Many people in the district will have been saddened by the recent death of Steve Chadwin, formerly of Rosneath and Helensburgh.

His memory will be especially cherished by nature lovers through his long association with bodies such as the Helensburgh-based West Dunbartonshire Natural History Society, and the local branch of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Steve was born in Birmingham in 1934. As a young man, he met his bride-to-be, Maura Scanlan, while she was studying at the University of Birmingham. Her parents were Irish, but by the time she was born, the family was living in Birmingham.

When they married in 1959, Maura had by then qualified as a dentist. The young couple began married life in Nottingham, but around 1970, they moved with their growing family to Camsail House, Rosneath.

Steve was a dealer in fine arts, and for many years ran the Old Manse Gallery at Clynder. The choice of name was derived first and foremost from its proximity to a former manse, but interestingly, it also echoed the fact that Camsail House had begun life as Rosneath Free Church manse.

Both the house and the nearby Free Church, up on the hillside by Millbrae, were built shortly after the formation of the breakaway Free Church of Scotland in 1843. In 1929, what was by then the United Free Church of Scotland re-joined the Church of Scotland, rendering both church and manse at Millbrae surplus to requirements.

Steve Chadwin, born in 1934, passed away last month. Inset, Steve and Maura mark 50 years of marriage with family in France in 2009

Steve Chadwin, born in 1934, passed away last month. Inset, Steve and Maura mark 50 years of marriage with family in France in 2009

The manse - now a listed building - was sold off as a private dwelling. The church had been modest in size, but the manse was by contrast very capacious. It was thus an ideal family home for Maura and Steve, as they had eight children, though sadly the second eldest died in infancy.

Although the one-time manse survived, the church itself was demolished soon after the union of 1929. As Steve remarked, by the time of his move to Rosneath, not a single stone from the church remained to mark the spot.

Steve’s work took him all over the country, but with his passion for wildlife, especially birds, his travelling kit invariably included binoculars and a sleeping bag. He was effortlessly enabled to combine business with pleasure at every available opportunity.

However, it was not long before he began to make his mark locally too.

West Dunbartonshire Natural History Society was formed in 1970, with Steve being a keen supporter.

Early that year, the Society organised a film show at the Victoria Halls, featuring an RSPB film “Winged Aristocrats”. More than 400 people attended, marking the start of an annual showing of such films that was well-supported for many years.

In 1972, a branch of the Young Ornithologists’ Club, the junior wing of the RSPB, was launched in Helensburgh.

The following year, more than 100 young birdwatchers attended the first indoor meet of the season, when David Core, local RSPB representative, gave a presentation on the work of the YOC, while Steve showed films.

Steve and Maura mark 50 years of marriage with family in Friday in 2009

Steve and Maura mark 50 years of marriage with family in Friday in 2009

Some YOC members – also members of the Natural History Society- went on to become noted naturalists, including brothers Chris and Jonathon Waltho. Chris’s expertise led to him eventually publishing an acclaimed book about the eider duck.

With so much interest in nature being manifest in the community, 1975 saw the launch of the RSPB Helensburgh Local Group. There was an annual programme of events which included indoor talks, field trips, coffee mornings and an annual bird-fair. Steve became a committee member in 1982, and over time served as treasurer for more than a decade, and as group leader from 2002-2012.

During that time, Steve served as an inspiration for all. Always enthusiastic, neither driving rain nor icy blast seemed to faze him in the slightest on field trips. From time to time, he helped organise weekend trips for the group, when he could display his culinary skills to everyone present.

It was always a pleasure to attend committee meetings at Camsail House, especially when good weather permitted an outdoor setting. Distractions like house martins flitted in and out from under the generous eaves, an endearing little pony grazing nearby, and the appearance of shy roe deer from the corner of the field. Maura was the perfect hostess, adding to the overall experience.

Steve was a highly proficient observer, and while out and about on his own, made some landmark identifications. In the spring of 1973, he heard the distinctive churring call of the nightjar at Clynder. Today, sadly, you would make headline news if you had the same experience locally.

In 1974 and 1976, he noted the unmistakable rasping call of the corncrake near Rosneath Point, quite possibly about the last time this species was recorded in the area. Similarly, he came across a capercaillie in the hills above Bannachra, once again a bird no longer to be found there.

Another of Steve’s strengths lay in giving talks. His presentations on birds in art were not to be missed. These were always enhanced with stunning illustrations from rare books.

A seasoned traveller, he also gave talks on birds from such varied locations as South Africa and Malaysia. Another area that Steve knew well was Perth, Western Australia, one of the most isolated cities in the world.

Steve Chadwin birdwatching at RSPB World Birdwatch Day, October 4, 1997, at Kidston car park

Steve Chadwin birdwatching at RSPB World Birdwatch Day, October 4, 1997, at Kidston car park

He visited Perth and district on a number of occasions: as he pointed out, it was the sort of place where you could go to a beach, and find a barbecue, all set for anyone to use - and free into the bargain.

In 2005, Maura and Steve moved from Rosneath to Park Lane, Helensburgh. They had a memorable family get-together in 2009, when they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

In 2012, Steve received a long service award from the RSPB, presented at the stylish setting of Pitlochry Festival Theatre, on the occasion of the Volunteers’ Annual Conference. Shortly after, Maura and Steve moved again, this time to the Perth area, where they had family.

Predeceased by Maura, Steve passed away at Fairview Care Home, Bannockburn, on January 23 this year. The family have invited anyone who knew them to consider making a donation to the RSPB or to UNICEF.