12 December 2019
David Bellamy, the larger than life TV naturalist, botanist, conservationist and broadcaster, who had incredibly strong ties with the early days of MCS, has died aged 86.
Bellamy, who studied and taught botany at Durham University, was in a group of diving scientists who were part of the Underwater Association in 1965. In 1967 he was also among those scientists who dived to look at the effects of the Torry Canyon oil tanker spill – the group included David Geroge, who would later become the first chair of MCS. In 1968, Bellamy was a signatory to a letter which called for MPAs to be set up in the UK.
He organised the first citizen science project for divers in 1968, Operation Kelp, in conjunction with Bernard Eaton – then editor of Triton which became DIVER magazine, who is often regarded as the father of MCS. David and Bernard, along with others like Roger Mitchell and Keith Hiscock, joined forces to set up the Underwater Conservation Year in 1977 and when the money ran out in 1978, the group were joined by Bob Earll and formed the Underwater Conservation programme. 90% of the work was geared to citizen science for divers with 8-10 projects and expeditions running during the early years – all inspired by Bellamy’s work according to Bob Earll. Two years later, the Underwater Conservation Society was set up – and the membership of that became the members of new Marine Conservation Society in 1983.
For three decades, David Bellamy was the face of conservation on TV and throughout the 1970s and 1980s launched all sorts of different projects – he famously jumped into the harbour at St Abbs to launch their voluntary marine reserve. Bellamy arrived in Ross-on-Wye the day after MCS’ Gloucester Road office burnt out and did pieces in the media helping raise funds to restore the charity’s office.
In 1979 he won BAFTA’s David Dimbleby award, and fronted a number of his own TV shows including Bellamy on Botany, Bellamy’s Britain, Bellamy’s Europe and Bellamy’s Backyard Safari.