Jean Garrod - 1928 - 2020
Updated: Sep 4
My first meeting with Jean was when leading a Suffolk Ornithologists Group
(SOG now SBG) field event at Landguard in August 1978. Jean was there with
her husband Ken and, although I had been a keen member since 1976, this was
my first as a field event leader. I was a little nervous, but Jean encouraged me
and this became the start of a very long and happy friendship with the couple.
The number of events that I was asked to lead grew and grew and it was
always a pleasure that Jean and Ken were there to assist. You could only
admire Jean’s enthusiasm and how welcoming she was to all. Her personality
was infectious and within minutes everyone would be sharing experiences
stimulated by Jean’s jovial nature. So imagine my surprise when she told me
that it was her young son who had been the first in the family to take a keen
interest in birds, with Mum and Dad quickly seeing the pleasure and passion
the hobby evokes in so many of us.
Initially SOG was managed as two branches, east and west, with separate
officers assigned to each area. But, as SOG grew the Committee quickly
recognised that Field Events Officers were needed for each branch so a joint
programme card could be distributed to members. Jean’s name was at the top
of my list and she took on the role for the East Branch with Dora Berry looking
after the west. Jean carried out this task with great gusto and it wasn’t long
before she was looking after the whole county, meticulously planning events
for us all to enjoy. As Chairman of the group, I was summoned by Jean, almost
on a weekly basis, to answer queries. On arrival at her Foxhall Road home, Jean
would dispatch Ken to make the tea and then say “now where’s my list” and
she would produce a sheet of paper with a long list of queries that she ticked
off one-by-one over a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat. Discussions centred on
numerous topics ranging from latest sightings to foreign holidays. We had
some very enjoyable afternoons together.
Jean and Ken were loyal supporters of Landguard Bird Observatory and
together we fought hard to obtain a secure tenure for the Bird Observatory.
Jean christened me “The Lion of Landguard” a title which made me feel proud.
During those halcyon days at Fagbury Cliff in the mid-1990s, when thousands
of migrant birds were drawn in by the dock lights, Jean and Ken became
regular attendees. Each Friday evening, the ringing team would put up mist-
nets ready for trapping the next morning. Jean and Ken were collected en
route and were driven down the track to our ringing site. Once the nets were
up, we then moved on to view Trimley Marshes Nature Reserve where we
were joined by Eddie Marsh who brought cheese rolls from his work’s canteen
to share with us all for tea.
Jean’s dedication and popularity resulted in her being asked to take on the role
of Vice Chairman. Fortunately, she accepted and Jean regularly attended
indoor and outdoor events with Ken. As old age crept on, some of the more
strenuous events, such as our annual trip to Orfordness, became too much for
them both, but Jean would always ring the leaders to ensure everything was in
Jean and Ken were elected as Life Vice Presidents of SOG. Sadly Ken passed
away some years back, but Jean continued with her support for the group. She
acknowledged that SOG had played a huge part of their lives and she wanted
to mark these feelings in a special way. So a trophy was commissioned to
honour his memory and their joint commitment and loyalty that they both had
given to the group for so many years. It is called the Garrod Award and Jean
was keen that it should be presented annually to the most inspiring up and
coming young birder. Jean has since been present at every AGM to present
the trophy. In future, we will continue to award the trophy and explain to
those present what a difference two people can make, so Jean and Ken will
always be in our hearts and never forgotten.
For anyone connected to the Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group there was one person that was
synonymous with the group, and that was Jean. A friendly face, an organiser and a driving force, Jean was a stalwart of the group and the group meant everything to Jean. She was the outdoor events organiser for nearly 30 years and, along with husband Ken, attended many of these. Even when age precluded her from attending, she would always ring up the leaders on the day to make sure all was well, ask who was attending and to wish everyone a good day.
When she was present on such trips, Jean would always be the first to welcome any new attendees and make them feel included. This friendliness and sociability has been a key factor of the group to this day – a great way to enjoy the birds and meet up with friends. Similarly at the indoor meetings, Jean would take names at the door, greet everybody and have a chat. Even in recent years, into her 90s, Jean still attended the meetings; although this could make her feel tired the next day, she still loved coming along. This was because everybody wanted to catch up with her and we’d leave late!
A very memorable evening last year was the talk on the Birds of Kenya by Ellie and Dan Zantboer (our youngest ever speakers, at 16 and 12). She relished seeing the delight and enthusiasm of the next generation of Suffolk birders.
From a personal point I was one of those people who were made to feel welcome by Jean. As a 15 year old on my first trip, to Cley, not really knowing anyone in the group, I was grateful for her kindness and from that day I have enjoyed the group ever since. Back in those days I would ring up to speak to Jean and Ken, have a catch up and find out the latest bird news.
As many others have also found over the years, Jean could have a persuasive manner, despite her diminutive size. Back in 2007 Jean persuaded me to lead my first trip for the group followed a year later by an invitation to join Council – you couldn’t really say no! In recent years I’d pop round for a chat with her and Ken, have a cup of tea and go through old trip photos – these were kindly lent so they could be scanned as part of the history of the group. She dearly missed Ken, her soulmate, when he passed away five years ago, he had been her birding partner for both SOG trips and birding excursions abroad – a passion they enjoyed together.
She was highly thought of by birders around the county and beyond. Her friendliness and sociability would mean she would chat to all whether on a trip or a twitch – she would often go up to people and say “do I know you?” or “you should join SOG”! Jean will be sadly missed by the birding community of Suffolk.
Both Jean and Ken were SOG/SBG through and through, they encouraged young birders as I can attest, and this is why the group with Jean, wanted to establish the Garrod trophy five years ago to recognise the next generation of bird and wildlife enthusiasts for their contribution to birds and wildlife recording/monitoring. We’ll all miss Jean, and Ken, but the Garrod Award will mean we won’t forget them, their passion for birds, the group and their friendship.