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On the Beach

Last weekend Lyme held its 2012 Fossil Festival. Successful, yet again, in itself, it also was the start of a summer/coast long Earth Festival which forms part of the Cultural Olympiad. There were fossils, fossil sellers, fossil collectors … everywhere; especially on the beach where a huge marquee was the centre of the festival.

There is always something new to be learned at the Fossil Festival and this year was no exception. Chris Paul gave a very interesting talk about ammonites that had worm tubes attached to their shells. More can be learned about this on the Museum web-site.

However, the thing that has stuck in my memory is a tiny piece of information gleaned from Tom Sharpe’s talk on Mary Anning. Henry de la Beche (right) who lived for a time in Aveline House (Lloyds Bank) on Broad Street and was the founder of the British Geological Survey, was a great friend and benefactor of Mary Anning. Mary gave Henry his love for geology and he helped the Annings financially when they fell on hard times and even drew the above cartoon of Mary at work on the beach to raise money for them. In his talk, Tom Sharpe pronounced “de la Beche” as “de la Beach” and not “de la Besh” as one would expect for a French name. On being asked “Why?”, he explained that we had Mary Anning to thank for our knowledge of how Henry’s name was pronounced 200 years ago! How can that be?

Mary was largely self educated and often wrote words phonetically. In her letters she refers to her friend as “Henry de la Beach” thus we know that was how she and others pronounced the name. Perhaps my heading should have been “Of the Beach”.