William Moreton Condry

Naturalist and Author
1918 - 1998

and (in his words) 'Proud to be a W.I. Husband!' 

A Short Biography

William (Bill) Condry was born in Birmingham, where his father worked as a craftsman jeweller. His parents were Clarionites, pacifists and active members of the Independent Labour Party. Through them he was introduced to the writings of Thoreau and to Wales - two of his passions, and possibly from them he inherited the healthy scepticism of government and authority that was with him all his life.

Educated in Birmingham , he took his degree there in 1939, reading Latin, French and History and went on to get his Diploma of Education. In the war years, as a conscientious objector, he worked in forestry. This was followed by BA Honours in French at London and an MA at Aberystwyth.

Married to Penny in 1946, they were persuaded by Robert Lockley to help set up the Field Studies Centre at Dale Fort in Pembrokeshire.

From 1949 to 1959 Bill taught at Lapley Grange in Furnace, where Penny was school secretary. During this time his interest in the naturalist's world intensified, with commitments to several projects: -

His first book (requested by Lockley) on Thoreau, was published in 1954.

From 1947 -1956 he was Nature Warden, Mid Wales, for the West Wales Field Society and he also edited the Society's 'Field Notes'. He was associated with the committee and running of this society (later a Trust) for 42 years.

In 1949 he became closely involved with the setting up of the Red Kite Committee to encourage the recovery of Red Kites in Wales. He remained closely involved, both on the monitoring side and in Red Kite politics until 1980. He stayed very interested in the work and was asked to become a patron of the Welsh Kite Trust, when it was founded in 1996.

In 1952 Bill and Penny stayed on Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli) and their feasibility report paved the way for the setting up of the Bird Observatory that is still there. He was involved with this project until the end of his life; after serving as President he was elected Honorary Life President in 1990.

In 1957 he was invited to join a team of country diarists for the Manchester Guardian (The Guardian since 1961). His first 'Country Diary' appeared on 9th October 1957 and he continued these fortnightly articles for over 40 years, the last article being published on 30th May 1998, the day of his death.

Bill and Penny became close friends with Hubert Mappin, the enlightened owner of Ynys Hir Estate and, in 1959, went to live on the estate in Ynys Edwin , close to the river Dyfi in Eglwys Fach, where Bill advised on maintaining the estate as a bird sanctuary. His time now taken up with more and more writing, lecturing and broadcasting, Bill relinquished his post at the school.

In 1963 he and Penny, at the invitation of Mary Richards, went to visit her in her home in the Rift Valley of East Africa.

In 1965 he was awarded the RSPB's 'Silver Medal' for "services to bird protection in Wales".

With Bill's encouragement the Ynys Hir Estate was purchased by the RSPB in 1969, on the death of Hubert Mappin. Bill was appointed the first Warden, a post he held until his retirement in 1982.

In 1980 he was awarded an honorary MSc by the University of Wales and in 1982 elected Vice President of the then West Wales Naturalist Trust.

In all these years he had been closely associated with, and on the committees of, many wildlife organisations:

  • Merioneth Reserves Committee of the North Wales Trust.
  • B.T.O. representative for Cardiganshire (now Ceredigion).
  • Member of the Nature Conservancy Committee for Wales, where he was involved in setting up some of the early National Nature Reserves in Wales.
  • The Executive Committee of the Council of Nature.
  • The Education Committee of the Prince of Wales ' Conservation Committee for Wales.
  • The Botanical Society of the British Isles Committee for Wales.

After his retirement he devoted more time to writing (see below), producing a stream of distinguished books and articles.

He was and is known throughout the British Isles as one of the foremost naturalist and conservationists of his day, reaching and giving pleasure, through his 'Country Diary' column, to thousands of readers

Major Writings

1954 Thoreau. Witherby.
1955 A Hundred Years of Walden. Dublin Magazine.
1966 Birds of Cardiganshire - Co-author with Ingram & Salmon.
1966 The Snowdonia National Park (New Naturalist Vol 47). Collins.
1967 Birds and Wild Africa. Collins.
1967 The Kites of Europe ( American Museum of Natural History).
1970 Exploring Wales. Faber & Faber.
1972 Countryside Birds.
1974 Woodlands. Collins.
1975 Pathway to the Wild. Faber & Faber.
1977 The World of a Mountain. Faber & Faber.
1981 The Natural History of Wales (New Naturalist Vol. 66). Collins.
1987 Snowdonia. David & Charles.
1988 The Introduction to 'Wood Engravings' by Gertrude Hermes. Gwasg Gregynog.
1990 Contributor (Choughs) to 'Tomorrow is too Late'. Macmillan Press.
1991 Wales:The National Trust . Gomer.
1993 Wildlife in our Welsh Parish. Egwlys Fach W.I. For further information on this title and a chance to buy - click here
1993 Welsh Country Diary.Gomer.
1994 Chapter 5, Part I 'The Vertebrate Animals of Cardiganshire.' Cardinganshire County History. Vol I. University of Wales.
1995 Intoduction to the new edition of George Borrow's 'Wild Wales'. Gomer.
1995 Wildlife, my Life. Gomer.
1996 Welsh Country Essays. Gomer.
1997 From Herbals to Floras: The Illustrated Botanical Works in the Founders' Library. University of Wales, Lampeter.
1997 Co-author : A Year in a Small Country. Editor John Gower. (Pub. 1999).
1998 Wildflower Safari : The Life of Mary Richards. Gomer.
'A Country Diary'; fortnightly column in The Guardian.
Articles for Country Life and The Countryman..