Edward Kemp: Horticulturalist hailed as one of the finest of his generation
Tuesday 04 September 2012
Forty-one years have passed since Edward Kemp, who has died at the age of 101, retired as Curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh after 21 years distinguished by pioneering work on plant propagation. Stephen Blackmore, Regius Keeper of the Botanic Gardens, told me, "Kemp quite simply was one of the great horticulturalists of his generation and an innovator in the propagation of plants and their display. He was also an outstanding and inspiring teacher and his students went on to success around the world. His passion for plants remained throughout his long life."
Within weeks of my becoming an MP in 1962, Kemp invited me to visit the "Botanics", as he had heard that I was a beekeeper and might therefore be interested in plants. As a result I put down half a dozen parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Passing me in the corridor, Jack Maclay (later Viscount Muirshiel, and founding chairman of the Scottish Civic Trust), said to me with a chuckle, "You must have been seeing Eddie Kemp!" He was correct.
Kemp got money mostly from the Scottish Office for the then quite new concept of a Demonstration Garden, where the staff gave explanations of the families of plants, their characteristics and their inter-relationships. Kemp also extracted money from the Scottish Office, as well as some generous private benefactors, for the construction of glass houses designed and built in such a way as to produce the externally suspended modern range, which we see in so many botanic gardens today. Kemp can justifiably claim to have been the inventor. Critically, these glass houses enabled him to introduce his enlightened, naturalistic lay-outs for educational plant displays within an airy structure.
Edward Kemp came from generations of Aberdeenshire farmers and owed his training in horticulture to teenage apprenticeship to the distinguished Aberdeen Parks Department. To gain further experience he found skilled employment at Lord Cowdray's magnificent Dunecht estate garden, and by correspondence classes he not only studied surveying, but Latin and German as languages useful, indeed essential, to serious horticulture in the 1930s. In great old age Kemp could, and frequently did, quote from Virgil.
In 1932 he arrived at the Botanics as a student and made such a success of his opportunity that he was given responsibility for the propagation department, which was established to co-ordinate the cultivation of an influx of recently introduced Asian species. In 1943 Kemp was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. Fluent in German, he was seconded to Force 134, which led the immediate postwar allied occupation of Norway. On return to civilian life he was appointed Curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
On retirement in 1971 he went on to create a botanical garden at Dundee University. Shortly after his 100th birthday a new medal in recognition of his contribution to the Botanics was struck and presented to him at a celebration of his centenary. Professor David Ingram, Director of the Gardens from 1990 to 1998, told me: "Edward Kemp was a figure of immense importance in the history of the Royal Botanical Gardens and a giant in the botanical world of his day."
Edward Kemp, horticulturalist: born 26 July 1910; married 1954 Helen (died 2008; one son); died 7 July 2012.
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence's own witness contradicts athlete's version of events
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
Almost 40m gallons of drinking water discarded – because a man urinated in it
Peaches Geldof funeral: Private ceremony to be held at same place as her mother Paula Yates on Easter Monday
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Are you turning into your dad? The top ten signs you've embraced dad-ism revealed as survey says 38 is age men turn into their father
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...