Obituary: Professor committed to helping others dies aged 89

Professor Deryke Belshaw, of Norwich, has died at the age of 89

Professor Deryke Belshaw, of Norwich, has died at the age of 89 - Credit: Family collection

If you were to mention Africa to Deryke Belshaw his face would light up. He lived in Norwich but his heart would often be far away - on another continent, in another world.

Many people near and far will be mourning the death of Professor Emeritus Deryke Belshaw, who has died at the age of 89.

He was a wise gentleman who, after leaving Africa, held a chair at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the School of Development Studies for many years.

He had studied at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and when he was called up for National Service went to Nigeria. Life would never be the same again.

Professor Deryke Belshaw and Marguerite Finn at a LunchBox talk in 2006

Professor Deryke Belshaw (then the vice-president of the UNA Norwich & District Branch) and Marguerite Finn (vice-chair of branch) at a LunchBox talk in 2006 - Credit: Archant

Deryke returned to Hertford College, Oxford, to study Agricultural Economics and, after marrying Audrey they spent their honeymoon camping on the Norfolk coast.

They left this country for Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, where he lectured at the School of Agriculture.

Deryke and Audrey loved Africa and this was the start of an extraordinary adventure and varied academic career based mainly in East Africa but also encompassing Ethiopia, as well as India, China and Nepal.

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He also worked for the United Nations and for the Food and Agricultural Organisation which does such brilliant work with people across the world who need and deserve support and guidance.

More than 50 years ago, Deryke was appointed to the School of Development Studies at the UEA which offered the opportunity to settle in his beloved Norfolk with Audrey and their children.

He spent his childhood holidays at Sheringham, along the north Norfolk coast, and had returned to the county to admire the huge skies, the historic churches, the charming villages, the flint-knapped cottages – not forgetting the Cromer crabs and samphire.

Professor Belshaw with members of his family

Professor Belshaw with members of his family - Credit: Family collection

The professor, not a man to retire, was working into his 80s at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.

The Christian faith played a leading role in both their lives. He and Audrey worshipped at Surrey Chapel, Norwich, where Deryke was described as a wise and valued colleague who will be remembered with love and affection.

They said: “He leaves an incredible legacy with the many lives he has touched, taught and to whom he set an example [...] with an appreciation of a deep and longstanding commitment to the development of Africa and other parts of the world.”

Deryke died peacefully on April 20 after a challenging time of illness which he bore patiently.

He leaves his widow Audrey, wife of 62 years, and their children Jeremy, Sarah and Anna. Eight grandchildren, Avalon, Nastasia, Luka, Solal, Toby, Isabelle, James and Eddy and a great-grandson Teddy.

They can be very proud of a man who, as we say in Norfolk, made a difference. 

A thanksgiving service will be held at Surrey Chapel, Botolph Street, Norwich, on Monday, May 16 at 3pm.

Donations to Tearfund can be made in his memory via Allcock Family Funeral Services, Falcon House, City Road, Norwich,  NR1 2HD or online at