PETREANS

FRIENDS OF PETERHOUSE (FOP)

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Petreans

Memories

Peter Ginn (Staff 1962-89)

Pete Ginn was born in 1938 in South Africa where he started his interest in birds while living in a small hamlet near Pretoria. This interest was fostered by an uncle who owned a farm near Nylstroom, called Nylsvlei, in northern South Africa and which is today one of South Africa's premier bird reserves.

He was educated at St. Andrews in Grahamstown, where he founded and ran the Natural History Society for 3 years as a schoolboy, and later studied Geology at Rhodes University. This led to a year in Botswana far from civilization looking for evidence of diamonds for de Beers. The evidence discovered here led to the discovery of Orapa and Jwaneng - the worlds two richest diamond mines - some six years after he had moved to Peterhouse to teach Geography & Geology.

Peter married Liz in 1962 and moved to Peterhouse, a senior boys school, where he was to make his mark in the academic field with many of his students going on to study Geology & Geography with distinction. However the most enduring symbol of his time there was the creation of "Gosho Park" a small environmental education project on part of Springvale School which Peterhouse acquired in the early 80s. This 750 acre reserve preserves one of the finest examples of climax Brachystegia woodland with a fully representative selection of birds and trees. Antelope were introduced as well and today this is a popular place for day visitors.

The interest in birds in their environment led to Peter learning natural history photography as a means of sharing the birds and animals around him with others in an effort to get them interested in the natural environment and hence in nature conservation. His photographs of animals and birds are extensively used in magazines to illustrate articles on these groups.

It also led to the development of a series of books -- first in the Bundu Series for Children & beginners -- Birds Afield (how to identify birds); Birds of the Highveld of Zimbabwe & Birds of the Lowveld of Zimbabwe where many of the common &/or conspicuous birds were described.

A series of books in the Chris van Rensburg series followed; Birds of Botswana for visitors to that country; Garden Birds in Southern Africa and Water Birds of Southern Africa. Many of Peters slides were used in these books.

During this time Peter was developing the concept of a major bird book where the birds were illustrated by photographs instead of plates painted by artists. Detailed work on the write-ups of the 900+ species started in 1982 -- 55 authors coordinated and edited by Peter. At the same time selection of slides for the book with Geoff McIlleron collecting the material before selection by the editors of Complete Birds. "The Complete Book of Southern African Birds" appeared in December 1989 and immediately became a best seller, breaking all records for the sale of Natural History Books in southern Africa. Over 10,000 copies were sold in the first 5 weeks alone. The book is still being reprinted and has become one of South Africa's most sought after books for presentations.

Peter's photographic ability in the natural history field has been recognised by his being elected as an Associate of both the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and the Photographic Society of Southern Africa.

In 1984 Peter started organising photographic tours for groups, mainly from America but also from UK & Europe.

In 1991 he & Liz created "Peter Ginn Birding Safaris" and moved into planning and guiding of tours full time. The emphasis is on being able to observe nature in the field.
Peter's knowledge of the habits of wildlife & his photographic skills have been particularly important in enabling his clients to get outstanding photographs of all the larger mammals, including the big five, as well as many of the larger bird species.
These tours have encompassed Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Madagascar. Although originally conceived as a birding safari company, his skill at organising and leading tours has resulted in many more general Natural History tours than birding tours. Specialist Photographic tours have become particularly important in recent years as serious photographers require the skills of a local photographic guide who can help them to build up a portfolio of game photographs from Africa.

During the birds' breeding season in Marondera ( October-November) special bird photography tours where clients work from blinds to photograph birds at their nests can be arranged. Peter has a wide knowledge of southern African birds, their identification and habits having seen over 780 species in their natural habitats in the sub-continent. He has photographed over 450 bird species.

Working in National parks and reserves throughout southern Africa, he has also photographed all the big cats and most of the big game including the antelope of southern Africa.

Peter Ginn (Staff 1962 -89)
Peter Ginn left Peterhouse in 1989 after 29 years of dedication and hyperactivity. He was born in Grahamstown, his father a pilot for British Imperial Airways - sadly killed in action in 1944 - and his mother a school art teacher. He attended St Andrews Prep. and College, Grahamstown and qualified as a geologist at Rhodes University where he obtained a BSc in Geology and Chemistry. There he was a fine athlete and Secretary of the Sports Union.
Peter joined the Peterhouse staff in 1962 to teach Chemistry after a stint as a field geologist with De Beers in what was then Bechuanaland (Botswana) prospecting for diamonds. He actually discovered the first evidence of the great diamond fields later opened up at Orapa. His time in the bush increased his love for and expertise in Natural History, but this was hardly the place to bring up a family and by this time he had met Elizabeth Knowles, later to be his wife.

In 1964 Peter took over the Geography Department and further qualified himself for the job by reading for a B.Sc. in Geography through UNISA, graduating in 1965. In 1972, now the father of three children, he became Housemaster of Founders. he has also made his mark especially in Natural History, leading expeditions to Botswana every year from 1962 to 1981 and thereafter as red tape became more and more entangled as reagrds permits to shoot and trap there to various places in Zimbabwe. He had built the Museum, fired the enthusiasm of many, many boys in bird photography and conservation.

Besides all this, Peter found time to be active in the Jazz and Bee Clubs; to start the Badminton Club; to run tennis, hockey and athletics; and to teach not only Geography and Divinity, too, taking a leading aprt in the Christian life of the school and in its Chapel. He also had the utterly thankless task for many years of Transport Manager.
He has become well known throughout Africa as a lecturer on birds, their identification, habits and habitats and is a prolific author of books and articles on birds. In particular, Peter conceptualised and was the general editor of the magisterial The Complete Book of Southern African Birds. This is the definitive book on the birds of the sub-continent and is beautifully printed and lavishly illustrated. This was the culumination of half a lifetime's work and over 100 of the slides in the book were taken by Peter himself, telling testimony to his rare ability as a wildlife photographer of the highest order. Among his other publications are Birds of the Highveld, Birds of Great Zimbabwe` and Environs, Birds Afield, Birds of the Lowveld, Bird Safari, Birds of Botswana, Garden Birds of Southern Africa, More Garden Birds of Southern Africa and Waterbirds of Southern Africa. Not surprisingly he is a life member of the Wildlife Society of Zimbabwe.

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