Pam Roth

The Argonauts are very saddened to report the passing of Pam Roth, our longest standing member at the age of 87. Pam started diving in 1977 when she was already in her forties. BSAC members from that era will not need reminding that the training was then both more protracted and much more physically demanding than it is now. There were relatively many fewer women diving; one of Pam’s much quoted pieces of advice to new women joining the Argonauts was “don’t let the boys bully you!”

It is in truth hard to imagine anyone bullying Pam. She was diminutive in stature, but very large in presence, formidable when she needed to be, but always with a ready smile, and a sense of humour which was never very far away. She dived with the Argonauts around the UK for many years until in 1990, after a low viz dive in Poole Harbour (which in typically prosaic style she described as “crap”),  she decided to pursue warm water diving only from then on. She did several overseas diving trips to locations both familiar and exotic, until finally giving up diving altogether in 2015 at the age of 81. During her 25 years of overseas diving, she regularly won the club’s annual competition for who had done the most dives. The time she spent as club chair is widely regarded as having the best run committee meetings in the club’s history. Her final dives were in the Solomon Islands on what she described as “absolutely the perfect diving trip”. She confessed that it was so good, that she possibly “overdid it a bit”, and decided that it was a good time to finish on a high.

Pam was born in Liverpool, and lived the first 12 years of her life in England before moving to Canada with her mother when her parents separated. Her father moved to South Africa, and from an early age Pam became a global traveller. She completed her secondary education in Canada, but returned to England to train as a primary school teacher. Although she had dual citizenship she always regarded herself as English not Canadian. For a few years she taught overseas in expatriate schools, Moscow, Jamaica and Canada being highlights. She then returned to work permanently in England and spent 34 years teaching at a primary school in Enfield. She became very interested in the subject of dyslexia, and was at the forefront of its recognition as a specific condition which needed to be addressed in a particular way.

She had very little use for, or need of, material things. Home for 55 years was a tiny flat in a classic art deco block near Smithfield market in central London. Fans of the television series Poirot will know it well as this was used as the location where he lived. Pam used to regale us with tales of disappointed fan-tourists hoping to see inside only to learn they never filmed the interiors there  (they were all studio sets) and none of the apartments looked remotely like his. Her luxury was always travel with several overseas trips a year, not just for diving but also to visit family and friends all over the world. For many years her day always began at 6am with a swim at the local pool, and continued in a similarly active manner. Pam was a devout Christian and was very involved in her local church, amongst other things as a stalwart member of the bellringing team. She had a great love of classical music, in particular ballet, and as a friend of Covent Garden would attend the dress rehearsal of every production they staged unless she was otherwise engaged. The “dress rehearsal club” was another group of friends with shared interests that she made through simply meeting up on a regular basis. A fairly serious stroke at the age of [82] reduced her mobility considerably, but she determinedly fought to regain as much of it as she could. Until COVID lockdowns finally prevented her, she seldom missed Argonauts club nights even though this meant a journey of two buses in each direction if no-one was able to offer her transport – a considerable undertaking for someone now compelled to walk with a stick.

Pam never married and had no children of her own, but she did have a legion of godchildren – children of colleagues, pupils and friends – including some of Argonauts members. She took this responsibility seriously, and remained in close contact with all of them throughout her life well into their adulthood. She undoubtedly could be forthright and assertive – particularly when others around her were being inefficient – and certainly did not suffer fools gladly. Nevertheless she was incredibly kind, especially to anyone who needed help, and unfailingly generous with her time. She was a person from whom the expression “if there is anything I can do…” was an absolute commitment not a platitude. Many, many people had reason to be grateful to her, not just for practical help, but for words of advice and encouragement, often borne out of experience, always delivered with humour, and compassion, but honest truths were never sugar coated. She was a one-of-a-kind, and the Argonauts and all who knew her are the poorer for her passing. Her legacy is a huge number of people whose lives she has affected, and who have all benefited from it.

Page added in August 2021

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