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A news item about the passing of the club's first president, Fred Downham.


The family of Fred Downham have paid tribute to a man whose passion for gardening was 'second to none'.

Fred was born and raised in Galgate and remained there his whole life.

He lived to the ripe age of 91 but passed away peacefully in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary on August 11 after a short illness.

His funeral service and committal were held on August 24 at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium.

Fred leaves a wife, Susan, and daughter Jo. He also had a daughter Jackie, who has passed away, and another daughter Sylvia from an earlier marriage, who has also passed away.

Fred first became interested in gardening through his father, who ran a nursery in Galgate.

He met his wife Susan at one of his gardening classes; they fell in love and were together for more than 40 years.

Fred once ran a flower shop in King Street, Lancaster, where he loved arranging bouquets for occasions such as weddings.

He also taught gardening to groups of patients at the former Moor Hospital, giving them little projects to do.

Daughter Jo said: "His knowledge and passion for gardening were second to none. He tried to teach me as a child and I was planting onions; little did I know he was turning them all the right way round after I had finished. I did get fairly good with tending to the sweet peas though.

"He grew so many vegetables and flowers as he used to write about them in a newspaper, and he also commented on equipment sent to him. Every meal we had to give our opinion on taste, colour etc."

Fred went on to broadcast on Radio Lancashire, where his garden became the Radio Lancashire garden and people would come from all over to walk around - up to 7,000 people visited one year.

He also appeared on Classic FM and Gardeners Question Time, and was a judge at the Chelsea Flower show where he and wife Susan met many celebrities.

Fred also appeared on TV, including in the observation round of the Krypton Factor with Spit the Wonder Dog. He also appeared in a Gardeners Question Time panel on Emmerdale, where character Seth asked him how to make moonshine.

Jo said: "His knowledge and passion also took him and my mum around the world. He judged in Jersey, showed people around the botanical gardens of South Africa and went on many cruises that were specifically designed for gardening fanatics."

Away from gardening, Fred enjoyed acting in local pantomimes, usually as a dame or ugly sister. The village had lots of fun watching the shows, and Fred and Susan still have many good friends from these occasions.

When he wasn't pottering in his garden, Fred also enjoyed sketching his favourite flowers.

Lancaster Guardian August 28 2020







A TV programme recorded last year and which features popular Garstang character Ben Andrews. who died earlier this year, will be broadcast on Sunday, April 5.

Retired Myerscough gardening lecturer Ben Andrews, who died in January, and who was president of Garstang Gardening Club, visited tne Antiques Roadshow at Lytham Hall, Lytham, with his daughter Geraldine, when they took with them one of their items of historic interest to be valued.

Ben was best known around the district for his horticultural expertise but had many other interests including history and art.

Items featured on the programme will include:

a chair that is believed to be from Nelson’s flagship

a gruesome insight into Victorian dentistry

a series of watercolours rescued from a skip and worth thousands.

a diamond pendant presented by the city of Liverpool

some sixties rock and roll memorabilia of the highest pedigree.

The programme is to be screened on BBC One on Sunday, 8pm.

30th anniversary year
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Happy 30th anniversary

Current chairman Roger Broadbelt introduced the group’s founder and original chairman, Ben Andrews, who gave a talk on how the club was formed.

He explained he had launched a gardening class in the Garstang area after he had taken early retirement as a horticulture lecturer at Myerscough College, and it was from the gardening class which the club emerged.

Following Mr Andrews’ talk he led a candle lighting and cake cutting ceremony, blowing out the candles and cutting the cake, which had been decorated by Hilary Hine.

The main part of the celebration was a horticulture-related quiz with the questions set and asked by Ruth Wiseman. She was assisted by Peter Wiseman and Hilary Hine.

About 15 teams, each of about four people, took part in the quiz in which the questions ranged from serious to light-hearted.

The team with the highest score was the “Bowland Beau and Belles” team, whose members were each presented with a bar of chocolate by Mr Broadbelt.

The quiz was followed by a buffet supper, with some of the eats on display being saved from the homecraft section of the club’s summer show two days earlier.

After the supper Mr Broadbelt thanked all respnsible for the success of the evening - the quiz people, Mr Andrews for his talk, and Barry and Marlene Till for looking after liquid refreshments. Thanks also to Hilary Ralphs and the ladies in the kitchen who did a sterling job making tea and coffee and did acres of washing up.


Report and photos Anthony Coppin.