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George Henry Caton Haigh (1860-1941) FZS, MBOU, DL,

was a world authority on Himalayan flowering trees and exotic plants. He was also a famous ornithologist and his manuscript collection is lodged in The Natural History Museum.

He was the son of Emma-Jane Adelaide (1828-1919) and George Henry Haigh DL JP (1829-1887). His maternal grandfather was Sir Robert Way Harty, 1st Baronet.

He was appointed High Sheriff of Lincolnshire for 1912.
Source: Wikapedia

George Henry Caton Haigh and his head gardener Alfred Blount
in the Gwyllt at Portmeirion c. 1940

George henry caton Haigh and Alfred Blount
Caton Haigh was the eldest son of George Henry Haigh of Grainsby Hall, near Grimsby, by his wife Adelaide, youngest daughter of Sir Robert Harty, of Prospeot Hall, Dundrum, Co. Dublin. He was born on 4 September, 1860, and was educated privately. On the death of his father in 1887 he succeeded to the large agricultural estate of Grainsby Hall in North Lincolnshire, as well as properties in Yorkshire and Merionethshire.

Caton Haigh took a great interest in local affairs, and for many years regularly attended the meetings of the County Bench, of which he was chairman, while some years before the last war he was High Sheriff of the county. Shooting, gardening and ornithqlogy were his hobbies. He was a fine shot, and prepared to undertake any amount of hardship in the enjoyment of sport. Not content with a long day’s covert shooting or driving, he would - when the weather was suitable set out on a thirty mile drive to the Humber to flight Geese, returning home about 3 A.M. He knew more about Geese in the Humber district than anyone, and contributed an interesting article on the weights of Pink-footed Geese to ‘British Birds’.

In his latter years he was much crippled with arthritis, but nevertheless continued to shoot on crutches. In Wales he had a wonderful garden and an especially fine collection of rhododendrons. Caton Haigh had a great knowledge of bird migration in the Humber district, and was a worthy successor to John Cordeaux, but, unfortunately, seldom put his experiences on paper. In the autumn he used regularly to hunt the hedges along the sea-banks near North Cotes, at the mouth of the Humber on the Lincolnshire side. With the aid of a man to beat out the hedges, he systematioally worked them for uncommon migrants.
No matter what the weather was like, if Caton Haigh thought there was a chance of finding migrants he went to look for them, and some of the rarest were obtained when it was blowing hard and pouring with rain. No wonder Howard Saunders wrote : “ Ornithologists who deliberately go in search of birds under such circumstances richly deserve the success which may reward one excursion out of a hundred."
In the course of years Caton Haigh procured the first examples in Europe of Raddi’s Bush-Warbler on 1st October, 1898, as well as the 1st records of the Greenish Willow-Warbler on 5th September, 1896, and Lanceolated Warbler on 18th November, 1909, for the British Isles. Among other rare wanderers he shot Eversmann’s Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Sabine’s Gull, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and an American Peregrine-the second to be recorded from these islands. This last bird was caught in a net, but, suspecting it was the American race, forwarded it to Dr.Ernst Hartert, who confirmed his identification.

Caton Haigh died on 11 February, 1941, in his eighty-first year, and was buried at Waithe Church, "over which" (to quote the words of Colonel E. K. Cordeaux) "the Pink-footed Geese, with whose habits he was so well acquainted, constantly pass to their winter feeding grounds".
In 1938 he presented his collection of bird-skins to the British Museum.
The above article reproduced by kind permission of Portmerion-Village.com
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updated 12th October 2011
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