Gerald McGuire, a campaigner for public access, national parks and the countryside, would have been 100 years old today, 12 July. He died aged 83 on 10 February 2002,
Gerald was born in north London and loved the British countryside. He first visited the Lake District in 1936, staying in youth hostels and roaming the fells. During the war he was a conscientious objector and it was then that he first visited Malton in North Yorkshire, where he lived for 20 years, becoming secretary of the local region of the Youth Hostels Association. He was appointed as the YHA’s countryside officer, based in St Albans, but returned to Malton after his retirement, with his wife Peggy.
In 1953 he was appointed to the first North York Moors National Park committee and remained there until 1972, and was reappointed for the period 1985 to 1991—the longest-serving ministerial appointee to any park committee. He was a Countryside Commissioner from 1976 to 1979 and we were all angry when the incoming Conservative government failed to reappoint him.
On the North York Moors committee Gerald was invaluable in arguing for access to open country, in the teeth of hostile grouse-moor owners. When the ‘moorland mafia’ pressed the committee to include in its park plan a policy which restricted access on heather moorland to a footpath system, the gentle Gerald was uncharacteristically vociferous. The plan was dropped.
Gerald was a committee member of the Open Spaces Society from 1964 to 1982 and vice-chairman from 1971 to 1976. He served as vice-president from 1982 to 1998 and chaired the annual general meeting in 1990.
By the time he joined the OSS committee, he had for many years been the society’s local correspondent in North Yorkshire.
I first met Gerald in 1975 at a meeting with the South West Water Authority who were considering reviving a reservoir scheme on Dartmoor. I recall with gratitude how kind and encouraging Gerald was to me. He was always ready to help young campaigners find their feet.
Gerald held office in many amenity organisations, and he was president of both CNP and the Ramblers. We depended on his wise advice, knowledge, inspiration and gentle humour. We still miss him.
Gerald McGuire 12 July 1918 – 10 February 2002