Sunday 31 March 2024

Pallas’s Squirrel on the Peak, Hong Kong

AJP photographed this squirrel on the Peak, Hong Kong island last week. I have written about Pallas’s Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) in Hong Kong before, including its origins as an escapee from the pet trade, and the possibility that some are natural re-introductions from across the border. This one, with the light tip to the tail is typical of the ones found on Hong Kong island. Compare this with one he photographed in the New Territories (here) with the black ‘spot’ in the tip of the tail. The red belly—often not that easy to see from the side—which is not a constant feature, can be seen in this one.

It has been argued that those in the New Territories are the subspecies C. e. styani and those on Hong Kong island are C. e. thai.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Günther's Frogs in Hong Kong. Start of the breeding season

 I have shown photographs of Günther's Frogs (Sylvirana guentheri) before but I could not resist these AJP photographed a few days ago at Tai Po Kau. I do not know why some individuals have the reddish back.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Australian Grass Parakeets: a colour plate from 1952

In the days when colour printing was extremely expensive, the Avicultural Society had special appeals for funds to support the appearance in Avicultural Magazine of the occasional colour plate. A well-known bird artist was then commissioned. Although the whole run of the Society’s magazines can be found online, the plates rarely see the light of day. Therefore I decided to show one, now and again, on this site. This is the 18th in the series.

– – – – – – – – – –

The artist of this plate was Neville William Cayley (1886–1950) well known in Australia for having produced the first full field guide to the birds of that country, What Bird is That ?, in 1931.

The accompanying note was written by Edward Jeffrey Boosey (1902-1969) who proceeded to tear the plate apart:

As is often the case with very prolific painters, however, his work as a bird artist tended to be of uneven quality, and I personally consider the accompanying colour plate one of his less successful efforts, as it cannot be called an accurate portrayal of either of the birds it depicts.

While I should hate to appear in the role of a carping critic, I do think the mistakes in the plate should be pointed out, as there has always appeared to exist a certain amount of confusion in people's minds when it comes to identifying the various species of Grass Parrakeets*….

Edward Jeffrey Boosey (a Boosey of the Boosey & Hawkes, music publishers) was a well known aviculturist. He and Alec Grantham Sagar-Musgrave-Brooksbank MC (1898-1967), known as Alec G. Brooksbank, had established Keston Foreign Bird Farm in Kent in 1927. Parakeets (stupidly now often called just ‘parrots’ by those who decide the common names of birds) and their breeding were a major interest.

Boosey described his experience of the Elegant Parakeet (Neophema elegans):

Elegants are among the most satisfactory of the Grass Parrakeets in confinement. I have kept and bred them regularly for the last sixteen years or so, and they were the only species of Grass Parrakeet we managed to keep going at Keston all through the war. They are also the only member of the Grass Parrakeet family to have become sufficiently well-established in a few people’s aviaries in this country for one to see young ones offered for sale at fairly regular intervals.

He had kept only one pair of Rock Parakeets (Neophila petrophila). Both became obese and produced only infertile eggs.

Judging by photographs online (I have seen neither species in the wild), Boosey was right. But then why did the Avicultural Magazine use the scarce resources available for printing colour plates  publish this plate?

Avicultural Magazine 58, 1952

*’Parrakeet’ was used by Avicultural Magazine but at some time must have changed to the now much more familiar ‘parakeet’. 

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Miss Waldron's Red Colobus: Any photographs or further information on Fannie Waldron?

 Having started this series with finding out who Miss Waldron was, I shall end it with a request.

I have come across no photographs of Fannie Waldron nor of any that she took, other than the few shown in Willoughby Lowe’s book. Does anybody have photographs or know if they still exist?

Robert William Hayman in his paper which named the monkey for Miss Waldron, states that she retained two skins of the African Golden Cat (now Caracal aurata), one of the grey (from Mampong) and one of the red (from Goaso) colour morphs. I winder what happened to them.

