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National Library of Wales
Condry, William, papers

Reference code(s): GB 0210 WMCOND

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: William Condry Papers

Short Title: Condry, William, papers

Creation date(s): [?1825], 1928-2015

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: 0.730 cubic metres (37 boxes)

Name of creator(s): William Condry


Administrative/Biographical history: William Moreton Condry was a naturalist and writer who lived and worked in West Wales from about 1946 until his death in 1998. He was born in Birmingham on 1 March 1918. His father was a craftsman jeweller - a diamond setter - who took a great interest in politics, being a pacifist and a member of the Independent Labour Party, and both his parents were 'Clarionites', so named after the paper run by the socialist Robert Blatchford. Following his primary and grammar school education, he attended Birmingham University, graduating in 1939 in French, Latin and History, and obtaining a teaching certificate a year later. He spent the Second World War as a conscientious objector, working in forestry in Herefordshire, before graduating in French at London University in 1945. Some years later he pursued his interest in French, researching Andre Gide at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and obtaining a Master's degree in 1951.
Condry' s connections with Wales and his interest in the countryside began at an early age through family holidays in remote parts of the Merionethshire coastal district and Cader Idris. During his school days he developed an increasing fascination with ornithology and natural history, an enthusiasm shared by his friend, Harold Wright, with whom he surveyed the birds of North Worcestershire, and undertook explorations by bicycle of the remote upland regions of Powys. It was in Wales that he met his future wife, Penny, who was warden of the Nanmor Youth Hostel in Snowdonia. The couple married in 1946 and lived successively near Ponterwyd, at Tal-y-bont, at Glygyrog-ddu between Aberdyfi and Pennal, in Cwm Einion and finally at Eglwys-fach near Machynlleth. After a season as youth hostel wardens, they became involved in the work of the farmer and writer, Ronald Lockley, who was one of the founders of the West Wales Field Society (later the West Wales Wildlife Trust), and early in 1947 they assisted with the establishing of the Field Studies Council Centre at Dale Fort. Later in the same year, Condry conducted a survey of upland birds in mid-Wales and wrote a paper on his findings for a scientific journal, The Naturalist .
In 1949 he embarked on a ten year teaching career at Lapley Grange, Eglwys-fach, but he continued to pursue his wildlife interests in addition to his school work. From 1947 to 1956 he was the nature warden for mid-Wales and edited the West Wales Field Society's Field Notes . As a progression of that work, in 1955 he became one of the co-editors of Nature in Wales , the journal of the West Wales Naturalists' Trust. He and his wife, with others, expressed a particular commitment to the preservation of the Red Kite, becoming members of the newly formed Kite Committee in 1949. In 1953 he was involved with setting up the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory, in which he maintained an interest for the rest of his life, being honorary secretary for eight years, then president, and finally, in 1990, honorary life president. His contributions to bird protection in Wales were acknowledged when, in 1965, he was awarded the RSPB Silver Medal. Towards the end of the 1950's, William and Penny Condry were invited to live at Ynys Edwin, one of the Ynys-hir estate cottages, by the owner, Hubert Mappin, who was dedicated to the cause of nature conservation. Following Mappin's death, the estate was purchased by the RSPB and Condry became its first warden in 1969. In recognition of his work he was awarded an honorary MSc. by the University of Wales in 1980. In addition to his activities in the field, he was engaged in extensive lecturing, broadcasting, committee work and literary pursuits.
Over a period of many years he was a member of numerous societies and committees, including the British Trust for Ornithology (being the representative for Cardiganshire for several years), Merioneth Reserves Committee of the North Wales Naturalists' Trust, the Nature Conservancy Committee for Wales, the Executive Committee of the Council for Nature, the Education Sub-committee of the Prince of Wales Conservation Committee, Montgomeryshire Field Society, the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales and the National Trust.
From his youth William Condry kept a series of nature diaries in which he recorded his observations, and throughout his career he continued to write, producing a large quantity of books and articles, often illustrated with his own photographs. His first book, Thoreau , was published in Witherby's Great Naturalists series in 1954. Other works of which he was sole or co-author include The Birds of Cardiganshire (West Wales Naturalists' Trust 1966), The Snowdonia National Park (Collins 1966), Birds and Wild Africa (Collins 1967), Exploring Wales (Faber 1970), Pathway to the Wild (Faber 1975), T he World of a Mountain (Faber 1977), The Natural History of Wales (Collins 1981), Snowdonia (David & Charles 1987), The National Trust, Wales (Gomer 1991), Wildlife in our Welsh Parish (Eglwys-fach Women's Institute 1993), A Welsh Country Diary (Gomer 1993), `The Vertebrate Animals of Cardiganshire' in the Cardiganshire County History Vol. I (University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1994), Wildlife, My Life (Gomer 1995), Welsh Country Essays (Gomer 1996) and Wildlife Safari, the Life of Mary Richards (published postumously by Gomer, 1998). He wrote widely on conservation, and the Welsh landscape for magazines such as Country Life , and he was greatly renowned for his `Country Diaries' which were published regularly in the Guardian between 1957 and 1998. Further areas of research included local history and the work of other naturalists, both past and contemporary, including E. H. T. Bible, whose nature diaries he acquired.
William Condry died in Morriston hospital on 30 May 1998.


