Tributes paid to shell collector Lightbourn

  • Jack Lightbourn (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Jack Lightbourn (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

  • Jack Lightbourn was a shell collector, diver and conservationist (Photograph by Nicola Muirhead)

    Jack Lightbourn was a shell collector, diver and conservationist (Photograph by Nicola Muirhead)


Tributes were paid last night to the late Jack Lightbourn with an informal ceremony at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

The shell collector, diver and conservationist donated a major part of his world-renowned collection to the BUEI, where he was a trustee and served as vice-president.

Mr Lightbourn, a Second World War veteran and former top executive of the Bank of Bermuda, died in September aged 93.

Mr Lightbourn’s family organised a gathering in his memory at the room in the BUEI where his collection is displayed instead of a funeral service.

Mr Lightbourn was part of a group in the early 1990s, including the late diving legend Teddy Tucker, who campaigned for a centre to showcase Bermuda’s marine environment.

Plans for the BUEI drew concerns from conservationists, including the then Bermuda Maritime Museum, that it would compete with existing organisations.

The Bermuda National Trust objected to its construction at the waterside off East Broadway. but the institute overcame obstacles and opened in 1997.

Mr Lightbourn also served as president of the Bermuda Zoological Society in the 1990s, and as chairman of the Historic Wrecks Authority.

His career at the Bank of Bermuda started in 1941, when Mr Lightbourn was taken on as a messenger aged 15.

But his job was soon interrupted by service in the Second World War.

Mr Lightbourn spent a period in training before he started service with the Royal Navy in 1944 on Atlantic convoy duty.

The threat from German U-boats had receded — but the convoys still braved storms and icy weather in the open Atlantic.

Mr Lightbourn in 1946, after the war ended, served as an Able Seaman radar operator on a Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Chivalrous.

The ship was tasked with the interception of ships packed with Jewish refugees in the Mediterranean en route to Palestine as part of the Royal Navy’s Palestine Patrol.

Palestine was still under British control and the Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe were considered illegal immigrants.

Mr Lightbourn told the Mid-Ocean News in 1999: “They were like slave ships. Many of the people had been in concentration camps. Most were not in the best of health.

“In a bunch of young fellows like we were, I was considered the old man. I was 20 years old.”

He added: “The conditions we saw were awful.”

He returned home in May 1947 and resumed his career at the Bank of Bermuda where he rose to general manager before he retired.

He served on the Bermuda War Veterans Association and became president in his later years.

Shells were a lifelong passion, and his collection held specimens from around the world, as well as Bermuda waters.

A keen diver, Mr Lightbourn sometimes used a submersible to bring back rare shells from the deep waters surrounding the island.

Mr Lightbourn and his late friend and fellow collector Arthur Guest added 300 species to the Bermuda listing which were not known to have existed in island waters, as well as ten new species.

Three of the previously unknown species were named in his honour — Conus lightbourni, Pterynotus lightbourni and Fusinus lightbourni.

He was given the Neptunea Award by The Conchologists of America in 2006 to recognise “outstanding and distinguished service”.

Mr Lightbourn told The Royal Gazette at the time: “My interest in shells started at six years of age when I went collecting with my grandfather.

“In those days you could collect and sell shells, which is no longer permissible. When I was 11, I joined the Sea Scouts and a few of us became interested and started to collect. I just kept on going.”

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Published Nov 27, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 27, 2019 at 2:56 pm)

Tributes paid to shell collector Lightbourn

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