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Jean Alison Spearpoint Obituary

Jean Spearpoint, our ex-president, secretary, typist and general “dogsbody”, passed away in the early morning of 13 July 2015 after a short illness. She was 91.

Jean's involvement in the Eastern Cape Wild Bird Society started through her son Mick's interest in raptors, an interest which she also had. Having joined the society in 1967 in her own right, being Jean, it did not take her long to become involved.

In 1969 Jean became not only secretary of the club, a position which she held for thirteen years, but also the editor of the Bee-eater. Surely this is something of a record!! At that time, her job description was a whole lot broader than would normally be the case for the title she bore. Additional duties included doing all the society's banking affairs, typing and seeing to the roneoing of the Bee-eater. The typing was done on her office typewriter, before she started work in the morning.

Arranging outings was all in the day's work for her and her special interest in the young folk was evident in that she provided transport for them and gave them all the encouragement and guidance she could. Names I recall from that era are Willem Ferguson, now a professor, Grenville Walter, last heard of as a lecturer in Australia, the Edwards brothers, the Nixon brothers, and many more.

Of the young folk, Bruce Every later became editor of the Bee-eater, a post he held for many years. Because of his disability Jean was there for him, giving him all the assistance she could.

I believe that it would be quite correct to say that Jean, if she did not carry the club for a number of years, certainly played a key role in its continued existence. In recognition of her services to the club Jean was made an honorary life member of the South African Ornithological Society – now Birdlife South Africa – in 1983.

In 1982 Jean laid down the reins of office to concentrate on her own research. The result of regular monthly counts of stranded seabirds along a four kilometre stretch of sea shore, ending at Cape Receife, was a scientific paper entitled, "Waders (Charadrii) and other Shorebirds at Cape Receife, Algoa Bay, South Africa: Seasonality, Trends, Conservation, and Reliability of Surveys" which, as senior author, she co-authored with Bruce Every and Professor Les Underhill. This was published in Ostrich Vol: 59 No: 4 of December 1988.

Further data gathering was done in Settler's Park and Van Stadens Pass. This has not, as yet, resulted in any publications.

To Jean we owe a debt of gratitude for her selfless dedication to the club! 

On a personal note – I was very privileged to be a friend of Jean’s and we spent many good birding times together. On a trip to the Kgalagadi National Park in 2007, when she was about 83, she was as active as any one of us and thoroughly enjoyed herself. 

Jean, we thank you for what you meant to so many people, the lives you touched through your care and concern for the less privileged, your concern for the environment and, in particular, for your contribution to BirdLife Eastern Cape.

Dave Brown

Through the club's monthly e-newsletters and bi-annual magazine, the Bee-Eater, we aim to stimulate continued interest in birds and their habitats.