Nick Legon

Obituary Nick Legon 1953-2017

In recent years Nick was a regular visitor to Kew from Somerset, each time bringing collections of unusual and meticulously presented fungi. These he would enter into the Kew Herbtrack system to add to his already huge contribution to the British fungi held at Kew, probably the largest by any recent collector. We knew he was a diabetic with health problems, but it was still a shock to learn that shortly after a recent visit he had succumbed to a heart attack on 15th August 2017.  My name is firmly linked with Nick’s as joint authors of by far the most important publication that either of us has produced: the Checklist of British and Irish Basidiomycota (2005). Nick abandoned a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry to take up a three year contract at Kew and undertook the lion’s share of this work, including all the keyboarding. We both cared deeply about making it a success, which is probably why, as is widely known, we fell out quite seriously before it was completed. I welcome the opportunity to record here that in recent years normal friendly relations were eventually resumed.  At an early age Nick developed a passion for botany encouraged by his school biology teacher, and this soon led on to mycology. He realised many of his finds could not be named from his literature and started bombarding Derek Reid, then head of Mycology at Kew, with interesting  material and requests for help, to the extent that Derek felt he needed to meet this enthusiastic correspondent (whom he imagined to be an old boy who had recently taken up a retirement hobby). Then in walked Nick aged about 21!  An indication of Nick’s stature as a field mycologist is that some 60 of his collections held at Kew are tagged on the database as new British records. These range over many groups, especially corticioids and in recent years rusts and smuts which benefitted from his extensive botanical knowledge. He published in The Mycologist throughout the 20 years of its existence (1987–2006), but before that contributed to its predecessor The BMS Bulletin, notably with a report in 1985 on a ten year study of the fungi of Norbury Park, Surrey with an accompanying list of 481 species he had recorded there. In The Mycologist he was the mainstay of its series Profiles of Fungi. Either alone or jointly with David Pegler he provided around 80 of these (over half the total) all accompanied by his own photos. In its last year he produced jointly with Brian Spooner an important set of additions and amendments to the list of British smut fungi. More recently he contributed several detailed species accounts to Field Mycology.  Nick hated the distinction between amateurs and professionals that appeared to divide the mycological world. But he worked happily with taxonomic professionals, notably Leif Ryvarden on polypores and corticioids, and described a new species Gymnopus obscuroides with Vladimir Antonin. He is commemorated in Stypella legonii P. Roberts, for which he provided the type material. At the time of his death he was working with Nick Aubin on a mycota of Jersey, where he had made a number of significant finds. Hopefully this will be seen through to completion. Nick had a fierce determination to enjoy life despite his long struggle with failing health. He will be much missed by the mycological community and notably by his younger brother and sister and by his partner Norman.