Lots of info from BCRA

    The next online seminar is on Monday 10th June, 19.30 to 21.00 via Zoom

    Click here for more

R.I.P. Owen Clarke


It is with great sadness I report the passing of one of the best friends I've ever been privaleged to know.  Well known in the caving community.  In his time an outstanding cave diver and all round good person.  I only found out last night and know nothing else.  When I find out I'll no doubt post something more. 


Active member
I met Owen many times over the years but cannot say I knew him well. However I always found him a stalwart and always ready to help or explain - or put you right if he felt you needed it.
He wrote many caving articles over the years and he was truly part of the golden age of Welsh caving.



Clive G

I'm very sad to hear this news.

Years and years ago I remember being absolutely amazed to find Owen Clarke, an ardent member of Cwmbran Caving Club, very steadily making his way into Daren Cilau, around the corner at the end The Vice in the Entrance Series, simply through the sheer determination and enthusiasm shown, irrespective of age or size. It was no trouble or bother pausing to allow him time to pass.

Everyone who climbs a stainless-steel semi-rigid fixed ladder in a cave in Wales, where each rung is assembled and interlocked like a metal multi-puzzle, has Owen to thank for the design and construction he originated for the 65-foot (20m) ladder pitch in Daren Cilau. This obviated the previous dependence on rotting electron ladders which had actually broken whilst people were climbing them, albeit safely lifelined at the time. Other such ladders have since been built and installed elsewhere in the same and other caves.

However, Owen's innovative contributions don't stop here, because he also designed the air-lift which was successfully built with John Cooper and used underwater at Pwll y Cwm in the Clydach Gorge from March 1986, when divers were looking for the way on at the bottom of the pothole:

"we assembled a profusion of hoses, pipes and bits into an air-lift. People stood back in amazement asking the same thing ? Would it work? It certainly looked very basic and simple, and Owen?s idea was for it to be just that ? idiot-proof, or was it ?caver-proof??

The whole lot was dropped down the shaft and with a final push on the back Steve disappeared into the murk. He followed the pipe down, got hold of the suction hose, traced it to the end and waited. Then, remembering the air switch was diver-operated, he groped his way back to the base pipe. A final deep breath and the switch was thrown open. It was a perfect launch, with all six yards of the air-lift blazing skywards and a bewildered diver clinging to the tail section being battered to death all the way up!

Owen shook his head sadly and John looked towards the skies. Steve was given new orders and pushed back down the shaft. Again a loud rumbling came to the surface followed by a cloud of bubbles and an air-lift trailing an irate diver.

While Steve had a rest new ideas were thought up. It was decided to attach a bag of weights to the base to prevent launching, while a float on top would stop it sinking too far. Also, by tying the top to the A-frame it was hoped to stop the rotation of the head and keep the debris ejecting downstream instead of everywhere. Other minor problems were encountered and solved. It worked ? that was the main thing." (Steve Ainley, 1986)

I remember calling in on Owen at Abersychan in May 2006, after the launch of Peter Wakelin's new guidebook for Blaenavon Ironworks and I recall, being on foot and public transport at the time, this meant being picked up by Owen and then taken back to where I was staying afterwards. He was a great host and as enthusiastic and full of ideas as ever, following his love for cave science.

Owen's reported death is a very sad loss for caving in the UK.

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
He also built the NCA rope test rig which he handed on to me over ten years ago.  I gather his background in steel was used across a range of caving projects in both design and supply.  He also was active in putting forward the Welsh view point at NCA over most of its life and continued to do so with BCA until a couple of yeas ago.

I was informed that people were unable to make contact with him early this week, so an entry was made into his property where he was found dead on Wednesday 16th.  An inquest will be held.

Sad news indeed.

Clive G


Owen Clarke at Pwll y Cwm, Clydach Gorge, South Wales, tending to his new underwater air-lift on 30th March 1986 by Clive Gardener


Owen was someone who never lost his enthusiasm, even in recent years he was still searching for dive sites along the Afon Lwyd near Abersychan and would regularly come along to Brynmawr CC meetings to join us for a pint and try to enlist a bit of help.

Rest in peace Owen



Well-known member
Yes, had a pleasant chat with Owen when he and Alkapton turned up at a BCC meeting a few months ago.

Very sad news. R.I.P. Owen Clarke.


I remember walking along the Llangattock escarpment with Owen on the way to a GCRT rescue practice and having a very pleasant chat with him about all sorts of diverse topics. He was a thoroughly nice chap and always a pleasure to talk to.

I was always in awe of how active he had remained at what most would consider an advanced age and can only hope that I can emulate him in some small way.

Raising a glass to Owen now and toasting a life well lived.


Duncan Price

Active member
I first encountered Owen Clarke after a two day digging trip in Agen Allwedd with John Stevens in April 1987.  We were making our way out along Main Passage when we met a group of cavers bringing in cake for Owen's 60th birthday party.  As the two of us hadn't eaten properly for a while so we tucked in.  I later got to know Owen better through the Welsh Section of the Cave Diving Group for which Owen served as treasurer for many years.  Owen's approach to looking after the finances proved particularly novel as cheques for subs often got lost - down the back of his sofa!  I later had the privilege of taking Owen for his CDG practical exam which he did aged 70 (or more - it is referenced in Descent) - Owen turned up at Stoney Cove in his caving wetsuit despite the water being bitterly cold and we put him through his paces and he coped with the beating normally reserved for cave divers more than half his age.  "Foggy" as he was affectionately known was made an honorary member of the CDG when he finally retired from active participation - I guess that he was in his 80s by then.  As others have said, Owen was an innovator with gear - building airlifts and ladders.  Sometimes his ideas were a little crack pot - like mounting a mini diving cylinder to his ankle and running the hose from it up through the leg of his wetsuit!  He was certainly a character and also a diplomat - someone who it was impossible to dislike whether you agreed with him or not.


I got this txt
Hi Chris, In case you haven't heard, Owen's funeral will be at 14:30 on Thursday 7th Jan. at the crem. in Croesy.

I also got another message some place I forget,  anyone wishing to attend should contact Steve waters or me so there is an idea of the number of people to cater for.


New member
Owen's funeral will be at 14:30 on Thursday 7th January 2016 at the Gwent Crematorium, Croesy-y-ceiliog, NP44 2BZ.
A buffet to follow the funeral is booked at the Greenmeadow Golf Club next door - the family would like to know who will be attending to help them ensure that the necessary numbers are catered for.  If you will be attending the funeral please e-mail swaters3@sky.com quoting all the names in your party.


Very sorry to hear that Owen has passed away, it was with Owens help that I made semi rigid ladder for the Balcony pitch in Draenen.