Hayman also saw a Gambian Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus gambianus) from Pong, Tamale, in the north of what is now Ghana. That was brought back alive and kept by Fannie Waldron. I wonder if anybody who worked for Fannie Waldron left tales of her keeping animals that she brought back?

Finally, having done two collecting trips with Willoughby Lowe why did she not carry on, perhaps attached to another collector? Lowe, as the last chapter covering the 1933-34 and 1934-35 expeditions in his book, The End of the Trail, shows had really reached the end of the trail. Did she try? Or was two a sufficiency?

I just end this series of articles, as so many others, with many unanswered questions.

 Clifford Lees’s Illustration of a Gambian Sun Squirrel for
Angus Booth’s Small Mammals of West Africa.
Longmans 1960.

Sunday 24 March 2024

Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus. Herbert George Flaxman Spurrell: Doctor, Collector, Author, Soldier, Secret Agent

As I showed in a previous article in this series, it was not Willoughby Lowe and Fannie Waldron who brought the first specimens of Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus to the Natural History Museum in London. The two specimens Herbert George Flaxman Spurrell (1877-1918) brought or sent to London in 1912 were recognised as belonging to the same taxon after or while those from the Lowe-Waldron expeditions of 1933-34 and 1934-35 were being examined.

Herbert Spurrell

Spurrell was an interesting character. I get the impression that he was another of those individuals who qualified in medicine but was not that committed to clinical practice, using the profession instead as a passport to being a naturalist in interesting places as well as to cogitate and write on evolution and human behaviour..

Herbert George Flaxman Spurrell was born on 20 June 1877 in Eastbourne, Sussex. His father was an architect in practice in the town. He was educated at Merton College, Oxford, with clinical studies at the London Hospital. He qualified in 1907 with the Oxford MB BCh degrees having already become an Oxford MA. The age of 30 seems very late to qualify, creating the impression that he was not that eager and very much fitting the image of the ‘perpetual student’ doing other things of greater interest. Indeed he wrote two novels (as Herbert Spurrell) after writing one work of non-fiction (see below).

Out of the Past was published Greening & Co in 1903. One reviewer from Eastbourne, the author’s home town was gushing:

The volume consists of three tales of a character so baffling, and dealing with an atmosphere of romance se archaic, that it is difficult—almost impossible—to assign to them a definite classification under any of the ordinary heads of fiction. Yet they are all vivid, full of stirring action, and palpitating with the passions of humanity—which, whether now, or in the neolithic period, have always been, and, we may take it, will alway be, the same…It is impossible to analyse these stories; they must be read and accepted for what they are—paleological romances of a buried age. They are unique, masterly and dramatic; and to fiction readers in search of novelty and excitement we can recommend them with the fullest confidence.

At Sunrise: A story of the Beltane, from the same publisher in 1904. Reviews were mixed:

The author has taken for the scene of his story the wilds of Dartmoor and for period the first century of the Christian era, when England was in the hands of the Romans. The hero is a Britain [sic] prince, who, carried a prisoner to Rome, and has there imbibed some of the civilization of the empire. He contrives to escape, and is brought by a merchant back to his native land. The plot is slight and unostentatious, and turns in the main on the love affairs of a Roman general and a native princess…The author writes in a pleasant and easy manner, knows well how to retain the interest of the reader, and shows considerable descriptive power.

There were no further novels.

In 1901, by which time he had the Oxford BA degree, he was clearly interested in the animal world. The National Archives has a copyright application form from him for a photograph of an Aesculapian Snake—a fitting species for someone pursuing medicine as a career.

