Max Nicholson

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Max and Earthwatch
Reintroduction of Swans to the London Thames
Max's role in the Festival of Britain in 1951

Memories of working for Max on the IBP
Working for Max Nicholson - early 1950s

Max interviewed for Desert Island Discs in 1995 and complete transcript (now available as a podcast on bbc.co.uk)
Max catches polio in 1952

Max's part in the History of Birding
Nicholson went up to Oxford in 1926, and soon went to work organising the Oxford Bird Census. Meanwhile he began his extraordinarily prolific career as a writer, publishing his first book, 'Birds in England' when he was still only 22 years old.                             more             contributed by Stephen Moss

Max and the British Trust for Ornithology
In 1931, Max Nicholson published his fourth book "The Art of Bridwatching". In it he argued that "A Society of Birdwatches on a national scale, and a central clearing house for information and direction of team-work, present theselves with growing insistence as inevitable objectives". Two years later, he founded the BTO, the embodiment of that vision. Such drive, determination and ability to persuad others to help him thake action proved to be Max's life-long characteristics            more             contributed by Prof. Jeremy Greenwood of the BTO

Max writes to a friend in New York on 1 November 1940
My dear Leonard,               10 30 p.m
One or two letters we have been getting from the USA lately suggest that some of the people who have been out of England longer than you are suffering from a lot of wrong ideas about the bombing of London, and as you left soon after the Blitz began it may interest you to have some sort of a picture of what it feels like after the first couple of months or so.

(FEW WORDS CENSORED) I had just finished supper (rather late for nowadays) and was coming down the (CENSORED) when one of the enemy bombers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                             more

Max crossing the Atlantic in 1942
As part of his job in the Ministry of War Transport, Max had to go to Washington from time to time. On this occasion, he was travelling in the "Queen Elizabeth". This was the only ship allowed to sail without a destroyer escort, because it was considered fast enough to evade U-boats. As a precautionary measure, it sailed a course of large zig-zags.

The exact position of the ship was a matter of top security, and known only to the Captain and the navigating officer. There was therefore consternation when Max announced to the Captain that they were 300 miles south-west of Iceland. "How did you know" they asked, fearing a damaging security breach. "Well, I have just seen a bird which has a 200 mile radius from Greenland but is unknown in Iceland, while I saw another bird earlier today which has a 300 mile range from Iceland, but they have now vanished. " (The ornithological details of this story I have forgotten, but hopefully someone will be able to fill them in!)             contributed by Piers Nicholson

Max reflects on working with the Russians and the Americans during the war
Users of shipping and especially the military, tended to look on it as a kind of cab-rank from which the needful vessels would be whistled up as and when they were wanted. They found it hard to adapt to the shipping authorities' view of their task as being to manage over time and space a scarce and fleeting resource in such a way as to yield the utmost quality and quantity of cargo lift. That could only be achieved by all behaving as a disciplined and intelligent team, doing their best to fulfil a common programme.       more             from Max's autobiography

Max's role in the Festival of Britain in 1951
. . . . . You couldn't call Max an eccentric. He was a very gifted man - you can't manage an enterprise on the scale of the Fesitval of Britain unless you have very considerable managerial talents.

The Festival was extraordinarily fortunate in its people. Gerald Barry was the Director General, and, though very different from Max, they worked together very well. and Hugh Casson, Huw Wheldon and other members of the team were brilliant architects. . . . . . . .             more             contributed by Sir Paul Wright

Max's preface to "Birds and Men", 1951
When the Editors invited me to write this book, they offered me an opportunity to complete a picture of the impact of civilisation on our bird life for which I had drawn a first sketch in "Birds in England" over twenty years ago. Here was a chance to trace the shaping of our towns and countryside and the life-histories and ecology of their more characteristic birds. In taking this opportunity I soon found that far too little is yet known to allow anything approaching a complete picture to be drawn, although it is true that enough has been learnt recently to give us a much better idea of the subject.             more

