980: Tony was such a lovely man, and is the reason I am where I am now, he hired me at Union Texas when I was wondering where to go when still very new to the oil business. He was so easy to work with and always put a positive spin on things, and above all he was so very loyal to his team

Ingrid Monroy, childhood friend of Fiona’s and daughter of our very good friends Carl and Judith Norman: Many memories come to my mind when I think of Mr. C, but my favourite childhood memory is watching him play his bagpipes wearing nothing but his skimpy little red underwear at the 402 Gretel house! I will always remember the gleam in his eye when he laughed and what a great father and husband he was to you both.

Carl Norman – friend, neighbour and fellow geologist: Houston Texas: We have a living memory of Tony that I pass by a few times each week----a great oak tree that he planted in front of your Houston house. We had harvested a tiny sapling from our backyard. I often thought I should someday photograph it and send it to him. It was still a very small tree when you left here.

Bill Bishop, carpool and general all round buddy from Houston, now in S. Carolina: The Squire was always 1 of my most favorite people, and I am so sorry! We had so many laughs together at Ashland and on my several visits to the UK, and I shall miss him deeply, even though we have been apart for so long.

Patrick Tracy, Peter’s brother in law: Tony was one of my champions and I greatly admired the way he dealt with everything - I actually thought he was pretty indestructible.

Alice Lai – Hong Kong: Tony was a great person with so much enthusiasm to life! You and Tony have always been my solace and inspiration. I never forget the photos he showed me the time you two went to Namibia to drive on sand dunes, nor the time we spent walking on a blustery day in Dartmoor and the time Tony took us on a canal boat in UK! Yes, indeed his life is worth celebrating.

Liz Sims, friend from Jakarta days, now in Seattle Wa.: I‘ve set up a little memorial for Tony in my living room with pictures from happy days and a yahrzeit candle — the Jewish memorial candle that burns for 24 hours. I’ll light the candle at twilight tonight in memory of Tony with glass in hand at the end of the day ready to review the day, tell stories or argue anything you please, especially and forever, politics. I will miss him.

Andrew McElwee: Putney (fellow traveller): As you know I had never been on safari until we had our wonderful trips together in the recent times. Both you and Tony appear in my family photographic collages on the wall, which I pass every time during every day as I walk down from my room to the rest of the house below. I will give him a wave.

Martin Pittuck, one of Fiona’s friends: Although we only met Tony a handful of times we feel we met a man to whom we warmed quickly, with whom we shared many perspectives on life and whose cheerful invitation to visit again we were looking forward to honouring. We’ll think of you this weekend as you rally the troops to give Tony a fitting send off.

Gwynllion Sion, North Wales: I feel so privileged that I was able to spend those fantastic seven weeks with you and Tony, I had the time of my life. Every time I think about you guys it makes me smile. I still can't believe how kind you were to put me up for all that time, and give me such a lovely welcome, and looked after me like a Queen. All the coffee and Gin & Tonics that Tony made me in the evenings, all the chauffeuring around, amazing food, and spoiling me rotten. I loved it! I've thought about coming back so many times in the past 2 years, but it’s always time and money that restricted me, and now of course I wish I would've just bitten the bullet and come.

Jean Hickox, in Houston Texas: I wish so much that I could be there with you to join in Tony's send off - I know that it will most certainly be a good one. Instead I shall have my own little wake on Saturday. I'll fill up my glass, look at photographs, remember ALL the many, many good times we (both my Tom and I) shared with you in London, Jakarta, Reading, Somerset, San Angelo, Cape Town and all the places on the way to Johannesburg! I'll do a lot of smiling, laughing (and crying) and have my own version of "do you remember when...."