35 years collecting

It was in 1923 whilst serving with the Royal Sussex in Singapore that first started me on the hunt for shells. One afternoon with nothing much to do, I decided to amble along the shore near our barracks, when, aim¬lessly kicking over a piece of stone, I noticed a needle shaped shell which I now know was a Terebra. This hunt for shells went on until I was due for discharge, and I had got together quite a nice little collection mostly of worn shells, it is true, but representing many species. Alas, on arriving at Southampton I found I had no kit bag. Whilst unloading the boat my kit found its way into other hands - not only shells but other things of interest went with it. All I had left were two Cowries and two Bullmouth Helmets, but at that time they were just pretty shells to me as I didn't even know they had names. My wife was also collecting very small shells unbeknown to me then.

After discharge, I joined the Prison Service in October 1931 and. came to the Isle of Wight, went down to the shore and started collecting English shells.

For the next 25 years I collected any shells I could from junk shops, old collections and in furniture sales. Many had bits of paper tucked in them, but Florida 1928 or Jim or John Mills never meant anything to me or the number on the shell; they were thrown away. One vivid memory I have, a friend gave me a Carrier shell, I saw bits of shell stuck to it, and decided to clean it up, carefully taking off every bit until the shell was clean. I wonder now how many more shells I have ruined through my lack of knowledge.

However, to cut a long story short, a press photographer visited my house in 1957, became very interested, and though he really came to see my daughter, finished up by writing an article and taking photos of the shells. About 10 days after the publication of the paper, a letter arrived from Nottingham from Mr. G. W. Pitchford saying "I have seen your article in the 'Lincolnshire Standard'. Why don't you join the Conchological Society?" Well, that started me off, and since then I have made many contacts; shells now do not get bits knocked off; nor do little pieces of paper get thrown away when they arrive with the shells. As new shells come into my collection they replace old worn ones. Although it may mean years of work, no doubt in time to come I shall be able to say just where each shell comes from; 30 years collecting will need some catching up on, believe me.

So start the right way if you can, it saves time in the end!