A DEDICATED teacher and lifelong natural history enthusiast, Joan Elizabeth Duncan – who has died aged 96 – moved from Wales to Addingham, near Ilkley, in 1918 when her father, Arthur Bartle, was appointed to a post at Ilkley Grammar School.
The elder daughter of Mr Bartle and his wife Nora, she was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.
After attending Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Otley, she obtained a BSc in Botany and Zoology at Leeds University, where she was an early member of the women’s athletics team alongside 1936 Olympians Grethe Whitehead and Kathleen Connall.
Qualifying as a teacher in 1938, Mrs Duncan’s first job in Hull saw her taking part in wartime fire-watching duties and involved the evacuation of the school’s pupils and staff to a village in the East Riding.
She subsequently taught biology at Casterton, Otley, Doncaster, and then in Ilkley at Oaklands and the Grammar School.
Mrs Duncan joined the Wharfedale Naturalists Society in 1946, serving for many years as secretary and president, and more recently as honorary life vice-president, steering it to become one of Ilkley’s largest and most successful voluntary organisations.
She compiled the society’s annual records of species observed in Wharfedale, and her study of the decline of heather on Ilkley Moor proved invaluable to conservationists and university researchers. She also served as president of the Yorkshire Naturalists Union, and as a prominent member of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust was instrumental in the establishment of the Grass Wood Nature Reserve. In 2001 she was appointed MBE for services to Yorkshire wildlife.
Mrs Duncan was the author of two books, Pennine Flowers (with RW Robson, 1977) and Aunt J (1999), recording the memoirs of a YMCA volunteer in the First World War.
Before her marriage she attended St John’s Church, Ben Rhydding, where she was secretary to the parochial church council, sang alto in the choir and was active in the Social Guild. She later took on similar roles at All Saints’ Church, Ilkley, and for many years co-ordinated the church’s support for missionary work.
In 1957 she married Colin Duncan of Otley, with whom she shared a love of natural history, photography and sailing.
After her retirement, in 1972 she developed a love of Australia and its wildlife, and following her husband’s death in 1980, she continued her many voluntary activities until well into her 80s.
She had no children of her own, but inspired generations of young people – including Ilkley boy Alan Titchmarsh – to understand and respect the natural world around them.