Jan and Lynne Dalton have just been made aware of the death of Wilson Stewart earlier in 2014. The Society is saddened by his passing and thank Jan and Lynne for this tribute.
Following recent enquiries it is with great sadness that we have just learned about the
passing away of Wilson Stewart on 22nd March 2014. Wilson apparently suffered a heart
attack at his home and was taken to York hospital where he died later that day.
Long serving members of the Daffodil Society and its Northern Group (of which Wilson was a founder member in 1978), will recall the fantastic daffodils that Wilson grew and staged at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show in the 1970/1980’s and later at the Solihull and London shows.
His interest and knowledge of daffodils was gained at an early age in his native Ireland
when he was privileged to visit and work briefly with the Richardsons and Billy Toal at
Prospect House, Waterford, which was close by to his parents home. Later, Wilson ran a
florists shop in London and then went on to teach floristry and floral art to debutantes
at Eggleston Hall, Co. Durham (venue of the TV documentary series ‘Ladettes to Ladies’) and where he re-kindled his love of daffodil cultivation, when the facilities and garden
space at the Hall presented an opportunity too good to miss.
From here, Wilson went on to win many of the top prizes at the National Shows in London, Birmingham and Harrogate the latter being a particular favourite show where he had several Grand Champion Blooms with Empress of Ireland, Rashee and Snowshill. His all-white flowers were huge and immaculate and seemed to relish the cold climate at Eggleston Hall. Wilson also found the time to begin raising his own seedlings and had he remained at the Hall, he would no doubt have raised and registered many more new and exciting flowers. The pink-rimmed ‘Barnard Castle’ was one of his raisings that eventually found favour as a good show flower and which eventually went round the world to New Zealand where it also did well.Wilson was one of the first UK growers to visit the New Zealand shows and his report in the NIDG journal of 1982 makes interesting reading.
It was during his time at Eggleston Hall that Lynne and I got to know Wilson very well
and we became very close friends, travelling to Committee meetings and shows together and enjoying exchange dinner evenings (Wilson was a first class chef and could teach me a
thing or two!). Wilson was also a member of our two local horticultural Societies at
Richmond and Colburn and he supported both shows every year.
On one weekend in April in the early 80’s, Colburn was hosting the Northern Group
Sponsored Class at its Spring Show and we had many visitors and exhibitors from all over
Yorkshire. After staging and while the judges were completing their task, the whole
ensemble took the opportunity to travel up to Eggleston Hall at Wilson’s invitation, to
see the amazing daffodil growing regime out in the wilds of Co.Durham. The visitors were
treated to an insight into cultivation in pots, under poly-tunnel (one of the first to use
this system at that time) and in the open raised beds in the walled garden. We still have
many photos of the visitors that day and the impressions they took back with them, to try
out in their own gardens.
Unfortunately, Wilson was to make a number of occupational moves after this time and his travels took him to Ware in Hertfordshire; Maxwelton House, Moniaive, Scotland; Cold Christmas in Hampshire and latterly to retire to his beautiful ‘Honeysuckle Cottage’
situated in Bugthorpe, Nr York a tied courtesy dwelling belonging to Lord Halifax’s
Estate and for whom Wilson had been a personal butler in earlier years.
Though unmarried, Wilson enjoyed his retirement with his other loves and constant
companions, his pedigree Pugs, of which he had up to three or four at any one time and
which he also exhibited at top dog shows around the country, including Crufts. He settled
into remote village life, something he was well used to and continued to grow a few
exhibition daffodils in pots in his small greenhouse and garden, mainly for pleasure but
occasionally a short foray to Harrogate or the Ancient Society of York Florists spring
Wilson served on The Daffodil Society’s Committee for a number of years and also on the D.S. Northern Group’s Committee from its inaugural meeting. A great grower, writer and
exhibitor of daffodils, but above all a great friend and companion. He will be sorely
missed by all who new this gentle, mild-mannered and very knowledgeable man. Tragically, Wilson lost both of his parents in a serious road traffic accident some years ago,
however, he leaves a brother and family and to whom we send our heartfelt condolences.
Jan & Lynne Dalton.