16/07/2024
Norwich, GB 15 C
Researching and reporting on the lives of some really interesting people (RIP)

ARTHUR BOYT, aged 85

HOW TO DEFROST A WEASEL

Born in Watford on the day the Second World War broke out, the 3rd September 1939, Arthur had a twin brother called Dennis.

Arthur’s parents were William Boyt, a solicitor, and Bessie Legg. He had two older siblings, John and Naomi.

His grandfather had invested in the Titanic and went bankrupt when it sank. After that, the family were always very careful with money.

Titanic sinks (courtesy National Geographic)

The family were part of the Exclusive Brethren sect (an offshoot of the Plymouth Brethren). Their upbringing was extremely strict. Arthur remembered ruefully, “No television, no Christmas festivities, no black pudding (as they were forbidden to consume blood)”.

Arthur’s father, William, died when the twins were just ten.

Bessie was a keen botanist and encouraged the twins to take up foraging.

For his twelfth birthday, his older brother, John, bought Arthur a book on taxidermy. He became proficient at it.

The twins also became keen cyclists and by the age of thirteen, they were going on 100-mile rides.

During one such journey, they came across a pheasant that had been run over by a car in Windsor Great Park. Arthur picked it up, took it home and persuaded his mother to roast it. He was amused by the notion of having a meal at the monarch’s expense.

His mother showed him how to prepare animals for cooking – skinning, deboning etc.

After that, he started collecting more roadkill. He and Dennis used to cycle to their sister’s house in Norwich – a trip of 110 miles each way. “That would result in quite a bag of pheasants and hares.” Arthur said his sister looked forward to their visits as it would replenish her larder.

When Arthur was just eighteen, his mother died.

He went to university to study Biology and then became an entymologist, a job he held for seven years.

During this period, he married Patricia, another member of the Exclusive Brethren.

Arthur changed jobs, becoming an information officer working for the Civil Service, a position he held for the rest of his career.

He remained a keen cyclist. He crossed the USA by bike, followed by Canada and later he rode from Cairo to Khartoum. Arthur had a big collection of bicycles.

He was also a runner. Later in life, he ran the London Marathon twice, both in a time of under three hours. Arthur could not bear to throw out his old running shoes (“memories”), so had a very large collection of them.

Additionally, Arthur was both a keen canoeist and kayaker. He would take either of his boats out onto the Grand Union Canal at Watford and would sometimes have boating holidays in the Lake District or on the lochs of Scotland.

The Grand Union Canal at Watford (courtesy Simon’s Walks)

Arthur was also a keen ornithologist who could recognise any British bird call. He eventually became chairman of the Watford branch of the RSPB. He carried out bird surveys for the organisation.

In 1976, Arthur was expelled from the Exclusive Brethren for ‘dissent’. His wife, Patricia, immediately left him – and his twin brother, Dennis, never spoke to him again.

Money was tight, so Arthur started eating roadkill. It was to become his biggest passion. Any animal he found dead on the roadside, he would take it home, cook it and eat it.

He would eat the roadkill as roast dinners, curries, casseroles, stews and even in sandwiches.

Arthur loved animals and claimed he would never, ever harm one. “Roadkill comes when it comes. I don’t go out looking for it.”

Over the years, Arthur ate deer, pigeon, pheasant, rabbits, hares, sparrows, squirrel, weasels, hedgehogs, otters, and on one occasion even a bat – “the strangest taste of anything I ever ate.” The only part of an animal that he wouldn’t eat was the eyes.

He even ate rats.

Arthur instinctively knew how to cook each animal, relying on his biology degree to help him.

He said that swan tasted of mud, and fox, “tastes and smells like a mixture of diesel and onions.” He found that fox ‘repeated’ on him, so he stopped using it.

Arthur continued collecting dead foxes that he found by the roadside but had an alternative purpose for them.

Arthur detested fox hunting. He would use the dead fox carcasses as decoys in order to distract the hounds. On more than one occasion, he came to blows with huntsmen.

Although Arthur enjoyed pigeon, his particular favourite was dog. He said he would never eat any dog that had a collar on it. He believed you could get 15 meals out of a large dog, with sandwiches left over.

He justified eating dog, saying it was a delicacy in Asia. “They are tasty. They border on lamb.”

Arthur once ate a carrier pigeon. He said it was nicer than an ordinary wood pigeon – much more lean.” He then sent a letter to the owner, saying he had eaten it. The response was, “Glad you enjoyed it.”

A polecat would provide four servings.

“I’d never go out of my way to find a carcass, but I can’t leave a good meal.”

Arthur brought a porcupine back from a holiday in Canada, but said it was ‘disappointing’.

