My father, Chris Wigglesworth, who has died aged 82, was a geologist, academic and Church of Scotland minister who worked across the world on water and rural development and devoted his life to fighting for social justice.
Born in Leeds to Maurice Wigglesworth, a chemical engineer and teacher, and his wife, Muriel (nee Cowling), he was an avid student and head boy at Grangefield grammar school, Stockton-on-Tees. He was also a keen cricketer, with a deep interest in politics, driven from an early age to improve the lives of others.
He studied geology at Durham, graduating in 1958, and went on to gain a PhD in 1964. While leading a student study group on Raasay, he met Ann Livesey, who was studying zoology at Cambridge. They married in 1962 and both went on to teach at secondary schools in Huddersfield. In 1964 they moved to Edinburgh, where, driven by his faith and a determination to put his knowledge to use helping others, he studied for a degree in theology at New College, Edinburgh, graduating in 1967.
That year he heard through church contacts that a hydro-geologist was needed in Maharashtra, India. So he headed off to lead a water development project, putting his geology into practice: drilling tube wells for villages hard hit by famine, and building percolation tanks to create infrastructure to retain the monsoon rain. During this time his team designed a low-cost and innovative hand pump, which is now the world’s most widely used hand pump – India Mark II.
In 1972 he became a minister at the Scots’ Kirk in Bombay (now Mumbai). There he mobilised volunteers to work with street children, setting up the Pavement Club to offer them shelter, food and education. He continued to support water development projects and in 1977 led a team to set up clean drinking water supplies for survivors of a cyclone in eastern India.
Returning to Scotland in 1979, to lecture in practical theology at Aberdeen University, he was active as a Labour councillor and in the anti-apartheid movement – hosting visits by Adelaide Tambo and Desmond Tutu. In 1984 he used a sabbatical to work with Oxfam, setting up drinking water supplies in the refugee camps of south-east Sudan. His appointment, in 1987, as general secretary in charge of the Church of Scotland’s international work brought a move back to Edinburgh.
He retired in 1999, though he continued to work as a trustee of Water Witness, a charity focused on crafting new solutions to the world’s water resource challenges, and on the Fountainbridge project, an initiative to install a gravity-fed fountain, designed by engineering students from Herriot Watt University. He also served as a Labour member of Edinburgh city council. His last overseas trip was a visit in 2017 to Israel and Palestine.
Dad loved mountains, especially walking in the Lake District and west coast of Scotland, and painting.
He is survived by Ann, his children, Karen, Sara, John and me, and grandchildren, Aslan, Josie,…
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