1926 - 2014 - RIP
Born in 1926, the year of the great national strikes, I was fortunate enough to have a father constantly in employment, providing a stable background during all my childhood years. My maternal grandparents were heavily involved with the silk industry, the main occupation in Macclesfield at that time, and my paternal grandfather was a veterinary surgeon but died before I was born. I always felt happy, and at home, with machinery. Being a girl, I was not allowed to pursue this as a career, and so began the first of my idiosyncrasies!
An only child, with seven boy cousins, I sought friendship within my second interest, which was natural history. I was, once again, extremely lucky to have a proxy mother and father who kept a farm in the Cheshire countryside and who, at that time, had no children of their own. Farming, in those days, had a far more friendly attitude towards the environment; tractors were only just coming into usage and one of my deepest memories is riding on top of a hay-cart as the light faded, on a warm and sultry July evening, on our way back to the farm-house.
In actual fact, this being different from my peer group only accentuated my natural 'tom-boy' attitudes, and bicycles, home-made trucks, climbing trees, and aeroplanes were the things with which I was most familiar. All my uncles, as a result of the silk-industry, were rich and ran large, expensive cars, and took me along as a 'poor relation', something of which I was totally unconscious at the time.
I was fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship to the local grammar school which I attended with a minimum input of academic effort. However, the war started in my second year at high school and I spent a great deal of time looking after air-raid shelters and fire-watching, being one of the very few local girls to attend the school. My academic career ended by my becoming pregnant in the days when such things were worthy of being exiled. This led to marriage and the rearing of a wonderful family.
On the breakdown of the marriage my life changed totally! Once again
I was fortunate to find a wonderful friend, with similar interests,
to make life worth living and who allowed the development of my natural
history interests which had been held in abeyance for 20 years.
Plants had always been the thing I knew most about but practiced least, so now it takes longer than it should, when out in the field, to identify flowers down to species level.
Insects & Invertebrates:
During my time on the farm, Bill and Nellie, taught me a great deal about what I saw in the hedgerows, in the pond, and in the meadow. I am now amazed when going back to the same area just how few of the plants and animals I took for granted are no longer present! Butterflies were just so common, even in the garden, that no thought was given to growing special plants to attract them. Taking science, as a girl, once more presented problems, as my own school only took biology and I had to walk through the centre of Macclesfield town to the boys school to take physics - chemistry was not available at all, until much later. All my background, has led to my current interest in the natural environment; not so much on a taxonomic basis but more as a curiosity in the functional and ecological aspects as well as a great appreciation of the aesthetic beauty of our flora and fauna.
At home I keep an assortment of invertebrate animals to show to children during school visits and at shows. There are usually caterpillars, and moth and butterfly pupae/cocoons to be found somewhere in the house, ready to be handed out to young friends and schools. Just another of my oddities.
All of the usual necessities for living meant, in the 1930s and 40s, that home-crafts were an essential part of life and if you couldn't sew, knit or cook then as a woman you were of little use to anyone, including yourself. These were taken seriously, in my case, as mother was a tailoress and this means that I now find it difficult to imagine how anyone cannot sew, and use it as a means of personal expression. However, my daughters tell me this is not always the case and as they earn good salaries buying clothes helps the economy!?
Having worked 18 years as a teacher and 20 years as a civil servant I was 'thrown out' and told 'go away you are too old' in 1990. I sulked for about a year, deciding I was useless, and then made up my mind to spend the rest of my useful life doing something to help biodiversity, which had become the new buzz-word, and the environment, in general.
By this time I was deeply interested in insects and a member of the Lancashire & Cheshire Entomological Society (LCES). It very soon became obvious that other members were as old, if not older than, myself, and something needed to be done to encourage the young generation to be in a position to carry forward the work of the Society in the future. With this in mind, My friend, Steve McWilliam, myself, and staff from Liverpool Museum Entomology Section formed a young persons group (The UnderWings) to concentrate on the study of insects. This has now been running for 7 years (as @ 1998) - during this time many young people have been helped to expand their knowledge, which is something they cannot receive in school under the national curriculum. Several of those who started with the group in its early days are now becoming the next generation of entomologists.
One of the senior members of the LCES, a person I greatly admire, told
me to get off my backside and do something to help the local Wildlife
Trust; this I have now been doing for over five years. The Cheshire
Wildlife Trust (CWT) is divided into 9 local groups to cover the county.
Each group having a chairman and the usual committee structure. I have
been Chairman of the local Halton & Warrington Group since 1993
and have seen many changes. The Trust's activities have increased greatly
under its current Director, Chris Mahon, and its influence in Cheshire
is now widely accepted for both advice and for information relating
to planning issues. One of our greatest problems during the past few
years has been the development of Manchester Airport and its affect
upon the Bollin Valley which has a significance on the natural history
of the area. A great deal of controversy took place and many tree-top
protesters became involved but at the end of the day agreement has been
reached and a mitigation plan worked out. Time alone will tell what
loss has occurred as a result of this development.