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David Robinson, who has died aged 74, was a passionate horticulturalist who made an important contribution to its promotion in Ireland and internationally that ranged from research and development, to training and communication.
Born in Belfast, he obtained his BA degree in horticulture from Reading University in England, his master's from Cornell in the US and his doctorate from Queen's University Belfast.
His work in horticulture began as an adviser in Co Down, but he was soon appointed deputy director of the Horticultural Research Centre, Loughgall, Co Armagh, where his research included pioneering work on weed control in fruit plantations. He continued his research following appointment as director of horticultural research in the Kinsealy Centre of the Agricultural Institute, Dublin.
This era saw great changes and developments in horticulture in Ireland, and he was the driving force behind a young team dedicated to this work. His vigour, enthusiasm and thoroughness were an inspiration to all who worked with him, and he stewarded an energetic and progressive research programme for the next 25 years.
His research on weed control, which was his lifelong study, quickly gained him international recognition. He was influential in transforming the approach to weed control in the commercial production of top fruit and soft fruit through his research at centres of the institute at Ballygagin and Clonroche.
This he also applied to garden maintenance, to nursery stock and general ornamental plantations, and the success of his approach was shown spectacularly in his beautiful seven-acre garden in Howth which he maintained unaided using his technique.
This garden was designated one of Ireland's National Plant Heritage Gardens because of the large number of rare and tender plants, mainly from the southern hemisphere, that flourish there. The garden was awarded the highest accolade (two stars) in the Good Gardens Guide (Ebury Press) and was featured on Irish, British and Australian television.
Robinson was a one-time president of the Horticultural Education Association of Great Britain and Ireland and represented Ireland on the council of the International Society for Horticultural Science from 1964 to 1990.
Appointments, honours and awards flowed in his direction, including the Gold Veitch Memorial Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society, London, honorary life membership of the Royal Dublin Society and of the International Society for Horticultural Science, and fellowship and distinguished horticulturist award from the Institute of Horticulture (UK and Ireland).
He was also elected a fellow by the American Society for Horticultural Science, the highest honour offered by the society.
The international fame which he earned and the many awards he received did not take from his generous, modest and approachable personality.
He had an excellent sense of humour and enjoyed using amusing turns of phrase with great effect in lectures, for which he was in great demand both at home and abroad. He was an invited speaker in all five continents and visited more than 60 countries on various horticultural missions.
He was employed as a consultant by FAO, the Department of Foreign Affairs, APSO and the Irish Horticultural Development Board. From 1992 to 1998 he was guest professor in urban horticulture at Humboldt University, Berlin, and spent up to one month each year in Germany lecturing to final-year students and developing a course in urban horticulture.
Robinson was a regular panel member on Gerry Daly's popular RTÉ Radio 1 phone-in programme, Ask About Gardening. For a four-year period he was a presenter on the Green Fingers TV programme which was transmitted by BBC and RT. He wrote numerous articles on gardening for Irish and UK magazines and was a judge at national and international garden festivals. He published more than 100 scientific papers and was joint editor of three books.
He is survived by his wife, Muriel, daughter Karen, son Ivan and four grandchildren.
David Robinson: born April 2nd, 1928; died March 28th, 2004
This page was last updated on 06-Dec-2020 .