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Leeder OBIT: Bill Sarjeant has died (8 July 2002) Canada (7) RE: OBIT: Bill Sarjeant has died 12 Jul 02


Paddy Tutty passed on this article from the Saskatoon Paper:

City loses champion of heritage U of S professor led fight to protect historical sites

Gerry Klein The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Bill Sarjeant, a renowned geologist, paleontologist, historian, folk musician, fantasy and academic author, community activist, Renaissance man and the only human to walk the magic fictional land of Rockall, died of cancer on Monday.

He was 66.

Sarjeant came to Saskatoon in 1972 to join the geology faculty at the University of Saskatchewan.

But it was his work on the preservation of heritage properties in his adopted community that drew the attention of most Saskatoon residents. Sarjeant assembled a list of historical sites even before the Capital Theatre in downtown Saskatoon was destroyed, causing a furore that eventually led to provincial legislation to protect such properties.

His work earned him, among other awards, an honourary life membership of the Saskatoon Heritage Society, the 1990 Heritage Award for Volunteer Public Service and a Century of Citizens scroll and medal by the City of Saskatoon, and a scroll by the province of Saskatchewan for activities in heritage preservation.

"Bill was one of those guys that was a century out of his time," said Jim Basinger, head of the geology department and a friend. "He was a man who embodied the wide range of interests of a 19th century naturalist. He was definitely a rare breed."

A list of Sarjeant's publications stretches on for pages on his university curriculum vitae and earned him international acclaim as an expert on geological science, marine paleontology, extinction events and dinosaurs. He was given awards by geological societies in Great Britain, the United States, Latin America and Canada based on his research.

He also penned a multi-volume set of books chronicling the history of geology.

But it was another set of books -- this written under his pen name Antony Swithin and based on the fictional island continent of Rockall -- that earned him attention as a fantasy writer. Sarjeant created the island from his imagination and a small rock outcrop west of Ireland in the Atlantic Ocean.

The series of at least nine books details the Perilous Quest for Lyonesse, an English boy's attempt to find relatives that landed on the island.

Creating the fantasy allowed Sarjeant to explore environmental and political issues (it has an eight-house parliament, which would be "a model for study by political scientists") as well as to describe in detail the geological, natural and political history of the land.

Sarjeant is a primary example of the richness the U of S brings to Saskatoon, said Coun. Kate Waygood, another family friend.

"The first time I met him, I went over to talk to him and by the time I left my head was spinning from listening to him speak -- so knowledgeably, eloquently and fast -- about heritage issues in Saskatoon," she said.

The best words to describe him would be as a true Renaissance man, she added.

Funeral arrangements were still being made Tuesday.

Copyright 2002 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)


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