Max catches polio, 1952
In 1952, an old friend, David Owen, had become head if the United Nations Development Programme, and was looking for someone to head up a comprehensive survey of the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. It fitted well for Max between his leaving the Lord President's Office and taking up his new job as the second Director-General of the Nature Conservancy. But he caught polio while he was in Baluchistan. It was diagnosed soon after his return and he spent most of October 1952 in intensive care in a London hospital.
The doctors told him that he would never walk again. Polio was regarded with superstitious dread at that time; there was no vaccine and patients typically spent a long time in an "iron lung". Max's response was "Just wait and see". Within a month, he noted that he could walk one mile at 1.3 miles an hour. This episode illustrates how his ferocious energy and focus enabled him to overcome apparently insuperable obstacles.           contributed by Piers Nicholson

Max at Braunton Burrows in the early 50s
In 1952 Max had recently been appointed Director General of The Nature Conservancy. Shortly afterwards I was appointed under him as the Conservancy's Regional Officer for South West England. Max was recovering from polio but he was determined to visit places which were being considered as National Nature Reserves. One of these was Braunton Burrows, that wonderful stretch of sand and sand dunes in North Devon. Max could not have found walking easy, I suspect he was in some pain, but he pushed ahead. Suddenly a harrier came flying low over the horizon. The sight galvanised him; he strained forward to get a better view of the bird, before it disappeared over the sandhills. It was splendidly obvious that he really cared about what we were all trying to conserve. He immediately earned my deepest respect, and gave me, like all my colleagues, hope for the future.           contributed by Norman Moore

Working with Max Nicholson - early 1950s
To go back to those formative years of the Nature Conservancy - the 1950s and early 1960s - The Nicholson Years - when the on the ground pattern of a three country science-based, structured organisation was formed with its Country Headquarters, Regional Offices, Research Stations and National Nature Reserves. The work force came into being across the country, and started to make an impact. It was an environmental Blitzkreig - nation-wide. Those who were fortunate enough to be invited to fill an advertised post, be it administrative, scientific or field management, had to do their homework to discover what this business called Nature Conservation was all about and also who was the Director General mastermind driving this bus. I know that we had to do this to understand just how our particular role/functions contributed to the creation and working of the Max Nicholson Grand Design. Any one of you who have memories of the Nicholson Years will have their own views on their entry to the Nature Conservancy and how they embraced The Faith.

I had time to think about this whole business of Nature Conservation and also my leader, the Director General, as I travelled the roads and found my way into remote parts of England and Wales seeking out a designated Naional Nature Reserve. From my reading of files and books in the Belgrave Square Registry and Library I now knew something of the history of 'The Man'. Also the development, over the 1930s and later war years, of the thought and planning which had gone into the emergence of science-based conservation of our natural resources, which hung on the peg of Max Nicholson's lifelong interest in ornithology. I learnt that he, Max, was said to be an irascible, driven individual; that his wartime record of leading the shipping division of the Board of Trade, in support of the Battle of the Atlantic and the Arctic (Russian) convoys was well known; that he was an organiser, a planner of note, in government; and the recipient of many honours and awards, not least a CBE and CVO. And he was also a physically wounded man on crutches, holed up in a ground floor office. I had to get to see him at some time - to talk about birds and reserve management. I managed to secure an interview. I was impressed from the first meeting: I was his liege man - but I was not a scientist.
contributed by Eric (Robbie) Roberts

Max in Edinburgh in the mid-1950's
The moving and evocative Memorial Service last Friday set me reminiscing on my time with the Nature Conservancy. I had a studentship from the NC 1950-1952 and was a scientist at its Merlewood Research Station, Grange-over-Sands from 1953 to 1958. Over these years I met Max on several occasions but one in particular sticks in my mind and shows what a wide and diverse circle of friends he had.

In the mid 1950’s (1955 or 1956) there was an International Conference on Nature Conservation in Edinburgh which I along with several Merlewood colleagues attended. One evening we were invited to a small cocktail party hosted by Mr & Mrs Nicholson. They were staying in a house on one of Edinburgh’s elegant squares loaned to them for the duration of the conference by the author Compton Mackenzie (a bird watcher?). To our surprise one of the other guests was the actor James Robertson Justice. We did not discover his connection with Max - maybe he was a keen bird watcher too. Bird watcher or not he left us in no doubt that he was type cast in his role in “Doctor in the House"           contributed by Dr. Owen Gilbert

Max inspiring others
Palmer Newbould recalls the formation of the UCL conservation course. I was fortunate to be  one of 6 on the first course in 1960. What stands out from a calendar year of intense activity, including about 15 weeks of field work around Britain (Max's idea?), was the realization that conservation had to become an all pervasive activity, integrated into the policies and practices of all sectors of society and not just the enthusiasm of a dedicated few. While he himself was one of the latter he, and Palmer, could see the need to involve industry, local government, local communities, farmers and landowners and those who managed public utilities. Max also had a passion for 'greening cities', ahead of others, and inspired pioneering work particularly in London.

