Clive Briffett, RIP

See Subaraj Rajathurai’s “A tribute to Clive Briffett: Birdwatcher and conservationist” on BESG

Ng Bee Choo just informed me this morning that she’d just received sad news that Clive Briffett passed away last Saturday.

His son, Philip, wrote,

“Last Saturday morning Clive very suddenly and tragically died from what is believed to be a heart attack that had no warning signs and up to that point he had been in perfect health.

His service will take place next Thursday 10th November in Teddy Hall in Oxford, UK.”

Clive Briffett at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, Jan 2010.
Thanks to Ng Bee Choo for the photo.

I didn’t know Clive well and am glad I got to chat with him a few times at least when he was still here with us. He had a twinkle in his eye and I thought he must have been a great mentor to students.

Clive Briffet was an active member of the natural history community with the Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) and an academic at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in the 80’s and 90’s.

In the mid-90’s there was an unusual (for the time) announcement in NUS about a walk on the ridge in conjunction with, I think, Earth Day. With no mention of the guide, I thought it was pretty neat that there were others in campus who were introducing nature to the community. Well, soon after, the lab phone rang with Andrew Tay from NSS activating me to help out as a guide – lots of people had signed up for the walk and Clive, who had volunteered and was the sole guide, needed help. It was a reminder that there was no army of naturalists out there, just the few stalwarts who persisted in public education.

So I roped in a few kakis (including Adrian Loo) and what a great time we had that Saturday morning on the ridge, with Clive and his umbrella. He regaled us with insights from his long interaction with the area and I was struck by how well he had appreciated his backyard – I still have not yet reached that measure of engagement even today.

Though I have made many walks on the ridge since, I still remember the walk that day, the effect Clive’s personality and spirit had on all of us and the sense of community and appreciation everyone felt.

Clive was an active contributor in NSS (who must miss him) and they harried the government over decades with conservation proposals. Those were tough engagements then, for few in the country had experienced or heard of these areas – certainly these days, many more are aware of and interested in the conservation of nature.

After Clive left NUS, I remember a morning, early last decade, discussing the future of Mandai mangrove and mudflats and strategies for conservation of this precious patch. That discussion is still ongoing today, albeit with many others over the years, and is all the more relevant in the present time.

Still talking, we hopped up an internal shuttle and accidentally ended up at the PGP terminal on the ridge. He was bewildered by what he saw and bemoaned the loss of green cover. Like Mandai, I suggested that it would be others, who might not have experienced the ridge in all its glory, who would have to step up to protect and enhance what was left of it. These kindred spirits would ensure we kept a place for nature in Singapore, like he and his friends had fought to do.

RIP Clive. Thanks for the memories.

Message of condolence from the Nature Society (Singapore), 01 Nov 2011

“Clive is a stalwart of the NSS Bird Group in the 80s & early 90s, providing committed and unwavering leadership to the Group.

On the conservation front in Singapore, he has provided invaluable and whole-hearted support and contribution to NSS’s conservation efforts and projects — such as the formulation of NSS’ Master Plan for the Conservation of Nature in Singapore (1990), organising NSS’s first big conservation conference (The State of the Natural Environment in Singapore), advocating tirelessly compulsory EIA, carrying out studies on urban nature and the planning and ecology of the green corridor systems in Singapore, and so on.

Clive is among the rare academics in Singapore who dared in the 80s & 90s to venture out of the ivory tower of academia to commit himself fearlessly and persistently to promote and advocate for nature conservation in the public arena.

His is a calm and steady voice that inspires and gives courage to the local conservation efforts in Singapore.

We have lost an invaluable pillar for the cause of nature conservation.

May he rest in peace.

We wish to give our heartfelt condolence to his wife Hilary and family.”

Ho Hua Chew
Conservation Committee
Nature Society (Singapore)
Alan Owyong
Chair, The Bird Group

From: Farid Hamid
Date: Sun, Nov 6, 2011 at 11:38 PM
To: Philip Briffett
Cc: Ng Bee Choo, N. Sivasothi, Shawn Lum, Vilma D’Rozario and Ilsa Sharp

“Dear Philip

My heartfelt condolences to you and your family for the loss of your father, Clive.

I received the news through the nature conservation grapevine a few days ago.

Your father was loved and respected by many of us in the Nature and Conservation Scene in Singapore, especially those of us who were comrades in arms with the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) – later renamed Nature Society (Singapore). He is remembered very fondly by many here. He inspired and touched many of us with his deep passion, determination and wisdom – which he directed to care for the natural environment he loved so dearly. His quiet, gentle but firm & diplomatic manner personally taught me much.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not be for Clive and the elders at the Nature Society. At first, He taught me how to identify birds…but as the months and years went by, more importantly, he gave me the gift of love – love for the birds at first, but it gradually expanded to the other flora and fauna – all precious and all wonderful.

In my faith tradition, I know that he is in a better space, in a better place for so much of what he so generously gave of himself – he saved habitats – homes really – of many sentient beings, creations of God – plants, animals of all types ….some perhaps yet to be named – all deserving of a place to live and thrive. Endau Rompin, Pierce Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Sungai Buloh were just some of the nature areas he helped protect and preserve. And these were the successful stories. He led, supported and fought for many more…many we lost, some we won…but he never gave up. He never lost hope.

To me Clive was a man ahead of his time. He continually showed courage, humility and perseverance. Every time i a flash of brightly coloured feathered wings grabs my attention from among the trees..or i detect a flit of the magpie robin or hear a melodious call of the straw headed bulbul, i will remember Clive.

His spirit remains alive in the people and the many countless sentient beings he touched and loved.

I shall miss him dearly.

warmest regards

Thank you Morten, Bee Choo and Siva for helping to share the news.”

Farid Abdul Hamid
Ithaca Pte Ltd


6 thoughts on “Clive Briffett, RIP

  1. This is terribly sad news. Hilary, we feel for you and your children. Maybe we shall be able to get down for the funeral. Liza’s sister lives at Wantage.

  2. I spoke to the Edwards (Robyn and Norman) just now. Peter asked for their number. It’s 02088766842, but I gave them your website and details of the memorial.

    Their email is

    Best wishes,
    Roger & Liza

  3. Dear Hilary,

    Kay and I were saddened to read, in the Straits Times of 10th November,the sudden passing of your dear husband, Clive. I remember meeting Clive at some of the social events we attended, when you and I were working at Dover Court Prep. School.
    Kay and I send our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to you, Anna,Peter, Philip and your grandchildren.
    May Clive Rest In Peace.

    Withlots of love,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s