Dr Mary Gillham was well known at the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, her long involvement with the Trust spanned its many name changes and nearly forty years. Mary even celebrated her 80th birthday with ourselves at the Parc Slip Visitor Centre. Cardiff Naturalists and ourselves were able to organise a lovely surprise party for Mary on the 26th November 2001 and 90 people attended, just showing how very popular she was.
She dedicated herself to wildlife, as a child she would make copious notes about what wildlife she had seen and her doctorate in island ecology led her on into a career of teaching. She lectured in the universities of Exeter (Devon), Massey (New Zealand), Melbourne (Australia), Kano (Nigeria), and worked in the Adult Education Department at University College Cardiff from 1961 until her retirement in 1988.
Her phenomenal career included being one of the first women to join an Antarctic expedition in 1959-60 and involved research visits all over the Americas and across Africa (including hitchhiking her way across South Africa). She was also involved in saving a remote coral island from development, preserving its rare and wonderful wildlife for future generations.
But her love of Welsh ecology was clear, her impressive list of books and publications (listed below) includes many which focus on south east and west Wales.
Her old friend and long standing member of the local Bridgend group, Richard Marks said ” She was always one step ahead. She had a wonderful gift of imparting knowledge and she would take great delight in finding out something new and passing it on. I owe a lot to her from following her on her wanderings in the Vale.”
“If you followed in her footsteps you would learn a lot about wildlife.”
Her ongoing involvement with wildlife in Wales included being the founding member and president of the Glamorgan Naturalists’ Trust and of the Cardiff Naturalists Society. She also completed her PhD on Skokholm Island, linking her to both the Trusts in the west and the east.
Sadly Mary died earlier this year on the 24th of March, she will be much missed by her friends at the Trust.
1977 – The Natural History of Gower. D. Brown and Sons Ltd: Cowbridge.
1982 – The Historic Taf Valleys, Volume 2: In the Brecon Beacons National Park. Geology, Social History, Natural History. Merthyr Tydfil and District Naturalists’ Society. (With John Perkins and Jack Evans). ISBN 0-905928-21-0
1982 – Swansea Bay’s Green Mantle. Wildlife on an Industrial Coast. D. Brown & Sons: Cowbridge. ISBN 0-905928-18-0
1987 – Sand Dunes. (Glamorgan Heritage Coast Wildlife Series Volume 1). Glamorgan Wildlife Trust: Bridgend.
1991 – Limestone Downs: Commons, Farms and Woods. Glamorgan Wildlife Trust: Bridgend.
1994 – Sea Cliffs Cwm Mawr to Gileston. (Glamorgan Heritage Coast Wildlife Series Volume 5). Glamorgan Wildlife Trust: Bridgend.2004 – A Natural History of Cardiff: Exploring along the Rivers Rhymney and Roath. Dinefwr Publishers Ltd: Wales. ISBN 1-904323-11-1
2004 – Memories of Welsh Islands. Dinefwr Publishers Ltd: Wales. ISBN 1-904323-08-1
2007 – A Naturalist on Lundy: The Island Wildlife Over 50 Years. Halsgrove: UK. ISBN 1-84114-589-0
2007 – Island Life. Discovering Britain’s Offshore Gems. Halsgrove: UK. ISBN 1-84114-619-6
2009 – Wildlife Watching in the Slow Lane. Halsgrove: ISBN-13: 9781906551186