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WHO WAS TONY?
TONY RAWLINGSON PLANT
Tony was born just before the Second World War in Cambridge. His father was a university librarian who more or less immediately went off to join the Army, and his mother a teacher. He had a younger brother Dominic and sister Julia.
His formative years were very much influenced by the countryside and early on he developed a love of nature, particularly bird life. He shot a black bird once by mistake and vowed never to shoot another bird, and he didn’t! His mother came from a farming family and this also made a great impression on the young Tony; rearing of animals, the seasons, planting and cultivating crops. He had to help his mother with the vegetable gardens, also preserving and pickling from a very early age. These were the war years, and like most women with families, she was on her own, with the added anxiety of a husband by now in Burma with the Royal Artillery.
His other great passions in life were traveling, climbing, mountaineering and sport, particularly rugby. By the time he got to Douai school in Berkshire he was a respected and very able sportsman who played all the major sports, in between dissecting various small mammals for biology & planning his next expedition to Scotland which he loved. He was eventually in the Douai team which won the public schools seven a side – still talked about by ex Dowegians! He had wanted to be a pediatrician but eventually opted for Sandhurst and then the Royal Artillery like his dad.
After two years at Sandhurst he joined his first regiment in Malaysia – the exotic wildlife made a lasting impression on him and began his life long love of and fascination with elephants (Asian ones particularly!). Then back to the UK and then out to Cyprus in 1964 as part of the United Nations. There he met Tricia which was a real ‘whirlwind’ romance. They were married in London the following year, followed by a brief spell in Germany, then two years in Shropshire where their eldest daughter, Vicki was born. Back to Germany with 39 Missile Regiment and the appearance of Ben their first son. Tony probably played his most rugby there and was then posted to the new rocket range base in the Outer Hebrides. He went first and three months later his family joined him. Quite a culture shock but they soon grew to love the islands and the people. Tony set up the Nomads rugby club, and also as Entertainments Officer, managed somehow to persuade some really well known musicians and actors to visit ‘the troops’. His love of birds and nature was deeply satisfied in the Hebrides to the extent that when his second son Matt was due, he was off on St. Kilda (an island some 40 miles out into the Atlantic) ringing birds and a special boat was sent by his boss to collect him!
Four and a half years later he decided that he would leave the army and after a spell in Kent and a postgraduate diploma in recreation management, the family moved to Bruton in Somerset. He became the bursar at the Blue School Wells, but his ambition had always been to open an outdoor centre. This eventually he achieved, with Mill on the Brue Outdoor Activity Centre. Sadly he was diagnosed with cancer about five years after it opened but it didn’t stop him traveling, exploring, bird watching, and generally enjoying the rewarding life he had helped to found. His family was all important to him and he was thrilled by the birth of his grand children, and getting to know them all. He was a man of quiet courage who took all that was thrown at him with dignity and humour right to the end of his life.
It was because of Tony’s life time love of Elephants we were inspired to use the Elephant paw in our logo. In later life he was never happier than being out in the wilds of Nepal on top of an elephant counting Tigers, Rhino and looking for Raja Gaj, and his offspring.
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