The Malacologist | The Malacological Society of London The Malacological Society of London The Malacologist

Volume 51

Alan Bebbington - a gentlemanly malacologist - 1929-2007

Alan Bebbington was born in Warrington in Lancashire on August 1st 1929 and maintained a hint of his Lancashire accent throughout his life. Alan attended Boteler Grammar School before moving on to the University of Bristol in 1948, where he studiedzoology and botany as well as being awarded full colours for athletics. He graduatedin 1951, and as was customary at the time, undertook national service, in his case with the RAF. After completing a Postgraduate Certificate of Education in 1954, he became a school teacher at Bemrose School for Boys in Derby, moonlighting as a Part-time lecturer at the then Derby and District College of Technology. Like many teachers at the time, he kept the economic wolf from the door by also working as an examiner for various examining boards including the Associated Examining Board. As Visiting Superintendent for the Southern Examinations group, he maintained this link with school examinations well into his retirement.Alan left Bemrose School in 1959 to lecture at Redland Teacher Training College, Bristol. In 1968, Alan completed a Masters degree in Zoology and in 1973 was elected to be a Fellow of the Institute of Biology. In the early 1970s, Alan visited the University of Bristol to enquire about the possibility of undertaking doctoral research. He was offered a choice between research on geese, or opisthobranch molluscs. Having an aversion to geese, he chose the latter. Tom Thompson was his supervisor and mentor, and Alan graduated with a PhD in 1976. After obtaining his doctorate he continued to work on opisthobranchs specialising in the aplysiomorphs: Aplysia, Dolabella, Dolabrifera, Bursatella and related genera. Nellie Eales had been the world authority on aplysioids, and as she bowed out Alan was able to take over her mantle. He was indeed a worthy successor with meticulous drawings of live and preserved animals and their internal anatomy as a result of which the anaspids/aplysiomorphs are perhaps the best known and least controversial group of the opisthobranchs

Redland College was absorbed into the burgeoning Bristol Polytechnic. The latter became the University of Western England in 1992 where Alan was awarded a Professorship. As a representative of both Redland College and UWE, Alan served on a wide range of committees, not least being Treasurer of Convocation, and a member of the University Council.

Building on his PhD, Alan published over 31 papers on the themes of marine biology and embryology with a special focus on the Mollusca, in particular the Aplysiidae, Pteropoda and Caudofoveata.He carried out research at the University of Bordeaux marine station at Arcachon, the marine station at Blomsterdalen (University of Bergen) and voyaged on the Atlantic research vessel Discovery.

Alan was dedicated to the objectives of the Malacological Society of London, serving on Council from 1969, then as Secretary (1977-1983) and eventually Treasurer following the untimely death of the then Treasurer (T.E. 'Tom' Thompson). Subsequent to his role as President from 1990 to 1993, he took over as the first Honorary Archivist of The Society. Having organised the 2nd Franco-British Malacological Symposium between the Societé Française de Malacologie (SFM)and the Malacological Society of London, and edited the Proceedings, Alan became a 'membre étrangers invités' for the SFM; he then contributed as a member of the Editorial Board of the SFM journal Haliotis.

Alan always had a strong sense of duty to his local community and was a warden at St Giles' Church in Uley where he lived with his wife Christine. He was also a school governor and a Bishop's Visitor to Schools in Gloucester. As well as undertaking a tour of duty as Secretary of the Uley Society, he had also been President of the Dursley and District Probus Club. Alan was involved in all aspects of village life and made a point of visiting newcomers to let them know about the different clubs and societies in the area. As well as being clerk to the Parish Council, he edited a book on the history of Uley and was researching the history of local families at the time of his death. Colleagues on the parish council described him as reliable, kind and gallant, bringing energy, great humour and local knowledge to activities. This was certainly my experience of him on the Council of the Malacological Society, where he could be relied on to bring good humour and level headedness to all the deliberations of the Council.

Subject disciplines seem to select the psychology of those who will study them. If this is true, then Alan certainly reflected the flexible and accommodating structures and behaviours of molluscs. After his death, a headline in the local paper referred to Alan as a 'perfect gentleman'. When I joined the Council in 1988, I found Alan to be a relaxed, welcoming and congenial colleague. I liked his personal approach. He would take you by the arm to discuss something, making you feel as if your opinions were really valued. As a young, novice biologist on the Council of The Society, I found Alan to be tremendously helpful through the many years of our friendship.

Alan is survived by his wife, Christine, and three children.