Irby, Leonard Howard Loyd (DNB12)

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IRBY, LEONARD HOWARD LOYD (1836–1905), lieutenant-colonel and ornithologist, born at Boyland Hall, Morningthorpe, Norfolk, on 13 April 1836, was son of Rear-admiral Frederick Paul Irby [q. v.] of Boyland Hall by his second wife, Frances {d. 1852), second daughter of Ichabod Wright of Mapperley Hall, Nottinghamshire. The father was second son of Frederick Irby, second baron Boston. Charles Leonard Irby [q. v.], captain R.N., was his uncle. After education at Rugby and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he entered the army in , and served with the 90th light infantry in the Crimea from 5 Dec. 1854 to 20 March 1855. He was present at the siege of Sevastopol, and received the medal with clasp and Turkish medal. In 1857 he was wrecked in the ship Transit with Captain (afterwards Lord) Wolseley and his regiment in the straits of Banca, Sumatra, on his way to China. The arrival of the news of the Indian Mutiny caused the destination of the regiment to be changed, and it at once proceeded to Calcutta. He served throughout the Mutiny from 12 August 1857 until the close of the campaign. He was engaged in the defence of Brigadier-general Sir Henry Havelock's baggage at the Alambagh; advanced to the relief of Lucknow with Lord Clyde, and after the relief and withdrawal of the garrison of Lucknow he remained with Sir James Outram to defend the Alambagh till the final advance of Lord Clyde to the siege and capture of Lucknow. He was present throughout those operations, and was awarded the medal with two clasps and a year's extra service. In October 1864 he exchanged into the 74th highlanders, and was with that regiment at Gibraltar till 1872. He retired as a lieut.-colonel on 1 April 1874. While stationed at Gibraltar Irby devoted himself to ornithological study, and continuing the labours begun by Thomas Littleton Powys, fourth Lord Lilford [q. v. Suppl. I], proved a pioneer in investigations into Spanish ornithology. He embodied his research and observations in his 'Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar' (1875; enlarged 2nd edit. 1894), including southwest Andalucia and northern Morocco. The book enjoys a standard repute. Irby pursued his studies with ardour at home on his retirement. He prepared a useful 'Key List of British Birds' (1888), and contributed several papers to the 'Ibis.' As an ornithologist he denounced the wanton destruction of bird life and the needless multiplication of species by scientists. Latterly he took up lepidopterology, and with the help of his sons formed a very good collection of European butterflies and British moths. The former belongs to his son, Major Frederick Irby of Boyland Hall, Norfolk, and the latter is in the Norwich Museum. Irby was a member of the council of the Zoological Society of London from 1892 to 1900. He assisted in the formation of the life groups in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, where some of the most remarkable cases of British birds bear his name.

He died on 14 May 1905 at 14 Cornwall Terrace, Regent's Park, and was buried at Kensal Green. He married (1) on 31 Aug. 1864 Geraldine Alicia Mary (d. 1882), daughter of J. B. Magenis, rector of Great Horkesley, by whom he had two sons; (2) on 22 Jan. 1884 Mary, daughter of Col. John James Brandling, C.B., of Low Gosforth, co. Northumberland, by whom he had a daughter.

[The Times, 16 May 1905; Ibis, July 1905, obit, notice by Willoughby C. Verner; Nature, 18 May 1905; Burke's Peerage, s.v. Boston; Hart's Army List; Lord Wolseley's Story of a Soldier's Life, 2 vols. 1903; private information from his son. Major J. Irby.]

H. M. V.