Friday 27 March 2015

Aquarists and Fish-keeping in the 20th Century. Part 4: Eric Hardy

This article from the Golden Jubilee (October 1974) edition of The Aquarist and Pondkeeper by Eric Hardy (1912-2002) covers the activities of amateur aquarists as field naturalists and microscopists in the early to middle decades of the 20th Century. The Editor, Laurence E. Perkins, added the note on Eric Hardy which is also reproduced here. I have added further information to that note.

Eric Hardy when leading a
Field Study Group in
North Wales
Fifty Years On. Memories of Progress in the Water World by Eric Hardy, President of the Merseyside A.S.

The golden jubilee of The Aquarist is a milestone in publishing history. In 1924, the hobby was truly for the "Amateur" Aquarist. Those of us whose parents didn't hold shares in wartime aircraft industries had little spare cash. It was a time of cold-water and marine aquaria before the advent of electrically-heated tropicals. More tanks were stocked then to study the natural history of native species than for anything like modern fish-shows. There wasn't a foreign fish in Liverpool Museum's public aquarium whereas they dominate its present aquarium. I never knew of the old M.A.S. holding a single pre-war fish show.
     The microscope was still in its heyday as a toy. From Manchester and Birmingham more people went pond-dipping, not for Daphnia to feed their fish, but for rotifers and diatoms to set up on slides to amuse their winter evenings. Only 4 years younger than the Quekett, Liverpool Microscopical Society then had 150 members: nowadays its surviving few meet around one table. It was still two years before Merseyside's first Aquarium Society was formed by the late Fred Jefferies, an Aquarist referee on pond-plants. It was a year after I represented my school at a special lecture in the British Association's meeting in Liverpool. I well remember the fascinating discourse, on the common snail, illustrated with a microscope-slide of its radula, or ribbon-tongue, projected on the screen in the old Picton Hall.
     A striking change has been many more women sharing the hobby of fish-keeping. Societies were full of lonely old maids, particularly hopeful teachers, who seldom took office. What old fogies they were (and the men!). No field-meetings were permitted on Sundays. The toll of the 1914-18 war left an appreciable gap of young men between 20 and 40, unlike the aftermath of the last war. From his home in Astonville Street, Southfields, A. E. Hodge built up The Aquarist at 1/- a quarter to attract the more far-seeing naturalists rather than these worshippers of tradition out of touch with the future. It was quoted widely in scientific works on botany and entomology as well as freshwater fishes.
     There were a few lady pioneers. In 1918, Miss Annie Dixon began her watery life collecting protozoa from the green, peaty pools on Lindlow common, near Wilsmlow, now a built-up Manchester dormitory. In recent years, the M.A.S. has held field-trips to Anglesey and Birmingham water-plant nurseries whereas in 1931 the old M.A.S. went collecting no further than for pond-beetles and water-crickets by the Manchester Ship Canal at Warrington, stocking their tanks with minnows, roach and perch from now polluted Padeswood Lake at Buckley in North Wales, Liverpool's nearest haunt of palmated newts. Or collecting bullheads and nine-spined sticklebacks, and sweeping netfuls of dragonfly-larvae, pond-skaters and Planorbis shells from the now filled-in brackish pool behind Leasowe Embankment, by the Wirral sea. The latter pool was famous for water-spiders, which fed on the swarms of Gammarus.
     I wrote an article that year on Jefferies' current efforts to start his public aquarium at New Brighton. I still have lots of his notes and letters. Captain W. O. Hopewell's liner was then bringing "swops" from New York Aquarium, like a short-nosed bony garfish, rarely seen in British aquaria. There were no trade shipments arriving from Singapore like nowadays. In 1931-2, members put in 2,285 working hours, an average of 44 per week, reminiscent of the present society's band of workers for their annual fish-feat, always the best amateur exhibit in Liverpool Show. The old aquarium reared 150 young from a hatch of the apuana variety of alpine newt, the only stock then in the country.
     People who wished to delve in ditchwateristics before Jefferies started his aquarium society had to join a rather expensive and aloof Biological Society, meeting at the university. It has since withered away. It pioneered in marine biology to the neglect of freshwater life, a position the university reversed in recent years.
     By the mid-30s, however, things were very different. Though without the present jobs for the new boys, conservationists were active enough to get the 1937 export of Chinese white cloud mountain-minnows banned. Then the Malayan government limited the export of harlequin fish to bona fide dealers under quota. Breeding and showing tropical fish was extensive. Pre-blitz Brighton Aquarium attracted the trippers in at the standard public aquarium charge of 6d a time, while Liverpool Museum aquarium extended its exhibits to sub-tropical reptiles and an alligator-tank. Worksop transported Mr. Sutcliffe's aquarium from Grimsby to Memorial Avenue park, as a public venture. East London A.S. fish-show was one of the annual events, doubling its size to 34 classes opened by the Mayor of Barking. In his Richmond, Surrey, garden, my friend the late L. G. Payne had probably the first amateur open air vivarium outside Whipsnade's walled and moated rockery of snakes and lizards. He was in a bank.
     The biggest changes since 1924, apart from tropical imports, have been in our native water-life and our access to ponds and waters. These have been filled in by speculative urban building estates and drained by improved rural farming, to the loss of much aquatic plantlife (especially in Cambridgeshire). In the March 1937 edition of The Aquarist I mentioned finding natterjack toads from the Solway marshes to the West Lancashire dunes below Southport, Leasowe and Hilbre in Cheshire and to Prestatyn. The latter haunt has gone and vigorous efforts are now being made to save the remnants at the others. In March 1940, I wrote of water-beetles. By 1960 DDT sprays had reduced them from many old haunts. The Severn has been occupied by barbel and the chub exterminated from the Dee. Little ringed plovers have come to nest by many gravel-pits and inland pools, and creeping New Zealand willowherb has travelled alongside mountain streams.
     It is in the interests of fish-keeping and freshwater biology that The Aquarist should survive the next half-century. It is one of the few good links between amateur and professional aquarists. There is still much useful work done by life-long amateurs with a great background of field-experience or tank-work in a special area or subject. Professionals only too readily admit this when they find how much time-consuming work there is in field-work, and seek the amateur's time and experience to fill-in their grant-aided surveys and theses. If all the people working on natterjack toads, from biology to conservation, in south-west Lancashire alone would sit around a table and discuss their studies and problems amicably, there would be less suspicion and jealousy behind the scenes.
     Such a medium brings the fish-keeper to appreciate the ecologist's approach to the subject and the, perhaps a little snobbish and aloof, university student, or Ph.D., to tolerate the fish-show. After all, the late Dr. Francis Manning, from Cheshire, began, before he got his B.A. and Ph.D., as an enthusiastic pre-war member of Belle Vue Aquarium Society, where I first met him going to its shows and eagerly awaiting each new issue of The Aquarist. Fortunately, it has never descended to the wise-cracking almost illiterates of some North American pet-keeping magazines. Our only fear is the steeply-rising cost of printing and publishing specialist magazines, which can never hope to be a profitable venture. I would finally add that I am grateful that writing since pre-war in The Aquarist (and now defunct Water Life) brought me many new friends, but not, I hope, any enemies! I have brought home some of the interests and pleasures of my visits to the ponds and rivers, which I exchanged for the laboratory many years ago, and shared them with the readers of my notes. My typewriter has not always been such a tripewriter as proclaimed by critics of my stubborn stand for the right of every amateur, to study natural history in the countryside.

