Stella Turk writes from Cornwall

Author & date of last revision: admin on 1 January 2013
Stella Turk

It is difficult to categorise people. Should one even try? We are all multiple in a singular way! Arthur Ellis was a classical scholar as well as a trained biologist and it follows that he was a stickler for exactitude; but his dry sense of humour enabled him to chide any his students in a delightful way so that they were actually encouraged. This and his fairness is demonstrated in the accompanying item. He was a teacher for all his working life, and when, in 1948, he became both non-marine Recorder for the Conchological Society and Editor of its Journal, he took on a host of new ‘students’ of various ages and aptitudes of which I was one of many. As might have been expected, he wrote his own obituary in which he gives a broad outline of his life and very lengthy bibliography, (J. Conch. 31 1983).

Yet there was so much more. He was a prodigious correspondent and always answered the smallest query both fully and promptly. All his letters are treasurable containing a richness of news and views.

One of his hobbies was compiling verses on conchology, all carefully indexed. We exchanged these over many years , and my husband contributed a few Japanese Haiku poems. I had a complete collection, but I sent the large file to Terry Crowley, hoping that he might be more likely to achieve their publication than myself. Hopefully it will have found its way into an archive, as will the correspondence massed over two decades. Arthur’s correspondents will recall his fondness for a Script font which he used when, later in life, he came to type up many of his early writings on an IBM Golfball Electric Typewriter.


Epsom, 6 July 1939. Yesterday I went to the Hog’s Back near Guildford to look for a rare fumitory (Fumaria vaillantii)*. This is my favourite genus of plants, and I have now collected all but two of the British species. I am not likely to complete the list as one species (F. occidentalis), the handsomest of the lot, is confined to a few localities in Cornwall. I then went to Cut Mill ponds near Godalming and collected the largest specimens of swan mussels (Anodonta cygnea (sic)) I have ever found, also the painter’s mussel (Unio pictorum). On Tuesday I took a pupil, Parks

, to the canal near Bisley and to a lake near Farnborough, and had quite good sport with the molluscs. Parks is very keen on freshwater life and is one of several who are making collections for the Smith Pearse natural history prizes. It is going to be difficult to judge this year, as four boys are competing for three prizes and they are all pretty good in their several lines. One is doing insect pollination, making a collection of flowers with all the insects visiting each species. He is the boy, Clark

*, who got a postmastership at Merton last term. Another is doing freshwater life, with the ecology of chalk downs as a sideline, a third is collecting grasses and sedges, and then there is Hackett with his land and freshwater Mollusca. I shall ask my biological colleagues to adjudicate, as my bias is in favour of the snail expert, and I don’t want the boys to think, if he gets a prize, that it is because I am more interested in that group. One important thing is that they get a great deal of pleasure from the interest and fieldwork, apart from any prizes……….

* F. vaillantti, as well as F. parviflora, F. officinalis & F. densifloara, and a hybrid between the last two, was found later in the grounds of Epsom College.


now Sir Alan Parks


* Edgar James Clark, a brilliant entomologist, specialising in grasshoppers, died at Oxford in 1944.

……… The problem of the prizes was solved by the unfortunate expulsion of Hackett.