Real Lives: Blooming bad luck as gardening group folds

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Members of a 60-year-old gardening group have expressed their sadness after the group folded because of a lack of new blood.

The committee of the Gorebridge Horticultural Society took the decision to wind up after treasurer Derek Hamilton died suddenly in December. It means the flower show held in September will prove to be its last.

For Bert Robertson, 83, a member of the society for more than 50 years, the group was a place of “camaraderie” and will be sorely missed. He says: “Although at my age I had stopped exhibiting, I am sorry to see it finishing up. I remember early on I really enjoyed it because there was a great camaraderie.

“Although we were competing with each other, there was a crowd of us that were really friendly. I am disappointed that it has to finish.”

The history of the society can be traced back to 1919, with locals from the Midlothian town gathering to share their interest in gardening, plants and vegetables.

The group was forced to disband temporarily in 1937 ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War, but was re-established in 1952 – the year in which members held the first annual flower show that would become the centrepoint of the group’s activities. With competitions for growers of plants, vegetables and cut blooms, the show became a highlight of the town’s calendar.

“It was really hard work getting it all ready,” recalls Bert of the experience of preparing for the weekend show. “The night before we had to get the staging ready and erect it in the church hall in Gorebridge.

“Then, of course, there was the putting out of all the tables and stalls, and making sure all of that was OK. Then the exhibitors would start to arrive and that would be us until 11 o’clock at night helping them get the exhibition ready.

“On Saturday, from 7am, there would be more exhibitors arriving with their flowers. In the afternoon, the whole thing would be open to the public and then at night it would all have to be dismantled again. It was a long, long day – really hard work.”

As well as the annual flower show, members of the society enjoyed monthly winter talks on horticultural issues.

“In my day everybody cultivated a vegetable garden,” says Bert. “But these days people are lazy and they can just buy everything at the supermarket. Now I am the only person in my street who grows vegetables – and at the age of 83 as well!”