The Editor added: 

It is 54 years of fieldwork since Eric Hardy wrote the nature notes in his junior school magazine in Liverpool and over 40 since he began contributing to The Aquarist. The printed 1933-34 report of the council of the old pre-war Merseyside Aquarists' Association thanked him by name for his practical help. He has taken an active part in many natural history societies since pre-war and was among the handful of Lancashire naturalists who met in a room in Manchester University in February, 1962, and decided to call an inaugural meeting to form the Lancashire Naturalists' Trust, though he took no office in it. He has normally never taken more than a working position with societies, except when he accepted an honorary membership of Liverpool University Biological Society in 1940, and presidency of the post-war Merseyside Aquarist Society in 1959 and again in 1973-74. For two years he was honorary secretary of the Jerusalem Naturalists' Club and for over 21 years a Ministry-appointed member of Lancashire & Western Sea Fisheries Committee. Since 1935 he has been an annual tutor in natural history for the W.E.A. in Lancashire, Cheshire, etc.; he is also a part-time tutor for Liverpool University Institute of Extension Studies, and has been a past tutor for Oxford University department of extra mural studies. First broadcasting in 1936, he now gives a twice weekly "Countryside" programme on B.B.C. Radio Merseyside. Author of a number of books, his latest is "The Naturalist in Lakeland" (David & Charles, 1973). He formerly edited "Nature Lover" and other nature magazines, has written for a number of newspapers and magazines since pre-war, often in controversial vein, believing strongly in the right of all conservationists and serious fieldworkers to participate in natural history and is an opponent of class distinction and privilege in natural history. He is on the Lancashire executive of the C.P.R.E. A Royal Signals officer (Army Pigeon Service) in the last war, he organised a scheme for army naturalists serving in the Middle East to collect specimens for the British Museum and Jerusalem University, and to participate in field expeditions. His wide interest in life sciences ranges from freshwater and marine fishes, especially British, to aquatic plants (he writes the weekly garden feature in Manchester Evening News), birds, reptiles and amphibians. In 1949 he addressed the Federation of Northern Aquarium Societies' assembly at Manchester Belle Vue, on his studies of the fishes and aquatic life of the Jordan and Dead Sea waters. He formed the Merseyside Naturalists' Association in 1938 and has been its honorary secretary ever since. He has lectured to numerous schools and societies all over the country. He is a Life Governor of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

I have to confess that I was not a fan of Eric Hardy’s series in the Aquarist. He was very widely read and had an enormous knowledge of the natural world. But the articles mainly contained just snippets and jumped from topic to topic without taking breath; my overwhelming thought on reading them was either ‘And…?’ or ‘So What?’. Some of his views I disagreed with and my impression then, and not knowing what I do know of his extremely valuable activities to promote the study of the natural world, was that he was immensely knowledgable and gifted amateur naturalist but one who carried a very large chip on his shoulder. Unfair or not, that view seemed to be reinforced with every copy of the Aquarist that I read.

There was a similar series of articles published in Water Life in the 1950s by a writer using the pseudonym 'Aquaticus'. I am completely convinced that Hardy was the author of these articles.

There has been some activity since Eric Hardy’s death to celebrate his achievements as a field naturalist in the the Liverpool area. In the Footsteps of Eric Hardy, a book published in 2008 containing Hardy’s articles and edited by David Bryant is available from Amazon. The book, together with some photographs, is described on the website of the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, an organisation founded by Hardy in 1938. You can hear one of his radio programmes on the Knutsford Ornithological Society’s website. He has a nature trail in Merseyside named after him.

Aquarists and Fish-keeping in the 20th Century. Part 3: Morris Davall Cluse

This third article from the Golden Jubilee edition of The Aquarist and Pondkeeper is by M.D. Cluse. Morris Davall Cluse was born in Islington, London, in 1903 and died in Derbyshire in 1977. He was the son of William Sampson Cluse (1875-1955), Labour Member of Parliament for Islington South and at the 1911 Census a printing compositor*. I have also found an article by Morris Cluse on the local history of north London.

The enthusiasm for competitive fish shows and aquarist societies shown by A.E. Hodge is evident in this and other articles. Both the Aquarist and Water Life were involved in sponsoring fish shows. Combined fish and bird shows were held. I have never had any time for the mentality of the bird and fish fancy, or for any other sort of fancy based on artificial selection to achieve an ‘ideal’ bodily form or colour. Pages and pages of the Aquarist were filled with show results every month and I shudder even now when I see them. What a waste of time and talent, and what monstrosities the bird and fish fancies, not to mention the dog, have produced. The only saving grace is, perhaps, that these societies of fish fanciers were just about the only way of gaining knowledge in the days of very few and very expensive books.