The 1909 Medical Register (which would have been compiled in 1908) shows his address as 285 Corfield Street, Bethnal Green in London. Shipping records show he arrived in New Orleans on 24 October 1908 on a ship from Barbados, on which he had earned as passage as the ship’s doctor. He was going to Tulane University where he spent a year as Assistant Professor of Physiology. He was joining the former Oxford don Gustav Mann (1864-1921) who had moved there in the same year as Professor of Physiology. Mann was born in Darjeeling and graduated in medicine from Edinburgh. He moved to Oxford and was remembered thus:

McNalty…says that Mann was a German who lectured in a Teutonic accent, was dark, of middle height with a bushy moustache and thick-lensed spectacles. He was regarded as a wayward genius with an astonishing capacity for work. Mann reduced his diet to maintain his weight at seven stones, allowed himself only four hours of sleep per day and his mattress in the laboratory was an Oxford legend. But as a practical histologist he was regarded as the best of his time.

Mann also worked as an analyst for oil companies but in 1916 resigned from Tulane and went to work as an analyst and doctor in Tampico. Nature published a short obituary after his death in 1921 described his departure from Oxford as a ‘grievous loss to the progress of histology in this country’ but ended with the possible reason:

 …Too volatile to be largely productive in the ordinary way, his "Physiological Histology" is often the most thumbed book in laboratories where section cutting is taken seriously, and many grateful pupils will lament a real master whose determination to get himself disliked led him into so many troublous adventures.

It is not surprising that Spurrell followed Mann to New Orleans. In 1901 Spurrell  had written iwhile still a medical student, his first book, The Commonwealth of Cells, which he dedicated to ‘My esteemed friend and tutor, Gustav Mann MD etc’.

I cannot help but wonder why he did not stay in medical research. Whatever the reason we then find him travelling to and from the Gold Coast (Ghana) from 1909 relatively frequently. He was with his parents, by then living in Exeter, for the 1911 Census on 2 April. It was also in 1911 that his fourth book, Patriotism: A Biological Study (George Bell & Sons, London), was published.

 It was from the Gold Coast that he began taking or possibly sending live animals to London Zoo and dead ones to the Natural History Museum. He was already a Fellow of the Zoological Society. Spurrell’s medical obituarists (and those copying them for Wikipedia) clearly did not understand that such a fellowship was not bestowed by a Society for some worthy deed. The use of the term ‘Fellow’ for ordinary membership has given endless trouble over the years but which probably resulted in subscriptions from London’s wealthy wishing to indulge themselves in the supposed cachet of a postnominal combined with—until the middle of the 20th century—exclusive access to the Zoo on Sundays.

From 1910 until his death, Spurrell recorded his address as the Royal Societies Club, a gentlemen’s club in St James’s, with ‘travelling’ in parentheses. That club continues to be confused online with the Royal Society Club, an entirely different kettle of fish of which this writer happens to be one of the fish. I have not been able to find what sort of medical work Spurrell was doing in the Gold Coast. From the place of collection of animals for the Zoo it would seem that he must have been in Dunkwa for much of the time. In view of his later employment in Colombia, it is possible he worked as a doctor for one of the mining companies. Whatever the nature, Spurrell was awarded the Diploma of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1912.

Lists of the animals brought back by Spurrell for the Zoo are contained in ZSL’s Annual Reports for 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1912 (see below). For those ‘donations to the collection’ he was awarded the Society’s Silver Medal in 1914, along with three others.

Donations to the Zoo continued when he moved to Colombia in 1912 or 1913 (described in the Annual Reports of 1913 and 1914). There we can find what he was doing. He was based in Andagoya in the Chocó region. He was clearly working as the medical officer for a mining company since that area is a major source of platinum and gold. In a ship’s passenger list he gives as his contact a fried, F. W. Leighton. Frederic William Leighton (1893-1943) can be found in genealogical searches. He was a mining engineer, trained in metallurgy and assaying who was born in Lydiard Tregoze in Wiltshire. He died in Medellín, Colombia but was living in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Leighton had married Bertha Eraerts in 1916.

While in the Gold Cost and Colombia, Spurrell brought or sent hundreds of specimens to the Natural History Museum, concentrating in Colombia on reptiles, amphibians and fish. George Albert Boulenger who worked through the collections and described the new species had a field day.