The Countryside in 1970 conferences helped enormously to increase understanding and the formation of the Countryside Commission in 1968 gave added impetus. The powers to  experiment with new ideas needed bright people to see the potential. Among the first staff  appointments were conservation course graduates who brought to the new body the 'joined up thinking' that Max so firmly advocated along with a belief that restoring the environmental mistakes of the past had to go hand in hand with protecting the best of our heritage.

The opportunity to try out on a large scale a new approach to the restoration and management of open land in and around a city came with Michael Heseltine's appointment as Secretary of State. He supported the Countryside Commission's vision of a partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors through an independent action oriented charitable company - the Groundwork Trust. I was at the time Assistant Director responsible for setting up the new company. The person chosen to run it as Executive Director was Dr, now Professor, John Handley, another cons course graduate.

Groundwork is now a national network with offshoots in Japan and the USA and active also in the accession countries. In the UK it employs more than 1500 staff working with several thousand volunteers and members of local communities. It uses ecological and all sorts of other knowledge, puts it at the disposal of local people, and enables things to be done to make  towns more livable and more sustainable. What began as an environmental initiative has evolved into a powerful means also of achieving linked social and economic objectives. As Max said ‘you’ll never get Whitehall departments to work harmoniously together, the task is just too huge, better to concentrate on joining things together at the local level’.

Those of us who had a hand in bringing the network to fruition persuaded Max to join us in Birmingham for a seminar, sometime in the early 1990's. He gave us his insights, his endorsement, and above all he inspired a new generation of environmental managers with his creativity and vision. What a day; what a man.             contributed by Dr. John Davidson, Groundwork co-founder and Chief Executive 1983-96

An early meeting with Max Nicholson, 1961
Within days of my joining The Nature Conservancy on 1st January 1961, as Warden- Naturalist at High Halstow on the North Kent Marshes I encountered two wildfowlers on the sea wall near St Mary’s Bay. One of them had shot a Curlew, which had fallen injured to the ground inside the sea wall. Just at this moment a walker appeared on the scene and proceeded to upbraid the wildfowlers for what seemed to him to be an unsporting and illegal action. I was challenged as to what I was going to do about it. As a new recruit to The Nature Conservancy I was by no means confident concerning the rights and wrongs of the situation and I was not at all sure that there was anything that I could or should do.      more           contributed by Michael Hudson, former Nature Conservancy Regional Officer

Max's chapter in "The Humanist Frame" 1961
Man, like other animals, began life in a natural habitat. Unlike other animals - except a few which have become dependent on him - he has outgrown and almost forgotten it. This basic fact has much to do with many present-day human problems, economic, social and psychological.             more

Max's working methods

Its not so much Max stories, though there are plenty of those. It is the total achievement, made up of myriad projects. Max would have a bright idea and find some person or group to help him implement it. If it didn't work, he would drop it and move on to the next project. If it did work, he would leave his helpers to get on with it, with regular messages of encouragement and other forms of support from Max. Max would then move on to the next project. His intellectual energy was phenomenal. I will mention just three projects in which I was involved .             more           contributed by Palmer Newbould

Max and the Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa

Max was either one of the, or the, driving force behind the initiation of many projects, especially in ornithology. One of these was the "Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa" (the sub-title "The Birds of the Western Palearctic" was more manageable, but BWP was easier still!). As ever, Max played a key role in getting this going; indeed it was largely his vision that resulted in the work developing from a successor to "The Handbook of British Birds" into one covering the whole of the western Palearctic.

Much of this history and many of the problems that had to be surmounted are recounted in Max's Foreword to the IXth and final volume. What he does not mention is that he was the only contributor who lasted the whole course. Max wrote the "Habitat" section for every single species, other than some of the vagrants, from the first volume to the last.