From Sticklebacks to Tropicals and on to Goldfish by M.D. Cluse (President Goldfish Society of Great Britain)

Fifty years ago there occurred an event which transformed the scene for the amateur aquarist. It led to the first organisation of aquarists in Britain, which in turn led to the staging of the first aquarists, shows open to the public, and later to the drawing up of the first British standards for fancy goldfish. I refer, of course, to the publication of the first issue of the Amateur Aquarist, edited by the late A. E. Hodge, whose enthusiasm, imagination and optimism were to have such catalytic effects. I am probably one of the very few people now active in the aquarists' world, who bought that first issue. It had a profound and lasting effect upon my life interests and my friendships. Perhaps, therefore, it is appropriate that I should recall for the benefit of present readers, what things were like, half a century ago, so that they may appreciate the big changes which have occurred.
     Although living in the built-up area of Islington, North London, my interests were of a "naturalistic nature" and like many boys and girls at that time, I collected specimens of many living things. Some took up botanising or egg collecting, but others whose environment did not permit this, collected caterpillars and butterflies, or searched the ponds and streams for aquatic creatures. In my case it entailed long walks and train rides to visit places in the Lea Valley. Using my hands, I caught sticklebacks, stone loach, tadpoles, frogs, toads, newts, water snails, and water insects. I collected water plants of various kinds. At first the very small aquarium I had proved inadequate, but it was possible to buy "bloodworms" in a portion of leaf mould (really intended for cage birds). Then my father purchased a second-hand all glass aquarium, about eighteen inches long. This emboldened me to make visits to the emporium of Mr. B. T. Childs, who had a shop in Pentonville Road near King's Cross station with supplies for anglers and aquarists. He stocked many British and foreign coldwater fishes suitable for aquaria and ponds. Over several years I brought home Prussian and ordinary carp, roach, gudgeon, tench, minnows, etc. At first there were many stinking disasters because of overcrowding, wrong foods and putting in plants, although the aquarium was poorly lit (no electricity). My father who was my aider and abettor in all this, brought home a second-hand book, The Aquarium, by J. E. Taylor, published in 1901 and largely relating to aquarium keeping (including public aquaria) in the latter part of the nineteenth century. This was a great help to me as I had read nothing on the subject previously. I learnt about the volume of water required by each fish and how public aquaria were aerated. But we had no electricity and the various electrical gadgets now available were not known then. I had never seen a pool in a garden, but by the time I was eighteen years of age I had constructed a coffin-shaped concrete pool about six feet long into which I put various kinds of British freshwater fishes and I soon observed how they loved to gather into the stream of water gushing from the hose. I was cut off from all contact with other fishkeepers. Inevitably I made many mistakes and it is surprising that I persevered especially when we moved into a flat. No doubt there were thousands of aquarists like me who were struggling along in solitary ignorance and these would have included those who had progressed from the bowl of goldfish stage and anglers who had brought home alive some of their catch.
     In 1924 the first issue of the Amateur Aquarist was published and I probably obtained my copy from the shop of Mr. B. T. Childs. This publication and the issues which followed opened up new horizons for me. Moreover, for a subscription of 4s. 4d. per annum, one received four quarterly numbers post free, and also the right to participate in the activities of the British Aquarists Association such as meetings, lectures and rambles. Seven branches were soon formed. Four were in London, another in Birmingham (Hon. Sec, W. Harold Cotton), another at Norwich and one in Glasgow. I joined the North London branch at Wood Green and began my further education. Not only did I see other people's aquaria, clean and bright with fishes previously unknown to me, but I was also taken on rambles to gather specimens and taught how to catch daphnia. For the latter operation our favourite spot was an old gravel pit which was being filled with rubbish. This was somewhere near the junction of North Circular Road and Cambridge Road (A10—not then constructed). None of us then had cars to transport our cans and so we went by push-bike or motor-bike. At this time and for many years my main mentor was Les Katterns. I visited the home of A. E. Hodge at Southfields. In his garden were a number of enclosures for tortoises, batrachians and reptiles. In his house were his aquaria and I can recollect some beautiful silver bream which I have not seen since that time in home aquaria. As a result of this communion between aquarists it was decided to organise an open show for aquarists in 1926. This was the first national open show for amateurs and possibly preceded local open shows. The venue was Sea Anglers Hall in Fetter Lane, E.C., which was later destroyed during the War. The classes were mainly for coldwater fishes for aquariums, but a good display of British pond fishes was put up by Mr. E. C. Le Grice, of Norwich. Some coloured casts of fishes were also put on view by Mr. A. Fraser-Brunner. Two vivid impressions stay in my mind. The first was a glass aquarium furnished with "giant anacharis" and containing specimens of what we would now call orange-metallic fantails. The second was my first viewing of tropical fishes. They consisted of green swordtails (wild type) and Lebistes (wild type). We knew the latter as rainbow fish, and they were used to combat malaria by eating mosquito larvae in tropical lands. D.D.T. had not been discovered at that time. The second annual exhibition was a five-day show and was held at Chelsea Polytechnic Hall and I was on the Show Committee. There were 12 classes for goldfish varieties, six classes for other coldwater fishes, six classes for tropicals (including only one class for livebearers!). (The name "guppy" gets mentioned here). Two classes for aquarium plants, two classes for batrachians and reptiles and two more for other aquatic creatures. In the meantime it had become obvious that membership of B.A.A. could not be given away with the subscription for the Amateur Aquarist, because the expenses of running shows and various other organisational costs made it necessary to call for a separate subscription, but leaving the A.A. as the organ of the B.A.A. I married in 1927 and dropped out of central committee work, but kept in touch by helping at shows, etc. The third Annual Exhibition was held at Trinity Hall, Great Portland Street, London, W.l for five days. Eventually B.A.A. got into financial difficulties and was unable to pay some of the bills which resulted from its annual shows.
     Somehow or other the association must have been reconstituted and went on to draw up the first British standards for fancy goldfish, but I was not interested in those at the time. Indeed, I had taken up tropical fish-keeping in a small way, accommodating them in a small garden shed with some glass panes in the roof. I had no electricity out there and so I heated three well insulated glass aquariums with two small oil lamps placed under the tanks. Of course I had some guppies which did not have fancy shaped finnage at that time (1933). I also bred black platies which in fact were half green. Somewhere around 1934 I acquired a pair of brick red swordtails which were a novelty at that time. They proved to be infertile hybrids. A large pet show was held in Olympia in November, 1934, and I must have been an official in the aquarists' section as I have a photograph from Cage Birds of me with the judges inspecting goldfish classes, although I was not particularly interested in gold fish at that time.
     Many local aquarists' clubs had been formed by that time and B.A.A. in 1935 attempted to group them together nationally with elected representatives on a  central B.A.A. committee.   As far as I am aware nothing came of this initiative, partly because of jealously local independence. In that year I moved to Potters Bar, where I had a large garden in which I constructed a pond and bred some shubunkins therein. Thereafter I dropped out of aquarist society affairs. Then came the War.
     After five years of black-outs, bombing, rocketing, rationing, "digging for victory" and Home Guard duties, without any holiday to get away from it all, I began to feel the need for some light relief. I was fortunate that my home was not badly damaged and that my places of work were not hit while I was there. Nevertheless, it was all a bit wearing. Then we began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The Allies had landed in Europe. The invasion of England was no longer feared and the Home Guard was stood down. The V2 rockets were still coming over at intervals, but as they gave no audible warning of their approach, they were not so psychologically detrimental as bombers and V1s.
     At the time"! worked near Gamages, which miraculously was virtually unharmed. I used to visit the store during my lunch times and found that in its aquarium department, there was a room devoted to tropical fishes. They must have relied on British bred fishes. Here I could lose myself in a world of fantasy and colour. So I bought a few platies and put them into a three gallon glass aquarium which I heated by partly immersing a blue incubator lamp bulb. Supplies of everything were very short or non-existent, so it was a case of make do or mend. I tried to trace some of the pre-war aquarists' clubs, but they seemed to have disappeared. Nevertheless, I continued to visit the tropical room at Gamages. Then occurred one of those quirks of fate which lead to a string of unforeseen consequences.
     I got into conversation with another aquariums gazer and asked him if he knew of any aquarists' clubs. It transpired that he lived in my road in Potters Bar and that there were three other aquarists who were his near neighbours and who kept tropicals and shubunkins. I soon joined this group and through them discovered some of the I.C.I. staff at Welwyn Garden City. So our little Potters Bar group used to travel there in my little Austin Seven with masked headlights. The Secretary was Harold Dunbar, a pre-war aquarist in London circles. There we met Bert Upchurch from Hitchin, who had managed to maintain his excellent strain of Bristol Shubunkins. We soon found that the number of kinds of tropical fishes available was very limited. Even aquarium plants were hard to come by and we acclimatised hormwort to tropical conditions. We managed to find small manufacturers of aquarium frames, but even then the glass was difficult to obtain because generally it was only being sold for the purpose of repairing bomb damage. When aquarists’ clubs were quickly reforming just after the war, Harold Dunbar who had contacts with various clubs was involved in the resuscitation of the F.B.A.S. and became its secretary. Gradually fishes and aquarists' appliances became available. Because of prodding and initiative of Harold Dunbar, it was decided to try an inter-club show to be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, 5th October, 1946 (most people worked on Saturday mornings then) in the Church hall in Potters Bar, which was roughly equidistant between the localities of the main participating clubs, Enfield, Enterprise and Herts. Each club or exhibitor to provide own tanks.
     As an entirely new innovation, twelve clubs competed in a furnished aquaria section. Their tanks (some of which leaked badly) were set out along the front of the stage. The Amateur Aquarist and Water Life each had a stand. The event was publicised through the F.B.A.S. We had no idea how many would attend, but it proved to be very popular. Too popular in fact. A coachload arrived from East London during the afternoon and as it was pouring with rain and there were no restaurants in Potters Bar, we allowed the crowd into the hall while our inexperienced helpers were setting up the tanks, installing the lighting and heating arrangements. It was most difficult to get from one end of the hall to the other and I had to ring a handbell to get quiet whilst I shouted instructions to the stewards.
     I met Len Betts for the first time as he was one of the judges and later this led him to invite me to join the Goldfish Society of Great Britain in 1948 when it was formed. I had to learn genetics, to select my breeding stock, to selectively cull the fry to improve the strains over several generations. All this was a new approach for me and absorbed my interest for the next quarter of a century. Despite the shambles at the Potter Bar show, it was regarded as a trial run which had broken the ice.
     The idea of inter-club shows caught on and show secretaries were able to learn from the mistakes made there. Having stirred all this up, Harold Dunbar departed for Australia and I heard from a recent visitor from Victoria, that he is now a leading light in the Aquarium Society there!
     The Editor invited contributions regarding the changes us veterans have witnessed. What I have written is one man's memories of things which are perhaps historical now, but I hope that I have not been too long or boring. I come back to A. E. Hodge. If he had not had the energy and initiative to start not only the first British magazine for aquarists, but also to have founded the first British Aquarists' Association, would the hobby in this country now be as supine as it appears to be in many European countries ?

