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Tony Pawlyn Obituary

Exterior aerial photo of National Maritime Museum Cornwall, in Falmouth. Pictured on a sunny day.

Born and bred in Newlyn, the sea was in Tony’s blood from the start and he had a life-long fascination for the history of his home town and the maritime history of Cornwall.

Quite when he started his more formal maritime research, no one knows, but certainly by 1984, when he was still working for BT, he helped to found the South West Maritime History Society. He remained on their committee in various roles for over 20 years, producing a string of articles during that time.

When he took early retirement in 1992 he picked up his pen and embarked on his next full-time career as a researcher in maritime history.

The late Captain George Hogg, then the Hon Curator of the Cornwall Maritime Museum in Falmouth, persuaded Tony to become the Museum’s 10th Trustee in 1996 and together they planned an ambitious expansion programme.

Two men in The Bartlett Library at National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Captain George Hogg (left) and Tony Pawlyn (right) in The Bartlett Maritime Research Centre & Library.

One thing led to another and National Maritime Museum Cornwall was born, perhaps larger in scale than either had ever dreamed, but a real opportunity to tell the story of Cornwall’s maritime history. Together they threw themselves into the detailed planning of the Museum and you can see their influence throughout the building today.

They were united in believing that any museum should have a proper library and between them persuaded retired engineer John Bartlett to help create the Bartlett Maritime Research Centre and Library. This became Tony’s focus for over 20 years.

During this time, Tony won the prestigious Henwood Medal presented by the Royal Institution of Cornwall for his articles on the Pilchard Industry in 1998, in 2010 the South West Maritime History Society gave him a lifetime award for his ‘contribution to maritime history’, and in 2012 Tony received the Sir Richard Trant Award from the Cornwall Heritage Trust for his research into Cornish maritime history. He helped create and organise Cornwall’s Maritime History Conference, sat on the editorial board for Troze, the Museum’s refereed online journal, and prepared his masterwork on the Falmouth Packets which was published in 2003.

When he wasn’t caring for the Bartlett or answering the many specialist queries that flowed in, Tony was off following his own research and helping other organisations. He worked with Penlee House in Penzance, establishing their Photographic Group with John McWilliams and helping develop their galleries. He was a regular at the Morrab Library, Kresen Kernow, The National Archives, the Post Office Museum or simply at his desk, deep in the British Newspaper Archives. In the dining room at Trelissick House is a picture of a ship with a caption. At the bottom is a little credit ‘Research courtesy of Tony Pawlyn’. Cornwall is littered with such small credits.

Tony’s support of the Museum knew no bounds and it was typical of him that he continued as a Trustee, and loyally supporting the Bartlett Library, until only a few months ago when his health took priority.

For all this, and for his loyal friendship, support and guidance we will be eternally grateful. We send our love and wishes to Tony’s family and all those he has left behind.

National Maritime
Museum Cornwall Trust
Discovery Quay
Falmouth Cornwall
TR11 3QY

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Tel: +44(0)1326 313388

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National Maritime Museum
Cornwall Trust
Discovery Quay
TR11 3QY

Tel: +44(0)1326 313388