25 July 1937 - 13 February 1961
Going South on the John Biscoe.
Roger was born on 25th July, 1937 in Blaenavon Monmouthshire, South Wales to William J. Filer and Alice Filer. Roger was the elder brother of Ann by two years.
Roger attended Abersychan Grammar School and enjoyed both sport and study. He played for the rugby team and ran in the AAA’s. He enjoyed both classical music and Jazz and played the clarinet. He studied English, History and Geography ‘A’ levels and he was Head Boy in his final year.
He became a member of a Lion St. Congregational Chapel in 1956. Roger was quiet, thoughtful, reserved and self-effacing. He enjoyed family holidays to farms and the seaside. He loved to walk on the mountains in South Wales and had a great love of the outdoors and of adventures.
He went to Swansea University College and studied zoology, having done no biology since the third form and also Geography and Geology. His hobbies included cycling and he enjoyed youth hostelling and cycling holidays with his friends in England, Ireland and Europe. He took up canoeing and was in the university swimming team. He gained his bronze and gold life-saving medals in 1956 and 1957 respectively. He was a member of the University caving society and helped to map out a new caving route.
While studying at Swansea, he heard of the zoological research, taking place at Signy Island. After obtaining his BSc in 1959, he went to Signy to study for his MSc doing research on the Sheathbill. It was his dedication to this work which cost him his life. We were thankful that his work was not lost or abandoned but was completed by Nev Jones, University of Wales, Bangor.
Roger was very dedicated and determined and focused on whatever project he undertook, seeing it through to completion. He had a keen sense off fun and a strong love for and commitment to family.
Ann Clarke (Roger' sister)
Roger was involved with dog husbandry and care - feeding and weighing them. These photos show Roger's great friendship with the husky dogs.
Introducing Esme to Garth
Roger with his homemade canoe. Probably the only homemade canoe ever to be built in the Antarctic!
Roger with Bernard Harrison on a survey trip to Coronation Island
(Photo taken by Paddy White)
Neville Jones writes of Rogers study of the Sheathbill.
I met Roger in December 1960 when I spent a couple of weeks at Signy. (I was in transit from Admiralty Bay to South Georgia before returning to Signy for my second year of service with FIDS.) Roger had started to study the Sheathbills that nested on the Gourlay Peninsula. He introduced me to both the bird and Gourlay. It was during the course of his studies that he met his death. He fell over a cliff presumably when attempting to remove chicks from their nest for measuring and ringing.
On my return to Signy it was decided that it would be appropriate to attempt to complete Roger's work during the next season as he had laid very good foundations. FIDS allowed me to spend most of the 1961-2 summer building on Roger's work.
This resulted in :
A locally made hut was erected on Pageant Point (Hunting Lodge) which lasted from 1961 to 2006 before being replaced. This was well used as a shelter and field lab.
Publications. One paper in the BAS Bulletin (1963) on the general biology of the Sheathbill. Several papers on parasites of the species which included the first description of a tapeworm which was of both a new genus and species. This was named Nototaenia fileri gen.et sp.nov. ('Species named in memory of Roger Filer who lost his life on Signy Island in 1961 during observations on Sheathbill. (Reference: Williams,I.C. & Jones,N.V. 1967 Journal of Helminthology Vol XLI 2/3 pp 151-160).
In February 2005 a group of visitors to Antarctica on a cruise ship decided that the Sheathbill warranted recognition and decided to establish The Snowy Sheathbill Society to foster understanding , and appreciation , of this unusual species. The Snowy Sheathbill Society has a web site: http://www.snowysheathbill.com.
I am sure that Roger would approve of these developments as he was pretty well alone in appreciating the Sheathbill in the 1960's - and even now! It is their feeding habits that seem to put people off!