A visionary field worker

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
Rex Walford commemorates the life and work of Patrick Bailey, whose last reviews we publish here

Patrick Bailey's death on July 16 has robbed British and international geographical education of one of its most colourful and distinguished personalities.

In a career spanning almost half a century he contributed much wisdom and insight in his teaching and writing; but he also gave his time generously to many committees, conferences and in talking with young geo-graphers. He was a widely read and respected evaluator of geographical material and The TES has carried many of his charitable but penetrating reviews.

He was born in London on December 31, 1925 and educated at Scarborough College, Yorkshire. Directly from school he joined the Royal Navy and saw the final stages of World War 2 from Gibraltar, Malta, Australia and the Pacific. As a 19-year-old Able Seaman he visited Hiroshima shortly after its destruction by atomic bomb - a scene he sometimes later contrasted movingly with the re-built city in slides which accompanied his lively lectures.

His love of travel, developed in the Navy, led him to read the geography Tripos, followed by a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, at Cambridge University (1947-51). His teaching career began at Paston grammar school, North Walsham, and then, as head of geography, continued at the innovative and newly established residential state school, Wymondham College.

He was principal lecturer in geography at the new Northumberland College of Education at Ponteland from 1964-68, before being appointed postgraduate tutor in geography at the University of Leicester School of Education. There, for 20 years, he inspired successive generations of young geographers to become resourceful teachers and leaders of field work.

The value and necessity of fieldwork was one of the major themes of his work and he was both active as a fieldworker himself and as the instigator of several major expeditions for school pupils - notably through the charter of the liners Nevasa and Uganda to visit coastal west Africa in 1974 and 1977.

His manual for teachers, Teaching Geography (1974), was a thoughtful, personal approach to pedagogical and methodological issues and he was the first editor of the Geographical Association's classroom journal.

He was a key figure in the GA and was president from 1985-6. When Sir Keith Joseph's probing speech at King's College, London in 1986, challenged geographers at the start of the debate about a national curriculum, Patrick Bailey, with Tony Binns of the University of Sussex, orchestrated the effective reply A Case for Geography.

He also defended the importance of physical geography in the face of some Schools Council projects which, he felt, tended to give the subject a humanities and sociological bias.

His last major publication was as co-editor, with Peter Fox, of the GA's Geography Teachers' Handbook, a volume which most teachers use as a major source of reference. Patrick contributed some of the chapters himself and his affable persuasiveness charmed many others into becoming part of the strong contributing team.

His profound faith in Christian Science fortified him in his later years as he coped with an increasingly debilitating blood disorder.

He is survived by his wife Peggy, whom he met in Northumberland and married in 1968.

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