A Remembrance of Guy Livingstone Wilson (1885-1962)

A friend to many

Michael Jefferson-Brown remembers a dedicated hybridist

GUY WILSON was born in 1885 and brought up in the small village of Broughshane some miles from Ballymena in Co Antrim, where his father ran the leading drapers. His interest in daffodils started when, as a young child, he made a small collection. He drew up a careful plan of his plantings so his mother could report progress when he was away at boarding school.
Under protest he started work at the family-owned tweed mill but was given a year off to trade with his daffodils, the idea being that he would find it an unviable enterprise. But Guy soon established a specialised business for fanciers worldwide. He paid meticulous attention to his correspondence, writing at length to a number of growers both at home and abroad.
GLW Guy raised daffodils of many kinds, sowing thousands of seed each year, but it was the whites with which his name was always associated. Small ones with little green eyes, such as 'Cushendall' and Frigid' are still treasured. Fine large-cupped kinds followed in succession, eg, 'Slemish' (1929), 'Ave' (1942), 'Easter Moon' (1950). Large smooth trumpets were very special - 'Kanchenjunga' (1933), 'Broughshane' (1937), his favourite 'Empress of Ireland' (1950), and 'Panache' (1962) named in the year of his death. The bi-colour trumpet 'Preamble' (I 946) was a leader of its type for decades.
His yellow and orange cultivars included one of the most persistent show winners ever, 'Chungking' (1940), and the important early kind, 'Armada' (1938). Pink cups were an abiding interest, his flowers often being purer in colour than those of his competitors. The rimmed 'Interim'(1942) gave solid pink-cupped seedlings. 'Passionale' (1956) is still winning prizes and is a leading garden kind. A series of lemon seedlings marked an important new departure. 'Spellbinder' (1940) is now a favourite. This deep lemon cultivar has a trumpet Daffodils that becomes almost pure white with age while the petals retain their colour.
Guy remained a bachelor, faithful to his daffodils and his Presbyterian church, a lover of vocal music, his series of Labrador dogs and his lovely, green, Northern Ireland home, and a friend to all who loved daffodils. Many interesting and pleasing personalities have been involved with daffodils, but Guy was a uniquely dedicated one, a dear and gentle friend to many.

(As published in "The Garden" March 1991)

Gardeners Chronicle, February 15, 1964

"KNOWEHEAD" - and a Great Ulster Daffodil Raiser

To see reference to the large-cupped white daffodil 'Knowehead' is to be reminded that this fine variety was named after the house "Knowehead", pleasantly situated on rising ground outside the village of Broughshane in Co. Antrim, and overlooking the near-by River Braid. It was here that the great Ulster daffodil raiser, the late Guy L. Wilson, V.M.H., spent his childhood and early adult life.

On the sloping lawns and underneath the fine trees grew the naturalized daffodils of the countryside, the common double daffodil, Narcissus telamonius plenus, the common single, N. pseudo-narcissus, and the dwarf daffodil, N. minor. And in the garden borders his mother grew among others the Tenby daffodil, N. pseudo-narcissus ssp. obvallaris,N. ' Butter and Eggs' N. incomparabilis plenus and N. poeticus ssp. poeticus var.recurvus.
Knowehead with its daffodils in the grass.
It was here that Guy Wilson was first attracted to the flower.
It was from his mother that Guy Wilson undoubtedly inherited his early love of nature and of flowers. Among the most vivid of his memories was that of one day asking his mother if there were such things as white daffodils. Her answer was to show him the pictures in one of the earliest-ever daffodil catalogues, the 1888 issue of William Baylor Hartland's A Little Book of Daffodils. Wilson claimed that to this treasured booklet he owed much of his early enthusiasm and inspiration.
In the 1955 Daffodil Year Book he wrote, "White daffodils have always had a special fascination for me, and I have worked continuously on them since I began breeding."
In his 'teens, Guy Wilson commenced to build up a collection of varieties and, while he was at boarding school, his mother was given the task of keeping him posted and informed on the growth and behaviour of the daffodils at home. In 1906 he made his first crosses and from then until his death in February, 1962, his life was devoted to the growing, breeding and improving of the flower he loved.
The " yellow fever," as Guy Wilson inimitably put it, is a catching complaint; the crowded benches at Ballymena Horticultural Society's Daffodil Show bear tribute to his local influence and encouragement. His name is perpetuated by the Guy L. Wilson Memorial Championship Cup, presented by Lord Rathcavan for the winner of most points in the open classes.