Phil Joyner Obituary 1946-2020

It is with great sadness that I report the sudden and unexpected death of our Honorary Secretary Phil Joyner. Phil joined the Society back in 1972. He has during the 48 years since he joined been a tremendous asset to the Society through all his hard work and endeavours to promote both the Society and of Heather growing to the public. Phil recalls his interest in growing heathers starting following his purchase of terry Underhill’s book Heaths and Heathers which he acquired through a book club (see The Heather Society Bulletin Vol. 6 No.1 Autumn 2000). He was living at Holbury in the New Forest at this time where he first started growing heathers.

Phil was born on 10 February 1946 in Lyndhurst, which is the heart of the New Forest but lived for most of his life in Totton with his wife Lin, where they brought up their two daughters. When Phil lived in Holbury he worked at a chemical factory adjacent to the Fawley Oil Refinery. On 1977 he changed his job to work for a computer company on Totton, where they moved with Lin and their two daughters in 1977.

I first recall meeting Phil around 40 years ago, when I was living with my parents at Chandler’s Ford. I had accompanied my father to the Southampton Show and I noticed heathers for sale. I had already joined the Society a few years earlier around 1974. We would have discussed the Society at that time and I would have bought a few heathers to add to my early collection. Phil was organising the South-west group of the Society from 1978 and he encouraged me to attend some of my early meetings which were held at Lychett Matravers Village Hall in Dorset. These were fond memories of Phil. He introduced me to Phyllis Kennedy (1910-2000), who gave us encouragement about growing South African heathers. Phil grew several South African heathers in his greenhouse in Totton.

We were both given a plant of Erica longifolium by former member John Tucker, who believed it to be a South African erica. We kept in out greenhouses, but we discovered it was actually Erica multiflora. Phil named it Erica multiflora ‘John Tucker’, which is still one of my favourite heathers.

In 1984 Phil was voted into Council where he soon made his mark organising THS Conferences. I had just moved to London at that time but I would still try to attend a few of the South-west Group events when I came to visit my parents at weekends. I got to know Phil better when I first attended the Society’s Conferences, which he organised with meticulous care. The Conferences he organised were always located in different parts of the UK, where heathers could be seen growing naturally. The selection of hotels we stayed were beautifully appointed and so welcoming for the delegates, especially our overseas visitors who often jetted in from California, Oregon and Maine in USA, Norway, Holland, Germany and Ireland.

Phil carried on as Conference Manger through to 2011, when he handed the baton to Susie Kay. His work for the Society carried on as he took on the role as Treasurer until 2013 when he became Honorary Secretary, an arduous and time consuming rile, which Phil undertook with his usual meticulous care and attention to detail. In recent years Phil has been the mainstay of the Society dealing with the Charity Commission as we change to Heather Society, a membership Society, unencumbered by the Charity Commission.

Phil’s dedication to the services of the Society did not stop here. The Chairman David Edge has run a number of events at Hampton Court Palace as part of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Annual Flower Show in the summer and Phil was always an ever present volunteer. I shared many happy occasions at the show with Phil advising the public on how to grow and care for heathers, advising on the different species, cultivars and colours, as well as selling heathers. He was as always polite and friendly with the members of the public occasionally sharing a joke or two.

Also John Hall would participate in the Annual Wisley Flower Show in June and again I had the pleasure of Phil’s company sharing in advising members of the public on how to grow and care for heathers. Phil and his wife Lin were also regular attendees at Home Counties Heather Society events, particularly at RHS Wisley where THS members would gather to see the National Collection of heathers and join in the discussion about heathers at the xx . Lon would bring lovely cakes to share with members at tea.

And more, Phil was also a member of his Totton and District Gardner’s Society for many years and was Honorary Secretary from 1997 to his death. He was known for giving talks on heathers and also fuchsias, as he collected these plants as well. He was also an avid steam train enthusiast and would participate in the Swanage to Wareham and Watercress Line journeys.

Phil as a truly dedicated Heather Society member for almost 50 years and we all owe our thanks to his inspiration, kindness, generosity and friendliness. We have all lost a great friend and companion and a real gentleman.

Phil’s wife Lin and daughter, Amanda, attended his funeral on 19 August 2020. His other daughter Sharon sadly passed away. Dave Brown kindly attended on behalf of the Heather Society. A very befitting floral tribute was presented with a steam locomotive laden with heathers. It reminded me of the Heather Society Conference in North Wales where Phil and Lin along with members took a steam train through the Welsh moorland with heathers in flower.


David Sprague passed away on 19th November 2019

20th February 1935 – 19th November 2019

The Society is sad to announce the passing of David Sprague at the age of 84 on 19th November 2019.

David joined the Society in 1994. He was active in heathers within his local area and attended the Southern Group meetings and for a period was involved with heading up and helping organising the Southern Group events. David and his wife Audrey took a great interest in Society affairs attending many Conferences with David often contributing to discussions at Society AGMs.

David’s working career was in the Diplomatic Service living in seven different countries. When David retired in 1993 he and Audrey settled down in their home in Dorking, Surrey. Such was David’s passion for heathers he transformed a terraced garden on a steep slope into an almost exclusively heather garden. David greatly valued the early help and advice he received from the late David Small. Society members visited the garden on several occasions and admired a wonderful display. David and Audrey eventually moved to Exmouth, Devon and he continued his interest in heathers, creating a new heather garden with plants from a well-known heather nursery.

The Society wishes to pass on its condolences to David’s wife, Audrey, his two sons and one daughter and five grandchildren.

Phil Joyner

Roy Nichols PhD passed away on 7th October 2019

The Society is sad to announce the peaceful passing of Dr Roy Nichols at the age of 90 on 7th October 2019.

