Sunday, 26 April 2015

Tropical Fish Transport in 1951 Avro York

Interest in fish-keeping has waxed and waned since the middle of the 19th Century. The trade in livestock and supplies this century is enormous at around US$M500 per annum. In Britain, all accounts stress the boom of the early 1950s. In those days air travel was extremely expensive and so I was surprised by what I read in this letter written to the Aquarist magazine in 1976 by C.D. Roe of Shirley Aquatics (a company founded in the 1930s that is still in existence). In discussing the development of artificial seawater, he wrote:

…In 1951 I used to charter every three months a York freighter from B.O.A.C. to bring fishes from Singapore to London. This was before the days of oxygen-filled bags and insulated containers, and we used to have to carry out our heating and apparatus at enormous cost, and the four or five day journey back, as it used to be, was spent in keeping the fish well aerated and at the right temperature. The bringing back of freshwater tropical fish in those days was very simple and successful and quite profitable…


The Avro York was developed from the Lancaster bomber. The British Overseas Airways Corporation (merged with British European Airways to form British Airways in 1974) operated all long-haul flights. Those of us who flew with BOAC still miss it while those of us of a certain age will also remember the Dinky diecast toy Avro York, made only between 1952 and 1954. Mine, a much-prized birthday present, had many take-offs and landings from an airfield drawn on a sheet of cardboard—none though with fish from Singapore.

BOAC Avro York
(from the British Airways Heritage Collection)