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Naturalists' Society

Cymdeithas Naturiaethwyr



William Nelmes, M.B.E., A.H.R.H.S., F.Inst.P.A. (1902-1993) 80th President

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Some clarification is needed here as there are 2 Presidents named William Nelmes in our records and for the first time this is not the same person being the president more than once. This first occasion is William Nemes senior and the second occasion will be his son also called William Nelmes N.D.H, F.Inst.P.A who will be 94th President and referred to in these pages as William Nelmes junior

William Nelmes Junior and Senior with kind permission of the Nelmes Family

William Nelmes Junior and Senior with kind permission of the Nelmes Family

Sadly we do not have an obituary of him in the Newsletters (transactions had ceased by the time of his passing). There is an excellent summary of him available on this Cardiff Parks and the Nelmes Family webpage.

The authors of that site have kindly provided some information regading his arrival in Cardiff from Newport where he was employed as Parks Superintendent: -

Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th September 1936

para 228 A letter from Mr W. Nelmes was read, resigning his appointment as Parks Superintendent, he having been appointed as Chief Officer of Parks at Cardiff. It was reported that Mr Nelmes' resignation would expire on the 17th October, 1936. Resolved that the resignation be accepted with great regret, and that the congratulations and best wishes of the Committee be accorded to Mr Nelmes.

The earliest reference we have to William Nelmes senior (and it can only be him at that date) is in volume LXXI of the Transactions in 1938 when he provided meteorological records with a rainfall amount for Roath park. Sadly Society events and Transactions were then suspended for the duration of the war, and it was not until 1948 that he appears again

May 14. Field Meeting. Visit to the Dingle, Cefn On, and gardens at Nant Fawr, Lisvane, under the guidance of Mr F. W. Nelmes, M.B.E., F.R.H.S.

From the Cardiffparks webpage referenced above we have the information that his M.B.E. was awarded for his exceptional contribution in utilising the parks and open spaces for food production, and that it was he who instigated the purchase and development of Cefn Onn which he was clearly the right person to lead the Society on a visit to. That same year he gave a talk to the Society on "Chrysanthemums"

In 1958 he gave his presidential address which was A brief history of the Cardiff parks which documents amongst the text the part that other Presidents of the Society such as Peter Price 12th President and Edwin Seward 21st President have had.

As reported in Volume XCIV of the Transactions, he had a key part in the public celebrations of the Societies' Centenary Celebrations : -

1967 A Decorative Flower Bed in Kingsway, next to the Castle, devoted to 'The Cardiff Naturalists' Society, 1867-1967', was arranged by the Director of Parks, Mr. William Nelmes, M.B.E., A.H.R.H.S., F.INST.P.A., from July onwards.

During his time as Chief Officer of Parks he was able to stay at the official residence as noted on Powering the Park: -

Roath Park House was built in 1897 within the Pleasure Garden as the official residence for the Parks Superintendent (later Chief Parks Officer). It was home successively to William Pettigrew until 1915, his younger brother Andrew Alexander Pettigrew from 1915 to 1936, and William Nelmes, who was appointed Chief Officer of Parks and Open Spaces in September 1936.

But it is in service to the City of Cardiff more than just to the Society that he is rightly remembered and there are many more on-line references to his key part in shaping the green city we have today: -

His and his sons part in establishing the Howardian nature reserve is noted in the Friends of Forest Farm Newsletter Issue No: 103

His role in establishing Parc Cefn Onn is noted in and again on Ramblings of a retired teacher

His role (although it is not clear and could be his son) in the development of Bute Park Arboretum is noted on Parks & Gardens of South Wales

He is remembered with a tree dedicated in his honour in the Roath Park pleasure gardens as is son William Nelmes junior who took over from him as Parks director on his retirement.

Personal note by Andy Kendall 113th President: -

My father in law worked for the parks on the tractors (He had worked on a farm when he left school aged 14) from 1966-feb 1973 and remembers both Nelmes' fondly.

He said he had more dealings with Junior as Senior was "the big boss, but he does remember both of them coming across from the offices (now the youth hostel area) to the yard to speak to the teams very often and always having time to explain and describe to people the plants, their diseases and why they were tasked to do whatever they were doing so that there was understanding not just orders.

He remembers that they were very encouraging to people who wanted to learn and a number of the team went on day release to Llandaff tech.

He also said he remembered Senior's final day (noted on the Cardiff Parks Page) when he came to speak to everyone

However warmly Phil remembers those years... he decided to move into the ambulance service as they were offering a few more shillings per week

Back to the 150th Anniversary index

Before this... Lionel F. Cowley, M.SC (?-1971) 79th President

Next up... Edith M Sheppard, F.Z.S. 81st President

See our Full list of Presidents

These pages are part of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society 150th Anniversary celebrations and are about our history and are celebrating the people who developed our Society and helped build the city and the cultural heritage of Cardiff. You can read more about that using the links above

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