In 1952, Sir Arthur Thomson, then head of the Birmingham University Medical School, together with a group of colleagues and friends, had the idea of brightening up an otherwise dull mid-week evening after work with a dinner, at the same time establishing a memorial to Frank Buckland, in the form of a dining club “with the support of fishermen, doctors and clubbable men of a literary bent.”
The following text is drawn from an address delivered to the Club in 1970, by Sir Arthur, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
It explains the significance of Buckland to ‘fishermen, doctors and clubbable men of a literary bent’:
In such an eccentric household, it was no wonder that Frank developed a range of unusual interests. He grew up with a love of all forms of animal life and kept an astonishing array of pets, including rats, mice, hedgehogs and snakes, an owl and even a buzzard, culminating famously in a young bear which he kept in his rooms at his father’s Oxford College, together with a monkey and many other small vermin brought with him from Winchester.
As a boy at Winchester, he found that he could avoid much bullying by providing his fellow pupils and importantly, the prefects, with delicious meals of roasted field mice, squirrel or hedgehog pie, or trout snared from the local streams with piano wire, thanks to his skill as a poacher. His interest in food and particularly unusual types of food, began early and continued throughout his life. Indeed, it was said of the Buckland’s father and son, that they had attempted to eat their way through the whole of Natural History.
Surgeon, naturalist, veterinarian, popular lecturer, journalist, museum curator, Queen Victoria’s Inspector of Fisheries; he can be regarded as the godfather of fish farming (he introduced trout to New Zealand and Australia as well as saving the salmon fisheries of the British Isles from extinction). His lifelong interest was to find new ways to feed the hungry. He died in 1880.
Sir Arthur Thomson describes Buckland as being in the splendid line of English eccentrics; the Club founded in his name embraces his eccentricity and continues to this day to sample, as authentically as possible, the diets of many countries, expanding to include dining historically, geographically, and culturally and to evoke the aid of authors, musicians, artists and philosophers, seldom, if ever, repeating a theme.
Francis Trevelyan Buckland (he was not Christened ‘Frank’), our eponymous hero, was born in 1826, the first child of William Buckland, D.D., Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, later Dean of Westminster, a remarkable man who unsuccessfully attempted to bring geological research to support his belief, based on the literal truth of the Scriptures, that the creation of the Earth was completed on a certain Friday in the year 4004 BC.
He was a robust extrovert who lectured well and always enlivened his discourse with fun and laughter, which made him popular with lay audiences but offended some of his stuffier fellow members of the Royal Society, who called him a buffoon.
Frank, born in the Archdeacon’s Lodging at Christ Church, Oxford, was a precocious child who was soon interested in his father’s museum of geological and paleontological specimens.