By David Worboys •
Published: 08 Dec 2023 • 12:37
As a youngster, David Attenborough was a friend of Peter Scott,
whose interest in wildlife inspired him to address the conservation of our planet.
One of the commonest cliches concerns national icons (legends or national treasures): “I don’t use the term lightly”.
And so we come to Sir David Attenborough who fits the bill perfectly. With his charisma, his wisdom and his delivery. he transcends notions of class and prejudice as he delivers to numerous countries, in the most fascinating programmes, the marvels of nature on our planet. The incredible variety and characteristics of flora and fauna.
As a young man, David Attenborough was a friend of the son of Scott of the Antarctic. This was the conservationist Peter Markham Scott, himself a remarkably talented man. He was two years old at the time of his father´s tragic death and grew up to achieve an extraordinary life.
As a boy, Peter Scott would shoot wildfowl before quickly reforming and taking up breeding and studying them. He went on to read natural history at Cambridge before graduating in arts. Aged 23, his paintings of birds and other wildlife were exhibited and he soon became Britain´s leading ornithologist
At the age of 26 he won a bronze medal at the Berlin Olympics for sailing. He also took up ice-skating.
Scott was 31 when called up to serve as an officer in the navy during the early years of the war. He was mentioned in despatches several times, once for rescuing survivors from a burning ship. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for skill and bravery.
In 1945, he narrowly failed to be voted in as a Member of Parliament for Wembley North. In the following year, aged 36, he helped to launch the World Wide Fund for Nature.
In 1963 aged 53, Scott became British gliding champion – and introduced Prince Philip to the sport. A year later he competed in the Americas Cup. In 1967, in his role as a broadcaster, he narrated a short documentary (“Wild Wings”) which won an Oscar. He was knighted in 1973 and died in 1989, before climate change became the dominant issue.
Seven years after his death, his friend Attenborough presented a documentary of Scott´s life. In June 2004, he and Attenborough were jointly profiled in a TV series about television wildlife presenters. They were considered largely responsible for the increasing interest in wildlife in Britain and much of the world.
Scott’s interest in conservation paved the way, in a sense, for Attenborough, who, with advanced technology and a dedicated team, still presents, at the age of 97, the wonders of life on Earth with absorbing narrative and scintillating photography. More recently he is transmitting the most urgent message of our times. The very salvation of Planet Earth from extinction.
David’s older brother Richard Attenborough, who died aged 90 in 2014, was himself a legend – in cinema. His films include “Oh! What a lovely War”, “A Bridge too far” and “Gandhi”. Whether he qualifies as a “national treasure” is less likely, whereas his younger brother most certainly does.
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