Robert James Bleakley

House and Years at Fettes:
Glencorse 1961-66

Qualifications and career: 
B.Sc. Hons in Zoology, Queen's University Belfast (1967-70)
M.Sc. Environmental Conservation, University College London (1970-71)
Post-graduate research on marine sand meiofauna (1971-75)
Joined Northen Ireland Civil Service as:
Nature Reserves Warden (1975-1987)
Senior Scientific Officer (1987-1999)
Principal Scientific Officer - Assistant Director, Countryside and Coast (1999-2001)
Principal Scientific Officer - Assistant Director, Regional Operations (2001 - 2013)
Principal Scientific Officer - Assistant Director, Properties and Outreach

In my current role I manage the 90 + staff who care for 7 country parks, 60 nature reserves and 190 historic monuments in Northern Ireland. The job now includes much more engagement with the public to promote awareness of and responsibility for the natural and built environment.

What is your most cherished memory from your time at Fettes?
Two experiences which I recall fondly and which affected my future career were:
1. extra-curricular studies in cutting edge biology for his top A-level students with Dave Pighills in his own time in the evening; and
2. a camp for the Estates Group organised by Alan Tothill on Inchcailloch - a nature reserve island in Loch Lomond - where I met the Warden, Eddie Idle, who later became a leading figure UK nature conservation and from whom I realised that I could make this my career.
I also have fond memories of singing in the choir - both anthems in chapel and concerts.

And your least?
Cold baths in Inverleith and cold showers in Glencorse, stoking the study area fire, and the Shakespeare Society with ID MacIntosh (terrifying!)

What event or personality left a lasting impression on you?
Dave Pighills, who inspired us to reach for our potential and made biology so interesting, as when he took us to the canal to collect pondlife for his aquarium.  I also recall an extra-curricular field trip to Aberlady Bay for which he persuaded Michael Lester-Crib to help with transport with nearly disastrous results as driving past 5 golf courses in hay fever season brought on a severe attack which left Michael unable to see or speak for an hour.  Despite scorching weather the return trip was made with all windows tight shut at 90 mph.

Were you a conscientious student? Yes, earning me the nickname of 'professor'.

Outside the classroom, how did you spend your free time at Fettes?
Painting, birdwatching, drama, ice-skating on Inverleith Pond in the bitter winter of 1962-63, decorating my study, listening to classical music, running, convening the Natural History Society.