*I am not sure how he would have fared as an M.P. today. He listed his mother, a widow, above his wife in the list of household members for the 1911 Census.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Aquarists and Fish-keeping in the 20th Century. Part 2: Jack Hems

This is the second article from the Golden Jubilee edition of The Aquarist and Pondkeeper, October 1974. This one is by Jack Hems. The editor wrote and introduction:

Jack Hems, who celebrated his 63rd birthday earlier this year, began to keep fish seriously at the age of nine when he lived in Bedford Park, London, W.4. His introduction to the keeping of tropicals was around 1932. He has lost count of the articles on aquarium fishes he has contributed to English and American journals over the last 40 years. Before the war he was Query (Aquaria) Expert to Exchange & Mart. His first article in the Aquarist & Pondkeeper appeared in the September/October issue of 1934. He has answered more than 8,500 readers' Tropical Queries to date. Author and co-author (with G. F. Hervey) of ten books on fishkeeping, Jack writes from experience and has kept several hundred species of tropicals over the years and has bred a few score, too.

Early Days of Aquarium Keeping Remembered by Jack Hems 

It takes more than a blitz and the property developers to erase from the memory some of the aquarium shops which were well known in London about the time when Rudolph Valentino held the female heart enthralled. Max Miller played to packed music-halls up and down the country, and horse-drawn vehicles and barrel-organs could still be seen and heard on the streets of Mayfair.
Perhaps the most fascinating aquarium shop in those less-troublesome days was the one situated half-way up the Pentonville Road. "B. T. Child, The World's Best Aquarium Maker". So ran its owner's advertisements in early issues of this magazine. Later, this piece of succinct information was altered to "B. T. Child, The Compleat Aquarist".
     Ben Child, as he was always known to his customers and the frequenters of the pub across the road, was indeed The Compleat Aquarist. For 113 Pentonville Road was  a veritable Aladdin's Cave of aquarium requisites and fishes. Furthermore, it was not uncommon to find Japanese Waltzing Mice and bird-eating spiders sharing the wooden counter with a stuffed tabby cat and a number of containers housing, say, yellow paludina snails, frog tadpoles and water spiders. Tins of maggots and other ephemera rustled or buzzed among dusty invoices, price lists, discarded pipe-cleaners and ledgers. As added attraction, Ben Child always maintained an excellent stock of reptiles and amphibians.
     Behind the shop a steamy room contained serried rows of iron-bottomed tanks base-heated by tiny gas jets. A few of the tanks housed a goodly variety of livebearers, some of which are seldom, if ever, seen today. In other tanks cichlids, big and small, cyprinids from the U.S.A. and Asia, anabantids and a fair sprinkling of oddities such as Synbranchus eels, butterfly fish and electric catfish backed away from too close an inspection of their transparent prisons.
     Towards the close of the 1920s, my schoolboy addiction to goldfish and sundry coldwater fishes had given way to a passion for aqua-vivaria. Hence one darkening autumn evening, after a day's work as a junior in a publisher's office in Holborn, I made my way to Pentonville Road with the firm intention of adding to my collection of Japanese newts. Instead, I came away with a pair of paradise fish from China.
     From that moment, I was hooked. I mean on tropical fish. My wonderfully coloured male fathered hundreds of progeny over the next four or five years and for these, like the fry of other easy species of warmwater fish which I bred in regular tanks or large glass jars (ex-battery cases), I received a few pennies each from interested dealers though, more often than not, I used them as currency to expand my collection. Thus five or six young rosy barbs were exchanged for a Corydoras paleatus, and so on.
     From Mr. Philip Castang, a most likeable dealer in a variety of livestock on Haverstock Hill, I ordered a tank of unconventional construction. It was long, tall and narrow, with a base of sheet iron for oil-heating. I covered the iron with a mixture of sharp sand and cement over which, after it had set, I applied several coats of black bituminous paint. Then, following plenty of soakings and changes of water, I introduced some young angel fish. I was fortunate enough to have the two sexes present and before a year was out a pair bred. I succeeded in raising a few dozen fry.
     In the late 1920s and early 1930s oil or gas was in common use for heating tropical tanks though submersible electric heaters had already made their appearance on the market. Mr. Leslie Katterns, a well-known aquarist-dealer of Kentish Town, used to advertise "Electric heaters with four different heats, and guaranteed". Some dealers even stocked German air and water pumps too.   For all that, pumps to aerate the water were not in general use except among a small minority of ordinary aquarists or those enthusiastic beginners who could afford them. The balanced aquarium still reigned supreme.
     Among the most inventive of aquarist-dealers was Charles Schiller, who installed tanks in Buckingham Palace, transatlantic liners and constructed and maintained the spectacular aquarium on the roof of Selfridge's famous store in Oxford Street. Understandably, this superb aquarium was dismantled before Hitler's Luftwaffe spread death and destruction over most of Europe.
The Schiller System of filtration was, I believe, the best then known, and the inspiration for many of the improvements in aquarium hygiene which came after the war.
     Mr. Schiller's aquarium shop, situated in a narrow court off Wigmore Street, was one of my favourite ports of call. His craftsmen-built tanks were never anything but beautifully planted and spotless and he specialized in rare fishes from all parts of the world. If I remember right, Charles Schiller was the first dealer to offer the neon tetra for sale, though he may have been beaten to the post by Messrs. Pope and Robertson, in nearby Weymouth Street. The initial importation of neons into England caused quite a sensation and resulted in quite a few write-ups in the national press. They retailed at a high price, were sold out within the space of a week or so but by 1936 went for a mere £3 a pair. Marine fishes from the Red Sea and south-east Asia were often seen about this time. The saltwater necessary for their well-being was the genuine article and was commonly taken from various points off the south coast.
