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A snippet from my volunteer work on the ‘Dedicated Naturalist’ Project, helping to decipher and digitise, record and publicise the life’s work of naturalist extraordinaire, Dr Mary Gillham.

It’s almost 79 years to the day since fifteen-year-old Mary Gillham drew these very precise illustrations of the anatomy of a primrose. (Note the teacher’s comment: ‘This shows improvement in neatness’!)

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She was in her final, fifth form year at Ealing Grammar School for Girls, and, as you can see from her work, she already had well-developed powers of observation and a fine drawing style. Though she was raised in the London suburb of Ealing, Mary’s love of the natural world began early,

looking at birds and flowers in the local parks and on family Saturdays in the country. I brought bits and pieces for the wild flower shelf in my Junior School and began collecting and pressing specimens of the commoner species. One such collection, classified not very scientifically under flower colour, was sent by the school to a museum in Russia, as an example of an eleven-year-old’s work. 

From small beginnings come great naturalists! 

You can follow our progress with this project on Facebook and on Twitter. A website will follow soon.

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