Dermot O’ Neill

Dermot O’Neill, the voice of gardening on Irish radio and television for decades, died on 01 July. Maybe you heard him on radio talking gardens with Pat Kenny or Derek Mooney or perhaps you enjoyed his slots on The Garden Show with Helen Dillon or on Live at Three? He gave sensible gardening advice in plain language all of us could understand.

A plantsman to his bones, Dermot had an encyclopaedic knowledge of how, when, and where to grow almost anything. He was one of that exceptional generation of gardeners trained by Barney Johnson at Marlfield Nursery. An excellent writer and lecturer, he was completely at home in front of a microphone. He loved to travel and trips he organised to South Africa, China and Madeira are the stuff of legends. He was a member of the Council of the RHSI, a founding member of the IGPS and a patron of the homeless charity Threshold.

Restoring the walled garden at Clondeglass, Co Laois was the great adventure of Dermot’s middle years. Making that garden was therapy while he endured lengthy cancer treatment. Much was achieved, but ultimately plans for the garden were not fully realised. His book ‘Clondeglass; Creating a Garden Paradise’ shows how much had been done by Dermot and his many friends against the odds and how important the garden was in Dermot’s path to recovery.

In talking to some of Dermot’s life-long friends for this piece, they remembered an optimistic, curious, convivial man who enjoyed people and who inspired lasting and protective friendships. Something of a gourmet, he liked his red wine. He was interested in architecture, in gemstones, in antiques. He loved to visit art galleries, old churches and, of course, gardens. He was generous in meeting fellow gardeners, patient and courteous.

Fifty-eight was too young to die. Goodbye Dermot and Godspeed.

Mary Hackett

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