Volume VIII was just about completed and Volume IX was in advanced proof stages in the run-up to Max's 90th birthday. The publishers, Oxford University Press, pulled out all the stops to get a proof copy specially bound, so that he could be given both volumes at his 90th birthday celebrations. So, for a few weeks, Max was the only person who owned a complete set.of BWP, a position he wholly deserved.           contributed by Christopher Perrins

Max and the Biological Records Centre

He then had the visionary idea of transferring the botanical data to Monks Wood soon after it opened as the core of the Biological Records Centre . . . .             more           contributed byFrank Perring

Max and Field Studies in Scotland

As an example of Max's working method, here is how ' as best remembered - he instigated Scotland's first permanent field centre. Sometime about 1960, Max realised that, although new field centres were being added to the then existing field centres in England and Wales, under the aegis of the Field Studies Council, there was no permanent field centre in Scotland. This was despite the fact that the equivalent organisation north of the border, the Scottish Field Studies Association, had been running field courses at various 'borrowed' places such as youth hostels. This made no sense to Max, given the richness of Scotland's habitats and so he decided to do something about it.             more           contributed by Thomas Huxley

The Civil Service reacts to the publication of "The System" in 1967

In the evening I was telephoned by Harold Lever who told me he'd been asked to appear on "The World at One" to represent the Civil service and defend the Treasury against the attack on it which Max Nicholson launched in his new book "The System".           more             from the diaries of Richard Crossman

Israel Sieff talks about Max, 1970

Max Nicholson is the cleverest man I have ever met, and one of the most lovable. I may not be a good judge of which men are clever, and which men are not; but many men ....................           more             from the memoirs of Israel Sieff

Max and the Nature Conservancy

I did not know Max very well in person, but as an historian I have spent many hours reading his voluminous written records.

I was appointed as an historian to the Nature Conservancy's Monks Wood Experimental Station in 1967, shortly after Max's retirement as Director-General. Max told me on several occasions that Monks Wood was one of the few initiatives which he could claim as entirely his own - a fact borne out entirely by the Conservancy's own archive and that of the Minister for Science.

Many were the stories I was told on my arrival at Monks Wood of Max summoning scientists to Belgrave Square. He ran the Conservancy and its committees on Cabinet Committee lines. As an item came before the Conservancy, those with the relevant specialist knowledge would be brought into the room, questioned by Max, and then dismissed. Although they were grateful that their views were sought, it was clearly something of an ordeal to appear before such eminent figures under Max's very stern direction.           more           contributed by John Sheail

Max and Environmental Education

I once asked Max for his guidance on Environmental Education in connection with a school for which I was responsible. His reply was unexpectedly succinct.  'Get them outside.' contributed by Brian Nicholson

Max, Peter Scott, and Slimbridge
With the sad departure of Max we have lost one of the very few "Greats" of the Twentieth Century - and he was indeed a Great Man.

As Assistant Secretary of the (then) Severn Wildfowl Trust, I first met Max in London in 1947 when he was on the Council. It was immediately evident that Peter had great regard for his advice.

Although he retired from Council when he took up the post of Director General of the Nature Conservancy Max retained a close interest in the work of the Trust and Peter was constantly in touch with him. Much time was spent discussing the problems of nature conservation not only in this country but globally. Peter probably depended more on his help in this field than on anyone else. Later he was to become a Vice President Of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and continued to give advice and support until the end.

Peter has recorded in his book "Observations of Wildlife" how he and Max travelled back from an IUCN meeting in Switzerland discussing the possibility of raising funds for conservation through some other organisation which, of course was to be WWF.

After Peter moved to Slimbridge, Max stayed with us more than once. He was a delightful guest and I enjoyed his company as much as Peter did. On one occasion he enchanted my two young children by visiting them in bed while I was cooking the dinner and amusing them with stories. On that occasion after he left we found some pink sugar mice in the spare room drawer -- left overs from his visits to the children.!

His interests lay not only in the natural world and the workings of governments but in people as well thus making him a fascinating person to know.           contributed by Lady Scott

Max as employer
I have read three obituaries, and while I knew Max had achieved a great deal, I was surprised at the number and scope of the initiatives he had begun. I was however, surprised that no one wrote of how he treated his staff.