     Previous to opening the shop in Weymouth Street, Mr. Pope was in charge of Gamage's aquarium department. Increasingly this great store offered for sale rare breeds of fancy goldfish, tropical freshwater fishes and tropical marines. I can still see in my mind's eye a massive tank housing several large Selenotoca multifasciata. For a decorative aquarium, these fish of the family Scatophagidae could hardly be bettered.    Why do we not see them now ?
     There were two routes to Gamage's fish department. One was through a maze of lawn-mowers, garden forks, and the like, while the other meant hurrying along a narrow passage crammed on both sides with boxes of soap, myriad bottles of scent and jars of cosmetics.
     Not unnaturally there was no shortage of dealers or part-time dealers who made extravagant claims in the aquarium press about the amazing variety of fishes they had for sale. Yet after journeying miles across London, on bus or tram, all that could be seen in these places never seemed to amount to more than some short-tailed guppies, common or gold, the ubiquitous Mexican green swordtail and moon platies.
     However, one dealer residing in Lordship Park almost always had what he advertised for sale. He traded under the name of S. Robinson, and it was not unusual to find some hundred or more different species of fish in his tanks. Quite a few years before the war broke out, I obtained from Mr. Robinson the spiteful black paradise fish (Macropodus opercularis concolor), the chocolate gourami, various puffers, Cutter's reasonably peaceful cichlid and 'new' livebearers such as the dainty little Quintana atrizona, the female of which species presented me with small batches of tiny fry every so often.
     Another magnet for the ardent hobbyist was a shop in Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea. The proprietor of this well-stocked shop introduced to aquarists the so-called water aspidistra (Anubias lanceolata). I bought a plant for the equivalent in old money of 38p and it took all of a year for one new rhododendron-like leaf to unfold. This very slow growth no doubt explains why species of anubias, good plants for a partial-shady position, are not easy to come by today.
Always keenly interested in submerged plants, I set about importing rarities from Al Greenberg's fabulous plant nursery and fish farm in Florida. It used to take about a fortnight for the plants I ordered to reach me and most of them arrived dead. All the same, the few rhizomes, corms or cut stems which survived the long journey justified the expense. At least I always thought so.
     There seems little doubt that I was the first aquarist to grow and bring to the attention of hobbyists in the British Isles the plant once known in America as the Texas Mud Baby (Echinodorus cordifolius). My article on the splendid plant, which was first brought to my attention in C. H. Peters' Home Aquarium Bulletin (U.S.A.), appeared under the erroneous name of Sagittaria guayanensis in the July-August, 1936 issue of this magazine. Boschmann of Rotterdam was another fruitful source of plant rarities. Now and again uncommon plants were to be found at Cura's. Before World War II, L. Cura & Sons (of goldfish fame) had a London depot in Clerkenwell. At Cura's one rang a bell to be admitted to what appeared to be a large warehouse. The atmosphere inside was about equal in temperature but not in smell to the great Palm House at Kew. A member or employee of the Cura family used to lead me from room to room in order to reach the fish I was intent on buying. On many occasions I had to step wide over boas and other large snakes lying S-shaped or piled in tight coils on the floor, or step inside to permit enormous tortoises to proceed in arthritic stumbles in every direction. Cura's always appeared to be better stocked with reptiles and amphibians than tropical fishes but a visit there was never a waste of time.
     Londoners of about my age will remember Gay's Noah's Ark,  a few hundred yards  from Waterloo Station and nearly as well-stocked with birds, mammals, fishes and other things behind glass or bars as Palmer's of Camden Town. Trestle tables on which reposed baths filled with pond plants, molluscs and Daphnia stood outdoors in nearly all weather. During the spring and summer months the display was much more varied, and it must have been a laborious task carrying all the terrapins, tench, gudgeon, young pike and so on to the safety of the shop at night. There was a greater choice of coldwater fish in the old days. De Von's of King's Cross Road usually had some ten or twelve different species in stock. A dedicated breeder-dealer was Mr. Campion of Acton Street, a few minutes' walk from De Von's. Show quality fancy goldfish were to be found here and a score or two of tropicals, all bred on the premises.
     My first book on tropical fishkeeping was published by Cage Birds & Aquaria World in 1935. Before this, however, articles of mine on tropicals had appeared in a wide variety of monthlies and weeklies published in this country and the U.S.A. And mention of the U.S.A. reminds me that through the kindness of the late William T. Innes, best remembered for his Exotic Aquarium Fishes, now in its 19th edition, I received one of the first four Amazon Sword Plants to come into this country. The other three went to W. S. Pitt, F. Austin Watson, then editor of The Aquarist, and that truly erudite aquarist, Mr. Barry Funnell of St. Leonards-on-Sea.
     What of present-day fishkeeping? Well, I find some of the commercialism which was not so blatant in the old days rather disturbing. For there is no question that a number of dealers appear to find a busy cash-register of greater importance than acquiring much knowledge about the livestock they sell. On the other hand, there are dealers in all parts of the country who are founts of knowledge—one not a few minutes' walk from Victoria Station, for example—and give of it freely to their customers.
     Probably in these inflationary times the emphasis must be on operating our lighting and heating systems as cheaply as possible. Which brings to mind a dealer who during the latter half of the 1930s had his business premises on Blackheath Hill. This dealer used to manufacture and market a specially built unit of tanks housed inside a plywood cabinet well-finished enough to stand in any room. The inside roof and part of the upper walls were lined with looking-glass. A few inches below the roof a few electric lamps were mounted. A few low wattage lamps were placed at floor level, that is under the bottom row of tanks. The heat inside this cabinet was tropical indeed and the light reflecting from the top bright enough to grow almost any plant. Perhaps some imaginative reader good with tools and aided by all the clever electrical apparatus and adhesives now on the market could improve on this innovation.    Clearly, it's worth a go.

