Saturday, 27 October 2012

Donors of Reptiles to London Zoo 1915: 2. John C Dendy

In the last post I described what I had found on Albert L de Lautreppe. This week, it is the turn of John C Dendy.

This is what Clin Keeling wrote:

All I know about Master J.C. Dendy (as he was described in the Occurrences Book) was that he lived at Vale Lodge, Vale of Health, Hampstead, London N.W.1, that he kept a large herpetological collection and that, on 16th July 1915, he presented it to the Society. It comprised Chicken, Wolf’s [sic], Tessalated [sic], Dark-green, Say’s, King, Aesculapian and Corn Snakes, Seps (a primitive skink believed by the Arabs of North Africa to be poisonous, in fact the word “septic” is derived from its name), Green and Six-lined Lizards, Horned “Toads”, two terrapins, and Edible Frogs. As I say this is all I have to go on, but I rather suspect he was a public school boy who, adding a few non-existent years to his age, had decided to go to war — a state of affairs by no means rare in the early stages of the conflict — and such evidence that there is suggests he did not come back.

Well, John C Dendy was clearly John Cantaned Dendy, the then 15 year-old son of Professor Arthur Dendy (1865-1925), Professor of Zoology at King's College, London. At the 1911 Census, the family was living in Weybridge, Surrey.

Arthur Dendy, with a degree from what became the University of Manchester, worked on sponges collected by the Challenger Expedition at the British Museum (Natural History), then at the University of Melbourne, Canterbury College, New Zealand (where John C was born) and Capetown, South Africa, before being appointed to the Chair at King's in 1905. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1908. Although his main work was on sponges and planarians (he collected extensively in Australia in New Zealand), he also worked on Peripatus and on the development of the Tuatara (Sphenodon). There are a number of websites covering Arthur Dendy (his obituary was in Proceedings of the Royal Society B 99 xxxiii-xxxv, 1926):

Arthur Dendy FRS

But what of John, born circa 1901 in New Zealand, who donated his collection to the Zoo at the age of 15? I can find no evidence of any involvement in the First World War or that he failed to survive. Indeed, his father's obituary states that he settled in South Africa. One of his journeys can be seen in the shipping lists available on family history websites. He and his wife arrived at Southampton in December 1949 from Captetown and returned four months later. His employment is shown as farmer. Did he retain an interest in reptiles while farming in South Africa? Was his early enthusiasm for reptiles gained from his father who worked on reptiles on New Zealand and in South Africa?