Robert Gillmor, MBE

We are deeply sorry to hear of the death on 8th May of Robert Gillmor, President emeritus of the Club and a member since 1948.  Robert contributed an enormous amount to the club over the years, not only by way of artwork (including all the annual report covers from 1949 to date), but also as a figurehead. In many ways he set the tone of the Club and helped establish its reputation for its excellent lecture programme.  He will also be missed in the wider artistic and ornithological world, for as well as his wonderful art, he also provided mentoring and inspiration for younger artists, helped set up the Society for Wildlife Artists and worked with many conservation and ornithological bodies (see obituary below).

Tthere will be a Commemoration at Cley Church at 2.30pm on Friday 17th June with tea afterwards at the village hall. All are welcome.


Robert in his study at Cley in 2019

Whilst a twelve year old schoolboy at Leighton Park School, in 1948 Robert Gillmor was invited by the founder members of the Reading Ornithological Club to join in its activities.  He had already developed a consuming interest in birds and art, influenced by his bird artist grandfather, Allen Seaby. Every report of the Club (now the Berkshire Ornithological Club) from 1949 to date has carried on its cover a lino cut, painting or silk screen print created by Robert to illustrate a bird of particular interest for that year. These covers, which he has donated to the Club, make the reports collectors’ items.

It is probably fair to say that he was recognised by ornithologists as the pre-eminent UK bird artist of the recent past. He spanned the range from decorative, though always accurate, art to scientific illustration.  He was the art editor for the nine-volume Birds of the Western Palaearctic (1976-94), the authoritative handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa for which he produced, or commissioned from fellow artists, several thousand superb illustrations of some 770 bird species. He produced many cover paintings for books and reports and a lovely set of wildlife paintings for Royal Mail  postage stamps.  for Robert also contributed his time and knowledge to many national organisations concerned with ornithology and conservation. He was a founder of the Society of Wildlife Artists (for biography see Nicholas Hammond, Twentieth Century Wildlife Artists, pp 83-87, Croom Helm, London, 1986).

Despite these national demands on his time, he hugely helped his local community in Berkshire. A moving force behind the (then) Reading Ornithological Club, he served in a variety of roles and became Chair in 1965 and President in 1971. He was particularly concerned with encouraging young people into bird-watching and led a bird group in the school, Leighton Park, at which he taught. Under his chairmanship and presidency the Club flourished.  Since he left the county, moving to Cley, Norfolk in 1998, he continued, as President emeritus, to provide invaluable help and support to us and other conservation groups in Berkshire. He was particularly generous with his art and has donated many paintings and lino cuts to us and other groups to raise funds for conservation. He was awarded an MBE in 2015 for services to art and conservation.

Robert died peacefully at home with his wife, Sue and their children, Emily and Thomas. on 8th May 2022.


Renton Righelato