Ilkley teacher who inspired Alan Titchmarsh dies

Joan Duncan collecting her MBE in 2001 for services to Yorkshire Wildlife

Joan Duncan collecting her MBE in 2001 for services to Yorkshire Wildlife

First published in News Ilkley Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A dedicated Ilkley teacher and lifelong natural history enthusiast, who inspired TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh, has died aged 96.

Joan Elizabeth Duncan MBE, passed away on September 22.

The elder daughter of Arthur and Nora Bartle, Mrs Duncan was born in Haverfordwest, Wales, moving to Addingham in 1918 when her father was appointed to a post at Ilkley Grammar School.

After attending Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley, she obtained a BSc in Botany and Zoology at the University of Leeds, where she was an early member of the women’s athletics team alongside 1936 Olympians Grethe Whitehead and Kathleen Connall.

Qualifying as a teacher in 1938, Joan’s first job in Hull saw wartime fire watching duties and the evacuation of the school’s pupils and staff to a village in the East Riding. She later taught biology at Casterton, Otley, Doncaster, and then in Ilkley at Oaklands and Ilkley Grammar School.

Mrs Duncan joined Wharfedale Naturalists’ Society in 1946, serving for many years as secretary and president, and latterly as honorary life vice-president.

She compiled the society’s annual records of species observed, and her study of the decline of heather on Ilkley Moor proved invaluable to conservationists and researchers.

She also served as president of Yorkshire Naturalists Union, and as a prominent member of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust was instrumental in the establishment of the Grass Wood Nature Reserve in Grassington.

She was appointed MBE in 2001 for services to Yorkshire wildlife.

Mrs Duncan wrote two books – Pennine Flowers (with R W Robson, 1977), and Aunt J (1999), recording the memoirs of a YMCA volunteer in the First World War.

Before her marriage, she attended St John’s Church in Ben Rhydding, where she was PCC secretary. She later took on roles at All Saints’ Church in Ilkley and co-ordinated the church’s support for missionary work.

She married Colin Duncan, of Otley, in 1957. After her retirement in 1972, she developed a love of Australia and its wildlife.

Following Colin’s death in 1980, she continued her many voluntary activities.

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