Peter Scott - a remarkable
To be born
the son of a national hero who died in tragic circumstances might
have been enough to blight anyone's subsequent life, but not Peter
Scott's, son of the ill-fated polar explorer, Captain Scott. For
sheer versatility and ability to succeed at so many activities,
his life is hard to beat. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to decide
what he is best remembered for. One can choose between his evocative
paintings of ducks, geese and swans flying across magnificent skies,
the long series of radio and television broadcasts, especially 'Look',
which did so much to introduce natural history to the British public,
his creation of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, his role in founding
the WorldWide Fund for Nature, and the many books, or perhaps it
is all of them and more. (Photo, right,
© Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust)
achievements are worth considering, too. To be a fine ice skater
capable of winning competitions, to win an Olympic Bronze medal
for single-handed dinghy sailing and to become British Open Gliding
Champion not only argues a certain competence at whatever he chose
to take up, but highlights the drive and determination to succeed
which always marked him out. These qualities also came to the fore
during the war when he commanded a gunboat in the English Channel
and won the DSC. He didn't always succeed, everyone has failures
and one which he felt for a long time afterwards was when he skippered
the America's Cup yacht 'Sovereign' in 1964 and suffered a whitewash
4-0 defeat. The fact that the American boat was genuinely a faster
boat was little consolation.
own memories of Peter come from 25 years working for the Wildfowl
and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, from 1960. During that period,
Peter was not responsible for the day to day running on the organisation,
but he was always there with, cajoling and enthusing the staff.
Ideas poured out of him, some brilliant, some that seemed completely
impractical, though even those might be pursued and found, infuriatingly,
to be perfectly practical after all! Most of all, though, he was
friendly and approachable. There was always a two-way flow of communication.
Phone calls might summon me at any time to go along to his studio
in his house overlooking the wildfowl pens to hear his latest idea,
but equally I could pick up the phone and ask if I could pop along
to discuss an idea of mine or consult a book in his library.
His was, indeed,
a remarkable life.
note - You may discover more of the work of the Wildfowl and Wetlands
Trust by visiting their website at www.wwt.org.uk
Ogilvie is a natural history writer and editor, formerly a research
scientist with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and resident
on the island of Islay since 1986. Until 1997, a member of the
'British Birds' editorial board and also one of the editorial
team which produced 'Birds of the Western Palearctic'.