In October 1913 Boulenger wrote a paper in Proceedings of the Zoological Society describing the first collection brought back from Colombia:

Dr. Spurrell, to whom the Zoological Society is indebted for so many interesting additions to its collection of Reptiles, has now transferred his activity as a collector from West Africa to South America. The series of beautifully preserved Batrachians and Reptiles brought together by him during the first few months of his stay in the Choco, Colombia, and presented by him to the British Museum, is one of great interest and shows how much remains to be done in the exploration of that part of South America.

His job in South America seems to have ended around the end of 1915. He can be found in shipping records leaving Cartagena, Colombia on board the SS Carrillo bound for New York, where he arrived on 4 February 1916. On this manifest are particulars of his height (6’ 1”) complexion (fair), hair (brown) and eyes (grey). He is also recorded as being en route to London.

This is where the story gets more interesting. In his profile for the Royal Army Medical Corps appears the following: 

On his return from Colombia in 1915, Herbert was sent abroad by the Government on a secret mission…

Apart from the fact that his return was in early 1916 and not 1915, I have found no indication of what this secret mission was. However, shipping records show that he returned to New York very quickly after returning to UK on 4 February. He left Liverpool on 18 March 1916 on the Cunard’s Glasgow subsidiary company’s Anchor Line’s SS Tuscania (torpedoed in 1918 by a German submarine with the loss of American troops bound for Europe). This must have been the secret mission but what was he doing? Was it something to do with gold or platinum? Who sent him? What did he achieve?

Because he brought two reptiles back from the USA we know that he must have reached London Zoo by 3 May. Therefore, whatever he did for the government in the USA it happened in April 1916. He may have bought the two reptiles for the Zoo but if he found them, they both occur in and around Texas. Was his mission there? 

On 23 August 1916 he left for Sekondi and the familiar territory of the Gold Coast. His RAMC profile says he was Temporary Medical Officer at Obussi [Obuasi], another major gold mining town. On 1 June 1917 he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Spurrell’s final book, back to non-fiction, Modern Man and his Forerunners was published by G. Bell & Sons of London in 1917, a couple of months after joining the RAMC; he had written the book between 1912 and 1916. It was well received in a review in Nature of 6 September but less so, despite agreement with the author on some important points, by the anthropologist, Alfred Cort Haddon, in Eugenics Review who considered some of the arguments on the development of social systems ‘facile’.

Spurrell arrived in Egypt on 23 November 1917. The Royal Air Force was founded on 1 April 1918 and Spurrell is shown as being attached to the RAF, serving on its medical board in Egypt, a function he had presumably undertaken for the Royal Flying Corps. He was promoted to Captain in June 1918 but then died of pneumonia at No 19 General Hospital, Alexandria on 8 November, three days before the Armistice. He was 41. He is buried at Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery.

Herbert Spurrell’s name lives on in a number of eponymous species. The list is shorter than it was in the 1910s and 20s as some have been lumped into other species with priority over the specific name. Examples are Scops spurrelli lumped into Otus icterorhynchus, the Sandy Scops Owl; Graphiurus spurrelli into Graphiurus lorraineus, Lorraine's African Dormouse;  Kinosternon spurrelli into K. leucostomum, the White-lipped Mud Turtle

A number of eponym’s have survived these taxonomic revisions either in the scientific name or the common name. Examples are in the Eponym Dictionary of Mammals, of Reptiles and of Amphibians. Examples are: Spurrell’s Free-tailed Bat, Mops spurrelli; Spurrell’s Woolly Bat, Kerivoula phalaena; Chestnut Long-tongued Bat, Lionycteris spurrelli; Colombian (Butterfly-head) Coral Snake, Micrurus spurrelli; Spurrell’s Worm Lizard, Amphisbaena spurrelli; Spurrell’s Leaf Frog, Agalychnis spurrelli;  Condoto Stubfoot Toad, Atelopus spurrelli.

