Sunday, 23 June 2013

Donors of Reptiles to London Zoo 1914/15: 8. Herbert Tomlin Pollitt

Again, and nearing the end of this series of posts, this is what Clin Keeling wrote in A Short History of British Reptile Keeping:

H. Pollit of 7 Grosvenor Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, gave an Alligator, an Eyed Lizard and a European Pond Tortoise…

Thanks to a search of the 1911 Census, a family history on and the keeper of that history, Any Pollitt, I have identified this ‘H. Pollit’ as Herbert Tomlin Pollitt. He was born in 1897 in Irlam, Lancashire. In 1911, aged 13, he was living at the address shown in the Zoo’s records. His father, a chemist, was manager of a soap works; he worked for Lever Brothers (now Unilever).

Herbert had ‘a very colourful life’. In 1917 he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant from the Indian Army’s Cadet College at Quetta (now in Pakistan). The Cadet College occupied the buildings of the famous Staff College which was closed for the duration of the war. By the end of the war it appears he was with 20th Deccan Horse, an Indian Army cavalry regiment (renowned for its charge on the Somme in 1916) on the western front.

He became a garage owner (authorised Morris dealer) in Birmingham, and is shown as living on a farm near Droitwich. Thrice-married, he was killed, along with a son from his second marriage and a son from his third marriage, in November 1965, aged 68.

So here we do seem to have somebody who may have given his reptiles to London Zoo before joining the army. We do not know if he retained any interest in animals after the war or at the farm where he lived near Droitwich.

We also do not know where he got his reptiles in the first place. It seems unlikely that they come from his father’s travels For Lever Brothers since one was North American and the others European. However, I cannot help wondering if they came from a local source. Clin Keeling mentions C.R. Walker from “The Vivarium”, West Bromwich (I will deal with him in a later post) as a donor of reptiles to London Zoo over this period. Handsworth is adjacent to West Bromwich. Was there a connexion?