Obituary - Joan Duncan 1916-2012

16th November 2012 at 00:00

Joan Duncan was a naturalist and inspirational biology teacher, as well as a protector of the Yorkshire countryside. In and out of school, she encouraged children to explore and respect the natural world.

Joan Bartle was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, but moved to Addingham, near Ilkley in West Yorkshire, in 1918 when her father was appointed to teach English at Ilkley Grammar School. Joan, however, had to attend Prince Henry's Grammar in Otley because Ilkley did not then admit girls.

She went on to study botany and zoology at the University of Leeds, and qualified as a teacher in 1938. Her first job was in Hull, where she took on fire-watching duties during the Second World War. Her school was evacuated to a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Mrs Duncan later returned to Ilkley to care for her mother. She worked at Oaklands, an independent school that closed in the 1960s, and Ilkley Grammar. She enjoyed helping young people to understand the subject she was so passionate about and tried to make her lessons as practical as possible, bringing in specimens for pupils to see.

Mrs Duncan joined the Wharfedale Naturalists' Society in 1946 soon after it was founded, serving for many years as secretary and president, and more recently as honorary life vice-president. One of its young members was Alan Titchmarsh, who went on to find fame as a television gardener.

She also served as president of the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union and was a prominent member of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. In 2001 she was appointed MBE for services to wildlife. After her retirement in 1972, Mrs Duncan and her husband Colin began to visit Australia regularly: she loved the country's landscape and wildlife.

Mr Duncan died in 1980, but Mrs Duncan continued her many voluntary activities until well into her eighties. She died at the age of 96.

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