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Dorothy Sarah (Sally) Peake, 1915-2002

Dorothy Peake, (née Coates), known as Sally, died at a local hospice near her home in Whyteleafe, Surrey on 29 October 2002 after a long struggle with cancer.

Quaternary geology was a lifelong enthusiasm and Sally was a founder member (1963) of the Quaternary Field Studies Group, later the Quaternary Research Association. Her two areas of study were the North Wales borders, the home of her youth, and the North Downs near Croydon where she spent her later years.

Sally's interest in the Quaternary began during her undergraduate days at Birmingham University (1933-36) under the inspired direction of Prof. L J Wills. After graduating with First Class Honours, Sally remained at Birmingham to work on the Quaternary history of the Welsh Border area near her home in Bronington, Flintshire, under the guidance of Prof. Wills. She was awarded an MSc for this work (1937). In addition to being a keen member of the University Ladies First XI Hockey team, and later the Mosely Ladies Club, Sally was an enthusiastic cyclist. She took full advantage of one long summer vacation to cycle alone up the west coast of England and through the Scottish Borders, and (via a ferry!) across to the home of her aunt In County Down, Northern Ireland.

Following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, (both headmasters of the village school at Bronington) Sally secured a teaching post (1938) at Bromsgrove County High School. She remained there for three years. With her focus on teaching, and later her family, she was not to return to research for some 20 years. At university, Sally met a civil engineering student, Frederick Gervase Peake, known as Peter, on a geology field meeting. They were married in Birmingham (October 1940) and she vividly recalled the enemy bombing of the city on her wedding day that severely curtailed their celebrations.

Peter entered the Royal Navy and in 1943 was posted abroad - returning home three years later. Their first daughter, Lesley, was born a few months after Peter had left and Barbara was born (1948) in Plymouth, where the family was stationed at the end of hostilities. The continued demands of travel in the Navy proved burdensome to family life and in 1949 Peter joined the Port of London, where he remained for the rest of his career. The family moved to Selsdon, a few miles south of Croydon and some 20 years later to Whyteleafe, Surrey.

In 1957, with the reducing pressures of family life, Sally returned to her research in North Wales and the work on the quaternary history of the Alyn Valley north of Wrexham was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society four years later. In 1973 the substantial progress that had been achieved in Quaternary stratigraphy was consolidated in the seminal Geological Society publication A Correlation of Quaternary Deposits in the British Isles. Sally chaired the Welsh sub-committee and Dr David Q Bowen recalls the need for her firm control of 'the younger bloods', including himself, and the great care with which this section of the report was put together.

By now Sally had turned her attention to her local area around Croydon, Surrey and its small, somewhat neglected river, the Wandle. Her original research formed the basis of a talk (1975) to the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society and was finally published in the Proceedings of that Society for 1982. For some years Sally had suffered from arthritis and she was to have a number of major hip operations in the 70s and 80s, which restricted her ability to undertake fieldwork. Nevertheless she continued to contribute short notes to the Quaternary Newsletter on matters relating to the Wandle and was thrilled that her work was consolidated into the wider studies of Dr David Bridgeland on Wealden Rivers North of the Thames.

Sally had the knack of sustaining friendships over long periods and it gave her deep pleasure to learn, some months before she died, that the Geological Society had awarded the Wollaston Medal to Prof. Harry Whittington, a lifelong friend from undergraduate days in Birmingham. Sally bore her illnesses with great fortitude and the subject rarely arose in the numerous conversations we had over 20 years. Rather it was with her family, her friendships, her abiding interest in nature and, in particular, in Quaternary geology, that we passed these hours.

Ron Williams