I worked for max for about 6 years on the International Biological Programme. One of the things about him that impressed me so much, although at the time being young I was unaware of its importance, was the way he valued his staff, and made them feel valuable too. I didn't appreciate at the time how unusual he was, and how fortunate I was. I found myself another job towards the end of IBP in 1972, but I know that if I hadn't he would have fond me one. It's a great tribute, for example, that someone as able, and as nice, as Teresa Sexton should work for him for 57 years.

Max was a fortunate man, intellectually and emotionally committed to his causes, always in a position to do something about them passionately interested in the world around him, and in giving so much to his causes and the people around hi, had a very fulfilled life. contributed by Jennifer Norman

Memories of working for Max on the IBP

. . . . . He was remarkably easy and entertaining to work for. On the more relaxed occasions, he regaled us with anecdotes and 'bloody asides'. I was always astounded at the fluency with which he dictated even complex reports, using few notes, or none. I was also quickly aware of the trepidation with which more senior colleagues approached him. . . . . . . . .        more     contributed by George Peterken

Max in the early 70s
I will share three recollectons with you. The first occured when I was travelling in 1971, as technical secretary with the Commission on Mining and the Environment, (Max, Professor Lord Zuckerman, Sir Jack Longland, Professor Kidson and Sir Frederick Warner) in a small Gulfstream jet en route to view Wheal Jane tin mine in Cornwall. Max, in his enthusiasm for pointing out landmarks he had visited on the ground, kept calling the rest of the party to peer out . . . . . . . . more             contributed by Peter Nelson

Max and the RSPB in Norwich
In April 1983, we laid on a fortnight's activities in and around Norwich, whose aim was to bring to people knowledge about the RSPB in general and conservation in particular.

The fortnight was launched by a boat trip from the Hotel Nelson in Norwich down to Strumpshaw Fen, were everyone disembarked for a guided walk round the Fen before returning to Norwich by boat. Max kindly agreed to perform the launching ceremony on board while sailing to Strumpshaw, and made on of his much-to-the-point speeches, and delighted everyone with his knowledge and friendliness when talking to him.

I had known of Max for some years before this opportunity of meeting him and for a short while working with him. from then on, we met several times at RSPB functions.

I am now a council member of the BTO and very proud of the connection             contributed by Pamela Rhodes

Max and s'Albufera, Mallorca
My memory of Max goes back over 30 years when he and I and the late Peter Conder stood on a mount at s'Albufera and "had a dream". We looked across the wonderful marsh area in Mallorca, which was seriously under threat from developers, and nobody seemed to care. My late husband, Eddie Watkinson and I had despaired as we did not know to whom to turn for help.

Then Max came on holiday to Mallorca, visited s'Albufera, met us and took us under his wing. Through his influence, he opened doors which, over the years, enabled s'Albufera to be purchased by the local government, and declared a Parc Natural. It is now known internationally as an area of great potential and scientific renown.

Many times since that first day, Max and I with others have raised our glasses to that "dream" and I know that Max was extremely proud of what had been achieved, and that s'Albufera had a special place in his heart.. He visited many times, often bringing colleagues, experts in the fields, who were able to help and advise us. To the end, max was still full of ideas for the future.

s'Albufera and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Max. He is remembered with affection and held in high esteem there, and we shall ensure that he is not forgotten. Such a tiny part of Max's great life, but a special and important one
contributed by Pat Bishop               see also obituary from s'Albufera website

Max and Earthwatch
> Max Nicholson was a dominant figure when I started working at Earthwatch in early 1993. . . . . Two features of Max's communication stick in my mind. The first is that his 'phone calls always ended very abruptly - Max would normally rattle off an instruction and ring off without saying goodbye, leaving me holding the receiver and sometimes slightly uncertain as to whether the conversation had ended. But most notable was his typing. He lived in a world before computers, let alone e-mail, and would send letters on an old-fashioned typewriter with a faded ribbon and would always repeat the same typing errors. He would periodically send me documents and papers through the post, addressed to "Dr Bobert Barringtop".
more             contributed by Dr. Robert Barrington

A conversation at Max's 90th birthday party at the Atheneum
Members of the '49 Club will remember my portrait of Max presented to him as a birthday present on the occasioon of his 90th birthday.

