News and events archive 2004 - 2013


Miss Ann P. Conolly 1917- 2010

Born in 1917, Ann Conolly took an MA at Newnham College Cambridge in the 1930’s, at a time when degrees were not awarded to women, in 1998 late in her retirement, when Cambridge made amends for this omission, she greatly enjoyed her delayed degree procession through the city. Ann undertook postgraduate research in quaternary botany at Cambridge with Professor Godwin, earning particular acknowledgement in Godwin’s groundbreaking book, the History of the British Flora in 1956. Following a demonstrator’s post at Bedford College she became a lecturer in the Botany Department at the then University College Leicester, teaching plant classification, anatomy and distribution.

Her undergraduate field courses to the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales, will be fondly remembered by all those who took them, as will her strawberry teas for finalists. At Leicester she had very wide research interests and made important contributions to a number of botanical fields. Retirement in 1982 increased rather than diminished her time spent in the department, and she continued to publish papers and latterly was best known for her pioneer research on the history and spread of Japanese Knotweed. This contribution was recognised in 2001 when an unusual hybrid knotweed, Fallopia x conollyana was named in her honour. Her life’s work, however, the Flora of the Lleyn Peninsula was never published, in spite of being substantially complete twenty years ago.

A consummate perfectionist, Ann was always waiting for the one last recording season, which never came, as ultimately she was no longer able to make the long drive to North Wales. Ann predated the relentless quest for impact factor and would lavish the same meticulous care on a talk to the ‘Nefyn Gardeners association’ as she would on an address to an international congress. She remained academically and physically active well into her 80’s - even at 83 she showed my PhD student and I how to row in a busy waterway through Leiden, where we were looking for evidence of Japanese Knotweed at its point of entry to Europe.

In spite of her professional status and connections, Ann would genially start up a conversation with absolutely anyone she met, often discovering unexpected connections, and receiving new leads in her investigations. Ann dressed for comfort rather than style, and on campus her slightly stooped figure, in her hallmark stout shoes, ankle socks, tweed skirt and battered anorak, were a familiar and much loved sight.

Ann never married and is survived by two nieces and various great nieces and nephews. Ann died peacefully on 17 August, and her funeral was held on 25 August at St Mary’s Knighton.

Dr John Bailey, Department of Biology

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