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Door 12: (Penny) Dreadful Fellows No.2

twelveGuy Mortimer Fry: The disappointed art dealer and ‘scamp’

Our forage through the more disreputable annals of GSL history continues…

Guy Mortimer Fry was elected a Fellow on the 4 December 1901.  His application form stated that he was a ‘Mining Engineer and Mineralogist’ with ‘Extensive experience (geological) in Canada, United States and South Africa.

Fry does not seem to have been particularly active in the Society.  As was common with many members during that period he may have been happy to simply receive copies of the ‘Proceedings’ and attend the odd meeting here and there when in town.  Alternatively it was not unusual for some individuals working in professions connected with geology to specifically join in order to be able to add ‘FGS’ to their business cards and hence give themselves an air of authority – despite the fact that the Society at that time was not a professional body and required no formal geological qualifications to be a member.

On 12 February 1906, Aubrey Strahan, who was later to serve as President of the Society, wrote to the Assistant Secretary Leo Belinfante, enclosing the following newspaper cutting in case it had escaped notice.


Newscutting from unknown paper, 12 February 1906 (LDGSL/18)

The cutting – wonderfully entitled ‘LONDON POLICE COURTS. Scamp converted in Prison’ – details the case against Fry, who was accused of not paying for two cab journeys he took one after the other on the same day.

To compound his shame, later that same night Fry was arrested and fined 10 shillings for being drunk – which he avoided paying by returning to his home in Jersey.

Justice caught up with him on his return to London the following year, when he was imprisoned for seven days for non-payment of the fine and charged with absconding without paying for the cab journeys.

Fry’s defence: he’d only got intoxicated in the first place over the disappointment that a painting he wished to sell was worth less than he was told, was an upstanding member of the public and a Fellow of the Geological Society to boot and finally that his seven day stint in prison had converted him to Christianity.

All this fell on deaf ears, and he was ordered to pay the cab fares, 40 shillings in fines with 44 shillings in costs.

Unlike the case of Henry Lewis Phillips, recounted in the previous blog, Council could easily remove Fry from the list of Fellows for unbecoming conduct, as his annual subscription was in arrears.

This does not appear to be Fry’s only brush with the law.  According to the Proceedings of the Old Bailey there are at least another three mentions of ‘Scamp’ Fry.

old baileyOn 28 April 1908, a ‘George Morton Fry’ who claimed to be a Fellow of the Geological Society pleaded guilty to “obtaining by false pretences from Ralph Joseph Chapman the sum of £1, with intent to defraud; on March 9, 1908, obtaining from Albert Walter Gamage the sum of £4 12s 4d, with intent to defraud; on March 10, 1908, obtaining from the said Albert Walter Gamage one hat, with intent to defraud; on January 8, 1908, obtaining by false pretences from Arthur Albert Stephens the sum of £5 10s 5d.”  He was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

On 23 April 1912, Guy Mortimer Fry (no longer claiming to be a FGS and under his real name) was prosecuted again, this time for “obtaining by false pretences from Charles William Richards £10, with intent to defraud; obtaining by false pretences from Joseph Bai £1 10s, with intent to defraud; obtaining by false pretences from Alfred Ernest Richardson one waistcoat and other articles and £5 14s 4½d, the goods and moneys of Percy Harrison, with intent to defraud; obtaining by fake pretences from Rinaldo Gattoni the several sums of £4 and £4, in each case with intent to defraud.”  He was found not guilty.

Finally on 10 September 1912, Fry pleaded guilty to being an undischarged bankrupt and again obtaining monies by false representation.  Abandoning any pretence at respectability, by now Fry admitted to being a hopeless dipsomaniac.  He was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

One thought on “Door 12: (Penny) Dreadful Fellows No.2

  1. Pingback: Door 24: A christmas letter from the geoadvent blog team | Geological Society of London blog

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