Cedric Nigel Barry-Taylor died peacefully in Portscatho on August 5th, 2021. He was 88, nearly 89 years old. Nigel was born on August 25, 1932, in the village of Knole in Somerset, the third of four children. His father was an officer in the RAF, who worked as a member of the Pathfinders, planning bombing raids across Europe. His mother worked as a seamstress before marriage. His parents entertained many pilots before they flew sorties against the Germans, something that left an impression on Nigel as a boy.
He attended school at King’s Ely, an experience he cherished for life. Even as cancer began to affect his memory, Nigel could remember the layout of Ely Cathedral, and its grounds, with remarkable accuracy. He took great pleasure in revisiting his alma mater over the years.
After school, Nigel went to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He described the experience as one that broke you down and built you back up to feel as though you could do anything in the world. Cadets could earn extra leave by participating in dangerous training exercises. Thus, he went spelunking and earned a long weekend pass which he used to go to Paris with a group of friends. He said they had a very jolly time, even going to the Moulin Rouge for an expensive drink and a show, returning home broke.
Military life suited Nigel. He took a commission with the Royal Horse Artillery and then the Army Air Corps, after he learned to fly. He enjoyed postings in Germany and later in Salisbury. He also went to Kenya, North Africa, Oman and Zanzibar, doing aerial reconnaissance and flying VIPs around. He rose to the rank of Major, a firm but kind officer, well-liked by the men who served with him. A proud moment for him was when he took his retired RAF dad up in a plane, son flying father.
Nigel possessed a keen sense of adventure and a deep love of flying. Some of his happiest times were undoubtedly spent jumping into his plane to photograph a city or landscape as part of a military exercise – as he did during an uprising in Zanzibar and also in Oman, both in the 1960s. A skilled painter, Nigel took photographs from his planes of African wildlife in Kenya and landscapes in North Africa and the Middle East, using them to guide his painting. His love of rhino, elephant, giraffe, gazelle and zebra was evident in the work around his house.
Usually quite a careful person, he liked a bit of fun, as evidenced by the time he flew over a company of King’s African Rifles and decided to do a loop the loop to amuse them. He had not secured his gear properly in the seat behind him, and as he flew upside down, it fell and pushed him forward. He said he had some trouble pulling out of the loop, clipping the treetops. When he landed, his engineers teased him about the branches in the plane’s undercarriage.
Nigel met his wife, Rowena, during his post in Kenya. While wooing her, he flew over her house and dropped roses from his plane into her garden. They married at a church in Kenya in April, 1963. They had two children, Henry Sebastian and Polly Anna.
He left the military in 1976 and began flying for Bristow Helicopters. In 1977, he was supposed to go to work in Iran, but thankfully, the posting changed to Cairo at the last minute.
Nigel and his wife parted company while in Egypt. He went on to fly helicopters all over the world, including in Sumatra, Scotland and Nigeria. He took advantage of time off work to travel and experience local culture wherever he went. He especially enjoyed a trip to Bali, where he stayed with a wood carver and watched him work.
Nigel estimates he flew at least 15,000 hours over his career, probably more. When he retired from Bristow Helicopters nearly 30 years ago, he bought a house and settled in Portscatho, a village he loved and where he had friends. Together they bought a boat, the Tanglin of Percuil, and sailed it for years during his retirement. He loved the pace and kindness of village life, and appreciated how the people in Portscatho welcomed and accepted him.
A very competent pianist who played by ear, retirement gave Nigel time to play the jazz that he loved – like Fats Waller and Earl “Fatha” Hines – to the delight of his family and friends. He also loved the beauty around him – the coast, the birds, the flowers and the water in which he loved to swim. With an artist’s eye, he often remarked about the pinks and oranges of dawns and sunsets over Gerrans Bay, and the inky shades of dusk. He loved going to sleep and waking up to see that view. It’s no surprise that he wished to have his ashes scattered in Gerrans Bay.
Cedric Nigel Barry-Taylor is survived by his two older sisters, Belinda Groom and Sue Carter, his children, Henry Sebastian Barry-Taylor and Polly Anna Stryker, and his grandchildren, Theo, Siena and Miles. He will be dearly missed.
Donations can be made to:
Cornwall Air Ambulance: https://cornwallairambulancetrust.org/