In 1996, Arthur remarried, to Sue. She was a vegetarian.

As a concession to Sue, he gave up eating dog.

He retired soon afterwards, and the couple moved to a 500-year-old farmhouse in Davidstow, Cornwall. They lived there with their rescued cat.

Arthur continued running and would do two lengthy runs each week. He was still cycling and took up orienteering, becoming so proficient that he represented England, even in his old age.

He joined the Loveny Male Voice Choir and built treehouses and sheds out of reclaimed materials. He also kept large collections of animal skulls and stuffed animals.

Arthur kept on eating roadkill. His wife said he was pathologically averse to spending money. Even the clothes he wore, such as his favourite jumper, had been found discarded at the roadside. “I’ve lived as though I was on a higher earning scale because I spend so little.”

However, he was noted for his generosity towards other people, particularly waifs and strays.

“I don’t like buying and eating meat. I feel very strongly about killing animals. I can just about manage a chicken leg at a party or something”.

Arthur even ate animals that had putrefied. “I’ve eaten stuff that is dark green and stinks. It had no side effects unlike eating buffet food such as sandwiches and scotch eggs.”

He claimed he had never once been ill due to eating roadkill.

However, Sue was not happy with this and began to take her food to eat in the bedroom. He gave up eating putrefied food. “I have to be discreet because I don’t want her to rush off and leave me. I’d sooner have her than the badgers.”

Arthur hit the national headlines when he had dolphin for his Christmas dinner. It had been washed up on the local beach. He featured on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio Two, sautéing the fish.

It caused an outcry – and he received threatening phone calls. “Because I helped myself to the dolphin, people were angry. But by doing so, I was disposing of it – which you are supposed to do. The owner of the beach wasn’t doing that.”

He said that there was nothing in the rules that said you couldn’t dispose of it by swallowing it.

About the outcry, Arthur said, “What a race of spoilt fusspots we have become.”

The police investigated him over the dolphin, as it was deemed Crown Property. At other times he was also investigated about eating an otter, smuggling animal skulls and over ‘a cat incident’. No charges were ever brought against him.

Privately, he admitted he didn’t like the dolphin, but wondered if that was the way he had cooked it.

After this, he was contacted by the media each year, to see what he was having for his Christmas dinner.

The year after the dolphin, he had sperm whale, which had also washed up on the beach. He marinaded it in wine and vinegar, then fried it with onions and ate it with Brussel sprouts.

Sperm Whale for Christmas lunch (courtesy Daily Mail)

He was warned that the whale could contain mercury but dismissed this by saying it was only for one meal and was not about to become a regular occurrence.

The Independent newspaper sent a journalist, Rachael Pells, to interview him. He invited her to lunch. She went with great trepidation.

To her amazement (and relief), she was served venison, from a roe deer that Arthur had found that morning. At the end of the meal, he persuaded her to try squirrel legs – and she was forced to admit the squirrel was tastier than the deer.

Arthur had a spell where he was subject to prank phone calls. Somebody would call at 2am and pretend to be the ghosts of the animals he’d eaten.

The press was very disappointed when they contacted him about his Christmas dinner for 2022. He told them that he and Sue were going to her brother’s, so he would have to give roadkill a miss.

However, he added, “My brother-in-law isn’t against roadkill, and his wife is from Papua New Guinea, so she doesn’t mind bugs and flies and those sort of things.” He got turkey!

Arthur would eat bought meat if he visited somebody else’s home. “I’m subject to the rules of the house. I go as a guest. I’m not running the show.”

In 2020, Arthur wrote his first book, which gave tips on how to cook various animals. It was entitled, ‘Roadkill: Recollections, Reminiscences and Recipes’. It included a recipe for hedgehog carbonara.

There was important advice in the book. “Do not be alarmed if you hear a whistling sound when you defrost weasels in the microwave. This is just the steam escaping from their mouths.”

Unexpectedly, the book sold really well.

Then, Arthur was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given just six months to live. He and Sue left Cornwall and moved to Exmouth in Devon, where she hailed from.

He actually lived for eighteen months.

Arthur had planned to write another book called, ‘100 Ways to Kill Yourself on a Bicycle’ – but he never got around to it.

When Arthur died, his close friend Helen O’Hare said, “He was a kind and generous man and helped many people on his journey through life. He was an inspiration on how to live simply, with as low an impact on the earth as possible. He will be missed greatly. His like will certainly not be seen again.”

Arthur’s own words were spoken at his funeral. “Just because it doesn’t have a label, doesn’t mean it’s not edible.”

RIP – Roadkill In Pies

 

 

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