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The Black Knee Chronicles

Volume 2 

Oliver's Book

A much valued gift arrived earlier this year, a book by my Uncle Oliver, "The Natural History of the Isle of Wight" (Oliver Frazer, Dovecote Press, £11.95). I have a special fondness for Oliver and his wife Dorothy as I was privileged to spend some of my school holidays with them on the Isle of Wight, which I remember as a time of learning much about wild-life and fossils, and, more importantly, a life-long love of natural history. This is a book about the creatures that inhabit a beautiful place, written by two lovely people, and comes highly recommended.

The frontspiece introduces Oliver as follows:-

"Despite not being born an Islander, few would doubt Oliver Frazer's credentials for tackling so immense a subject as this remarkable survey of the Isle of Wight's natural history. He joined the Isle of Wight Archaeological and Natural History Society more than fifty years ago, and served as its President in the 1960s.

Oliver Frazer was born and educated at Dulwich, south-east London, and from an early age showed an interest in natural history. He came to live on the Island in 1936 and has lived here ever since, except for the period of the Second World War, when he served in the Glider Pilot Regiment in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day and at Arnhem. It was here that, having dug himself a slit trench for his Bren Gun position, as darkness fell, he was intrigued to find that the roots protruding from the side of the trench were brightly luminous, giving enough light to read by. He put a portion of the root in the top pocket of his battledress and resumed the battle. On his safe return, he sent the root to the British Museum (Natural History) and had a most interesting reply from the then Keeper of Botany, stating that the root was infected by the Honey Fungus, Armillaria Mellea, which naturally started another interest, in fungi, which has persisted to this day.

Following the war, he trained as a teacher, specialising in biology and general science, in which subjects he had a successful career in Island schools. He also took evening classes for the Worker's Educational Association on Natural History in the Isle of Wight, which proved extremely popular. He produced a series of radio broadcasts for Radio Solent entitled "What's in a Habitat", which was later produced as an educational pack, containing film-strips and commentaries on cassettes, with other support material, which has been much used by by local and visiting schools.

He and his wife, Dorothy, who shares the same interests, have lived at Mottistone Mill, Brighstone, for many years, surrounded by wildlife.

It seems a good idea that this family publication should also become a place to record the lives of the members of our family, both past and present, even if with some brevity. A straight family tree seems a very barren story-line without some details of the characters. So I will be asking for "potted histories" for later inclusion.

The next edition will finish Wilson's notes on Archibald's parentage, and , I promise, include Aunt Ruth's Chronicle, together with a summary of the theories of our ancestry, and perhaps a map of Dunnacleggan. And some more legends?


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