Even more herpetological extracts from Water Life magazine

From another batch of Water Life magazines I have scanned the articles of herpetological interest (see DOWNLOADS page above). For volumes 5-10 from 1950 to 1955, I am now missing only two issues while volume 11 (1956-57) is complete.

Articles included are by:

  • Alfred Leutchscher on tortoises, box tortoises, hibernation, salamanders, amphibians and reptiles of the British Isles
  • Audrey Noël Hume on keeping Brazilian Giant Tortoises
  • Monica Green – a latter on the proper way to keep small terrapins
  • Viscountess Bury – keeping Xenopus

Viscountess Bury, Mairi Bury was born Mairi Elizabeth Vane-Tempest-Stewart in 1921. Her father, Lord Londonderry was a noted appeaser during the 1930s of the nazis in power in Germany and she was taken to meet Hitler, ‘a nondescript person’ she reckoned, while Himmler she described as like ‘a shopwalker in Harrods’. In 1940 she married Viscount Bury; the marriage was dissolved in 1958. She lived at Mount Stewart her family’s stately home in Northern Ireland which she gave to the National Trust. The Xenopus must have been kept there along with a bald (feather-plucked) cockatoo which lived in the hall. She died in November 2009. Her obituary in the Daily Telegraph is here.

Another article is on the Lido Aquarium and Reptile House in Margate; there is a photograph of Ken Smith, the well-known animal keeper of Paignton, Jersey and Exmouth Zoos.

There is a letter on the metamorphosis of axolotls and even a hint on using wire from ‘Morrison’ indoor air-raid shelters to make an outdoor reptiliary.

 

George Boyce – a follow-up comment

We used to visit George’s shop regularly in the early 1970s and often went away with something in a plastic bag or even larger. We found him when we were looking for a place we could get a couple of axolotls as pets and there was George, a friendly, knowledgeable man who tolerated our ignorance and gradually taught us a little about reptiles and amphibians. A trip to the shop would always be a quiet delight as there would usually be something new to ask questions about and discuss. Our memory is of the walls being lined with tanks containing fascinating creatures and I remember clearly that there was always one containing a soft shelled terrapin which was extremely ill natured – it never seemed to find a new home. As we lived on a houseboat moored at Strawberry Vale at the time, George thought it to be an entirely appropriate home for amphibians.
After we moved away to the South Coast we lost touch with George but he has always been a cherished memory and I am so glad to see at last a reference to him on the internet.

Regards,
Nick and Min Flowers

The Vivarium Society – a club in the North-West of England in the 1950s

I had never heard of the Vivarium Society until I recently read this account by ‘Aquarius’ (clearly Eric Hardy) in Water Life (December 1955).

Vivarium Society

This small group appears to have been based around Robert Jackson who, as described in an earlier post, was a leading dealer in all animals at the time.

There were a few amateur aquarium clubs that included the keeping of reptiles and amphibians in their titles and activities in the 1950s but this mixed interest, seen also in the pages of Water Life and The Aquarist, seems to have died off rapidly as the fish fancy mentality and the competitive showing of artifically selected fish breeds came to the fore amongst the fish keepers.

Fish and Reptile Shows in the Early 1950s

This photograph from the August 1954 issue Water Life magazine is from a time when the British Herpetological Society put on displays of reptiles and amphibians at shows organised by the fish fancy. In those days celebrities, like Frankie Howerd, came much cheaper than they do now  to put in an appearance!

Monica Green (1925-2014) who is holding on to the python was Secretary of the BHS for 54 years.

BHS

More herpetology articles from 1950s Water Life magazine

I have recently acquired another batch of Water Life magazines from the early 1950s; the articles on herpetology have been extracted and are available in an updated files on the Downloads page.

The articles are mainly by Alfred Leutscher but there is one by Audrey Noël Hume on care of the Leopard Tortoise, another by an anonymous author ‘Natrix’ on breeding axolotls together with Mary White on iguanas.

More Downloads Available of Herpetology Articles

I have added to the number of articles on herpetology extracted from Water Life and The Aquarist and Pondkeeper. You can find them on the Download Page.

Of particular interest is an article by Audrey Noël-Hume on African hinged tortoises (Water Life volume 11 No 6, Decmber 1956-January 1957).

Kenneth Blackwell wrote on Marine Toads in volume 12. I think this must be the Kenneth Blackwell who published articles from Wellingborough Zoo in the early 1960s. There are also articles by Robert Bustard and Alfred Leutscher. Two authors describe some pretty crude methods of building and heating vivaria.