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Sheila Francis

Posted by: 9988

1928 - 2022

Sheila FrancisDr Sheila M Francis passed away peacefully at the Foxearth Lodge Care Home on Saturday 10th December 2022.

Sheila Francis (neé Mount) was born in Clifton, Bristol, in February 1928 and studied botany under Dr Lillian Hawker at the University of Bristol.  In 1950, encouraged by Lillian, she began a Tutorial Studentship at Imperial College London, under Professor W. Brown and in 1952 became an assistant lecturer, completing her PhD in 1953.

It was as a student at Imperial College that Sheila met her husband, Professor John Francis. They married at Caxton Hall. in April 1954. Sheila worked as a lecturer at Imperial College from 1954 to 1959 and, for the next two years, was the assistant in charge of the London practical exams at John Cass College. In 1962, Sheila and John moved to Manchester. They lived there until 1968, moving once again back to London to further John's career.

In 1968, Sheila became volunteer assistant mycologist at the Commonwealth Mycological Institute (which was then at Kew, and later part of CABI) working on Anthostomella and publisihing in the CMI's Mycological Papers

Following John's death in 1979, Sheila became an employed mycologist at CMI where she remained for 8 years, identifying three new species of Anthostomella with colleagues David Minter and Thelma Caine.  Papers on Rosellinia necatrix (a fungal plant pathogen causing white root rot) and needle blights of conifers followed in 1985/86 and then - in 1988, with Grace Waterhouse - the List of Peronosporaceae reported From the British Isles; this latter work on downy mildews has only recently been superseded by the Welsh rusts group.

Introduced to the British Mycological Society by Lillian Hawker as a student, Sheila was a quiet but active member, holding the role of foray secretary from 1957 to 1960 and member of BMS Council from 1982 to 1984. It was on a BMS foray in Fowey that Sheila met her second partner, Ted Batten, who was to be her companion until his death in 2007.  They lived first in Holland then later retired to Wenhaston, Suffolk.  Sheila moved to the village of Westleton in 2010, where she was highly thought-of as their local fungi expert.

I met Sheila and Ted on a BMS foray. Both quiet and unassuming, they were keen to show me their method of collecting small ascomycetes from burnt ground.  Later, Sheila offered me her papers on truffles that she had received from Lillian Hawker; they clearly meant a lot to her and she wanted to pass them on to someone who would appreciate them. This was Sheila: keen to help and educate, as demonstrated by her support for beginners and the numerous articles for school children, teachers and parents that she wrote between 1987 and 1991 in The Mycologist

Carol Hobart, BMS Foray Manager