15th July 1914 (Wednesday)

BORN TODAY: in the clachan of Elrig, in Scotland – Gavin Maxwell. A life so “less ordinary” that I cannot summarise it for you, but fortunately Wikipedia is here to help.


Though he passed away in 1969, aged just 55, he is survived and commemorated by the sub-species of Otter: Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli , one of whom he brought back from the marsh arabs of Southern Iraq and raised in Scotland, immortalising it in a novel.

Explorer Wilfred Thesiger later wrote:

“In 1956, Gavin Maxwell, who wished to write a book about the Marshes, came with me to Iraq, and I took him round in my tarada for seven weeks. He had always wanted an otter as a pet, and at last I found him a baby European otter which unfortunately died after a week, towards the end of his visit. He was in Basra preparing to go home when I managed to obtain another, which I sent to him. This, very dark in colour and about six weeks old, proved to be a new species. Gavin took it to England, and the species was named after him.” [Wikipedia]

(a tarada, by the way, is a large canoe used by the marsh arabs. Thanks again, Wikipedia)