In Memoriam Bertram Lloyd—1881-1944

In Memoriam Bertram Lloyd—1881-1944


Packed in this urn lies poor B.L.
Who loved life more than passing well.
For him a year went like a day ;
And quite unready, he was called away.
He left reluctantly, sorrowing sore
That he never again might see Kilmore :
For he worshipped the Earth and all its creatures—
Ay, even its geological features ;
Plants, birds, and beasts, whatever he saw,
To know and love them was his chief lore :
He cared not a farthing for Heaven or God,
But valued far more an inch of green sod.

On 9th June, 1944, died Bertram Lloyd, aged 63 years, at Champneys, near Tring, after a full life lighted with a wide-sweeping passion for truth and beauty, for man and nature, for poetry and music.

He was born on 14th May, 1881, in North London, and was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School. In his youth he was a fine athlete and used to play both rugby-football and water-polo for Surrey. When he retired from these sports he became no watching sportsman. Later he took to mountaineering, and scaled many difficult peaks during travels in Norway, Austria, and Switzerland. He never spared himself in these activities, and probably ultimately overtaxed himself, laying the foundation of his later weakening heart and death.

After leaving school he spent two years in Germany, where he developed his great fluency in the German language, and his taste for German classical literature and poetry and music. He later translated many German masterpieces of poetry and drama.

He then worked for a number of years with his father in an insurance office, but this was all mere drudgery to him, to be cast off when he no longer needed to earn his living. But it was in this work that he met that great naturalist, the late Edward Saunders, F.R.S., who befriended him.

In his early years he was a keen worker for Socialism and an active member of the I.L.P. At one time he and his elder brother lived for a year or so in Bethnal Green, to study working-class conditions at first hand.

All his life he was passionately opposed to violence and oppression of every kind, and was a consistent opponent of war. During the 1914-18 war, therefore, he was a conscientious objector and worked, during a large part of it, with the Friends’ Emergency Committee. A keen vegetarian and humanitarian from his earliest years, he became a member of the original “ Humanitarian League ”, founded by his great friend, Henry S. Salt, and others. In 1921 he published, for this league, an anthology of humanitarian poetry under the title of The Great Kinship (Allen and Unwin), tracing the growth of humanitarian feelings towards animals in the poetry of the western world through the past three centuries. In 1932 he helped to found the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, of which he was the devoted and untiring Honorary Secretary to the end of his life. In 1939 he produced an amusing and instructive booklet for that Society, entitled Foxhunters’ Philosophy, a Garland from Five Centuries.

In addition to this he was a life-long student of Elizabethan drama and made various interesting discoveries: some of these have already appeared in his contributions to such journals as The Review of English Studies and The Modern Language Review.

He was a regular contributor to British Birds from 1920 onwards. To its readers he will best be known for his close observations on bird life and behaviour. He had a specially finely-tuned ear for bird song. For some years he made a close study of the birds of the island of Texel (Holland).

Shortly after the last war he first met Charles Oldham and, as they had many interests in common, they became close friends. They worked together in Hertfordshire and further afield on many trips to Wales and Ireland. Oldham's death in 1942 was a very great blow to him.

From 1935 till his death he was editor of the Transactions of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society and a frequent contributor of articles and notes to its pages. He was also the Society’s Recorder for Mammals, Reptiles, and Batrachians, and from 1939-41 was responsible for the “ Report on Birds observed in Hertfordshire ” for the Transactions.

For a number of years preceding the present war he made a special study of the birds and the natural history generally of Elstree Reservoir. From watching the dragonflies here he developed a passion for the study of these insects; but, as was characteristic of him, he made no dried collection of them, letting them go again alive after he had seen all he wanted to see. From 1937 onwards he contributed a number of papers on dragon-flies to the Transactions and other journals, first from his studies of Elstree Reservoir, then other parts of Hertfordshire, and at the outbreak of the present war he was completing a study of the “ Dragon-flies of Pembrokeshire ”, which has recently appeared as an article in The Entomologist, vol. 77, pp. 113-18 (August, 1944).

He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, a member of the British Ornithological Union, and, two days before his death; was elected a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society of London.

To his many friends, including most of the members of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society, his death is a sad blow that has seemed too soon. He had a striking presence that, self-effacing man that he was, made itself felt in any company. His shaggy brows, weather-worn face, his piercing eyes, and expressive, deep, soft voice, were well known to us. His long, easy, and rapid gait gave him, among some of his friends, the nickname “ Wolf ”. Some of my earliest memories of him relate to visits to his Hampstead flat, with its clock always kept one hour and ten minutes fast, to read poetry with him. His strength was combined with extreme tenderness, as only great strength can be. He loved children and they adored him—a good measuring-stick of a man. He had the gift of making the humblest of us feel valuable and our dullness seem interesting. Generous he was in word and deed. His negative qualities included a hatred of such modern contrivances as cinemas, wireless-sets, motor-cars and aeroplanes.

In 1938 he married Sylvia Colenso, who survives him and with whom we share our sorrow. In his last months he suffered greatly, especially as his activities became restricted more and more, like a caged wild bird ; but with great fortitude he bore all this undaunted to the end, rarely even losing control of his temper.

Robert B. Benson

Transactions of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society, Vol. XXII, 1945, pp. 57-59