Aquarists and Fish-keeping in the 20th Century. Part 1: Leslie Brooke Katterns

Interest in animals comes from all sorts of directions and influences at various stages of life. Professional biologists have become hooked in the past through hunting, through bird-watching, the cage bird fancy, keeping reptiles and amphibians and fish. Amateur naturalists have been enthused through similar routes.

In reading through old copies of the Aquarist (see my other site on the history of keeping reptiles and amphibians), the history of private aquariums during the last century becomes more clear, especially the boom that occurred in the late 1940s and early 1950s when an aquarium or a garden pond was seen as up-market and an activity to which all classes could aspire.

The activity also attracted collectors and the trade went to great lengths to satisfy the demand for newly discovered or newly imported species like the Neon Tetra or White-Cloud Mountain Minnow in the 1930s. Huge prices were paid by rich fishkeepers for the first imports and for a while the tropical fish trade resembled the Dutch tulip bubble of the 17th Century.

The Golden Jubilee edition of The Aquarist and Pondkeeper in October 1974 contained articles by a number of those involved in the London aquarist scene during the early years of the 20th Century. They provide a fascinating insight of the trade in tropical fish and the lengths dealers would go to in order to bring fish to the shops that were being established.

The first article, reproduced below, was by Leslie Brooke Katterns, a dentist turned aquarist who had a retail shop. Leslie Katterns was born on 24 March 1900 in St Pancras, London. He was the son of Walter William Katterns (1867-1946) a commercial traveller in the mantle trade, born in Epsom, Surrey, and Agnes Dickins (1865-1949) a mantle worker. Father and son both served in the First World War. Leslie Katterns married Gladys L. Holman in 1924; she died in 1949. He married for a second time in 1950. I cannot find a record of any children. He lived in the London area for many years but in the 1970s was living on Hayling Island, Hampshire. He was the author of several books on keeping fish and on garden ponds. He died in 1978.

This is his account:

