bird songs and sounds from the UK

Eric Hardy

Eric Hardy died last year (2002) he was 90 years of age with him went the last link with another great north - western naturalist and perhaps the most famous of them all, non other than T.A. Coward, Hardy actually knew Coward and also Oldham, with whom Coward wrote "The Birds of Cheshire" and "The Verterbrate Fauna of Cheshire and Liverpool Bay" Talking to Hardy I was surprised to hear that he had such a low opinion of the two of them, but then, listening to his Countryside programme on Radio Merseyside it soon became apparent that he thought much the same of most of his contemporaries, especially those who at some stage in their career had actually shot birds!
He came along to the KOS one evening in the 1970's and gave us an evening's entertainment that is still remembered by those lucky enough to be there! He brought only a handful of slides, and these were black & white, but managed to enthrall us for two hours, it could have been longer, much longer! but at 10pm with the Civic Hall caretaker stood at the back of the room, keys in hand, we had to ask Eric to finish - just as he was launching a verbal attack on the Royal Family, his favourite target!
He often reviewed publications sent to him and gave his verdict during the Countryside programme - I sent him a copy of our own Knutsford Ornithological Society Bird Report for 1976, and he was quite complimentary about it. This tended to be the case, he was scathing about any professional publications that weren't up to scratch, but with amateur efforts he was much more relaxed and I never recall him causing embarrassment to any local bird report editors.
At the time Radio Merseyside was broadcast only on the medium wave band so, here in Knutsford we were just at the edge of its coverage, and in the evening when the programme went out there was lots of fading on the signal, with occasional interference from Continental stations that made reception difficult. I remember recording the programme when our report was reviewed and recently tried to find it amongst a collection of old audio tapes rescued from the cellar when we moved house. It wasn't to be found but I did find one tape containing a couple of Hardy's programmes from 1977. I've selected from this tape a 5' section when Eric talks of a day on the Lancashire Mosses, alone for most of the time, surrounded by Pink-footed Geese, but with a gentle dig at the end about the newly opened Martin Mere Reserve. This is part of a typical Eric Hardy Countryside programme.

Click here to download.

The second sound file is a tribute to Eric Hardy, first broadcast on Radio Merseyside shortly after his death in 1992. [click here]. It's quite long but very entertaining as the great man rails against authority!

Update November 2013
There's been a certain amount of interest in this page recently so I've made one or two changes - removed the references to dial-up accounts! and converted the real-audio file to MP3
Additionally I've appended below an account by Paul Freeman of his dealings with Hardy when he (Paul) was a technician at Radio Merseyside -

Hello, I've just come across in your archives, your obituary piece concerning the naturalist, Eric Hardy, with its references to his broadcasts on BBC Radio Merseyside.

You refer obliquely (well, perhaps not so obliquely!) to his sometime scathing reviews of people and publications. I was working for Radio Merseyside during those years (1969 - 1980) and well remember the recording sessions.

Apart from the Journalists responsible for the news output, the station was staffed by a very few Producers, 2 engineers, and a handful (5 or 6) of Station Assistants who did everything else. I was one of the latter contingent. It always fell to the poor SA who had done the early shift (06.00 - 14.00) to record and edit Eric as the final task of the shift - usually on a Monday or Tuesday I seem to recall. I know many of my colleagues dreaded it (when you've been up since 04.30, sitting in front of a studio desk, recording one man talking, can be surprisingly soporific) but I quite enjoyed it.

He was a fluent and accomplished broadcaster, and his was a programme I was happy to produce, once I'd got him to double-space his scripts in order to allow me to mark repeats for editing out mistakes. There were precious few of those, too. For a 14 minute broadcast there were seldom more than 3 or 4 errors in the whole recording.

If you think he was sometimes scathing on the broadcasts, you should have seen some of the original scripts! We would frequently argue (very gently, of course) about how far he could eviscerate someone. I usually lost the arguments, but eventually I realised that it was easier to record it all, then edit out the libels ! He hardly ever noticed - I'm not sure he ever made a point of religiously listening to the broadcast programmes, but if he ever queried a cut or a change I would just say "Oh it was a bit tight for time, so I had to do a few nip and tucks." I don't believe he was fooled for a minute, but he realised I was the one with the razor-blade, so therefore had the final say.

He was definitely one of a kind.

One very small error: Radio Merseyside originally broadcast on just on 95.85 vhf (fm). The medium wave 202m (1484khz)transmitter was added some time later (late 70's I think) but there was never a time when it was broadcast on just medium wave; although I suspect Knutsford was probably well outside the range of the fm transmitter unless you had a substantial roof aerial.

best wishes Paul Freeman

Many thanks Paul for you memories of the great man and apologies for not updating this page a lot sooner ...... Tony.
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