‘Legend’ Tony is gone, but will not be forgotten

Tony Tynan
Tony Tynan

A visionary, a big thinker and a man of action with dogged tenacity – these are the words used to describe a passionate promoter of wildlife conservation who died last week.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s (NWT)founder and vice-president, Tony Tynan OBE died on Wednesday, September 12, following a period of serious illness, aged 88.

Tony Tynan pictured outside the Hancock.

Tony Tynan pictured outside the Hancock.

He was one of the conservation pioneers of the 1960s and close associate of the founders of the modern Wildlife Trust movement.

As a professional museum curator at the Hancock Museum of Natural History in Newcastle (now the Great North Museum: Hancock) from 1958, Tony was in a strong position to promote nature conservation.

Tony took up the challenge with flair and originality and was among the first to introduce the concept of nature trails to Britain on behalf of the National Park, starting with a National Nature Week series in 1963. He conceived and wrote new trails for several years after that.

In 1962, he established the Northumberland and Durham Naturalists’ Trust as Honorary Secretary and, in 1971, together with fellow naturalist Angus Lunn, he formed NWT.

He was closely involved in the development of the Trust until 2000, when he retired as Honorary Secretary. He remained involved as vice-president until very recently.

Tony held a key role in establishing Trust nature reserves and conservation across North-East England and nationally had close links to national conservation leaders, like Sir David Attenborough.

Among his many achievements in establishing nature reserves in his adopted county of Northumberland – he was a Yorskhireman by birth – the coastal wetland complex along Druridge Bay perhaps best illustrates his exceptional ability as a leader in created wetland conservation.

His work at Druridge Bay resulted in NWT becoming a national leader in creative wetland conservation and the new, award-winning Wildlife Discovery Centre at Hauxley Nature Reserve – which he helped open last year – is a lasting legacy to his work. The facility’s Tynan Education Room is named after him.

Angus Lunn, vice-president and co-found of the NWT, said: “NWT is very much Tony’s creation and for that he will always be remembered. He was a remarkable character.”

Chairman Sandra King said: “Tony was a legend in NWT and in the Wildlife Trust movement as a whole, one of the last in a generation of pioneer conservationists. His legacy is guaranteed going forward.”

Chief executive Mike Pratt added: “Tony was a one-off, his energy and focus were amazing. He was a very amusing and lively person. He was a true leader.”

Over the years, Tony gave valuable assistance to the Natural History Society of Northumbria and was on Northumberland National Park’s committee for more than a decade.

A font of knowledge, he shared his expertise through newspaper columns, radio and television.

Tony is, perhaps, best summed up by one anecdote which is still told in birding circles. In the 1980s, when golden eagles were still nesting in the Kielder area, they were talked about in code – referred to as Tynan’s Budgies – to keep them a secret and protected.