Nigel Kemp obituary

Rachel Mohun Kemp
·2-min read

My husband, Nigel Kemp, who has died aged 87, had the energy and enthusiasm to pursue two very different careers with distinction. He was central to the professionalisation of cancer research funding in the UK in the 1970s and 80s, and went on to follow his dream of purchasing and managing a smallholding for the benefit of its natural habitats.

In 1967 he became the honorary scientific secretary and, eventually, the full-time scientific director of the charity that became the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC), then one of the two major funders of cancer research in the UK. He was intimately involved in developing national policies relating to cancer research, working closely with colleagues in the Medical Research Council.

He professionalised the CRC’s grant-giving operations, with three- and five-year peer-reviewed grants to universities and research institutes, setting up medical oncology units that provided career paths for researchers, and promoting cancer clinical trials for evaluating new cancer therapies. He and I met in 1981 when I was recruited to a position at CRC. We married in 1989, the year Nigel retired.

Born in Southampton, to Dudley Kemp, a commercial traveller, and Edna (nee Harvey), a housewife, Nigel attended Peter Symonds’ school in Winchester. He qualified as a medical doctor in 1955 at University College Medical School in central London, before specialising in haematology and holding various positions as a clinical pathologist mostly at St George’s hospital medical school in south London.

Nigel was keenly interested in wine, and, for recreation, had established a small vineyard in his father’s garden in north Devon in the late 1970s. When the opportunity arose to purchase a 17-acre smallholding in Devon in the mid-80s, he jumped at the chance, taking early retirement and moving permanently to a thatched farmhouse and its associated land.

He planted a five-acre vineyard there in 1985, and, while it was maturing, devoted his time to renovating the farm’s traditional cider orchard, selling his own cider and apple juice locally, for which he regularly won prizes at the Devon County Show.

As a founder member of Save Our Orchards, he encouraged others with small orchards to use their apples similarly; he also put on popular courses and at local Apple Days gave talks and demonstrated the techniques of pressing apples. He actively managed his land using traditional methods to enhance each of its habitats (coppiced woodland, orchard, wetland meadows, stream and traditional hedges), winning awards for hedge laying, and he was awarded Devon Wildlife Trust county wildlife site certification for his efforts.

A convivial raconteur and lifelong sports enthusiast, Nigel had a close-knit family. He is survived by two sons and four grandchildren from his first marriage, to Claire Moran, which ended in divorce in 1989, and by our daughter and me.