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Chris Yeates

Posted by: 9988

1951 - 2023

Chris Yeates. Credit - Seppo Hutinen

Chris Yeates was born in Scarborough in 1951 to Gudrun and Christopher Yeates, an only child. Much loved, he had a happy and secure childhood including several trips to Germany to visit family. He won a scholarship to Scarborough College at 11 and went on to Leeds University to study Art History.

During and after University, Chris had several manual jobs including harvesting potatoes and working in a saw mill. His love of the outdoors and natural history led him to work as a Ranger in the Meanwood Valley, near Leeds. 

In 1986 the Libraries, Museum and Arts Committee of Rotherham Borough Council approved a recommendation that Rotherham Museum should develop a biological records function to provide information on Rotherham wildlife to land managers, naturalists and the public and approved the creation of the post of Assistant Curator of Natural History. Chris was appointed to this position as an Assistant Curator. He studied for his Museum Studies diploma part-time at Leicester University.

It was at this time to that Chris met and married Helen. They both regularly attended BMS field meetings.

 In 1987, working with curator Bill Ely, Rotherham promoted the adoption of a shared computer database to the National Federation for Biological Recording. Stuart Ball, who had developed one for NCC's Invertebrate Sites Register, agreed to write it. The beta test version was received in April 1988 and Bill and Chris began to input records. This program, RECORDER, used data dictionaries to overcome the problems caused by mis-spelling but, being from a zoological background, it lacked lists for fungi, bryophytes and vascular plants. Chris entered these into the database and updates were sent to Stuart for distribution to other centres. This was also the time that Jerry Cooper and Paul Kirk were setting up the FRDBI. Not only did Jerry and Paul meet Chris and collaborate on names, they began a lifelong friendship (see Field Mycology Vol_251_February_2024).

Chris was intensely curious about everything. He was a polymath, a Renaissance man, endlessly curious and endearingly keen to share his vast knowledge. Highly intelligent and with a phenomenal memory, he was immensely patient, very kind and forever the enthusiast. His enthusiasm inspired others – in museums, in the field and amongst his friends. He loved to be in a muddy wood discussing the beauty of a tiny little fungus to anyone who would listen.

I met Chris in 1986. He was local to Sheffield and joined the field meetings organised by Dr Tony Lyon from the University of Sheffield. We continued to meet up occasionally when he moved to Huddersfield; we both attended occasional Yorkshire Naturalist Union meetings. Chris organised the BMS centenary field meeting in Huddersfield in 1996. He also tutored a BMS asco workshop with Paul Cannon and lectured and supported the field work at the BMS's 125th Anniversary Conference at Cranfield, 2022.

In 2011, as foray manager, I organised a big European asco meeting at Northern College, Barnsley; Chris worked with me on the site selection. Meeting the European mycologists reinvigorated Chris's passion for mycology. He surged forward, bought a better microscope and became an avid supporter of AscoFrance. Chris began his visual Fungi of Yorkshire project: the updating of W. G.Bramley’s A Fungus Flora of Yorkshire using full colour plates of habitat and morphology (both microscopic and macroscopic).

Chris had encouraged me to use Scarborough as our base for the BMS's 2023 autumn field meeting and was looking forward to us all collecting on his "patch" so he could add to the extensive work he was compiling. Chris died of a pulmonary embolism the day before the event. He had completed about 600 of the 1000 descriptions and had a large herbarium of material which has been donated by his relatives to Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.


By Carol Hobart, with input from Bill Ely, Helen Thornton and Linda Levick.

Photo of Chris by Seppo Hutinen, taken at the Ascomycete meeting, Barnsley