Distinguished horticulturalist and statistician

John Markham: June 17th, 1940 - March 29th, 2015


John Markham, who has died aged 74, made a significant contribution to Irish horticulture, both locally and nationally.

It was the passion of his life and he grew dahlias and sweet pea to exhibition standard. His friend Alex Brannigan bred the “John Markham Dahlia” in his honour and it was planted in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin last year, in keeping with the President’s wish to have Irish cultivars planted there; it also features in the Botanic Gardens.

He was born in Portrane, Co Dublin, the son of Tom, a psychiatric nurse and mother, Mary, née Gavin. He attended Donabate National School and secondary school at De La Salle, Skerries. He spent a year at University College Dublin before joining An Foras Talúntais/the Agricultural Institute, the forerunner of Teagasc. In 1964, he married Mary Egan, whom he had met two years before.

He joined CIÉ in 1969 and qualified as a statistician through a course with the UK Institute of Statistics. In his 26 years in CIÉ, he was involved in long-term planning for the company, including the Dart and Luas rail systems, and was seconded to Sofia in Bulgaria to help in the development of that country’s railways.

A leading light in the Delgany and District Horticultural Society from the 1970s, he served as treasurer and then secretary and chairman. He was chair of the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (RHSI) to which society colleague Peter Harrisonsaid he helped bring a new sense of direction”.

He served on the board of management of St Laurence’s National School, Greystones, playing a crucial role in liaising with the Department of Education, providing facts and figures on population growth and the numbers of children in the area needing schooling.

Open garden

During his funeral Mass, one of the items placed on his coffin was a copy of The Irish Times, representing his keen interest in current affairs and unwavering need to read the paper daily. He featured a number of times in the paper’s Weekend Magazine in relation to horticulture.

He is survived by Mary, his children Maria, Éamonn, Áine and Róisín, and his siblings Tom, Eileen, Pat and Andrew.