One of our longest serving volunteers has died.
Kate Jones had been helping me out with my work since she first joined as a volunteer in 2008. She was part of small but dedicated team of volunteers who helped turn a few boxes of donated botanical books into the fully listed, organised library that it is now.
Kate took a particularly leading role in organising our mycological collections – books about fungi.
She first started on the Stan Hughes Collection, a particularly complicated collection of books, journals and scientific papers. Kate was a not a mycologist but she was not put off by the complex terminology and the fact that some were in Russian and Japanese. She then took on the Roy Watling Library, warmly welcoming Roy on his occasional trips here. If you came to one of our Wales Fungus Days during the 2010s, you may well have come across Kate, enthusiastically talking to Garden visitors about the mycological libraries at displays she created of the books, especially those involving the fungi knowledge of native Americans and Beatrix Potter.
I must mention that Kate was ably supported by her husband Geoff, especially in her later years, and by her son Bryn in he open source library cataloguing system, Koha, that gave us the tool for creating the catalogue, including liaising with the IT team at Kew who allowed us to use their records. On a personal note, I deeply appreciate how Kate has helped to raise the profile of fungi at this botanic garden.
Under the volunteer leadership of Margot Greer, Kate also became involved in projects prompted by the library collections such as those on apples and Welsh horticulturists.
My favourite though was the exhibition that is still on show in our Science Centre, Women Botanists in Wales. This was prompted by a new encyclopaedia of Wales that didn’t mention a single woman in its section on Welsh botany. Kate held sincere political convictions which I suspect powered her motivation to be involved not only in this project to highlight the work of women have made to botany in Wales but also to create a library worthy of a national institution. She certainly did that.
Whilst living in Llanwrtyd Wells, Kate was also a willing and regular volunteer at the displays we ran at the Royal Welsh Show. After a move to Swansea, Kate’s determination to carry on volunteering, despite failing eyesight, provided us with weekly updates on the bus service from Swansea to the Garden, and inspired other volunteers to join her on the bus.
The work of volunteers can often be overlooked, given that much of it is done in the background. As a staff member, I know what a relief it is to have a volunteer like Kate who you can not only trust to just get on with doing a great job, but whose enthusiasm helps to keep you personally motivated. I hope this short tribute helps to show how much that help is appreciated.