He came over to me after thedinner and said "Michael, one of my daughters-in-law says you know something about me that I don't know myself" I said "Many people thought of him only as a top Civil Servant who was ruthless in the establishment of the former Nature Conservancy, and for its survival. However, we in the Conservation Branch knew another side of you.

When I was Regional Officer for Southern England, one of my staff was involved in a fatal accident, and subsequently charged with causing death by dangerous driving. When this was reported to you, you ordered that everything was to be done in the officer's defence. The officer was acquitted.

We knew that youalways had the welfare of your staff at heart. This is why we worked so hard to keep up with you. It was your humanity that your daughter-in-law recognized. "
contributed by Michael Woodman

Max on a summer walk
  We were having a pleasant summer walk, when we came across a forestry commission sign.  Max immeadiately commented that like so many organisations, it had far too many committees and any good ideas took as long as the trees to grow.   We marched on ...    contributed by Toni Nicholson

. . . . . and another walk
6 or so years ago Max visited Schumacher College, where I was then administrator, to give a lecture. He disappeared off in the afternoon, for a walk in Northwood, behind the College. The first I knew of anything amiss was a fellow member of staff reported that there seemed to be a trail of blood leading into one of the accommodation blocks. Not quite believing my colleague I went out to discover that my father (who also worked at the College) had followed the trail of blood and occasional macabre hand prints on the wall, to find that Max had fallen whilst out walking, and had reached out to grab the fence to stabilise himself. Unfortunately the fence was barbed wire and Max had badly lacerated his hand. As the College's first-aider, I explained to Max that we would have to take him to the local hospital. Max told me to stop making a fuss and to give him a plaster. I stood my ground and with him clutching a cotton cloth in his injured hand, we set off for the cottage hospital, me pleading from the back of the car for Max to keep his hand up above the height of his heart and to hold it still. He was having none of it and waved his hand around gesticulating in explanation of the story he was telling very enthusiastically.

We reached casualty, my father and I having become nervous wrecks by this point, and Max was taken away by the duty doctor. He emerged triumphantly, sporting 16 stitches and impressive bandaging, half an hour later. The duty doctor followed him out looking pale. "He is quite a phenomena" she said. "He could really do with having the wound checked in three days but he tells me he is lecturing abroad! Get him to have it checked when and if you c an."    contributed by Hilary Nicholson, Great Niece.

Max in his 90's
I was working for the Wildlife Trusts when at our annual conference in Grantham (?) in 1995 or 1996, Max was a guest speaker. I think he was 90 then, but he spoke with such passion about pressing conservation and environmental issues we were all inspired. Leaving the conference by train, I was standing a few yards down the platform as he struggled with his suitcase. I helped him onto the train and sat with him. So I had the extraordinary privilege of a 2 hour train journey to London in the presence of Max. He was funny, charming and our conversation was punctuated by Max pointing through the window at bits of fen and ancient woodland that he'd had some hand in and, as we passed Peterborough, a tale of setting up the Nature Conservancy. As with many, many people, my career as a conservationist was touched and influenced by Max - I did the UCL Cons Course; I did my Masters fieldwork at s'Albufera; now I work for WWF.  contributed by Chris Howe, Executive Director, WWF New Zealand

Max and the launch of the New Renaissance Group
  His launch of the New Renaissance project was an unusual thing for a man in his 40s or 50s to achieve, but to do so when you are turning 90 is superhuman.           more              contributed by Adrian Phillips

