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Desmond Henry Oswald 1923-2015

OSWALDWidely-travelled exploration geologist with Chevron, who gained national notoriety over plans to drill for oil under Windsor Castle.

Desmond Henry Oswald was born to the Rev. Herbert E and Constance Oswald, in Dublin, Ireland, and lived at the vicarage of Rathcore in Mullingar.

He spent an idyllic childhood on a large estate, keeping his sister Dorothy company while his brothers were away at school.  Their father, the local vicar, also farmed - so Desmond grew up to love the church and spent much time in the fields. He loved animals and had many pets: a bullock, two cats, an angora rabbit and his favourite jackdaw, Jackie, who used to sit on his shoulder.

As a teenager he boarded at Campbell College Belfast.  Graduating in war time, having been at a military school he was well equipped to become an officer in the Royal Corps of Signals.  He came to England and served in East Africa. 

In 1947 he was accepted at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and discovering geology more to his liking than forestry, left with First Class Honours. From Oxford he went to lecture and study for a PhD at Glasgow University, later lecturing at Trinity College, Dublin. He was elected Fellow of the Society in April 1949, and latterly became known as a convivial member of its Dining Club.

After only a few years he was head-hunted by Chevron Oil Corporation.  Desmond loved Canada, in the summer leading groups on field trips to northern Alberta.  Living in Calgary, he made many contacts and met his future wife Ollive, who described seeing him surrounded by beautiful ladies and decided to set him up on a blind date with her best friend.  But it was not her friend who interested him! 

They married and soon had a daughter, Maureen.  From Canada Desmond was promoted to a job in Tripoli, Libya, where his second child, Desmond Jr., was born.  Three years later, on January 4, his youngest daughter Deirdre was born. Ollive and Desmond spent many happy years in Libya, where he pastored at the local church and spent time at the Embassy with local expats.  Desmond had a great ability to put others at ease, and throughout his life made many friends. 

Soon the family returned to Calgary, where they spent a short time before being re-located to Tehran.  His time cut short by revolution, Desmond returned to England.  After a stint in Holland the family finally settled, first in London, then Gerrards Cross, handy for Heathrow and Head Office.  As an expert in Middle East geology he travelled a great deal, speaking several languages – adding Swahili, Italian, Farsi, and Russian to the French and German he learnt at school. 

After 40 years at Chevron he retired and joined Reading University.  He remained semi-retired until his death, still sought out for his expertise, working on projects in Italy and Southern England - including the infamous ‘oil reserve’ under Windsor Castle, which gained him nationwide media coverage.

A year ago he was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.  He remained courageous and met the news with strength and peace. Still mentally and physically active, he enjoyed meetings at the Geological Society and kept up with the snooker, tennis, rugby and world affairs. He travelled to Ireland in the summer and remained positive, fighting to the end. 

He lived an illustrious and full life, was loved by many and will be missed by many friends and loved ones.

Ted Nield, from a eulogy by Deirdre Oswald.