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In Memoriam: Sidney Vines

The Wandle Piscators have been deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the Club’s very first Patron, Major Sidney Vines.

Sidney is probably best remembered for his authoritative guide The English Chalk Streams (1992), but he wrote much else too, in the course of a rich and varied life.

Born in 1922, he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery at the age of 19, and occasionally used to recount how he landed on Gold Beach in Normandy as part of the first waves of the D-Day assault. In his role as a Forward Artillery Observer he was mentioned in dispatches, and returned safely to demobilise and invest his “golden bowler” in a successful restaurant business in Southampton.

For many years he lived at West Dean on the little Test-tributary River Dun, and wrote for The Field, including the Countryman’s Notes column, from around 1978. Through his military and fly-fishing contacts he became a confidant of both Frank Sawyer and Oliver Kite: as a result he collaborated with Sawyer on Keeper of the Stream: The Life of a River and its Trout Fishery (1952), and later wrote his biography Frank Sawyer: Man of the Riverside (1984).

In retirement, Sidney moved from West Dean to Laverstock, where his living room featured an astonishing wall-height stained glass window, a gift from his children, depicting the rich life and biodiversity of a healthy chalk stream. A few yards away, the River Bourne ran through his garden, and Sidney took much pleasure in showing visitors his pet shoal of specimen grayling, every one of them at least two pounds. “But I don’t fish for them,” he used to smile. “I just like watching them swimming up and down, and knowing they’re safe.”

Although The English Chalk Streams was a celebration of these globally-rare rivers, Sidney researched and wrote it in the very early 1990s: a time of greatly-increasing abstraction, stocking with farmed trout, and other environmental pressures.

As a result he was deeply concerned for the future of the chalk streams, and became an enthusiastic supporter of the Wandle river restoration project, which he regarded as “a bright light in a dark world”. He had no hesitation in accepting a role as the Wandle Piscators’ first Patron, and although he was increasingly immobile in later years, followed news of our work avidly, with frequent endorsements in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying and other publications.

Sidney was married to Minoushka, who predeceased him. He is survived by two daughters, to whom we extend our condolences.

His funeral took place at 2.30pm on Friday 4 May at Salisbury Crematorium.

(Photo: Roy Eaton)

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