Max and the New Renaissance Group
It was characteristic of Max's energy and burning commitment that at the age of 90 he should found a new group dedicated to changing the disastrous course of current human development by charting a new future. He called together a small group of old colleagues with distinguished experience in the environment and development movements, added a sprinkling of 'youngsters' in their fifties and sixties, including the writer, and set up in 1995 what was first called the Earthcare Group. As its scope was being explored Max was struck by the parallels between the flowering of new ideas and intellectual achievements of the 16th century Renaissance and the need for a similar leap forward now. After he had waxed eloquent on this theme in his Desert Island Discs appearance, the title of New Renaissance Group(NRG) was adopted as having the appropriate resonance. No doubt Max saw some analogies between his own position as Chairman (and later President) of NRG and that of Cosimo di Medici, the only fly in the ointment being that he lacked the latter's wealth. The Group did not seek a large membership or elaborate structures but aimed to work as a think-tank or stimulant, filling in gaps and building bridges. However, without Teresa Sexton, its indefatigable secretary, it would never have functioned at all. The agenda was set out by Max in a public lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in 1997, a memorable occasion on any terms. One key idea of Max's was that the environmental movement, in which he had played several crucial roles, had by and large succeeded in developing instruments and institutions which at a technical level could solve the problems they were designed to solve but they needed to be integrated with or help produce solutions to the problems of human behaviour in the social and economic spheres. No more than a start was made on this task, not because Max's ideas were rejected, but rather because the resources to organise sufficient cross-sectoral dialogue were mostly lacking.

Two related pieces of work did however manage to give some expression to Max's vision of integrating the disciplines which are relevant to a sustainable human future in harmony with nature. The first was the collection of essays edited by Duncan Poore, under the title Where Next? Reflections on the human future published in the millennium year. Max's contribution contains a characteristically sweeping review of the course of human evolution, the present perils of human capacity to damage the biosphere and an astonishing optimism about the possibilities our stepping back from the brink. Similarly the NRG Edinburgh workshop in 2001 which took forward the thinking of Where Next? to produce the statement Beyond Sustainable Development and in which, at the age of 96, Max played a lively part, said 'we call for the globalization of human responsibility…a moral inter-dependence which requires the globalization of our highest values.' This was the cause which Max championed throughout a remarkable life and for which we honour him. We shall not see his like again. contributed by Robin Sharp, formerly Chairman, New Renaissance Group

Max interviewed for Desert Island Discs in 1995
This interview is now available as a podcast - type Desert Island Discs Max Nicholson to find it He boasted, justifiably, that he had had seven careers in all. But he was undoubtedly strongest, I felt, on the vast breadth of events that he had witnessed - from seeing soldiers marching off to war in 1914 (his memory of the Ist WW was vivid), to meeting President Truman and, at another point, entertaining the Duke of Edinburgh! But there were jokes too - how he only played cricket once at Sedburgh School but went bird watching instead.           more contributed by Sue Lawley

Reintroduction of Swans to the London Thames
One of Max's many splendid ideas was the reintroduction of Swans to the Thames in Central London, where they have been absent for some years.

Mute Swans have a long historical association with the River Thames at London. In 1496 the secretary to the Venetian Ambassador writing to his master said "it is a truly beautiful thing to behold one or two thousand tame swans upon the river Thames as I and your magnificence have seen."           more contributed by Colin Bowlt

Max visits the Eden Project in 2002
Towards the end of May 2002, Max was still mobile enough to travel down to the West Country for a few days.  My wife and I took him and Toni down there, where we all stayed in a quaint guesthouse at Gorran Cove.  We spent a good day at the Eden project (with very kind assistance from management and staff), visited the Heligan Gardens and managed a number of pub meals.  Very satisfactory and enjoyable !   contributed by Tom Nicholson

Max and King Hussein of Jordan
  . At three o'clock we went to see King Hussein… I had already outlined our objectives in the exchange of correspondence which had resulted in the King's invitation for the expedition to take place. He had been kept well informed of our progress and now listened attentively while Max again developed his preliminary views on measures to restore Jordan's vegetation and save its disappearing wildlife. Given an attentive audience, Max's enthusiasm sweeps him along at a breathless pace. He was soon deep in a description of the costly mistakes made by some countries where opportunistic conservation measures had caused more harm than good. "Jordan can profit by the accumulation of experience gained throughout the world in planning her conservation programme," he said. "While other countries are still wrestling with the consequences of errors made long before this knowledge was acquired, Jordan, starting from scratch, can go straight into the lead with the latest techniques." Seeking to break the ice of palace protocol, he added: "You see, your majesty, in shaping the International Biological Programme we are looking for somewhere unspoilt by previous experiments and Jordan could be the ideal guinea-pig!" The King took this in the right spirit, throwing back his head and laughing… Excerpt from 'Portrait of a Desert' by the lateGuy Mountfort