Dr Ben Fisher (1963-2009)

Narrow Gauge Railway Enthusiast and Founder of this Website

Dr Ben Fisher - reproduced in the Guardian
Ben's role
To quote from the obituary on the Bangor University website:
Outside work, Ben’s consuming passion was narrow gauge railways – one reason he was drawn to North Wales - and he was an acknowledged expert in the field, with an equally high reputation as a railway photographer. His website chronicling the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway was (and remains) one of the most visited of its kind in the world, with literally millions of hits. Absurdly, Ben didn’t live to see the line’s re-opening but his ashes will travel on the first through train from Caernarfon to Porthmadog early next year and his site and photographs will form the basis of a book detailing the adventure.

Indeed his ashes did travel on the first through train on the line on October 30th 2010, in the care of Rev Dr Richard Buxton and some of his former colleagues. 

November 10th 2010
Ben's ashes were scattered at Nantmor this morning in a short ceremony led by Richard Buxton (who's both a priest and an FRC director). Colleagues from Bangor University were impressed with the halt and the plaque in Ben's memory (which is on the back wall of the waiting shelter). As I opened the gate for Stuart McNair (who was carrying the urn), I couldn't resist remarking that it was probably the first and last time that anyone would have been allowed to hold a gate or a door open for Ben.
Richard Buxton began by saying it was the final part of our saying goodbye to Ben, following his funeral service and the carrying of his ashes on the first through passenger train at the end of October. He invited everyone to reflect in silence while he scattered the ashes along the track from the end of Nantmor platform to the small cutting immediately south of the halt. Watching from the platform, the only sound was a passing stream as the last few plumes of ash settled down between the rails. (Report by Chris Dearden)

May 26th 2010
From the report on this website of the official opening of the Beddgelert to Pont Croesor extension:
Having opened Pont Croesor the party boarded the return train and proceeded to Nantmor where the new Halt was also opened this time the opening ceremony was performed by Dr Dafydd Gwyn who dedicated the station in Ben Fisher's memory. 
Nantmor opening - AndrewThomasPlaque to Ben Fisher at Nantmor - Andrew Thomas
23rd November 2009
A memorial event was held at Bangor University where his colleagues celebrated his life and academic achievements

26th October 2009
Obituary to Ben Fisher in the Guardian  - a rare distinction
by Carol Tully
My colleague and friend, Ben Fisher, who has died unexpectedly aged 45, was an inspiring teacher of French at Bangor University and the creator of one of the most visited railway websites in the world, the Welsh Highland Railway Project.

The son of Roy Fisher, the poet and musician, and the former Barbara Venables, Ben grew up on the university campus at Keele, where Roy was senior lecturer in American studies. After reading modern and medieval languages at Selwyn College, Cambridge, Ben moved to Bangor to do a PhD and stayed there for the rest of his life, becoming head of the French department. He happily admitted that the move had been influenced by the number of preserved narrow-gauge steam railways nearby.

Teaching for Ben did not consist of chalking up first-class degrees; the number of tributes from students who would not have finished degrees without his going the extra mile for them said far more. Rather reserved away from work, he was an idiosyncratic and funny teacher. His lateral thinking with technology made an immeasurable contribution at Bangor, notably as co-developer (with Adrian Ritchie) of the UK's first digital language laboratory, and director of the Multimedia Language Centre, which grew out of it. In the early 1990s he supervised the Estel project, which brought multilingual satellite TV into classrooms all over Wales.

Ben's doctoral thesis, on the complex, often irreverent, French avant-garde writer Alfred Jarry, was published by Liverpool University Press as The Pataphysician's Library (2000) and received a string of complimentary reviews. A series of articles in major journals on avant-garde authors followed. At the time of his death, he was starting a new project – a French Symbolist Reader.

Ben's other publishing project has been a work-in-progress for 10 years: the official website chronicling the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway, the 26-mile narrow-gauge line connecting Caernarfon and Porthmadog. As Ben did not live to see the line's reopening, set for next year, his ashes will travel on the first train.

Ben is survived by his father and his brother, Joe.
Obituaries also appeared in the Independent, the  Times Higher Education Suppplement, the 2010 issue of Bangoriad, the magazine for alumni and friends of Bangor University, and the North Wales Daily Post

Ben's website is now maintained in his memory by the current authors Laurence Armstrong and David Tidy.  

 Back to WHR Project homepage

Website authored by Ben Fisher; this page last updated December 31st 2011 by David Tidy