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Camden’s ‘spiderman’ remembered in Waterlow Park memorial benches book

PUBLISHED: 10:50 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:50 07 December 2017

Bob Humphrys. Picture credit not required.

Bob Humphrys. Picture credit not required.

Archant

A spider expert who appeared in James Bond movie Dr No is just one of the many fascinating people who has a Waterlow Park memorial bench dedicated to him.

The front cover of In Living Memory: The Benches of Waterlow Park edited by Towyn Mason. Picture: RICHARD SHIPMAN The front cover of In Living Memory: The Benches of Waterlow Park edited by Towyn Mason. Picture: RICHARD SHIPMAN

Bob Humphrys joined the staff at London Zoo at the age of 14 after leaving Haverstock school, in Chalk Farm Road.

He now features in a book exploring the inscriptions on benches in Waterlow Park’s benches.

The book, commissioned by park guardians the Friends of Waterlow Park, details how Mr Humphrys started working with penguins and pelicans before moving on to parrots and birds of prey before the Second World War intervened.

Then he joined the East Surrey Battalion and, although he trained in jungle combat, served in Egypt and Palestine between 1944 and 1949 returning to the zoo when he came back to the UK.

From the 1960s until the 1980s Mr Humphrys remained at the Regents Park zoo becoming head insect keeper and later deputy curator of the insect house.

As the 122 page book explains, it was his expertise with insects which led to filmmakers seeking Mr Humphrys’ help supplying creepy crawlies for use in movies.

In the 1962 film which kicked off the James Bond saga, Dr No, Mr Humphrys stood in for Sean Connery’s stunt double who had balked at the prospect of a large tarantula from the zoo, called Belinda, crawling over his chest in one chilling scene.

Mr Humphrys’ son David is quoted in the book saying: “My father was known for his strong character, his no nonsence approach and his courage.

“He was truly brave and never showed any fear even when handling deadly invertebrates, like scorpions and poisonous spiders,” he adds.

Spider Belinda went on to 
make a special appearance in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, starring Harrison Ford, before she died in 1993 at the age of 22.

By the late 1980s Mr Humphrys,who married wife Irene in 1952 after they met at London Zoo, had to give up his job after developing cancer, going on to take up a role as a guide at Keats House before transferring to Chalk Farm library as a librarian.

The bench in Waterlow Park was installed by David and sister Michelle for both their parents.

‘In Living Memory: The Benches of Waterlow Park’ is available online or in Highgate bookshop.

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