A fish named for him from West Africa, Fundulopanchax spurrelli (now, it seems, F. walkeri spurrelli), as well as insects, represent some of other specimens Spurrell donated to the Natural History Museum. 

 Spurrell’s Free-tailed Bat
© Jakob Fahr, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)


The following is a list of the species donated to London Zoo by Herbert Spurrell. A current common name and scientific name are given instead of the originals.


Gambian Pouched Rat Cricetomys gambianus
Crested Porcupine Hystrix cristata
Small Sun Squirrel Heliosciurus punctatus
White-spotted Fire-footed Rope Squirrel Funisciurus pyrropus leucostigma
Lorraine's African Dormouse Graphiurus lorraineus
Campbell's Mona Monkey Cercopithecus campbelli
Bosman’s Potto Perodicticus potto
Two-spotted Palm Civet Nandinia binotata
Bay Duiker Cephalophus dorsalis
African Wood-owl Strix woodfordii nuchalis
Fraser’s Eagle-owl Bubo poensis
Congo Serpent Eagle Dryotriorchis spectabilis
Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus
African Green-pigeon Treron calvus sharpei
Forest Hinge-back Tortoise Kinixys erosa
Banded Leaf-toed Gecko Hemidactylus fasciatus,
White-lipped Skink Trachylepis albilabris
Senegal Chameleon Chamaeleo senegalensis
Spotted Blind Snake Afrotyphlops punctatus
Emerald Tree Snake Hapsidophrys smaragdina
Yellow-throated Bold-eyed Tree Snake Thrasops flavigularis
Smith’s African Water Snake Grayia smithii
Forest Vine Snake Thelotornis kirtlandii
Western Bush Viper Atheris chlorechis
Western Green Mamba Dendraspis viridis
Gaboon Viper Bitis gabonica
Rhinoceros Viper Bitis nasicornis
Forest Cobra Naja melanoleuca
Six-barred Panchax Epiplatys sexfasciatus


Large-nosed wood turtle Rhinoclemmys nasuta
Spotted Worm Lizard Amphisbaena fuliginosa


Florida Cooter Pseudemys floridana
Texas Horned Lizard Phrynosoma cornutum

Gliding Tree Frog Agalychnis spurrelli
Gatomoteado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday 17 March 2024

Miss Waldron's Red Colobus: Who was R W Hayman who first described and named the monkey?

The man who named Miss Waldron's Red Colobus was Robert William Hayman of the Natural History Museum in London. Although his dates were not known at the time of writing of the Eponym Dictionary of Mammals in 2009, I see somebody must have found them since they do appear in articles online.

Hayman is an interesting case study of the organisation of science in Britain in the 20th century and of how it was possible for boys to rise to a position of leader in the field without being admitted to the full status of ‘scientist’.

Robert William Hayman was born on 11 November 1905 in Fulham, London, the son of James Hayman, a cheesemonger and then provision merchant born in Otterton, Devon, and his wife Eleanor Louise. He was one of nine children. The family lived at 6 Crondace Road, Fulham. Hayman was educated at Harwood Elementary School and then, from September 1917 until 22 December 1920 at Latymer Upper School.

On 29 December 1920, when the title of the establishment was British Museum (Natural History) and it was still controlled by the classicists of the Bloomsbury edifice, the London Gazette announced that Hayman, aged 15, was appointed ‘without competition’ as Boy Attendant. In the 1921 Census, a few months after he began work, possibly on 1 January 1921, he is living at home  in Fulham and shown as working as an ‘articulator’ at the Museum with Asst [Assistant] in brackets. In other words he was preparing skeletons for exhibition. The Census return also showed that he was in part-time education, probably some form of evening classes. In 1924 the London Gazette announced promotion to Attendant, again without competition.

The announcement of the most junior of jobs (male sorting clerk in the Post Office, for example) illustrates just how seriously employment at any level in the Civil Service was taken. Attendants did the menial jobs. In 1928 for the more senior and capable Attendants a new grade was introduced, Technical Assistant.  It was the latter who were encouraged to take on curatorial duties.

