A FASCINATING book has just been published retelling the adventures of Lisburn man Arnold Benington, a pioneering naturalist and former teacher at Friends School.
He was a leading light in the founding in 1954 of the province's first Bird Observatory on the Copeland Islands off Donaghadee and alongside his day job as a science master at Friends School, he was a regular broadcaster on BBC Children's Hour from 1946-63.
Arnold (1903-1982) led two expeditions to the remote interior of Iceland and was a keen amateur photographer, dedicated diarist and nature columnist for the News Letter.
Whatever his chosen medium, Arnold had a unique gift for expressing himself enthusiastically to his pupils, listeners and readers. Half a century later, there are still many who remember him fondly and who were inspired by his passion for nature and adventure. Indeed, it is fair to say that he was one of Ireland's first conservationists.
This book of Arnold's nature adventures aims to reinstate him as one of Ulster's celebrities, a term her would have shrunk from, but clearly he had a national following and he was a friend of such luminaries as Sir Peter Scott and Tony Soper.
The stories are often, quite literally, 'gripping' as Arnold was known for his daredevil methods - usually involving him shinning up and down trees and cliffs in order to get as close as possible to a rare falcon, owl or crow in its nest.
Favourite haunts that are featured in the book include the Mournes, the Glens of Antrim, Rathlin Island, the Copelands, Moira and Lisburn. The book was edited by Arnold's grandson, Jonathan Benington, and is illustrated both with Arnold's own photographs and paintings by his son, the Ulster wildlife painter Michael Benington.
The book can be purchased from Peter Osborough, Shearwater, 10 Glenbank, Bangor BT20 3TQ. Telephone 91464209.