Steve Etches is a local Dorset boy (pushing 60) who left school with no qualifications and earned his living as a plumber.
He has lived all his life in the small coastal village of Kimmeridge and has spent his entire adult life collecting fossils on the local beaches.
His extensive collection is unique.
It contains ammonites, belemnites, sharks, fish, crocodiles, dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, pliosaurs, crustaceans, plants, insects, corals and shells. He even has something he believes to be ammonites eggs-previously unknown throughout the world. Before he came along, it was thought that Kimmeridge didn’t have any fossils to speak of.
He has won awards from the Palaeontological Association (twice), the Geological Society and the Geological Association and last year received a MBE for services to Palaeontology from the Queen.
To my knowledge, noone else has been given an award for services to palaeontology (..please feel free to get in touch and contradict me).
His wife and kids think he is nuts.
The honour should also be in recognition of his sheer patience and persistence jumping through the beaurocratic hoops to secure funding (a £2.7 million lottery grant) to exhibit his collection in a purpose built museum which is due to open early 2016. Check the website www.theetchescollection.org and the BBC article at the time www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-23811030
Speaking of the BBC........
I was recently invited to Lyme Regis by the makers of a BBC2 programme called 'Collectaholics'. My expertise, built up over 40 years, was required to value a local collection.
I was told that the collector, Paddy Howe, is a museum volunteer and keen local collector with no concept of the value of his collection.I pointed out that Paddy also sells fossils on the High Street (under the Teddy Bear Shop) so this scenario was a little dubious. The programme makers said they knew about this but Paddy only sold common things, he kept anything of scientific interest and he gave lots of fossils away to children.
If you are a BBC executive, the word is your snout is seriously stuck in the trough and if you are a BBC executive and they want to get rid of you expect a massive golden handshake. Otherwise auntie Beeb does have a reputation of paying its staff poorly by industry standards (…still a decent whack by anyone else’s standards). They certainly do not work for nothing. They still expected me to work for them for nothing! Well, not quite, 45p a mile travel allowance was mentioned! I refused.
So, when you are next in Lyme with some kids (borrow some kids if necessary) visit Paddy’s shop underneath the Teddy Bear Shop and ask for some of the free fossils Paddy gives to children.