H. H. Bloomer, 1866-1960

By S. P. Dance

Extracted from Journal of Conchology, Volume 24, pp. 448–449
Portrait of H. H. BloomerHarry Howard Bloomer was born in Birmingham on 28 October 1866, and died on 15 June 1960, in a nursing home at High Wycombe, Bucks., after a short illness. His school education was of an elementary character which he supplemented by much hard study in later years. Following a year’s ill health he entered a chartered accountant’s office and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1893. In the same year he was taken into partnership and, in 1900, became senior partner of the firm. After his final professional examination he attended the evening classes in geology at Mason College (afterwards Birmingham University) and a special course in biology held on Saturdays. The last two years of the biology course were devoted to the Mollusca. In later years he spent his holidays at Hornell’s laboratory, Jersey, and at the Marine Biological Station, Plymouth; he also visited the Liverpool Marine Biological Station at Port Erin, Isle of Man. In 1909 he was offered a research table at Birmingham University but his professional duties did not allow him to make full use of it. Although he died at an advanced age he did not enjoy good health and, in 1911, he sailed to Australia and stayed some months. There he met the famous Australian malacologist Charles Hedley and, when in Queensland, he spent much time shell collecting and botanizing with another Australian naturalist, John Shirley. In the following year he visited the Azores. He retired from practice in 1929 and moved to Swanage in Dorset where he spent the rest of his life.

His earliest malacological paper (“On some malformed specimens of Anodonta cygnaea L.” Journ. Malac. 1900, 7, 136–138) was the first of a long series of studies on the Unionidae that earned for him a wide reputation. Over fifty years later, his final paper (“A note on the distribution of Anodonta cygnaea (L.), having regard to the differences in sex and gill-structure. IV.” J. Conch. 1954, 23, 395–397) shows how ingrained was his love of the larger freshwater bivalves. From 1901 to 1912 he produced a series of important papers on the anatomy and classification of Solenidae and one on the anatomy of the British species of Psammobia. Apart from a note on “The jaws and teeth of Mollusca” (Brit. Dental Journ. 1909, 30, 989–994) and another on “The distribution of Crepidula fornicata L.” J. Conch. 1945, 22, 147), the rest of Bloomer’s malacological writings were concerned solely with the Unionidae, and with the British species of Anodonta in particular. His Presidential Address, read to our Society on 19 October 1929, had for its subject “The British Anodontas” (J. Conch. 1930, 19, 11–17). This was followed up by his much more comprehensive paper “The British Species of Anodonta Lamarck, and their varieties “. (J. Conch. 1938, 21, 33–48). A most useful feature of this paper is the series of plates, eight in number, depicting most of the “varieties “ that have been recorded from Britain at some time or another. Most of the plates reproduce earlier published figures. In his papers on Unionidae, he was much concerned with problems of sex, fertilization, and gill-structure.

Bloomer was elected a member of the Conchological Society in 1907 and was President 1928–1929. He joined the Malacological Society in 1898. Before his move to Swanage he was very closely connected with natural history activities in and around Birmingham. He joined the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society in 1894 and was elected President in 1927. He held several offices within this Society and was Treasurer for many years. For a number of years he was Secretary of the Vesey Club, Sutton Coldfield. He was also a Fellow of the Linnean Society, and a member of the British Ecological Society, the Marine Biological Association of Great Britain and the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

Although he made several collections in his long life he was not, in the true sense, a collector. Most of his shells were presented to the Birmingham Museum when he moved to Swanage. He presented the British Museum (Natural History) with his collection of the Myaceae soon after, and his Unionidae were acquired by the same institution shortly before his death. Among the Unionidae are specimens acquired from most of the leading authorities on the group. As might be expected this collection is disappointing from a collector's point of view. From a scientific viewpoint it contains much valuable material from habitats since destroyed.

He excelled at fly fishing and tied his own flies. He was fond of Wales and used to fish there for salmon and trout. At the age of 63 he learnt to drive a motor car. His nephew, Mr. H. K. Easton, to whom I am much indebted for some of these particulars, tells me also that “ It used to be my doubtful pleasure sometimes to row my uncle up and down Little Bracebridge Pool in the park on what was generally a cold, windy day, whilst he dredged for ‘ fresh water mussels ‘ “. Bloomer’s first paper was concerned with mussels from this pool. Up to the time of his death he would express his opinions upon his pet aversion – Lloyd George! Above all he was kind and thoughtful to others and had a pleasant sense of humour. The Conchological Society is indebted to Bloomer for more than his writings. During his presidency, he proposed the establishment of a Research Fund which he opened with a generous donation of £100.