Roy joined the Society in 1967, so not far off of being a founder member. He served the Society as a Member of Council from 1993 to 2006 travelling down from Newcastle to London for many of the Council Meetings within that period. Also, for a period, he was a member of the financial Sub-committee of the Society. He was active in heathers within his local area and for many years was a Committee Member of the North East Local Group and for a period chaired that Group.

Roy was an industrial chemist during his working career. His horticultural interests were wide and apart from his interest in heathers he also had an interest in orchids and cacti. He attended several Society Conferences and whilst a very colourful character he was a joy to be in the company of.

The Society wishes to pass on its condolences to Roy’s wife, Florence, his sons and grandchildren.

Phil Joyner

Jean Preston passed away on 22nd January 2019

Jean Preston

1944 – 2019

The Society is sad to announce the passing of Jean Preston on 22nd January 2019.

Jean was an amazing person, who found time to get involved in a wide range of community and charitable activities, and she was very well known in her local community.  Her love of heathers and concern for environmental conservation led her to joining The Heather Society in 1990, and we were fortunate to gain a member with such energy and organisational ability. Her invaluable contributions to the Society began almost immediately, when she was closely involved in the Harlow Carr heather trials with her soon-to-become husband Albert Julian. She and Albert co-authored two papers in the 1992 and 1993 Yearbooks on “Heathers in Yorkshire”, which among other things described the heather planting at the handsome new entrance to Harlow Carr Gardens, a planting in which they played a major role.  Those beds continue to provide a dramatic colourful welcome to visitors to the Garden today and are a fitting testament to Jean.  Sadly Albert passed away in 2001, but Jean continued to serve the Society as a member of Council for another 11 years.

Jean’s first official Society appointment was as slide librarian in 1992, and during 1993 she was appointed to Council.  In 1999 she took on the office of Registrar, with responsibility for registering new cultivars.    In 2001 she became Secretary, a position placing particular demands on her time and one which she held for 11 years, finally stepping down in 2012 to continue in her less stressful role as custodian of the Society’s slides.  During all these activities Jean somehow also found time to resurrect the Yorkshire Heather Group, which had faded away after the demise of its organiser Ken Barraclough, and as Secretary and Treasurer for the Group she organised talks and visits for the membership. The meetings were held at Harlow Carr, where Jean’s many contacts with the Garden’s hierarchy proved invaluable. At these meetings she also provided refreshments, often in the form of delicious cakes and biscuits of her own baking.  Jean also had a broad knowledge of the practicalities of heather propagation and growing and was always happy to share this knowledge with others.  She will be sadly missed by so many.

The Society extends its condolences to Jean’s husband Mike.

John Griffiths

Donald Mackay passed away on 24th November 2018

Donald Mackay

1926 – 2018

The Society sadly announces the passing of Donald Mackay on 24th November 2018.

Donald Mackay joined the North American Heather Society (NAHS) in 1987.  By March of 1988, “Dr. Donald Mackay” was listed on the Heather News masthead as “Northeast Editor” and contributed an article to that issue.  Donald served as the northeast regional editor of Heather News in 1988 and 1989.  He served as acting editor of the periodical from 1990 through most of 1994 and as the society’s official editor from then until the end of 2002.  While he was editor, if not enough articles were submitted to fill an issue, Donald would write his own articles on a diverse assortment of topics having to do in any way, however small, with heathers.  During some years, he wrote more than 40 articles.

After passing along the editorial red pen in 2003, Donald Mackay continued to write articles for Heather News.  He was its most prolific and dependable author, submitting between two and six articles per year.  His last article was published in the November/December 2018 issue of Heather News Electronic.

Donald served as NAHS president from 1990 through 1992 and again in 1999 and 2000.  He also served for many years in various offices of its Northeast Heather Society (NEHS) chapter and was vice-president of NEHS at the time of his death.  He served as principal author of the NEHS publication A Regional Heather Growing Guide.

Soon after joining the NAHS, Donald became a member of The Heather Society (THS) and remained so until his passing. During that period, Donald corresponded regularly with members of the THS, attended at least two Conferences and contributed articles to the Yearbook of The Heather Society for no fewer than four editions.

Donald leaves a son and two daughters (his wife, Lottie, and a daughter pre-deceased him), nine grandchildren and his longtime companion, Elinor Cohen.  The Heather Society extends our sympathy to them.

Ella May T. Wulff

Albert Turner June 1916 – January 2018

The Society is sad to announce the passing of Albert Turner at the age of 101.

Albert discovered and propagated Erica arborea ‘Albert’s Gold’ (description and illustration within this website) and the cultivar was subsequently introduced into cultivation by Denbeigh Heather Nurseries by 1975. After Albert celebrated his 100th birthday, in June 2016, the Society was delighted to place  a “news” item on this website and to feature a photograph of Albert on the front cover of the 2016 Autumn Bulletin including a few words from Albert’s grandson within that same Bulletin.

The Heather Society wishes to extend sincere condolences to Albert’s family, for their sad loss.

The passing of Ron Cleevely

The Society is very saddened to announce that Honorary Member, Ron Cleevely passed away, at his Devon home, on 26 February 2017.

Ron joined the Society in 1971 and soon became a stalwart member, especially indexing the Yearbooks (from 1963 through to 1993). In 1982, in recognition of his indexing work, Ron was made an Honorary Member of the Society. He also belonged to the Cape Heath Group, and he and Ros attended the party at Dr Violet Gray’s garden, Hindhead, in 1973 (Heathers 2: 38). Ron was Assistant Editor of the Yearbook from 1994 to 2001.

Ron became a Member of the Council of the Society in 1994, a position which he retained until 2001. In 1997 he was elected Hon. Secretary, retiring in 2001.

The Heather Society wishes to extend sincere condolences to Ron’s wife, Ros Cleevely, for her sad loss.