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
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
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
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
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
By J. CRAIG WALLACE
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.
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.
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.
THE WILSON FAMILY TREE