Condry, William, 1918-1998

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Condry, William, 1918-1998

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  • Condry, William M. (William Moreton), 1918-1998

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William Moreton Condry was a naturalist and writer who lived and worked in West Wales from about 1946 until his death in 1998. He was born in Birmingham on 1 March 1918. His father was a craftsman jeweller - a diamond setter - who took a great interest in politics, being a pacifist and a member of the Independent Labour Party, and both his parents were 'Clarionites', so named after the paper run by the socialist Robert Blatchford. Following his primary and grammar school education, he attended Birmingham University, graduating in 1939 in French, Latin and History, and obtaining a teaching certificate a year later. He spent the Second World War as a conscientious objector, working in forestry in Herefordshire, before graduating in French at London University in 1945. Some years later he pursued his interest in French, researching Andre Gide at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and obtaining a Master's degree in 1951.

Condry' s connections with Wales and his interest in the countryside began at an early age through family holidays in remote parts of the Merionethshire coastal district and Cader Idris. During his school days he developed an increasing fascination with ornithology and natural history, an enthusiasm shared by his friend, Harold Wright, with whom he surveyed the birds of North Worcestershire, and undertook explorations by bicycle of the remote upland regions of Powys. It was in Wales that he met his future wife, Penny, who was warden of the Nanmor Youth Hostel in Snowdonia. The couple married in 1946 and lived successively near Ponterwyd, at Tal-y-bont, at Glygyrog-ddu between Aberdyfi and Pennal, in Cwm Einion and finally at Eglwys-fach near Machynlleth. After a season as youth hostel wardens, they became involved in the work of the farmer and writer, Ronald Lockley, who was one of the founders of the West Wales Field Society (later the West Wales Wildlife Trust), and early in 1947 they assisted with the establishing of the Field Studies Council Centre at Dale Fort. Later in the same year, Condry conducted a survey of upland birds in mid-Wales and wrote a paper on his findings for a scientific journal, The Naturalist.

In 1949 he embarked on a ten year teaching career at Lapley Grange, Eglwys-fach, but he continued to pursue his wildlife interests in addition to his school work. From 1947 to 1956 he was the nature warden for mid-Wales and edited the West Wales Field Society's Field Notes. As a progression of that work, in 1955 he became one of the co-editors of Nature in Wales, the journal of the West Wales Naturalists' Trust. He and his wife, with others, expressed a particular commitment to the preservation of the Red Kite, becoming members of the newly formed Kite Committee in 1949. In 1953 he was involved with setting up the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory, in which he maintained an interest for the rest of his life, being honorary secretary for eight years, then president, and finally, in 1990, honorary life president. His contributions to bird protection in Wales were acknowledged when, in 1965, he was awarded the RSPB Silver Medal. Towards the end of the 1950's, William and Penny Condry were invited to live at Ynys Edwin, one of the Ynys-hir estate cottages, by the owner, Hubert Mappin, who was dedicated to the cause of nature conservation. Following Mappin's death, the estate was purchased by the RSPB and Condry became its first warden in 1969. In recognition of his work he was awarded an honorary MSc. by the University of Wales in 1980. In addition to his activities in the field, he was engaged in extensive lecturing, broadcasting, committee work and literary pursuits.

Over a period of many years he was a member of numerous societies and committees, including the British Trust for Ornithology (being the representative for Cardiganshire for several years), Merioneth Reserves Committee of the North Wales Naturalists' Trust, the Nature Conservancy Committee for Wales, the Executive Committee of the Council for Nature, the Education Sub-committee of the Prince of Wales Conservation Committee, Montgomeryshire Field Society, the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales and the National Trust.

From his youth William Condry kept a series of nature diaries in which he recorded his observations, and throughout his career he continued to write, producing a large quantity of books and articles, often illustrated with his own photographs. His first book, Thoreau, was published in Witherby's Great Naturalists series in 1954. Other works of which he was sole or co-author include The Birds of Cardiganshire (West Wales Naturalists' Trust 1966), The Snowdonia National Park (Collins 1966), Birds and Wild Africa (Collins 1967), Exploring Wales (Faber 1970), Pathway to the Wild (Faber 1975), The World of a Mountain (Faber 1977), The Natural History of Wales (Collins 1981), Snowdonia (David & Charles 1987), The National Trust, Wales (Gomer 1991), Wildlife in our Welsh Parish (Eglwys-fach Women's Institute 1993), A Welsh Country Diary (Gomer 1993), The Vertebrate Animals of Cardiganshire' in the Cardiganshire County History Vol. I (University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1994), Wildlife, My Life (Gomer 1995), Welsh Country Essays (Gomer 1996) and Wildlife Safari, the Life of Mary Richards (published postumously by Gomer, 1998). He wrote widely on conservation, and the Welsh landscape for magazines such as Country Life, and he was greatly renowned for hisCountry Diaries' which were published regularly in the Guardian between 1957 and 1998. Further areas of research included local history and the work of other naturalists, both past and contemporary, including E. H. T. Bible, whose nature diaries he acquired.

William Condry died in Morriston hospital on 30 May 1998.


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