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Frederica Lucy “Rich” Erickson AM, born Sandilands (August 10, 1908 – September 8, 2009) was a naturalist, botanical illustrator, historian, writer, and Australian teacher. Without any formal scientific training, he studied and wrote extensively on botany, ornithology, as well as on genealogy, regional and general history. He wrote ten books, in co-authorship four, editor of twelve, and author or co-author of numerous articles printed in popular, scientific and encyclopedic publications.
Aboriginal of Boulder, Western Australia, was the oldest of eight children, of Phoebe Cooke and Christopher Sandilands, both emigrants to Western Australia from Victoria in 1906, and they met in the town of Goldfield. family of farmers, and worked at the Great Boulder Mine as a manual filter press. The family settled on Dwyer Street.
He enlisted in the army and served in France during the First World War. He returned home disabled, unable to resume his work in the mine, consequently, bought a block of virgin shrubland in Kendenup, going on to have a fruit orchard In 1921, there Rica met the botanical artist Emily Pelloe. Pelloe was introduced by Jack De Garis, the publicist for Pelloe’s books, giving the Sandilands family a gift of their newly published Wildflowers of Western Australia as a Christmas gift.
He returned to Goldfields to attend Eastern Goldfields High School, living with his grandmother for five years. While living in Boulder he joined the Girl Guides Australia where he developed an interest in birds and flowering plants. She chose a teaching career, being appointed as a teacher monitor of her family, in the city Kendenup, in 1924. After Kendenup, she was transferred to Mount Barker, Dumbleyung and Gnowangerup, and in 1927 she went to Perth entering the Claremont Teachers College for the required year of training and becoming a rural teacher. There he met Dom Serventy and joined the Club of Naturalists of Western Australia.
By 1931, he was already teaching in the isolated schools of a single teacher, as in Aurora between Cranbrook and Kojonup, and later in Young’s Siding near Wilson Inlet, and of Denmark. The landscapes on the south coast sparked an interest in orchids and coincided with the publication of her friend Emily Pelloe from her second book West Australian Orchids. The eminent orchideologists Edith Coleman and Richard Sanders Rogers were quoted extensively in Pelloe’s book, and Erickson established the contact, sending sketches and pressing specimens of orchids that were in his region. Wilson Inlet was the site of many specimens painted in 1881 by Robert D. FitzGerald, who published the important work Australian Orchids. At Christmas 1931, spending her vacations in Victoria, she met with Coleman and Rogers, who encouraged her to her biggest studio. Knowing that he was going back to school near Wilson Inlet, Rogers gave him instructions on the finer details of plant paintings using pen and ink instead of pencil as he had done previously.
After several years teaching on the south coast of Western Australia, Erickson requested and received a transfer to the Bolgart school north of Toodyay in 1934. It was there that he regularly passed Hawthornden, the historic home of the pioneer settler, botanist and naturalist James Drummond (1787-1863). Later she would write a detailed family history of the Drummond, in The Drummonds of Hawthornden, as well as stories from the surrounding districts in The Victoria Plains and Old Toodyay and Newcastle.Another interest she followed in Bolgart was the bees and wasps, which she studied. with the Tarlton Rayment beekeeper.
In Bolgart, she met the farmer contractor and future husband Sydney “Syd” Uden Erickson (1908-1987) marrying in Fremantle in June 1936. In 1938, they bought a piece of land in Bolgart called Fairlea. They had four children: Dorothy (of 1939), John (1940), Bethel (1942), and Robin (1943); the following years were mainly devoted to raising children and establishing the farm. However, Erickson remained interested in natural history and in 1951 published his first book, self-illustrated Orchids of the West. Triggerplants followed in 1958.
The state botanist Charles Gardner made a botanical excursion in 1957, through the FF.CC Midland Railway Road Service. The following year, Erickson was invited to lead the tour, taking advantage of the opportunity for a paid vacation. In later years, he took other groups of tourists on excursions based on nature, to the south and north of the state.
In 1965, the couple traveled to Europe, on vacation, where Rica spent some time studying specimens of Drummond at the Herbarium of Kew Gardens in London, which had been sent from Western Australia in the mid-19th century. Upon his return, they retired from agricultural life and settled in the suburb of Perth Nedlands, where Rica wrote several more texts. He became a member of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, and his writings during that period focused on the early days of European colonization in the state, and his era with convicts He wrote a history of the society called Forty Years of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society: 1936-1976 published in Early Days. Assisted by a group of volunteers, he compiled the first of three volumes of the Dictionary of West Australians in time for the Year of the Western Australia sesquicentennial in 1979.
In 1973 Flowers and Plants of Western Australia was published for the first time. This book on wildflowers in Western Australia, and designed for popular use, contains more than 500 color photographs and was the combined effort of Erickson as head and coordinator with Alex George and Neville Marchant as botanists, and Michael Morcombe as a photographer.
Syd died in 1987. And Rica, in 2009, in Mosman Park.
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