Hayman must have been highly regarded because we find him travelling First Class to Mombasa in  January 1930 on board the SS Adolph Woermann. The Smithsonian in Washington DC has information on what he was up to:

Photographs of a 1930 expedition to Uganda, Eastern Belgian Congo [Democratic Republic of Congo], and the Sudan to collect zoological and botanical specimens for the British Museum of Natural History. Approximately 240 photos, mostly labeled, on front and verso. A newspaper article about the expedition tipped in. Descriptions detail a combination of location and subject matter. Photographs depict terrain (coast lines of lakes and rivers), vegetation, specimens collected (wart hogs), candid images of local staffing (i.e. gun bearers, porters) and hunters, group portraits of "half-pygmies" from Ruwenziri mountains, members of expedition (some identified),and specimen preparation…

It was as a result of collecting during that expedition that his name was given to a species of tree mouse but Dendromus haymani is now considered a synonym of another species.

By 1935 Hayman was being given responsibility for working through collections in order to identify hitherto undescribed species and subspecies, and to name them. In his paper on the Lowe-Waldron collections he thanks Martin Hinton (1883-1961) for giving him the opportunity. Hinton was Deputy Keeper of the Zoology Department at the time and shortly to become Keeper. 

In the 1939 Register (the emergency census of 29 September just after the outbreak of war) shows Hayman was living at 16 Hackbridge Park Gardens, Sutton, Surrey, with another employee of the Natural History Museum and the latter’s sister. His occupation is shown as ‘Civil Servant Technical Work’ and in red ink has been added ‘Natural History Museum’. He was also a Volunteer in the Fire Service.

Hayman was also involved in the evacuation of preserved specimens from London to caves at Godstone, Surrey in 1941/42. He must also have taken part in the evacuation of dry specimens to a number of country houses from 1940: The mammals ended up in:  Huntercombe Place (later removed to Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire; Herriard Park, Hampshire; Red Rice, near Andover, Hampshire, and then Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire; Theddon Grange  and then Clatford Lodge, Hampshire; Althorp Park, Northamptonshire; Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire; How Caple, Herefordshire; South Warnborough Lodge, Hampshire then to Swallowfield Park, Berkshire; Weston House, Bagshot, Hatton Hall, Ashney, Charlecombe, all at Bagshot and all all houses on Sir John Ellerman's estate. The logistics of doing all that in wartime do not bear thinking about.

Hayman can be seen from reports to have been active in various natural history societies around London and East Anglia.

In the postwar years Hayman was co-author of a number of major papers on mammals that were published from the Museum and is particularly remembered for his work on bats. The size of some of these works is remarkable. For example, the two volumes of The Families and Genera of Living Rodents written with the reclusive shipping line owner and devoted voluntary worker at the Museum, Sir John Reeves Ellerman (1909-1973) and George William Charles Holt (1897-1975), another technical assistant, ran to 1417 pages.

As well as these large works, Hayman commented more widely on issues of identification and taxonomy. One amusing example, published as a letter to Nature in 1957 (Rabbits in Africa, 179, 110) was the claim that the Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, had been found living successfully living ‘within two degrees of the equator” in Central Africa—an account incorporated into the 1956 book on the rabbit by Harry Thompson and Alastair Worden in the New Naturalist series. The person who set that hare running (in a rare case of both literally and metaphorically) was Geoffrey Douglas Hale Carpenter (1882-1953) in a 1925 letter to Nature. Carpenter, a medical man and entomologist, became well known for his work on mimicry and the book he wrote with E.B. Ford in 1933. Carpenter claimed to have found a well-established colony of rabbits at Masindi, Uganda. Hayman wrote to put the record straight:

In 1928 Capt. C.R. S. Pitman, then game warden of Uganda, collected a series of rabbit-like animals at Masindi. He described them as being abundant along grassy roads at night. The specimens formed the basis of the description by J. St. Leger of a new lagomorph under the name Lepus marjorita. The characters of skin and skull separated it clearly from other hares and rabbits. Later, St. Leger raised the new species to generic rank, Poelagus, on the basis of skeletal characters. Later, St. Leger reported another race of P. marjorita from south-west Sudan, near the Belgian Congo border, and Hatt has recorded it from north-east Belgian Congo on the evidence of specimens collected in 1912. Superficially there is a resemblance to the European rabbit; but closer examination shows that its characters are perfectly distinct.

