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A 'Paul Deakin' 60's Neoprene Wetsuit
Bari (Mick) Logan


I discovered by chance the following solitary photograph hidden amongst a batch of family pictures the other day and it brought back amusing memories which I thought I would share.

I got to know the late Paul Deakin (Eldon Pothole Club) quite well through the equipment 'portering' assistance I gave him along with P. B. Smith and other members of the BSA (TPU) whilst surveying both the newly discovered systems of 'P8 - Jackpot' and the significant extension to Oxlow Caverns. He was not only a very competent underground surveyor by profession, as well as a renowned photographer, but also a 'Dab-Hand' at making neoprene wetsuits when the use of them in the mid 60's came into fashion amongst Scuba-divers and the caving fraternity began to adopt them as standard underground wear and a 'must have'.

I bought two wetsuits off Paul, the first one being a very much 'Off-the-Peg' item from the back of his green Mini-Van in a pub car park somewhere in Derbyshire for the very fair price of £14.

It was a basic four-piece suit manufactured from fairly thin unlined black neoprene fabric and comprised of a pair of chest-high 'tug-on' trousers with separate over-fitting bootees and a zip-up jacket, which all required a very liberal amount of internal dusting with 'Johnson's Baby' talcum powder' in order to comfortably slide into its very 'figure-hugging' tight-fit. As far as overall size was concerned, at the time I think it is fair to say that most cavers appeared to be about 5' foot 8" inches in height, thin and wiry so slender framed and I am therefore sure that Paul made these suits to those 'rough' dimensions and cannily only offered them for sale to persons virtually matching the said stature on a 'Ok you will do' basis.

I used the suit for quite some-time and although I wore a set of green overalls on top of it to prevent too much wear-and-tear, inevitably it did end up held together in places, knees and elbows in particular, with many glued-on patches. Certainly the 'Knacker Cracker' long crawl in the new Oxlow series, a regular weekend route when dam building with 'P.B.', didn't help and eventually the suit and I literally parted company one-day much to the amusement of fellow cavers.

On recruitment for the 'Pegasus Club 67 Berger Expedition' as a surface party member, but with intentions of a few underground trips and most certainly going on the proposed post-expedition jaunt to the South of France for a week's novice diving in the Med under the competent instruction of P.B. Smith I decided that a new wetsuit was definitely called for.
So, one evening I made a telephone call to Paul at his home, a farm I seem to recall somewhere near Burton-on-Trent, Derbyshire, where he lived with his parents. I explained my urgent need for a wetsuit and he said that he would 'pop-over' to Nottingham to my home one evening and do some measurements and tailor make one for me.

A week later he arrived at my home and after dinner he showed me a range of the latest neoprene samples of various thickness and all lined on the inner surface with a fine nylon fabric thus avoiding the necessity, as in the past, to use talc. Then we reviewed various design styles and he advised me on what he thought was best, and on that advice, I settled for the following combination to cover both caving and possibly diving use if in the future I decided to take it up.

[Pull-on trousers just-above midline, Separate over-vest, Separate pair of bootees, Zip-up Jacket with a double secure-button under-flap, Separate Hood. Manufactured throughout in a decent thickness nylon-fabric-lined black neoprene with yellow-tape reinforcing to all the glued seams]

Two to three weeks delivery and a total up-front cash price of £25 which I instantly agreed upon.
Paul then took a whole load of measurements, made various notes with sketches and off he went with cash in hand.

True to his word, It was only a couple of weeks later that I arrived home from work one evening to discover a large parcel from Paul containing the suit and I could not resist trying it on straight-away, it was very easy to put-on, fitted like a glove and I could not have been happier.

In the parcel there was also a hand-written note from Paul saying that as this was the very first wetsuit he had made using the new neoprene materials and to this particular design style, he would very much appreciate it if I could get a photograph of myself wearing it in a clean fresh state so that he could use the picture as an advert for his suit-making venture and hopefully draw-in some more customers.

So, always willing to help a good friend in need, early one morning suitably attired, I grabbed my little trusty fold-out Kodak Zeiss 35mm film camera and, in the absence of my parents, persuaded our middle-aged polish next-door neighbour Michal (the plasterer), who only spoke pigeon-English, to take a snap of me standing outside my father's store-shed in the communal backyard of our home at 21 Plantagenet street, Nottingham.

I feel certain that readers of this article will be duly impressed by the result, Paul certainly was, made apparent to me by the big smile on his face and lack of any negative words, speechless in fact, when I presented him with an enlarged print which I had made especially for his sales book.

My dear old mate P. B. Smith on seeing the photo down the pub one evening and asked by someone to comment on it, said, "It's only good if your want to sell a f***ing  Shed" which in truth, was a somewhat typical response I would
have expected from 'P.B' after a few jars of good ale.
Further, I should add that for months after our photo shoot, every time Michal the Pole saw me he kept asking how my new job was going down the coalhole... and could I get some bags 'much very cheepo' for him.


bari 5.JPG

Bari (Mick) Logan, early Spring 1967 ready for the 'Berger'
Wollaton pit-issue black-fibre shaft helmet with extra fitted chin-strap.

Premier Brass Carbide Lamp fitted with a special 'Berger' reflector.

Paul Deakin 6-piece custom made wetsuit (minus hood).

Italian 'Scarpa-Munari' brown leather mountaineering boots.

Swiss-Enicar 'Sherpa-Dive' Watch. 120-foot 'Ulstron' life-line rope.

25-foot BSA manufactured Aluminium Electron Ladder.

Nottingham City Council Issue Metal Dust-Bin.

The wetsuit proved excellent and did some good service caving although not actually used within the 'Berger' as my duties there were mainly concerned with only the first couple of entrance pitches, but I did use it whilst exploring the nearby Gournier Cave with 'P.B' and a few others, prior to the Berger event, where a large entrance lake provided plenty of deep water to swim across.

As for my proposed novice diving in the South of France after the expedition, sadly this did not happen as due to a vehicle accident on the last day, I had to return back to UK on health grounds.

Also, diving for me did become a negative issue months later when after I attended a few evening BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) lessons at a local Nottingham swimming bath, it was discovered that I had a neurological inner-ear problem which greatly restricted the ability for me to control pressurisation even at shallow depths, so that was the end of taking-up that sport.

I sold the wetsuit, which was still in very good condition despite much use, in early 1970 for £20 when I gave-up caving, so something of a testimony to Paul Deakin's tailoring skills and robust-manufacture .

Bari (Mick) Logan Histon, Cambridge, 29th January 2023


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