Scope and content/abstract: The fonds comprises mainly natural history diaries, 1935-1998, field notes, 1952-1994, typescript and published articles, 1947-1998, notes and correspondence relating to his books, 1933-1998, and to various natural history and historical subjects, card indexes, 1930-1998, and printed pamphlets, papers and books relating to Henry Thoreau, 1943-1999. There are several files of general personal correspondence, 1938-1998, including letters from R.S. Thomas. Inevitably, there are considerable overlaps between the various subsections of the archive, since Condry's interests, professional duties and literary activities were inextricably linked. Some items such as obituaries and tributes have been accumulated since Condry's death, until 2015.


Language/scripts of material: English unless otherwise specified

System of arrangement: Arranged at NLW into three groups, literary papers, professional papers and personal papers. Many of the individual file contents are arranged by type, due to lack of sufficient dating evidence.

Conditions governing access: The Higher Plant Specialist, Countryside Council for Wales, Maesyffynnon, Penrhosgarnedd, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2DW: Freedom of Information Act 2000, exemption section 39 (see file level descriptions for details). Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form. See file level descriptions for details.

Conditions governing reproduction: Copyright belongs to Mrs Penny Condry, Ynys Edwin, Eglwys-fach, nr Machynlleth, Powys, September 2000.

Finding aids: A hard copy of the catalogue is available at NLW


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: All of Condry's papers donated to the Library have been retained apart from duplicates which have been destroyed. See series level descriptions

Accruals: Accruals of a small number of items are possible.

Archival history: Following the initial transfer of William Condry's papers in 1998, Penny Condry has added some papers to the archive, such as tributes and reviews of some of his books, which were published after his death.

Immediate source of acquisition: Donated by his widow Mrs Penny Condry, Eglwysfach, Machynlleth, in November 1998, followed by several small donations, 1999-2001, 2015-2016.


Related material: Photographs, maps, posters and medals are in NLW, Department of Pictures and Maps; a cassette tape of William Condry's Memorial Service is in NLW, Sound and Moving Image Collection, and copies of his published works, other books, pamphlets and journals which are physically separate from his papers are in NLW, Department of Printed Books. Other related papers are noted in file descriptions for LP1/11, LP6/7. The nature diaries of E. H. T. Bible have been catalogued separately.


Note: The dates of creation exceed Condry's life span, since the papers include items such as obituaries and letters of condolence to his widow, following his death in 1998.

Archivist's note: Compiled by Hilary A. Peters, November 2001, amended February 2016.
The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Obituaries from press and journals, mainly Jim Perrin, 'Closely Observed Wales', the Guardian, 2 June 1998, and Arthur Chater, 'William Condry' in Wildlife No. 77 (Sept. 1998), and the author's autobiographical works, Pathway to the Wild (Faber 1975) and Wildlife, My Life (Gomer 1995)

Rules or conventions: This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) Second Edition; AACR2: and LCSH.

Date(s) of descriptions: Prior to 23-0-2006

Condry, William, | 1918-1998 | Archives
Natural history

Personal names
Condry , William , 1918-1998

Corporate names


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