The Entomological Club, an exclusive 8-member cabal of entomologists formed in 1826, is the oldest extant entomological society in the world. Apart from informal meetings at member’s houses to exchange specimens and discuss the latest taxonomic turns of the day, an annual meeting, followed by dinner for members and guests, was instigated. When George Verrall joined The Club in 1887 he took the dining to new heights — mainly by paying for it himself.
When he died, in 1911, he left a small sum of money to keep the annual meeting alive, but the dinner had to become self-financing. In his honour, it has been the ‘Verrall Supper’ ever since.
Entomologists, it seems, scrub-up good, and despite my incautious remarks about scruffy attire and a sometimes cavalier attitude to personal hygiene, here they all present in smart suits and frocks — women appear to have been admitted, maybe some time in the 1960s?
There is still some exchange of specimens in cardboard boxes and Latin is the lingua franca at all tables. Despite (or maybe because of) the flowing wine, much heady business is also conducted. I overheard earnest discussions of joint field meetings to obscure parts of the globe. Panama seems like a bit of a jolly: “We can pay expenses and sustenance, but not salaries; we get the majority of specimens but you take the cassidines and hispines — as long as we can agree some split of the types. Ten days should do it.”
Occasionally there is a brief pause while a huddled group try and remember some arcane snippet of entomological lore: “What’s the Onthophagus under dog dung at Camber Sands?” “Not sure about dog dung, there was a tissue beside the one I examined.” All this mixed in with the availability of funding sources, tales from the recent Prague insect fair, moans about data-input, and the evolution of lactose tolerance in human adults.
Here are a few pictures of the evening.