Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

Wilfrid Merydith Capper (1905 - 1998):
Countryside Campaigner

Born on 12 July 1905 Wilfrid Capper was a campaigning instigator who employed the best ideals of safeguarding and gaining access to large tracts of the Northern Ireland countryside. He took his inspiration from the outdoor movement in England, post World War I, which encouraged groups of young people to follow an adventurous and healthy way of life. His vision recognised the worth of bringing to his native Ulster regional versions of bodies which were proving of great benefit elsewhere.

His education was at Bangor Grammar School, Methodist College, and Queen's University, Belfast. A civil service career began in 1923 at the Department of Education, followed by the Department of Agriculture, where he joined the forestry division. There his professional growth ceased at the level of senior clerk, but his real flourishing was amongst the voluntary organisations of the countryside itself.

In 1931 along with six friends, he established the Northern Ireland version of the Youth Hostel movement. A notable achievement in that decade was the public campaign to preserve Whitepark Bay from uncontrolled development. Thanks to the efforts of Capper and fellow hostellers, the Bay was bought and presented to the National Trust for safekeeping.

The Ulster Society for the Preservation of the Countryside was founded in 1936, at his instigation, and during his 40 years as honorary secretary, he wrote its history in a book, Caring for the Countryside [1995].

Inspired by the success of the Pennine Way in England, he determined to create around Ulster a similar long-distance route for walkers. The resistance from those farmers and landowners who resented granting access to ramblers was disarmed by his pleasant and persuasive personality, and the 600 mile circuit of the Ulster Way opened in 1974. Nine areas of outstanding natural beauty are on its route, 50 miles of which are called the Capper Trail, in honour of its founding father.

Appointed MBE in 1975, in 1978 he established the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs, and subsequently gained the Sir John Hunt Award for services to the countryside.

Ever promoting what he saw as best practice, he hoped to see national parks and a countryside commission for Northern Ireland, but these goals eluded even his best efforts. He died on 27 July 1998

Born: 12 July 1905
Died: 27 July 1998
Chris Spurr