Jack Skead 2004


Jack Skead was born in Port Elizabeth, schooled at Grey High in his hometown and St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown. He trained as a dairy farmer and farmed at “Gameston” on the Highlands Road near Grahamstown for 17 years.  Here he began his bird observations, which were published in Ostrich and other ornithological journals. 

In 1949, he moved to King William’s Town as director of the Kaffrarian (now the Amathole) Museum.  He was no longer a solitary observer in the field, but was now in a position to influence and stimulate many others.  From 1961–1966, he served as a research officer for the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute in Cape Town, though he remained based in the Eastern Cape.  He then returned to the museum as a biologist until his retirement in 1972, when the family moved to Grahamstown and he became one of the mentors of the fledgling Diaz Cross Bird Club.

Apart from numerous scientific papers and popular articles, Skead’s working years produced two books namely, Sunbirds of South Africa, and Canaries, Seedeaters and Buntings. Skead was awarded the Gill Memorial Medal by the Southern African Ornithological Society and the Gold Medal of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa. Without question, he was one of South Africa’s greatest naturalists, always curious, recording and posing questions, writing and searching.

Jack Skead received an honorary doctorate from the former University of Port Elizabeth in 2004, for his lifelong contribution to the study of the natural history, ecology and cultural history of the Eastern Cape, and for enriching the lives of the broader community in which he lived. He died peacefully on 28th of May 2006, just a month after his 94th birthday.