Conor Mark Jameson is a professional conservationist and is the author of Silent Spring Revisited, which explores the impact and influence of Rachel Carson, Looking for the Goshawk, a quest to understand the absence of this elusive bird from our lives, and what it reveals about our relationship with wild nature, and Shrewdunnit: The Nature Files (a collection of published essays). He has worked for BirdLife International as part of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. He is currently working on a book following Hudson’s life and travels in Britain through 50 years of history and the growth of interest in and support for conserving nature, at home and abroad.
I explore how the unschooled, battle-scarred immigrant W H Hudson arrived in Britain from Argentina aged 32, and went on to become so influential in the establishment of the RSPB, and campaigning against destruction of birds. He was instrumental, through his writing, in achieving legislative change. He was also a pioneer in challenging the excesses of collector-naturalists, of which he was often vocally critical.
Unusually for the era, the ‘outsider’ Hudson allied himself with the women who founded the RSPB, forming close personal and professional friendships with the leaders of this movement. I explore the freshness of vision that Hudson brought to his observations of British wildlife, communities and landscapes, the candour of his views and his willingness to challenge cultural norms, which did so much to bring the culture of his adopted homeland out of the ‘killing age’ and into a new relationship with nature.
Hudson lived just long enough to see the Plumage Act finally passed, and the first meeting that launched what we know today as BirdLife International. I make the case for the revival of this largely forgotten pioneer and one-time household name, in the context of the neglected figures who established the RSPB.