Ward's Book of Days.

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On this day in history in 1865, was born Dame Mary Russell.

Dame Mary Russell, Marchioness of Tavistock. Duchess of Bedford DBE DGStJ FLS was an ornithologist, a zoologist and an air pilot.

Dame Mary was born in humble circumstances, the daughter of a clergyman, at Stockbridge, Hampshire. In 1888, she married The Marquis of Tavistock who subsequently inherited the title of Duke of Bedford.

Mary had a childhood passion for birds, which became a lifetime’s work. She collected specimens and variants of species and was particularly interested in patterns of migration. Her research on this subject required extensive travel to remote areas and therefore she trained as a pilot. Much of her research was conducted on Fair Isle. Her scientific journals, A Bird-Watcher’s Diary, were published posthumously. In 1928, Mary’s talents were officially recognised and she was invested as a Dame Commander of he Order of The British Empire, a title which she prized more than her noble rank.

At the age of 71, Mary left Woburn Abbey, on her way to Fair Isle, in a De Haviland Gipsy Moth plane which crashed into the chilly waters of The North Sea, and Mary was never seen again.

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