A little more biography

In most well organised homes each room has its own day for being cleaned. In my young days it was bedroom day on Wednesday. On a certain Wednesday my younger brother asked permission to dust mother's glove box. (They had those things in Edwardian days). In it he found a shell we later came to know was called the Sunset Shell. After some minutes of admiration he announced his intention of making a collection of shells. Our mother soon acquainted her friends of his intention and I well remember one contribution to our collections, a box of very beautiful Australian shells. I had by this time joined him in partnership.

Then next came our introduction to British land snails when we discovered that they comprised more than the common garden snail. At the end of our road in Enfield (Middlesex) was an area of lanes, fields and orchards known as Cherry Orchard Lane. Alasi no trace remains today for the area is completely covered with houses and roadways. Here we got our first thrill over the varied beauty of Cepaea hortensis and its band forms and colour varieties. We turned to books for information and 'cut our teeth' on Rev. J. G. Wood's primer 'Field and Lane' (still in my library). We soon added to this and most of our birthday and Christmas present money was spent on natural history books. Then the 'Harmsworth Natural History' was published at 7d. per part fortnightly. This was a strain on our slender resources of 3d. per week pocket money.

Shortly after this my brother began to be interested in mechanical things and money was needed for trains. I bought him out, taking over responsibility for Harmsworth Natural History, and paying him his share of the books - I suppose one would call this a 'take-over bid'.

Hours and hours were spent cutting up cigar boxes to make tablets. Having seen this method of exhibition in the collections at the British Museum I thought there was no other. All sorts of devices were used to house the collection. When I secured an old show-case from a jeweller's shop with very scratched glass top I really felt I was on the way to doing things properly. If only I had met someone who could have taught me something about collecting and the care of collections. If only someone had introduced me to the Conchological Society how much time and energy would have been saved! I remember even now and am horrified at myself - I knocked off a spine of a large Murex with a hammer because it would not fit in that jeweller's show case.

I always consider that serious conchology began in 1914 when I took Succinea putris from reeds near the Base Camp at Le Havre and later collected C. hortensis in the front line trenches before Ypres. Later I made a considerable collection of the same species having a great variety of band formulae and colours from Flanders lanes. Then in 1917 the Batallion moved to Italy and a completely different fauna was studied in the mountains of the north, the Asiago Plateau and its foothills. But enough of this - my chief object in writing this short autobiographical note is to say it all began with one sunset shell in 1907.

Rev. H. E. J. Biggs