83 Serendipity – The SNS of Yesteryear In 1948, the year that my father took over the living of Waldringfield and Hemley from my grandfather, Canon A. P. Waller, my mother paid my first subscription to the Suffolk Naturalists’ Society. At that time my grandfather and two uncles had the initials ‘OM’ (original members) after their names on the membership list. My grandfather was a well-known Suffolk entomologist and had contributed to the first edition of South’s iconic guide The Moths of the British Isles. He was also a friend of Claude Morley. It was he who encouraged me to take an interest in Lepidoptera. In the same year I myself met Claude Morley but I don’t remember much about him but for years after his death in 1951 my grandfather referred to him as a kind of Delphic oracle on all things entomological. Since 1929 my grandfather contributed many articles on Suffolk Lepidoptera in the Transactions and Proceedings but always after consulting Claude. Encouraged by my grandfather, I began to collect moths from the GPO telephone box at the top of our road in Waldringfield. Aficionados will know that the old style box had an air vent at the top and an electric light inside which was permanently switched on. It proved to be an excellent moth trap. In my early morning visits apart from the resting moths there was often a pecuniary reward too in that previous users had forgotten to press the Return Money button. From there I progressed to a homemade moth trap with a mercury vapour bulb on a tripod and so became one of the first users of a m.v. moth trap in the county. The new trap attracted more species and larger numbers in one night’s operation than the telephone box in a month. Soon I too began to contribute to the Transactions and was in regular correspondence with Baron de Worms who was then working in the entomological section of the Natural History Museum in London and later in the same section in the Cambridge Museum when I was an undergraduate there. Later Messrs Beaufoy and Chipperfield were respectively the recorders for butterflies and moths. Those were the days when the Misses Colquhoun of Martlesham Hall were active in the Society. Among the field events there were mysterious fungus forays. I often wondered who went on them and whether they ate what they found. I was recently reminded of those earlier times when I opened a trunk in my attic, probably for the first time in thirty years. Buried at the bottom was a large envelope. I had struck gold. It was addressed to my grandfather from Claude Morley and postmarked 1930. The envelope had been labelled in pencil ‘Entomological Records’. In it was a notebook of what Lepidoptera my grandfather had collected at Waldringfield from 1897 onwards; a press cutting referring to the first list of Lepidoptera of Suffolk published by the Rev. E. N. Bloomfield in1900 and a subsequent update a decade later produced by my grandfather. Most of the contributions were from Suffolk clergymen who obviously had copious spare time from ministering their flocks. Also included was one from a certain Claude Morley F.E.S.
Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 50 (2014)
Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 50
However, in the same envelope was the real treasure trove, a typed letter from Claude dated 10th February 1930 i.e. a few months after the formation of SNS. I have reproduced below the prize extracts exactly as he typed them: My dear Waller I have been busy fixing up the next meeting of our Soc.and I think its going to be after your own heart! Sherwood, Head of Ipswich School, is going to give a full hour’s spout on Birds in the Lecture Room of Ipswich Museum on 8 th March at 2.0 after a meeting to elect new members – 11 have come in since our Trans. was pub; making the total exactly NINETY… Col. Freeman promises an article on Shells which will leave you cold, I fear?... I have run through my 28 years of the Trans. Norfolk Nat Soc. and have extracted a goodly number of SUFFOLK records that they have maliciously stole from us (but in so doing have most kindly preserved for us to sneak)! The best is quite a good lot of the smaller Crustacea from Oulton Broad and around there; but old Patterson has some nice Birds and Fish from Breydon, which is sufficiently Suffolk for us to appropriate… Our last acquisition is Miss Layard who terms our Trans “the caerulean to me” and I am delighted to say lauds it “sky” high. Yours ever, CM. NB. The 1929 annual subscription was 10/- and an entrance fee of 5/-. Note the formal address of the correspondence. In the same envelope there was considerable correspondence from the Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich who was a keen entomologist and often went ‘mothing’ with my grandfather in the 1920s. In one letter there is a reference to an evening excursion to Hemley marshes where they used a white sheet with an oil lamp behind it to attract the moths. Apparently several locals saw dancing figures around the light and concluded that there were ghosts abroad. The legend of the haunted marsh still persists to this day. Claude seems to have been the complete polymath as there was also correspondence on early advowsons in Suffolk parishes and ancient ruins. Alfred Waller Orchards, Fawley, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, RG9 6JF
Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 50 (2014)
Published on Jun 2, 2016