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Bob Patten

It’s some measure of the impact that Bob made on others that, had the East Devon crematorium chapel been three times larger, it would scarcely have been large enough for those attending. He had planned the ceremony himself, and with his customary humour, had us leave to the strains of Leonard Cohen’s That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

Starting in his early twenties, Bob had spent almost his entire adult life collecting, collating and disseminating the folklore, customs and songs of the South West of England and his encyclopaedic knowledge, allied to his often quirky sense of humour and approachability, made him probably the most important and influential collector operating in our part of the world from the 1970s onwards – a period when many elements of folk life were in almost terminal decline.

Bob and his wife, Jackie, documented so much material, and published some of it to very good effect, ensuring that people placed a value on these survivals and had the means to continue them into the future. His easy manner made friends out of his informants and his obvious enthusiasm for his researches ensured their co-operation. He was immensely helpful to others and generous with his material in support of their projects, and could often encourage you to see a slightly different angle, something you’d not noticed before.

This gift spilled over into his life as an animal nutritionist, and his hands-on management of feed mills through turbulent agricultural times was widely admired. His childhood in rural Somerset gave him a lifelong fascination with apples, and he created an orchard close to their Devon home at Morchard Bishop that boasted 80 different varieties of apple (and a fig tree for Jackie!). For many years he acted as Clerk to the Parish Council, and also had a long association with the Dartmoor Folk Festival. All these interests, and others, were well represented at his send-off.

Following a short reprieve, Bob’s final battle with cancer had been mercifully brief, but during that time his consideration for others and his continuing ability to see the big picture were inspirational. Like many others, I feel privileged and grateful to have known him.

John Waltham