The Presenter's Tale

Michael Clegg: naturalist, journalist, and TV presenter

Hull on Film: Tales From A City Exhibition (2018) by Yorkshire Film ArchiveYorkshire Film Archive

Clegg's People: To Hull and Back (1983) by Yorkshire TelevisionYorkshire Film Archive

The Presenter's Tale: Michael Clegg

Michael Clegg was a well-known naturalist, journalist, and TV presenter from Barnsley, but with roots firmly established around the Humber estuary. His grandmother was a "Woolly Back" from Hull and his grandfather a "Yellow Belly" from New Holland, on the south bank of the Humber in Lincolnshire.  

Hull phone boxes (1983) by Yorkshire TelevisionYorkshire Film Archive

Born in 1933, Michael worked in a number of museums across Yorkshire, including Batley, Doncaster, Sheffield, Scarborough and, finally, as curator for the Yorkshire Museum.

In 1982, he left the museum sector to pursue a career as a broadcaster and presenter of natural history programmes.

Michael Clegg - The Presenter's TaleYorkshire Film Archive

During the 1980s, Michael became a popular broadcaster and presenter on Yorkshire Television, with series of local and natural history programmes including 'Country Calendar', 'Strictly for the Birds' and 'Clegg's People'.

His popularity wasn’t just confined to the Yorkshire region, though; he could also be found on the BBC on programmes such as ‘Monkey Business’, ‘Wildlife’, ‘Natural World, and ‘What on Earth’, as well as being the resident naturalist on Radio 4’s 'The Conch Quiz'.

Michael’s tremendous knowledge of wildlife also meant that he often shared a platform with other great natural history broadcasters, including Sheila Anderson, Lionel Kelleway, and Johnny Morris.

Cleggs People: "To Hull and Back"Yorkshire Film Archive

This episode of Clegg’s People – ‘To Hull and Back’, made by Yorkshire Television in 1983 – sees Michael journeying from Spurn Point to the heart of the city, exploring everything from the recently-opened Humber Bridge to Hull’s unique telephone system, not to mention two highly-impressive public conveniences!

Seal Song - Michael Clegg (1974-05) by Michael CleggYorkshire Film Archive

A great communicator, Michael wrote novels based on the natural world as well as a regular column for the Yorkshire Evening Post.

He contributed to numerous scientific journals and was a lecturer at various universities, including Hull, where his dedication to the study of natural history was recognised in 1993, when he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science by Hull University.

During his career, Michael held offices such as president of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Yorkshire Naturalist's Union, along with vice presidencies of the Leeds Urban Wildlife Group, and York Ornithologist's Club.

Together with wife, Pat, Michael loved to spend time in his holiday home at Kilnsea, near Spurn. Following his death in 1995, his fascinating archive of papers was deposited with the Hull History Centre.

In 2004, a memorial hay meadow at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Broomhill Flash Nature Reserve was named Clegg’s Meadow in his honour.

Credits: Story

We are indebted to the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting our work to preserve these films and make them accessible for future generations. The research has been extensive and the exhibition contains only some of the stories we have discovered. To see further films visit

It is not possible to list everyone who has helped with this project – we are hugely grateful for the generosity of responses we have received, from families, historians and volunteers. In particular we would like to thank:

Val Baxter, Jonathan Barker, Malcolm Dunn, Daniel Morgan.

Curator: Martin Watts, Hull on Film
Editor: Andy Burns, Yorkshire Film Archive
Writer: Ruth Patman, Yorkshire Film Archive
Archivist: Megan McCooley, Yorkshire Film Archive

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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