Cuthbert John (Jack) Skead was born in Port Elizabeth on 30 April 1912. Originally trained as a sheep and dairy farmer after he matriculated, he farmed, after 1933, on ‘Gameston’ in the Highlands area near Grahamstown. He began publishing on the natural history and ecology of birds during this period.

He served as Director of the Kaffrarian (now Amathole) Museum in 1950 and for the next 22 years had a successful career as an ornithologist, based firstly at the Amathole Museum, and then at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute for African Ornithology (University of Cape Town) and then back at the Amathole Museum, before retiring to Grahamstown in 1972. During this period he published extensively, producing over 100 articles and books and considerably expanding our understanding of the birds of our region. His research interests, however, included mammals and invertebrates. During his retirement, a period spanning 34 years, Jack focused on gathering and synthesizing information from historical records, firstly on the ecology and early distribution of mammals, birds and plants, and secondly on place names and their history, all with an emphasis on his beloved Eastern Cape.

During his illustrious career, Jack received a number of prestigious awards, and academic honours in the form of Honorary Doctorates from two Eastern Cape universities.


André Boshoff and Graham Kerley are ecologists at the Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth. Peter Lloyd is a mammalogist with the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board (Cape Nature), Cape Town.