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A snippet from my volunteer work on the ‘Dedicated Naturalist’: Mary Gillham Archives Project, to celebrate Explore Your Archive, a campaign co-ordinated jointly by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association that aims ‘to showcase the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together, and tell amazing stories’.

I just love this piece Mary wrote in the autograph book of Lynette A. Smith, from the small town of Lady Barron, on Flinders Island, Australia, on 18 December 1958. Not only does it show Mary’s keen observation of bird life (also apparent in her drawings), but it also offers some interesting pearls of wisdom.


Pursue your ideals as a gannet dives for fish – straight and undeviating;
Show constancy of purpose, like a mutton bird returning yearly to the same burrow;
Seek diligently for what is worthwhile as the Cape Barren goose seeks titbits of vegetation;
Guard your morals jealously against the tempter, as the oyster-catcher guards its eggs against intruders;
Go about your business without fuss, like a storm petrel flitting through the night;
Be patient as the penguin chick waiting for mum to come home with supper;
Be decorative, like the tern which cleaves the air in soaring flight;
Be thrifty like the silver gull which leaves no fruitful possibility unexplored;
Laugh with the kookaburra, sing with the magpie and you will soar as high as the sea eagle.

For the full story about the Mary Gillham Archive Project, check out our website, and follow our progress on Facebook and on Twitter.