In view of these facts, it seems that Hale Carpenter's report of European rabbits in Uganda was based on a misidentification of Poelagus marjorita, and this misleading claim should now be rejected. 

Nature in 1953 carried the following news:

The Zoological Society of London, at the request of the Colonial Office, arranged a study-leave course during the month of September for selected members of the Colonial Service in Africa; those attending came from game, veterinary and forestry departments. The course was designed to help the members of those services who wish to do some serious work on the African fauna, particularly the mammals, but need some assistance and guidance in setting their steps in the right direction.

The course consisted of lectures, demonstrations and practical work; it included instruction on elementary anatomy and physiology, reproductive cycles, parasites, classification, ecology and the techniques of field-work. Prof. E. C. Amoroso (Royal Veterinary College) and Mr. R. W. Hayman (British Museum (Natural History)) collaborated with the Society's staff: it is hoped that similar courses will be arranged in future years.

Hayman was elected an honorary Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1963.

In 1947, those employed in the Natural History Museum were assimilated into the ‘Scientific Civil Service’. The senior staff (Keepers etc) were placed in the Scientific Officer Class, while the Technical Assistants were in the Experimental Officer Class. It was virtually impossible to move between the two classes. Thus, while being indistinguishable in terms of scholarship from a Scientific Officer, Hayman remained in the Experimental Officer class until he retired. However, what was remarkable about him was the seniority he achieved within that four-point class.

In his history, The Natural History Museum at South Kensington, published in 1981, William Thomas Stearn (1911-2001) wrote of Hayman (while getting his birth date wrong by two years): ‘…who joined the Department in 1921 as a Boy Attendant and who retired in 1967 as a Chief Experimental Officer’. A Chief Experimental Officer was a very rare beast indeed. Career Grade was two grades below (Experimental Officer) and promotion even to Senior Experimental Officer was difficult and unusual. Hayman must not only have been very highly regarded within the Museum itself but also by those on the external promotion and grading panels that controlled the promotion system.

Had Hayman retired 4 years later he would have found himself a Scientific Officer when the two classes were merged in 1971 as a result of the Fulton Report. He would have found himself a Principal Scientific Officer, the career grade for the former Scientific Officer Class.

Incidentally, it is somewhat paradoxical that dead animals in British museums are looked after by Curators under the direction of Keepers while live animals in zoos are looked after by Keepers under the direction of Curators.  The opportunities for solecisms by an unsuspecting visitor to the museum world are great. I was told the story of an animal dealer who took some frogs to the Museum to be identified. While there he reported to his friends ‘a bloke came in and said he was a Keeper. He had a lovely suit on. I don’t know how he could afford that on a keeper’s wages’.

ROBERT WILLIAM HAYMAN  FLS died on 25 February 1985. He was then living at 71 Mill Street, Ottery St Mary in Devon, eight miles from where his father was born.

Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2009. The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hayman RW. 1935: On a collection of mammals from the Gold Coast. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London.1935, 915-937.

Wheeler A. 2000. The zoological collections of the British Museum (Natural History) - evacuation of the collections during the war years 1939-1945. Archives of Natural History 27, 115-122.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Hong Kong: Male Asian Swallowtail

AJP sent this photograph of an uncommon butterfly he saw three weeks ago in a park in Kowloon Tong. It is a male Asian  Swallowtail, Papilio xuthus. Hong Kong is at the southern edge of its range in Asia. I have previously shown a photograph of a female he found in the same park in 2021.