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Clay family & Guiding
I'm a 3rd generation Girl Guide myself from Kaslo BC. My Guider was taught by Olave herself.
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See Memorial pages for Gervas
Posted by 'Aurorae' Donna Rae Little UE on 04 November 2017
Having read all of what Gervas Clay had to write, I have been writing a biography on my grandmother, who was the first white pioneer to Mongu, Barotseland. Anne Victoria married Austin Williams who died; she then married Geoffrey Sloane Cambell but later they dropped the Sloane. I would really appreciate it if you have anymore info on her to e-mail it to me. I am actually writing this book from all her journals but some of the pages are missing after all this time. In Appreciation,
Posted by Steph Greaves on 11 February 2011
Certainly we have some letters from him, calling himself "Pa", and the tone is affectionate. I'll see what I can dig out. Thank you for writing.
Posted by Robin Clay on 11 February 2011
Well done for a fantastic website. I came across it by accident as I am distantly related, a fact I only discovered recently. I too am interested in family history. Your father sounds like an incredible character, and what a fascinating life.
Posted by Joanne Turner on 30 November 2009
Gervas Clay, Ornithologist
Amongst his "stuff" are large numbers of "The Ostrich", from memory, they run from 1942 - 1964.
1. Would you happen to know if there is any article by him amongst them? and
2. Would you perhaps know of anyone who might want them ?
Re "Ostrich", yes, he wrote the following:
Clay G. 1943. Livingstone in North-eastern Rhodesia. Ostrich 13: 227-231.
Clay G. 1944. Game birds in Barotseland. Ostrich 15: 55-61.
Clay G.C.R. 1944. White Stork ring recovered. Ostrich 15: 244.
Clay G. 1953. Some notes on the birds of the Isoka District of the Northern Province of Northern Rhodesia. Ostrich 24: 76-97.
In my bibliographic database of Afrotropical zoology, I also have:
Clark J.D. & Clay G. 1963. David Livingstone: a chronology. N. Rhod. J. 5: 261-267.
Which is probably amongst a mass of publications on historical topics that you'll have on file already. I extracted that one from N. Rhod. J. only because of David Livingstone's rather tenuous association with some early bird observations. No, your father really was the first to explore the Zambian side of the eastern highlands from a zoological point of view (and the Mafinga mtns from any point of view). Others who were missionaries, hunters and the like kept to lower altitudes, and were not usually very observant. An exception was Alexander Whyte, who first explored the zoology of the Nyika, but that was on the Nyasaland side.
Do feel free to include what I said about him in our book in your website (which I've just looked at, and find very informative and attractively presented). I look forward to seeing more of the Gervas Clay archives, when you've been able to process them for the internet. What you've made available already is of great historical interest.
I can suggest a very good home for the series of "Ostrich" you mention. Peter M. Leonard is a young man who contributed a great deal to Zambian ornithology during the nearly 10 years he was a school teacher in Southern Province. He left Zambia in 2003, but continues to play an active role in the African Bird Club publications, and I know that "Ostrich" would be put to good use by him.
I know too that your father was a Member of the British Ornithologists' Union for a time from 1944. If there are any copies of their journal "Ibis" in his library, I know that Peter would find a good home for them too.
I was at the Livingstone Museum for 8 years (1971-79), as keeper of natural history and at times deputy director. During this time I found the excellent library there of enormous interest and help in my research, and I know how much your father was to thank for that. Sadly, my last visit to the museum, 10 years or so ago, found the library in an awful state, books piled on the floor, a leaky roof.... Heart-breaking, and the admitted lack of funds couldn't excuse the neglect. Since then I believe some European money was offered, but how used, I've no idea.
Gervas is remembered in the names given to two subspecies of game bird:
Francolinus levaillantii clayi White 1944 Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 64: 50. collected 02/01/1944 by Muzeya K. at Kajilisha, north of Balovale Boma (White mentions that his attention was drawn to this new subspecies by specimens from Mankoya, shot by Gervas)
Treron calvus clayi (White 1943) Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 63: 63. collected 15/02/1943 by Muzeya K. at Isoka
Kabali Muzeya was Charlie White's collector, but I can't help thinking the Isoka pigeon was probably collected by Gervas himself.
Gervas's name is also acknowledged in the introduction to Frank Ansell's first checklist of Northern Rhodesian mammals: Ansell W.F.H. 1960. Mammals of Northern Rhodesia. Lusaka: Govt. Printer.
I think, from memory, Gervas also collected some butterflies. Some of the localities mentioned in the following suggest this (e.g. Mafingas), but White acknowledges no-one (he certainly didn't collect them all himself):
White C.M.N. 1956. Northern Rhodesian butterflies. N. Rhod. J. 3: 14-21.
You may know more about this aspect than I do.
[Written 15th October 2009]
Posted by Bob Dowsett on 15 November 2009
Gervas Clay, Ornithologist
have just by chance come across your notice of the death of your father on the Nthn Rhod. & Zambians website. I'm sorry to hear of his passing, but am admirative of his long life. Last year we published a revised "Birds of Zambia", Dowsett R.J., Aspinwall D.R. & Dowsett-Lemaire F. 2008. The Birds of Zambia. An atlas and handbook. Liège: Tauraco Press & Aves. On p. 52 of the historical chapter I had this to say of your father:
"Gervas Charles Robert Clay [1907-?], recruited to the Provincial Administration, went to Northern Rhodesia in the same year as Brelsford, 1930, and was present until 1964. His interest initially was in game bird shooting, but after encouragement from Winterbottom and White, he paid more attention to birds in general. He was deaf to bird song, the result of too much quinine taken as malarial prophylactic, but touring (frequently by bicycle) he discovered much of interest in the Isoka region (Clay 1953). He was the first to explore the eastern highlands in Zambia, and in October 1942 and 1943 found no fewer than 10 species new to the country’s avifauna there (especially in the Mafingas)"
The "1907-?" was because I had lost touch with him, and couldn't believe he was still alive! It just goes to show that, despite a hard life in the tropics, extreme longevity is still a possibility.
In the field of ornithology he will always be remembered for his discoveries in Northern Rhodesia.
[Written 14th October 2009]
That is handsome ! Thank you !
He also used to tour on foot, by canoe, and also on horseback (tsetse-fly permitting)
Posted by Bob Dowsett on 15 November 2009
Posted on 15 July 2009