We lost two longstanding members of Leicester Friends of the Earth recently – Michael Gerard and Doug Holly. Both had been members for so long that we’re not sure when they first got involved but we think it was probably in the 1980s. A fuller account of their lives is given in the latest edition of the Leicester Secularist but we wanted to pay a tribute to their contribution to the group here.
In recent years, the campaign that was perhaps closest to Michael’s heart was ‘The Bee Cause’ – a national campaign to draw attention to the plight of pollinators. In Leicester, we planted two small bee meadows and we held many street stalls, collecting signatures on a petition to ban the use of pesticides that are known to harm bees. As a beekeeper, Michael was very helpful in talking to us about the best habitat for bees. For example, did you know that city trees are abundant nectar and pollen sources for bees? There is likely to be more food for bees in one tree than in quite a sizeable area of wildflowers so it is vitally important for Leicester’s bees that we protect our trees.
Doug was the coordinator of the group before handing over to Jill and I (Hannah) in 2011. His most recent focus had been a campaign about the carbon impact of our food system but he helped out with every campaign we worked on until ill health prevented him attending meetings a couple of years ago. Perhaps because of his background in education, he was brilliant at talking to people on street stalls. I remember having a silly competition with him a few years ago to see who could collect the most petition signatures in an hour and of course he won hands down - he could talk people into signing anything! People always stopped to talk to him – perhaps his waistcoat with all the pockets dazzled them. Doug was awarded an Earthmover award in 2011 and when he went to collect it at the national gathering, he declared that he was merely the ‘poster boy’ (at the age of 80-something) for a very successful group. But the truth is that he was an inspirational campaigner.