Morey’s Guide

Frank Morey F.L.S

Frank Morey F.L.S. © and courtesy of The Linnean Society of London

Morey’s 1909 ‘Guide to the Natural History of the Isle of Wight’ was the first attempt to catalogue the wildlife of the Island. Morey acted as managing editor and organised, with the help of many individual expert contributors, lists and accounts covering the geology, archaeology, flora, fauna and meteorology of the Island. He himself made contributions to a number of the species groups treated and his introduction to the Guide is notable for its modesty and the generosity of his applause for its writers.

The work was conceived by Morey in 1906, after discussing the idea with his friend Frederick Stratton, a local solicitor who later contributed the ‘Flowering Plants’ section of the book. Morey stressed his interest in both the multiplicity and continuity, despite constant change, of living organisms. He clearly accepted Darwin’s ideas and mentions ‘every organism has to justify its fitness to live by a constant struggle with its rivals, and the marvellous thing about it is the delicate adjustment of conflicting interests which seems to have been evolved by the countless generations that have led up to the present scheme of life’. A comment which presages modern concepts of ecology. He goes on ‘…each species of animal and plant just holds its own, but no more. It is not often, in recent times, that species become extinct, except through the destroying hand of man – and those cases are but few.’ and so it was, before widespread pollution and the industrialisation of farming we know today.

Morey said ‘it is partly my object in issuing the present volume to show to the residents of, and visitors to, the Isle of Wight how vast a field there is for study in our very midst’. It seems certain that he achieved that object and through it the foundation, ten years later, of the Isle of Wight Natural History Society.

The foundation of the Society


Frontispiece from the 1909 edition of “A guide to the natural history of the Isle of Wight : a series of contributions by specialists relating to the various branches of natural history and kindred subjects” edited by Frank Morey

The inaugural meeting of the Society was held in the Lecture Hall of the Newport Literary Society, at 6 pm on the 8th of November 1919. The meeting was convened by Morey, chaired by James Groves and it elected as the first president Mr G.W.Colenutt of Ryde. Exactly 100 people formed the membership from its inception. A further five mainland experts were, there and then, elected as Honorary Members ‘to assist the members of the Society in the identification of specimens’.

Morey, a modest and retiring man, served until his death in 1925 as Honorary Secretary and Editor to the Society. He was described by James Groves in his Linnean Society obituary as ‘the guiding spirit and prime mover in all its activities’

Just before his death Morey transferred Borthwood Copse to the National Trust. This was the last remaining part of old Sandown Forest which he had purchased as a nature reserve.