Words by Mat Ridley, Chair of East Carmarthenshire Local Group
Denys Smith, who has died aged 97, will be fondly remembered by many in in the Wildlife Trust movement in Wales. Denys was a key figure in our East Carmarthenshire local group for many years, combining his role as Secretary with a seemingly boundless supply of energy and enthusiasm for the promotion of wildlife conservation across his local patch. Carmarthenshire was his adopted home but one that he knew well. His late wife Gwenllian was from a local family and the couple moved back to be near Gwen’s family when both retired from teaching. Denys had been the head teacher at a small school in Radnorshire for many years. Further back, he was on coastal patrol boats in World War II and came originally from London.
I remember many chats with Denys, over the obligatory cuppa and biscuits, discussing his ideas for the next local group program or the latest interesting wildlife news… and Lizzie remembers having her own special red squirrel mug! He wrote a Nature Notes column for local newspapers and magazines, complete with his own pen and ink drawings, which were eventually published as a collection. As Secretary, he produced his own distinctive posters to promote our events and did the rounds on his trusty bicycle, putting them up in local shops. Denys had a wider role in the Trust too, being both a Vice-President and a Trustee.
Even when he was less able to get around, Denys insisted on getting out on field trips as he had always done. A field of gigantic grassy tussocks was no deterrent; not when there were marsh fritillaries and plenty of interesting plants to be seen! Denys moved from Brynhawddgar, the home near Llandeilo that he and Gwenllian had shared, to a retirement home in Plymouth just a few years ago. He died there peacefully on 26th February 2020. At this time of year early purple orchids bloom on the hedgebanks around Brynhawddgar. Denys began an annual count and pretty soon this became a regular fixture on our local group program. Sadly, it has had to be cancelled this year, but I am sure someone will still get out there to count Denys’s orchids…. (thanks Jan and Keith!).