Water Life Magazine: Part 10. Lecturers and Payments in 1939

Those old enough to remember when payments to professionals were made in guineas (£1.1s or since 1971, £1.05) will be amused to read the list of lecturers and what they charged aquarists’ societies for an evening lecture.


You will see that the fees varied from 5 shillings (25p) to a guinea, with a number at half a guinea. L.G.Payne who has loomed large as a writer on reptiles and amphibians charged half a guinea plus travelling expenses.

In terms of pay today, I have used the data from Measuring Worth to see what one guinea was worth. Rather than using the Retail Prices Index, I have used the average wage as the comparator since pay has increased at a greater rate than prices. A wage of 1 guinea is approximately £150 in today’s money, and equates to 36% of average weekly pay. I have no idea what amateur societies, including the few aquarists’ societies that remain in existence, pay a visiting lecturer but if they have kept up with inflation, £75-150 would be the going rate.



Fishkeeping and Water Life Magazine: Part 9. Herpetology Articles in Volume 13 1957-58 . Download Available

FishkeepingThis post is the last one for the time being on the herpetology articles in Water Life and its successors. The reason for that is I do not have any more issues and until I do I will not be able to complete the series.

The articles in this download (see Downloads page above) are from the final volume of the magazine, by this time a monthly. It includes a series by Alfred Leutscher on animals for the vivarium. There are also articles by H Robert (Bob) Bustard who also wrote for The Aquarist and Mary White.

My next job is to do the same for the issues of The Aquarist that I have, stretching from the 1930s until about 1970, as well as fill in some the gaps in terms of books that were available to the amateur herpetologist in the 1950s.

Water Life Magazine 1936-58: Part 7. Herpetology Articles in Volumes 4 and 6, 1938 and 1939 . Downloads Available

The scanned articles on herpetology can now be downloaded from the Downloads page above. The usual Water Life authors, L.G. Payne and ‘Amphibius‘ as well as other writers have wide-ranging contributions. Alfred Leutscher is also there.

The mass import of tortoises from Mediterranean countries is highlighted with snippets from newspapers on the numbers involved and an eye-witness account of the terrible state of tortoises after unloading in the London docks. LEP transport, the shipping and forwarding agents which closed in the mid-1990s, reported that 15,000 tortoises weighing 6 tons were carried in special crates. LEP incidentally were not our favourite company having sent only one man to unload our household goods sent by sea from Hong Kong in 1968; they dropped a long crate onto the road and broke two pieces of jade (epoxy glue is still holding the pieces together). The person who saw what was going on at the docks said that 50,000 were used as ballast and just piled into crates.

There is also a report of the arrival of a Galapagos Land Iguana at London Zoo. It was brought back by Sir Thomas Sopwith (then Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith) on his yacht Philante (later H.M.S. Philante) and collected as part of a fishing cruise. Sopwith was of course the British aviation pioneer who built 18,000 aircraft during the 1914-18 War including the famous Sopwith Camel. The later company, named after his test pilot Harry Hawker, produced the even more famous Hawker Hurricane.

There is also an intriguing note from a man who stated that he had found three Balkan whip snakes (now Hierophis gemonensis, then Zamensis gemonensis with Coluber gemonensis before and after) in southern England. He later provided information on how they could be identified.

Reptile and Amphibian Keeping in Britain Before 1914

The keeping of amphibians and reptiles in Britain has waxed and waned over the years. I had no idea that the activity was so popular before the First World War and was interested to read this account in Water Life, volume 2, 1937 of a meeting of the Richmond and District Aquarist’s Society. ‘Amphibius’, who was always referred to by that pseudonym, gave a talk in which, he regretted the decline of interest in reptiles, etc., during the post-War period and attributed it to the increasing enthusiasm for exotic fishes and the apathy of the dealers, who fail now to get the varied and interesting shipments they got before 1914.

Water Life Magazine 1936-58: Part 6. Herpetology Articles in Volume 2 1937. Download Available

I have scanned a number of articles from Water Life volume 2 (5 January-29 June 1937) and the whole extract can be downloaded from the Downloads page above or from here.

There are articles by ‘Amphibius‘ and L.G. Payne who wrote the two booklets in the Water Life series and a poignant series by Miss D.E. Sladden on fishes, reptiles and amphibians at London Zoo. The final issue of the volume contained the sad news that Miss Sladden D.I.C., C.M.Z.S. had died as the result of a road accident: She had been engaged in research work at the London Zoological Gardens, and was particularly interested in tropical fish. Shortly before she died, she finished a paper on breeding Angel Fish, which gives fuller details than any previously written on this subject, and is a valuable contribution to fish-keeping knowledge

I have found that Dorothy Ena Sladden of The Poplars, Somerset Road, Brentford, Middlesex died on 27 June 1937 in Hounslow Hospital, leaving £858.4s.11d. I cannot find a record of her birth in England or an entry in the 1911 Census. This, together with the fact that she was a Corresponding Member of the Zoological Society (of London), suggests that she was born overseas and came back to Britain. She must have been a student at Imperial College. The Diploma of Imperial College was, I seem to remember, awarded for postgraduate courses and is equivalent to a Masters.

NOTE ADDED ON 24 August 2015

The follow-up on Dorthy Sladden is on my other blog, Zoology Jottings, in four posts starting here.

Water Life Magazine 1936-1958: Part 5. The Final Volume 1957-58

Fishkeeping and Water Life continued its mix of articles each month to the end with an emphasis on keeping fish in aquaria. There was less attention paid to water life in the wild and to animals other than fish, amphibians and reptiles than in the original Water Life. There was less to enthuse the young about the biological sciences. However, writers on reptiles and amphibians included Alfred Leutscher, Robert Bustard and Mary White. John Clegg (author of the Observer’s Book of Pond Life) wrote a few articles on pond life. Included in the writers on fishkeeping were Professor C.W. Emmens and Laurence E. Perkins who became editor of The Aquarist.

The final issue in December 1958 contained the following announcement:


The editor, Leslie W Ashdown, followed up this statement:

     Past and future. In the last issue of “FISHKEEPING AND WATER LIFE” we should like to thank our many thousands of readers who have given this journal their support over the last 13 years [since it was resurrected under this name after the war].
     We believe the hobby to be worthy of a high-class production and have attempted to provide this but costs have outstripped revenue.
     We feel this paper has played a significant part in fostering the hobby and we hope to continue our association through the fish-keeping features which will appear weekly in “Cage Birds”, commencing with the December 11 issue.—L.W.A.

The fishkeeping articles in Cage Birds were very small and soon disappeared. I do not know what happened to the editor. The only clue is that a Leslie W Ashdown died in Essex in 1961 aged 34. Could that have been the last editor of the magazine?

I shall continue with articles on Water Life magazine on this site only, except for occasions when I have more information on the magazine itself. They will consider the articles on keeping reptiles and amphibians.