Tuesday 13 September 2016

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Operation Cleft Stick

Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust Annual Report 1970.
Since April, I have been steadily working through the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s fascinating and extensive archive. I have now surveyed over half of the records that have been deposited here at the Borthwick Institute - about 84 boxes, or 570 files! - and along the way have rediscovered items that give interesting insights into the history of the Trust. I'm going to release some of these snippets as blog posts, and some of them - like this one - will also be published in Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's magazine.

One of the first things I came across during my survey of the archive was a volume of press cuttings from 1971. The entry that immediately drew my eye was a handwritten note that read ‘Due to a postal strike, most of the annual reports were delivered by hand in this year. To mark the occasion, our own stamp was produced by the computer in the Biology Department at York University.’ This intrigued me for several reasons - least of all trying to imagine a Biology department with just a single computer!

The strike mentioned was Britain’s first national postal strike, and it was to run for
Stamp from press cuttings, 1971. YWT/A114/2/2
seven weeks from 20th January to 7th March 1971. With no postal service available, the February meeting of the Trust’s Executive Committee began to make plans for what was known as Operation Cleft Stick. Overseen by then Executive Officer, Colonel John Newman, the operation saw the delivery of 2,500 copies of the 1970 Annual Report to Trust members.

The Yorkshire Evening Press described the ‘hectic week’ of filling envelopes and transporting them across Yorkshire and beyond to be delivered by Trust volunteers. The report was an important one, marking both the Silver Jubilee of the Trust and the end of European Conservation Year, and including updates on the ongoing threat to Askham Bog from the construction of York’s outer ring road.

As well as capturing an example of how the Trust responded to the impact of national events, this snippet from the archive also represents just one example of a longstanding history of collaboration between the University and the Trust, which continues to this day. 

Lydia Dean, Project Archivist

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