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Farewell

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My father, Anthony Smith, died this last Monday, June 7, 2014, of a sudden illness.

He was the founder of the British Balloon and Airship Club, an amazing and prolific writer, the first Brit to fly over the Alps by balloon, and the first to fly in a gas balloon over East Africa (documented in his books Throw Out Two Hands and The Dangerous Sort), an adventurer and explorer who never let mere caution get in the way of a really good idea.  In 1955, he drove from Capetown to Cairo on a Triumph motorbike, and then, in 1980, from Cairo to Capetown on the same motorbike, this time accompanied by my brother, on another vintage Triumph motorbike (High Street Africa, Smith & Son).  He found a previously unknown species of cave loach in Iran (Blind White Fish in Persia, A Persian Quarter Century).  He sailed down the Amazon (Explorers of The Amazon, The Lost Lady of the Amazon), he traveled to every continent, and he had a love of learning that he shared with everyone*.

He worked with balloons and/or airships in the movies Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Charlie Bubbles, and Superman II.  A consummate storyteller, his adventures became legend in our family, the last great adventure being his trip across the Atlantic on a raft, spending his 86th birthday at sea.

He has the Glaxo Prize for Science Writers, and The Royal Geographical Society's Cherry Kearton Medal for writing, and the Federation of Aeronautique Internationale's Diplome Montgolfier and the Diplome Tissandier, along with a Ballooning "Hall of Fame" award.

I remember sitting in an airport McDonald's with pinkleader and cathgrace and her lovely husband, telling them stories of his work on the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (he worked with the airship), and realizing that all the tables around us had become silent, listening to us.  Going to the Imperial War Museum in London, and listening to Dad tell pinkleader and me the story of the Anglo Saxon's Jolly Boat (Survived!). The last time Bob and I saw him, he took us to Oxford and Balliol College, his alma mater for the day, ending with an impromptu and delightful cup of tea with his close friend, Robin Batchelor.

My childhood is full of amazing memories.  His house in Bamburgh, Northumberland, was where we spent long summer holidays and frigid Christmas holidays, exploring castles, beachcombing, and climbing the Cheviot mountains.  On weekends when he took us out from London, we'd go walking through the grounds and estates of Cliveden and Polesden Lacey.   I've flown in a hot-air balloon, watched balloons take off over Holland, stood in the pitch-black dungeon of John of Gaunt's castle (Dunstanburgh), visited Holland and Belgium, found fossils in Dorset, explored chalk caves in Surrey, stayed in a haunted house, camped by a Roman fort, and a million more things because he showed them to us.

I have a number of his books; I am still completing my collection, as some of those books were published before I was born.  Bob and I always got him to sign his books for us, but he would always sign them "Dad", rather than with his name.  It was a running joke, one of many we had. I feel great sadness that he was not able to visit us in the US, a visit we had just started to plan for this year.

His book about his raft expedition will be published in February 2015.

*The rest of his books:
The Body (bestseller)
The Seasons
Beside the Seaside
The Good Beach Guide
Mato Grosso
The Human Pedigree
Sea Never Dry
Wilderness
A Sideways Look
The Mind
The Great Rift
The Free Life
(about my godfather)
Sex, Genes and All that
Animals on View
The Human Body
Ballooning
Jambo
The Weather
Machine Gun
Best Friends
(a children's book)
Which Animal are You? (ditto)
Swaps (ditto)

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Comments

( 18 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
ladysybylgrey
Jul. 12th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
My heart is with you. Loosing a father is hard, no matter when it happens. It sounds like you had a wonderful father, a great relationship, and fantastic memories.
mala_14
Jul. 12th, 2014 03:58 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts are with you. He sounds like an amazing man with whom you shared wonderful times.
luciab
Jul. 12th, 2014 03:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am SO sorry for your loss. It is so hard to lose a parent, and I'm sure it is immeasurably harder when it's unexpected. He sounds like a fabulous man; witty and erudite. My thoughts are with you.
loosecanon
Jul. 13th, 2014 01:13 am (UTC)
I am so sorry you lost him, and glad you had him.

Thank you for writing this, I feel that in a very tiny way you are sharing him with us. I read High Street Africa a very long time ago, and forgot all about it til now.

sherwood21
Jul. 13th, 2014 03:22 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds amazing, and I'm so glad for all the wonderful memories you have with him.
tsuruko_sensei
Jul. 13th, 2014 05:04 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing person.
rectangularcat
Jul. 13th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
I am very sorry for your loss. He sounds like an epic man and your childhood sounds so special. Thanks for sharing him with us.
tradarcher
Jul. 13th, 2014 11:01 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. He sounds like a wonderful and interesting person.
elfie_chan
Jul. 14th, 2014 12:31 am (UTC)
I am so sorry for your loss. ~hugs~
eac
Jul. 14th, 2014 03:57 am (UTC)
He sounds like an extraordinary person; I'm very sorry for your loss.
historicfashion
Jul. 14th, 2014 10:49 am (UTC)
I am so sorry. He sounds like a delight, an aventurer in the nice sense of the word and a loss to the world he was so intersted in. I lost grandad a few months ago, he brought me up so I totally get how devistated you must be. I hope the sadness will fade away in time leaving you with the joy of his legacy in his work and in you and your family.
bunnyjadwiga
Jul. 14th, 2014 04:53 pm (UTC)
I am very sorry for your loss. May his memory be for a blessing.
grnvixen
Jul. 15th, 2014 04:12 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry for your loss. Sounds like you have treasury of rich memories, may they bring you comfort.
psalite
Jul. 15th, 2014 06:39 pm (UTC)
So sorry for your loss .Your tribute to him is lovely.
hederaivy
Jul. 15th, 2014 06:52 pm (UTC)
I have, apparently, followed some of your dad's adventures - I remember being fascinated by the idea of flying across mountains in a balloon when I was in second grade because of "the guy who was doing it", remember seeing articles about the cave loach, and followed the journey of the An-Tiki. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man, and I know you'll miss him.
swwoodsy
Jul. 15th, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry to hear that. Your dad sounds like an amazing man. I wish you and your family peace and strength to get through this difficult time.

Edited at 2014-07-15 08:06 pm (UTC)
elasait
Jul. 16th, 2014 01:32 am (UTC)
I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing person.
brickhousewench
Jul. 24th, 2014 03:13 am (UTC)
I'm a bit behind on my reading, but oh my goodness, so sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was an exceptional man and a wonderful father. (Not to mention a quite prolific author!)
( 18 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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