The late Mary Palfrey (1936-2013)

Several GNS members attended the funeral of Mrs Mary Palfrey, as St Edward’s Church, Stow on the Wold today.  She had been fighting illness courageously for some time, and remained in touch with GNS members until near the end.

Mary was an enthusiastic and expert botanist (entirely self-taught, as mentioned in the eulogy); she was a keen gardener and horticulturalist, and regularly attended the Chelsea Flower Show.  In botanical terms she specialised in the flora of Cotswold limestone grasslands, where she made many plant surveys, often in conjunction with the Farming and Widlife Advisory Group, which made her a lifteime achievement award for her contribution to knowledge of the flora of these habitats.  Fortunately her surveys have been kept and will form a long-standing record of the condition of these sites in her time, of great relevance for future monitoring and management of these sites, so typical of Cotswold Gloucestershire

She was for many years a member of the GNS Executive Committee, retiring only recently, and her active contribution to the running of the Society was much valued by other Committee Members.

We shall all greatly miss her, her wise counsels and her friendly expertise.

Mike Smart

Hon Chairman, GNS


From Margaret Woodward:

Hi,  Mike Smart has requested any personal memories of Mary Palfrey for the website so here is a first from me.

I first got to know Mary when I volunteered to help her “stuff” the GNS Journal (as it was then known) and the Bird Report. This involved me in a round trip from Cheltenham to Quedgeley to collect several boxes of magazines and transporting them to Maugesbury where Mary would have the envelopes all ready to receive the magazines. In the early days we had to lick both the envelopes and the stamps but we soon moved to self-seal envelopes and then to the non-lick stamps with which we have all become so accustomed. Over a cup of tea and cake we would talk about matters of general natural history – in my case mostly birds – and I soon came to realise the breadth of Mary’s knowledge especially, but not exclusively, in the field of botany.  Mary had an excellent relationship with her local Post Office and on most occasions the postman would collect several heavy bags from her house which meant that we did not have to carry them.

When Mary moved into Stow itself this arrangement continued, but on several occasions we did load the boxes back into my car and transport them up the road where by this time the Post Mistress was actually putting the stamps on for us – another job we didn’t have to do.

The Bird Report was a particular problem as we had to get special heavy duty envelopes to take the weight of each book and weigh the bags or boxes as the post man had a limit to what he was allowed to carry – not that we were able to manage more anyway.

This arrangement  which ensured that members received their publications in a timely fashion continued for over 10 years – I forget how many – with Mary and I getting together about 6 times per year to recreate our little production line.

On the day I rang to make arrangements for the latest meeting I found it difficult to take in that Mary was telling me that she could no longer carry on as she had been diagnosed with Cancer. After that new arrangements had to be made but I am glad to say that the publications are still being produced and still being mailed to all GNS members.

I saw Mary several times during her illness and she was always her welcoming and friendly self. Still interested in wildlife and particularly botany.

I miss the times I spent working with Mary and the chats we used to have and I know that there are many other people with their own memories.

Margaret Woodward

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