L B Katterns
What It Did To Me

When one is in one's teens life ahead appears as a very long time filled with promise and hopes, each day having its part to play on the future be it good or bad and as the years pass by the future seems to diminish; this is no doubt due to the subconscious mind accepting the fact that we have one less day to live.
     The years steadily progress and we begin to look back and wonder where they have all gone and we analyse the past to see where we went wrong or what it was that helped us at the time it happened and maybe we shall find that there was some particular item which did much to shape the whole of our future. In my own case I have no doubt whatsoever as to what shaped my life for the last fifty years and I do not regret what has happened (although there were times when it all appeared rather pointless). Of course I refer to the publication of The Aquarist and Pond-keeper and the following will explain just how a magazine has directly and indirectly affected my whole life.
     I served in the Royal Sussex Regiment for two years during the 1914-1918 War at home and abroad and was demobilised in December 1919, returning to finish my training as a Dental Surgeon and at the same time I started to keep a few fish having been interested in this pastime since I was a young boy.
     This was quite a difficult hobby to take up as the only source of fish, and what goes with them, was the odd pet shop. These in turn were few and far between and only a small percentage of those that did exist had much in the way of fish to offer, a few goldfish and perhaps an odd one or two native fish which had been hooked and affected with fungus were the best one could expect to find and the main source of goldfish for the home was from the rag-and-bone men who gave them in exchange for whatever they collected.
     The sources of knowledge on the subject were very limited and the only periodical having articles was the Bazaar, Exchange and Mart and although very poor material by present day standards, they could help at times and the only text book of any use was Freshwater Aquaria by Rev. Gregory C. Bateman, A.K.C., published in 1890. It is now long out of print. In my opinion this book is one of the best ever published, it may be laughable in some ways but one will have to look hard to find a book which gives so much information in 350 pages and some of the illustrations can hold their own with any modern book.
     I used to get my needs mainly from a pet shop in Camden Town, north London and on a visit there in 1924 I saw the first issue of the Aquarist and Pond-keeper stuck on the front door. It was then called the Amateur Aquarist and consisted of very few pages and was printed on a pale green paper. It was this day and the purchase of the magazine that I see in hindsight that governed my future life to a very great extent. During the previous few years I had learned quite a fair amount but it had been done the hard way and the appearance of a magazine on the subject offered the opportunity of further knowledge and the possible contact with others with similar interests.
     It was after some months and a number of letters that I first met the editor, Mr. A. E. Hodge, at his home in Southfields, south west London, and we had a long discussion on our problems, mine being mainly on the need to get in touch with others having some practical experience and willing to exchange their findings. Mr. Hodge had problems of a different nature, having started something he had been thinking about for some years he was worried concerning his ability to keep it going through the difficult period that must attend such a venture in its early days.
     The main troubles appeared to be the need to get sufficient advertisements to cover the cost of production and contributors to supply articles, especially some on fish. Mr. Hodge was mainly interested in reptiles and he also had several friends with similar interests who were able to help in this field.
     Mr. Hodge, being a very persuasive gentleman, pointed out that the contents of some of my letters to him would form the basis of articles which would be informative to other readers, and judging by the years that followed he was right.
     Little did I realise what I had let myself in for. I started and did my best to pass on my very limited knowledge. This was more difficult than it may sound as I had never written a word before in my life that was to be printed and be available for anyone to read and I made up my mind that come what may I would never, under any circumstances, put anything in black or white that had not been personal experience or that of close friends where I had been able to verify all the facts, and to the present day I have never diverged from this resolution.   The need for people wishing to get together soon became obvious and Mr. Hodge was successful in finding a few people in the London area who would be willing to meet others at their homes to discuss matters relating to their hobby and dates were published when this would be convenient. I attended one of these meetings at Winkfield Road, Wood Green, north London, and we had only a few meetings before I was asked to give a talk. This was a further point in the future course of my life and within a further five or six years I found myself out several times a week on the same job and by 1950 I was rarely at home and my practice began to suffer. Ten years of such conditions coupled with the business activities in the aquatic world which had grown in a similar way made me decide to sever all club activities and I may say that in making this decision I felt that I had done more than my share to foster the hobby which in my mind was the best of all hobbies. Among the few advertisers in the early days was a firm offering live coldwater fish. It was L. Cura and Sons and at the time they were located at Bath Court, just off Rosebury Avenue. Today they have a large fish farm of over five acres at Hemel Hempstead and are wholesale only.
     I used to visit their premises, sometimes accompanied by other aquarists, to purchase fish once a fortnight and I think that I saw more varieties for the first time than anywhere else I visited during the early period of my aquatic activities. Previous to this we relied on trips out into the country to collect our fish. It was at the same premises that I first saw tropical fish and they consisted of two small tanks, one containing Zebras (Brachydanio rerio) and the other Guppy (Poecilia reticulatus).
The possibility of keeping tropicals appealed to me immensely and on the advice of Mr. Hodge I contacted Mr. Arthur Derham of Watford as being able to help me in this direction. Mr. Derham turned out to be a man of drive and vast experience and also a man with a great sense of humour (some of his early advertisements in The Aquarist prove this).
     We became great friends and I was able with his help to make contacts in Germany enabling me to get varieties of fish which were not available in this country. It was a great pity that I had not had this knowledge while I was serving in the Rhine Army.
     Mr. Derham and myself combined resources to import fish from Germany which in those days had to be done by boat. They took two days in coming and losses were about 75% making the fish more costly than they are today. However, we did get enough to enable us to build up stocks as one of us usually managed to breed from the varieties we acquired.
     We both had considerable correspondence, mainly from readers of The Aquarist, wishing to obtain stocks of fish and before we realised what was happening we were virtually in business as professional aquarists and from this importers, breeders, wholesalers, and retailers all at the same time, a state of affairs which is now recognised as impossible and one which lost us both a fair amount of cash. We decided to separate these four sections and the first step was for me to open a retail shop in Highgate Road, N.W.5 and to the best of my knowledge it was the first of its kind in this country although it was soon followed by Wigmore Fisheries in Marylebone, run by Mr. Charles Schiller who is now known as the manufacturer of Little Wizard Products.
     All through this time Mr. Hodge was asking people all over the country to get together and where a number could be got together he could arrange for someone to give them a talk to start off a club, myself being the someone, and as he was fairly successful in his efforts I had to make numerous journeys all over the place but the exercise did mean the starting of over fifty of these clubs. I think it was worth the time and effort.
     The second World War wiped out most of these and the only one to carry on without the loss of a single meeting was the North London Aquarists. They changed their meetings to Sunday mornings owing to the black-out and had the doubtful honour of having a "Doodle Bug" attend one of the meetings. There were no casualties and not a fish was lost although all the tanks were filled with rubble and there was a terrible mess.
     Mr. Derham and myself were the first to try shipping fish into this country by air, and we lost a great deal of money in the early days. The present air lines were non-existent and The Imperial Airways and the German Luft Hansa Co. handled most freight. Plastic bags filled with oxygen were also not in use, the fish being sent in large cans well packed to hold the heat and only about 25% of the fish could be sent in the same quantity of water as today making the carriage very costly but the main trouble was the fact that all freight space was unheated with the result that the fish were frozen en route. While writing these notes so many things which have happened in the past come to my mind and I think I could fill a book with these and although The Aquarist is now quite a large magazine, it does not entitle me to unlimited space so I shall content myself with just a few of the main changes which have come over the hobby since the last War.
     The hobby has become more organised both in the amateur and trade sections, the latter having its own powerful association which has done a great deal to raise the standard of its members. In conjunction with the Veterinary Profession, courses are arranged and examinations held periodically when successful candidates are granted diplomas and in my own opinion it is only a matter of time before it will become necessary for anyone wishing to enter the livestock business to furnish proof of their knowledge and ability in order to obtain the licence now necessary to do this. The Pet Trade is also served by two monthly journals.
     Since the end of the last War there has been a flood of literature dealing with fish-keeping and the numbers of books now available to the aquarist must run into several hundred. The majority of these are of U.S.A. origin and prices range from a matter of coppers to many pounds and the price would appear to have little relation to the value of the book to the average aquarist as some in the lower range offer far more practical information than some highly priced. However, a reliable book is an investment and the knowledge gained from it will save pounds in the long run. It can be quite a good idea to get several books from the public library before making a choice on which to buy and keep for reference.
     The amateur side of the hobby has changed over the years. There are now several hundred clubs, each with its own character and ambitions. A club can be mainly a social gathering where fish-keeping is discussed and knowledge passed on to each other or it can be more of a competitive nature where the main interest is the showing of fish. This is an excellent scheme, but it does have its limitations and perhaps the most important is the fact that friction can be caused and the number of clubs which split up can often be traced to this cause. Then again, the idea that the fish show gets more people into the hobby is correct only to a degree. There is nothing so boring to the newcomer as looking at rows of bare tanks with similar fish in them. It is the set-up tanks which draw attention and I think that a non-competitive exhibition does far more good and produces better results.
     In addition to all the clubs there are several federations catering for groups of clubs so the amateur side of the hobby can be said to be very well organised. In fact, there are some who think it is over organised.
     There have been reliable estimates from various sources that less than 2% of the aquarists in this country have any club contact at all. The growth in the number and size of firms catering for the needs of aquarists is in itself a guide to the magnitude of present day fish-keeping and I feel sure that The Aquarist is the major factor in bringing about the state of affairs.
     During my association with the hobby, other publications have come and gone and no doubt history will repeat itself in the future, but I very much doubt if this journals will be surpassed or even equalled. Finally, in wishing The Aquarist many happy returns, I should also like to thank the Editor and all concerned with its publication for the service and help they have given to the hobby we all love so much.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Does cortisol in a mother’s milk really affect an infant’s temperament?

