The incredible story of Colin Wyatt – artist, author, adventurer, skier, musician, entomologist…THIEF

Colin William Wyatt was born in 1909, son of British mountaineer and botanist James Fforde Wyatt. He was a graduate of Cambridge University. and later studied at the Slade School of Art. Two of his paintings were hung at the prestigious Paris Academy. He was also a world class ski jumper and….wait for it – yodeller! ūüėé

On Valentine’s Day 1937 a small item appeared in Brisbane’s Sunday Mail.

YODELLER FOR A.B.C.

Arrangements have been made for Colin Wyatt, an expert Swiss yodeller and accordion player, to tour for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He has made many appearances in this role for the B.B.C.

It is interesting to note that Mr Wyatt is British ski-jumping champion and has been Britain’s¬† representative in the world ski-jumping championship since 1931.

COLIN WYATT (The Chronicle, May 29 1947)

The yodelling tour included Tasmania, and the Launceston Examiner  reported that Mr Wyatt had performed before Edward Prince of Wales at a dinner party at Magdalen College, Oxford, and also for the King and Queen of Norway while he was in that country competing in ski jumping. Wyatt returned to England after the tour.

In 1939 Colin Wyatt married Mary Scott-Barnett,  daughter of  a British army colonel. He and his wife emigrated to Australia, settling in the Sydney  suburb of Woollahra.

Wyatt competed in top level ski events, and continued  to paint. In 1941 he held a one-man exhibition;

When war broke out, Wyatt, who spoke a number of languages, joined the R.A.A.F. He  served as a censor, a broadcaster in French and German on short wave radio , and finally as  a camouflage officer in the Northern Territory, North Queensland and New Guinea.  These remote locations allowed him to indulge yet another of his  passions; collecting butterflies.

Colin Wyatt was charismatic and engaging. He made many contacts in the  butterfly collecting world, including the foremost Australian expert. Gustauv Waterhouse.

In 1930


Waterhouse had generously donated his collection of 60,000 specimens to The Australian Museum in Sydney. They were principally from India, Japan, and Australia. Included among the latter were examples of the rare, metallic blue Genus Ogyris.

Specimen of Genus Ogyris. Colin Wyatt stoles some of these butterflies from the Australian Museum.

SOURCE – WIKIMEDIA

 

G.A. Waterhouse with cases of butterflies he donated to The Australian Museum.

GUSTAVUS WATERHOUSE AT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM. HE HAD BEFRIENDED COLIN WYATT

During¬† Wyatt’s prolonged absences from Sydney his wife formed an association with a Royal Navy¬† officer. and subsequently she deserted him.

Mary Wyatt

Mary Wyatt pictured in Sept, 1942 (SOURCE – DAILY TELEGRAPH)

The newly divorced Colin Wyatt went home  to England in January 1947.  Shortly after arriving he collected four crates of  rare and exotic butterflies from the Royal Victoria and Albert Docks.  There was only one problem. It was suspected that he had stolen thousands of  specimens from Australian museums, including 1,600 from the Gustavus Waterhouse  collection. Scotland Yard detectives were about to pay him a visit.

FOR PART TWO OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

FOR MORE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON COLIN WYATT, CLICK HERE

5 Comments
  1. Another fascinating story! Looks like the butterflies are still around – in Munich! Thankyou Pauline for this history.

  2. Another great heist from the Australian Museum

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