Patricia Elsie Davies
Pat worked as a technician, firstly in the Bacteriology sub-Department of Botany at the then University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire from the late 1950’s, until we became a separate Microbiology Department (1964) of Cardiff University College (1965) and part of the School of Pure and Applied Biology (1988). Apart from the years she spent on maternity leave and in the early years of bringing up her children, Paul and Helen, she always served as a microbiologist, and continued in the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, until her retirement on the 31st of October 1997.
Pat caused quite a stir when she first arrived in the Cardiff University Bacteriology laboratories, then under the umbrella of the old Newport Road Botany Department. Hardly a palatial building for microbiology– a leaky wooden hut for a laboratory and some ancient red brick houses for the staff. Pat was driving a smart MG midget and dressed to match, an ensemble, which attracted many envious, glances. Pat was quickly assimilated into the technicians world watched over by Frank Ryan – up to then the fountain of most of the knowledge of the equipment and aseptic techniques required by a new and enthusiastic new recruit to Bacteriology. The Bacteriology academic staff was changing quite rapidly – starting with Botany’s Professor McLean, sharing his war time experience of Bacteriology with the college’s first Bacteriology students, and then sharing the load of two separate year’s lecturing and practical work with Tony Melville, a dental school bacteriologist from Liverpool. Pat spent most of her time directly supporting the undergraduate practical classes.
The mini-department blossomed, Tony sought pastures new and handed over to Ted Hill (home grown from the college’s first Bacteriology graduates), later joined by Anne Eddington and Geoff Callely and so on. With the expansion came the opportunity for the development of specialised interests, and Pat spent more and more of her time working with Ted on the smelly end of industrial microbiology. First on biological treatment of coke oven effluents and then on detecting and controlling foul and corrosive cutting and rolling oils. From there it was an easy step to working on microbiological problems with major companies in the petroleum, aviation, marine and engineering industries. Fortunately these were companies with deep pockets, which matched the size of the operational problems, which were caused when new fuels and lubricants proved to be an ideal food source for a wide range of microorganisms. The deep pockets funded a small industrial microbiology laboratory and Pat was a key member of the small team, which worked there. Highlights, which come to mind, are solving the fuel problems on Concorde and investigating 150 merchant ships where infected main engine lubricants caused engine failure – and then working out how to stop it. And so she continued while bringing up Paul and Helen, and until Ted left to set up an independent company, whereupon Pat reverted to a more traditional career for a university microbiological technician. However, for her, the smell of fuels and oils did not go forever as on retirement Pat often helped out at Echa Microbiology (then in Cardiff Bay) when they were short staffed.
The University workplace was somewhere for all to enjoy: we enjoyed coming to work, and almost everyday something amusing happened to think about in the evenings. Of course Pat was a central figure, so pivotal to the success of our culturing of microbes, our discoveries and achievements, and everyone remembers her helpfulness. We are still in touch with very many of the ex-students ‘Cardiff Old Microbes’who gained much of their expertise with Pat’s help: and she enjoyed the experience of being with so many wonderful young people, many of whom still work in industry, biomedicine and environmental institutions worldwide, and more than 40 of whom are university professors. Pat loved to travel, and visited many countries. She spent holidays in Helen’s apartment in France and also onboard the yacht which Helen worked on. She also had other equally exciting holidays with the Fitness League and visited China, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Canada. Rugby played a huge part in Pat’s life - she was an avid supporter of Cardiff rugby, and of course Wales, and was always enthusiastic about giving her views on the match……… Pat was also passionate about her Fitness League, formerly called the Women’s League of Health & Beauty. She had been a member of it since about 1955. They performed at many places including the Albert Hall and before a football match at Cardiff City Football Ground. They performed in leotards and bare feet on a muddy ground in the rain!!! You can imagine some of the comments from the football supporters! She trained as a teacher for Fitness League and even helped with some of the ongoing training for Fitness League Teachers. She also trained as a fitness teacher with Extend, something which she carried on doing up until her final illness. Helen and Paul would like to thank all of Pat’s friends and colleagues for making Pat’s life a happy and fulfilling one.
Ted Hill, Diane Leigh, and David Lloyd