The Vivarium. George F. Hervey and Jack Hems. 1967

xxx1This book, published in 1967 by Faber and Faber, was very much a standard one of its time, along the lines as those written by Alfred Leutscher, Harman, Le Roi and Maxwell Knight over a period of approximately twenty years. I get the impression is was written earlier but not published and then quickly revised before it was finally published. For example, on page 85, the authors write: ‘For all practical purposes the only crocodilian sold in pet shops is the Mississippi alligator…’ but then page 86 reads ‘The true crocodiles are not to be trusted and, therefore, they are rarely offered for sale as pets, but caymans are, particularly the spectacled cayman…’ By 1967 pretty well the only crocodilian around the pet trade was the spectacled cayman.

The authors were prolific writers on aquarium fish and it is difficult to find an Aquarist or Water Life magazine without an article by one or the other, or both. However, I have found information on the authors surprisingly difficult to find, despite their being so well known. The easier to find information on was G.F. Hervey, mainly from a family history website.

Geoge John Frangopulo (he changed his name to Hervey in 1917) was born in Hove, East Sussex in 1897. In the 1901 Census his family are shown in at 12 Third Avenue, Hove, East Sussex, a large house now part of Langfords Hotel. His father was John S. Frangopulo, aged 40, a retired cotton importer born in Salford, Lancashire. His mother, Antonina, aged 34 and born in London must have been married previously since her son (step-son of John S.) aged 11 was present. The family had the following servants: nurse (domestic), undernurse, cook, lady’s maid, housemaid, kitchen maid and footman. You can find details of the history of the family, originally from Greece and then Liverpool, here.

George was educated at Harrow and served in its cadet force. For the benefit of non-UK readers, Harrow is a famous private ‘public’ school (think Winston Churchill). He gave two microscopes to the school on his departure. He changed his name to George John Frangopulo Hervey on 18 January 1917. After Sandhurst, the military academy, he was commissioned in the East Kent Regiment ‘The Buffs’ (1917-1920) serving in France from 17 April 1918.

He married Margaret G Pole in 1931 at Marylebone, London.

We then find him as Cards Editor of the Sunday Referee and author of Modern Contract Bridge. The Sunday Referee merged with the Sunday Chronicle in 1939, eventually becoming part of Empire News and, finally, News of the World. He published a number of books on card games:
Advanced auction bridge, 1929; Contract bridge dictionary, 1934; Modern contract bridge: how to bid and how to play, 1939; A handbook of card games, 1963; Card games 1963; The bridge player’s bedside book, 1964; Card games for one: patiences-solitaires, 1965; The complete illustrated book of card games, 1973; The Hamlyn illustrated book of card games, 1974; The illustrated book of card games for one: over 120 games of patience, 1977; Card games for all the family 1977; The complete book of card games, now edited by P. Arnold, 1988 and 2010.

In addition, he invented games. For example, ‘Crossword is a patience game invented by the late George F. Hervey, author of books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine columns on cards’. I also found a press cutting on another topic. In the Lancashire Evening Post of 4 May 1935, he wrote on the correct way to fly flags for the Silver Jubilee of George V. It contained advice on what flags should not be flown by householders (Royal Standard, naval ensigns, flags of other nations or flags of plain colour that have a particular meaning) and continued, on the Union Flag:

Care should be taken to see that it is flown the right way up. The correct way is that the broader band of white, near the staff, should be uppermost. |I have already noticed ten Union Flags being flown upside down. This indicates a signal of distress.

So it seems as if George F. Hervey made his living by writing, mainly about card games. He died in 1981 in Surrey.

This is how the Silver Jubilee edition of the Aquarist (Volume 14, Number 2, May 1949) described him:

G.F. HERVEY, F.Z.S., a well-known aquarist, and author of books on fish-keeping, is also an authority on card games and playing cards, and has many journalistic connections in this sphere. He was wounded on the Somme while serving as a second lieutenant in “the Buffs” in World War I. His lecture on the history of the goldfish is the result of ten years patient research, and today he is the acknowledged authority on this subject. He is now engaged on collecting material for a bibliography of aquarium literature together with Mr. G. Palmer of the British Museum (Natural History).

Of his books on fishkeeping, all but one, The Goldfish of China in the XVIII Century (1950) were with Jack Hems. Apart from The Vivarium, they seem to have published five books, several going to further editions and reprints: The goldfish, 1948; Freshwater tropical aquarium fishes: an encyclopaedic survey, 1952; The book of the garden pond, 1958; A guide to freshwater aquarium fishes, 1973; Illustrated encyclopedia of freshwater fishes, 1973.

I have been able to find virtually nothing on Jack Hems. He wrote letters to the Aquarist from Leicester. It is possible that he is a Jack Victor W Hems, born in Brentford in 1911, died in Leicester in 1989. The dates fit with the time of his activity. If any reader has more information I would be very pleased to be receive it.

Jack Hems’s photograph and the accompanying note appeared in the Silver Jubilee edition of the Aquarist:


The book can be found in the Downloads page above or here.

NOTE ADDED on 19 June 2018

George Zolkiewicz has written to me with the following information:

In the 1960’s I lived a few doors away from Jack Hems, on Mayflower Road, Leicester. I always found him a very interesting and knowledgeable person, an unconventional free-thinker, a man with a tremendous sense of humour, who informed me that in his younger days he had been friends with and worked together in London with George Bernard Shaw.
The sitting room in his home was always full of books and magazines; The Aquarist, to which he was a regular contributor was everywhere to be found.
I left Leicester in 1968 but I know that he maintained regular contacts with my parents who continued to live in Leicester and where I met him several times later till his death in the late 1980’s. He was survived by his wife who had worked as an industrial nurse.


One thought on “The Vivarium. George F. Hervey and Jack Hems. 1967

  1. Pingback: Water Life and Aquaria World 1950-53. Some History and a Download of Extracts of Articles on Herpetology | Reptiles, Amphibians and Birds: A Historical Perspective of their Care in Captivity

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