Having written about lactation for more than 45 years, I have tried to avoid writing about the subject in this blog. However, I do get drawn back from time to time—and this is one of those times.

It has been known for years that biologically active substances, hormones for example, are present in milk. All sorts of claims have been made over the years that they may have effects in the infant. However, the evidence for many such claims and suggestions was not at all convincing and so Peggy Neville and I wrote a Commentary* for the Journal of Endocrinology in 1991 setting out the criteria for establishing an effect of a substance in milk on the suckling. In brief, these criteria—the equivalent of Koch’s famous postulates for the transmission of disease—must be satisfied:

  • An effect in the offspring must be obtained in response to exposure to the substance in milk.
  • The effect of the substance must be abolished by removal of the substance from milk and restored when that specific component is restored.
  • The substance must be shown to be present and active in milk.
  • The substance must be shown to retain its biological activity in the offspring to the point at which it is postulated to act or to be activated by partial digestion within the digestive tract.

I should make it clear that none of these criteria is easy to fulfil in practical terms. However, at the time and soon after, there were two sets of studies that fulfilled these criteria: those by the late Otakar Koldovsky and his colleagues in Arizona on epidermal growth factor (EGF) and those by the late Steve Frawley and his group in South Carolina on the developmental programming of the pituitary by an agent in milk. All these results were obtained in rats.

Work in this field has continued and claims of changes in milk hormone concentrations having short- or long-term effect in the offspring have been made.

A study that made the newspapers recently continued the theme that maternal ‘stress’ affects and programmes the behaviour of the offspring via a change in the concentration of glucocorticoids—the classical ‘stress’ hormones—in milk.

Rhesus Macaque
By Charles J Sharp
Used on Wikipedia
The study widely reported was on a captive colony of Rhesus Macaques. The authors attempted to distinguish between the effects of milk energy intake (the subject of earlier work from the same group) and cortisol (the major glucocorticoid of primates) concentration on the behavioural characteristics of the young. Multiple regression statistical models were used to try to find what was associated with what. In short, mothers who showed a higher concentration of cortisol in their milk had offspring of a more nervous/less confident temperament, an effect particularly seen in daughters. 

Teleologically, I could see the arguments that the authors were making in relation to the temperament of the offspring produced by the different mothers. However, I am yet to be convinced that the differences in temperament that were observed are a maternal effect transmitted by cortisol in milk. This is why:

In general and in all species studied thus far, milk cortisol concentrations reflect maternal plasma cortisol concentrations. I don’t want to spend time explaining the likely kinetics of cortisol movements between the maternal circulation and milk, suffice it to say that recent increases in cortisol in the mother will be seen as an increase in milk. Short-term maternal distress would therefore result in an increase in milk cortisol concentrations. I then looked at how the authors had collected the milk samples: …infants and mothers were captured in their outdoor enclosures between 7:30 and 9:00 AM and were relocated together in temporary housing. To prevent nursing, mothers were placed in mesh jackets and allowed a standardized period of milk accumulation of 3.5-4 h. This allowed infants to remain in contact with their mothers during this period. At peak lactation, the mothers and offspring were separated for the period of milk accumulation and beyond for the behavioural assessments to be made. The procedures used to obtain the milk samples—even the initial stage of capture—are ones that would result in the ‘stress’ production of cortisol. Moreover, those of us instilled with the knowledge that because the rate of milk secretion drops rapidly in ‘stressed’ mothers, great care must be taken in interpreting the quantity of milk and milk constituents produced under such circumstances. I am also not convinced that the method used to estimate milk yield and the composition of ingested milk (in terms of fat concentration) provide a sufficiently reliable measure of energy intake at times other than during the procedure to obtain the milk sample; even then no evidence is presented that stored milk removal was complete.

If the mothers are themselves variable in temperament and respond differently to the ‘stress’ of capture, wearing a mesh jacket and/or separation from their young, then might not the variation in cortisol concentrations seen reflect not the ‘resting’ cortisol concentration but the temperament of the mother in response to these distressing events. A nervous mother could produce a nervous offspring by genetic inheritance and not via a maternal effect of cortisol concentration in milk.

Looking at the data on milk cortisol concentrations in the paper, the variation is very great (19-444 nmol/l at 1 month and 21-622 at 3-4 months) with some mothers showing major changes upwards or downwards between the two samplings; in other words, the sort of pattern that could well be expected from variable maternal responses to the procedure used to get the milk samples.

In conclusion then, I do not consider the evidence sufficient at present to conclude that cortisol in milk affects the temperament of the offspring in Rhesus Macaques nor that milk intake does not. This is not to say that further experimental evidence will not support the proposed maternal effect in the future. However, this research really does illustrate the great practical difficulties in testing hypotheses on putative milk-borne signals to the offspring, just as Peggy and I envisaged when we wrote our commentary nearly 25 years ago.

*Peaker M, Neville MC. 1991. Hormones in milk: chemical signals to the offspring. Journal of Endocrinology 131, 1-3.

†Hinde K, Skibiel AL, Foster AB, Del Rosso L, Mendoza SP, Capitanio JP. 2015. Cortisol in mother’s milk across lactation reflects maternal life history and predicts human temperament. Behavioral Ecology 26, 269-281.

‘Stress’: I have used the word ‘stress’ in inverted commas because the word still means different things to different people—a point to which I shall return at some time in the future.