Obituary: L. Hugh Newman

Leonard Hugh Newman, journalist, broadcaster, butterfly farmer and photo-library founder, born Bexley Kent 3 February 1909, married 1938 Moira Savonius (two sons, one daughter), died Hythe Kent 23 January 1993.

I FIRST came face to face with L. Hugh Newman during the summer of 1961, in the middle of a wood. I was stalking a dragonfly with a camera, and he was pursuing a butterfly with a net - we almost collided at the junction of two paths. Thus started a close business relationship which lasted some 20 years, and a friendship which continued till his death.

Hugh Newman was one of the last old-style professional naturalists. He had no degrees or qualifications, he just loved nature, particularly butterflies and moths. It seemed quite logical for Hugh Newman to become professionally involved in natural history, as his father, Leonard Newman, was an acknowledged entomologist and started Britain's first butterfly farm, in 1894. In due course Hugh Newman took it over. The farm was run from a somewhat dilapidated Victorian terraced house in Bexley, Kent. Muslin-covered cages were filled with exotic butterflies and giant silk moths, cardboard boxes bristled with caterpillars. Fascinated schoolchildren spent their pocket money on caterpillars or stick insects to take back home to rear. Newman was always ready to share his knowledge and experience with children, and his infectious enthusiasm must have done much to turn some of his young audience into lifelong nature lovers.

Among Newman's clients was Winston Churchill, who periodically bought butterflies from the farm so that they could be released in his garden at Chartwell. As early as the late Forties and early Fifties, Newman and Churchill were bemoaning the decline of the butterfly population. Newman advised him to encourage weeds and nettlebeds.

Hugh Newman was best-known to the public through BBC radio. Together with the help of two other celebrated naturalists of the day, Peter Scott and James Fisher, Newman started Nature Parliament in the mid-Fifties, a popular and long-running programme where a panel of experts on animals and plants answered questions sent in by listeners.

Newman wrote numerous articles for magazines and newspapers, including the Guardian, Country Life, the Field and the Countryman, about butterflies and ways of encouraging them into the garden - much of his writing done long before our environmentally conscious age. He also wrote several books including Butterfly Farmer (1954), Create a Butterfly Garden (1967), Hawk Moths of Great Britain and Europe (1965), Living with Butterflies (1967), Man and Insects (1965) and Ants from Close-up (1967).

But Hugh Newman's most enduring achievement is the founding of the Natural History Photographic Agency (now better known as NHPA), a library of nature photographs. Like most things, it evolved from a modest beginning. One of the problems which arose from his writing and that of his wife (Moira Savonius, who wrote on gardening topics) was the difficulty in finding suitable illustrations to accompany their texts. Quick to explore a new market, he encouraged amateur photographers (of which I was one) to provide pictures for use in their growing number of articles and books. It was not long before they were serving publishers and editors elsewhere. Within a few years the demand for pictures was so great that Hugh Newman sold his butterfly farm so that he and his wife could devote all their energies to the ever-expanding

library.

From being one of the first natural history photographic libraries in Britain, NHPA is now among the most highly respected sources of environmental and wildlife photography in Europe.

It is sad that in recent years Newman was never quite well enough to see the results of his brainchild - he would have been very proud to have been its

creator.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape