A prominent member from the early days of the Brathay Exploration Group has recently died.
Ioan Thomas was a schoolmaster from Oundle. In 1951 he signed on for a year and was still there 37 years later. Such job loyalty is rare these days, but it was for his out-of-school activities that we recall him. It was probably his Quaker concern for struggling communities that took him to the remote island of Foula in Shetland. This was a wonderful base for fieldwork, especially ornithology and, thanks to his promptings, B.E.G. was able to run up to four expeditions a year for over 40 years. Link this work to helping the islanders with their peat gathering and sheep roundups and you have true ‘Brathay-Type’ objectives.
Next, Ioan was able to introduce Brathay to East Africa. This major expedition of 1962 did a wide range of original fieldwork sharing the work with boys from local schools. Educationally, it was breaking new ground in what young people could do. My role was a film for the BBC which presented a view of our activities to many millions of viewers.
Ioan led many other expeditions ranging from the Lake District to Kenya, Tunisia and beyond. His ever-cheerful investigative spirit was just the tonic for Brathay. At his Memorial Service this quality was celebrated by all speakers, including two professors one of whom was his former pupil Richard Dawkins. So, it was not just the pupils of Oundle who befitted from Ioan’s challenges, but a great many BEG members from, as we used to say, all walks of life.
Ioan can be seen throughout the 1962 Brathay Exploration Group film, Uganda Adventure, and is introduced at approximately 2 minutes 45 seconds in.