Author, adult educator and Sheffield lecturer: Patrick Harding obituary

A popular Sheffield naturalist, lecturer and author who made learning accessible for all ages passed away this month.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 6:00 am
Patrick was an author, lecturer and adult educator.

Patrick Harding, an educator in Sheffield for decades with a special interest in natural history, shunned a dry approach to teaching and would always find a way to inject humour into his lectures.

Patrick was born in Dublin on January 20 1946 to John, an accomplished meteorologist who provided the weather forecast for Churchill which helped determine the date for D-Day, and Joyce, who gained a Cambridge Phd on cell research.

His father worked in the RAF in Egypt when Patrick was young, and his brother David was eight years older, so Patrick spent a lot of time with his mum who taught him about wild flowers.

Patrick passed away on September 14, aged 75.

A late developer academically, Patrick more than made up for it in later life. He studied for three years at Bangor University and then completed a PhD at York. Patrick’s first job came in 1970, teaching undergraduates at New University of Ulster.

Patrick moved to Sheffield in 1978 to work with adults at the Division of Continuing Education at Sheffield University. He became Deputy Warden at Halifax Hall where he lived until he moved in with Jean whom he later married in 1986.

Patrick and Jean had two children, Martin and Bryony named after a bird and flowering plant respectively – it was always said a third child would have been named after a mushroom.

Family oriented, he enjoyed the role of fatherhood, and loved nothing better than planning holidays and teaching his family about the wonders of the natural world – the family had many exciting adventures to Egypt and Jordan, and Sicily by helicopter.

Although he officially retired at 50 to concentrate on writing books, Patrick continued to lecture up to the Covid-19 pandemic. His first book ‘How to ID Edible Mushrooms’ was co-written with Tony Lyon in 1996. Seven other works followed including an essay entitled ‘A Field Guide to Magic Mushrooms’.

Patrick’s talks were so popular because he was adept at infusing a mixture of keen enthusiasm, humour, folklore, and thought provoking questioning through illustrated lectures which were accessible to all. This despite the fact that he had no formal teaching qualifications – he was a natural naturalist and a superb speaker.

Patrick was equally at home in wellies holding forth in a field, woodland or lecture hall – or being interviewed for radio, TV or the newspaper. He made many media appearances including Castle in the Country', 'BBC Breakfast', and ‘Richard and Judy’. Patrick also contributed to courses at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

To adult Sheffielders he was a lecturer and teacher, to children he was Father Christmas, as he dedicated time in December to wearing the outfit and playing the role extremely well.

Although an accomplished author, lecturer and adult educator, his greatest roles in life were being a father and husband, both of which he excelled at.

Patrick passed away on September 14, aged 75. He will be remembered as a fun guy with a penchant for fungi.