The Returning Officer

Lions and tigers

Lyon Playfair (MP for the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews from 1868-85 and Leeds South from 1885-92) was probably the foremost scientist in recent Commons history.

His expertise was constantly called upon for commissions on subjects as diverse as civil service reform, margarine, the Irish potato famine, vaccination and Buckingham Palace. Some authorities credit him with introducing the penny postcard while postmaster general

Henry Handcock sat briefly (1856-57) as the Conservative MP for Athlone in the Commons, before meeting an untimely end at the hands (paws?) of a tiger in India in 1858. He is buried at Ooty in Tamil Nadu, known under the British empire as "the queen of the hill stations". Patrick Collins, Liberal MP for Walsall (1922-24), opposed the Performing Animals Bill 1923, saying that he had "20 or 30 lions" (he was a circus owner) and that "it is the namby pamby people who get up this legislation for this country".