International fame of town’s naturalist doctor

OBIT'Dr Graham Foggitt
OBIT'Dr Graham Foggitt

GRAHAM Thomas Foggitt, who was a general practitioner in Harrogate and an authority on birds and butterflies in North Yorkshire and Wharfedale, has died aged 75.

His family came from Thirsk where his uncle, William Foggitt, was the well known amateur weather forecaster whose predictions, based on the habits of birds and animals and the records of his ancestors going back 200 years, were regularly published in the Yorkshire Post and closely followed by its readers. He later went on to gain worldwide recognition.

Dr Foggitt’s interest in birds and lepidoptery began as a child and while still at Sedbergh School he had two works of his research published in the bird journal of the day, British Birds.

The first was for research on the number of breeding common sandpipers in the area and the second for his study of the number of swallows in the area. He also did a study of all the river systems in the area.

In later life, he and a friend also had their work published on the butterflies of Harrogate and District.

Dr Foggitt tracked down all the butterflies of the British Isles, and saw over 4,000 of the world’s bird species as well as trapping and identifying moths for 25 years for the Rothamsted Research Institute, the largest agricultural research centre in the UK, and the oldest agricultural research station in the world.

He had been the bird recorder for Harrogate Naturalist Society while living in the town and when, in retirement, he moved to Beamsley, near Skipton, he became moth recorder for the Wharefedale Naturalist Society.

Dr Foggitt was born in Thirsk into a family whose tradition was in botany which, in those days, led into pharmacy which was his father’s profession.

Many of his relatives were members of the Linnean Society of London, the world’s premier society for the study of natural history.

He was educated at Cliston, a preparatory school in Harrogate, before going in 1949 to Sedbergh which he once described as being “the making of him”.

In 1954, he went to the Leeds Medical School from where he graduated five years later. He did his junior doctor work in York and then joined a general practice in the Horsforth and Tinshill areas of Leeds.

He then moved to the Pannal and Leeds Roads practice, in Harrogate, where he stayed until retirement in 1997. His main interest was in obstetrics and during that period he was also the doctor for Carlton Lodge Maternity Home, in Harrogate.

As well as being a naturalist he was a keen sportsman from his schooldays, playing both cricket – he opened the batting for the first XI – and rugby. But his great joy was fell running and the greater the distance the better.

That, too, began at school, and in his final year he came third in a time of one hour 19 minutes in Sedbergh’s noted Wilson Run, a 10-mile fell race held annually regardless of the weather and sometimes in gruelling conditions. He repeated it in 1981 in two hours two minutes.

Saturdays were always sacrosanct as he played cricket for Follifoot Cricket Club in the summer, and from September to January went shooting with the Farnley Shoot.

He had also been a member of Harrogate Golf Club.

When he retired Dr Foggitt went to Antarctica for eight weeks, and hitchhiked home through South America.

He also spent a lot of time pursuing his passion for natural history which took him around the world accompanied by his wife, Anna.

Dr Foggitt, who was married twice, is survived by his wife, his sons from his first marriage Andrew and Jonathan, two grandsons and two granddaughters, and by his younger sister Helen.