The legacy of Sir Peter Scott

Unobserved by many, the nation’s best loved broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough, slipped into town in early October to open Oundle School’s new junior day house, Scott House, named after Old Oundelian Sir Peter Scott, who left Oundle in 1927.

Sir Peter Scott, said to be “the most important man in the establishment of the conservation movement” had been a friend and life-long source of inspiration for Sir David. They met in the 1950s and 1960s when they both worked for the BBC presenting wildlife programmes.

Peter Scott with David Attenborough at Slimbridge in 1962

Peter Scott with David Attenborough at Slimbridge in 1962

Peter Scott was the only child of Sir Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who led two exhibitions to the Antarctic. Even though his name is not so familiar to the current generation, Sir Peter was very famous during his lifetime.

After a degree in History of Art at Cambridge, Sir Peter became a portrait artist, however his
focus soon swung to his passion for wildlife, which had been nurtured during his time at Oundle School, where many of the teachers, including the Headmaster, were keen naturalists and ornithologists.

It was at Oundle that he illustrated and published his first book about birds with two other
classmates.

As well as being a painter, Sir Peter was a war hero and Olympic sportsman. But his primary
interest remained the natural world, about which he produced countless books and television programmes. Sir David said that Sir Peter’s deep knowledge about wildlife impressed him more than he could say.

As a broadcaster, Sir Peter commentated on the television broadcast of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and as an ornithologist and conservationist he presented the first BBC nature television programme ‘Look’ from 1955 to 1981, which included the first BBC wildlife documentary filmed in colour, ‘The Private Life of the Kingfisher’ in 1967. His programmes inspired millions with the wonders of the natural world.

During a talk in the Great Hall, Sir David said that of all those who have worked in the field of conservation, the one name that stands out is that of Sir Peter Scott.

He was a member of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature where he helped create the Red Data books, the first list compiled of the world’s
endangered species.

Sir Peter’s legacy now lives on as co-founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature, for which he designed its panda logo, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Erica Pascoe
December 2018