Obituary: Mark Flanagan

Posted: 11/4/2016

It is with great sadness that we learnt only recently of the passing of Mark Flanagan, MVO, VMH, 1959-2015.

Mark Flanagan, Keeper of the Gardens at Windsor Great Park (The Royal Landscape), and Chairman of the RHS Woody Plant Committee. Having been apparently hale and hearty until then, in mid-September he suffered a seizure and subsequent heart attacks, from which he never regained consciousness until his death on 24 October.

Mark was thoroughly decent and likeable, a superb plantsman at the pinnacle of his profession and powers, respected by all who knew him. He started his horticultural career as an apprentice in the Manchester Parks Department, and then went on to undertake the horticultural diploma course at RBG Edinburgh, where he met his wife Lesley - and where he had already decided on his dream job: to be Keeper of the Gardens at Windsor Great Park. In due course he did just that, succeeding the legendary John Bond in 1997, but in the interim worked first at Kew and then Wakehurst Place, where he became Deputy Curator.

It was his great fortune, paradoxically, to be at Wakehurst when the Great Storm of 1987 struck. The devastation it caused at both Kew and Wakehurst Place was the impetus for a series of collecting expeditions to provide new specimens to rejuvenate the collections - and this catalysed a remarkable collecting partnership and deep friendship between Mark and his counterpart at Kew, Tony Kirkham.


Mark was a Speaker at the NIHGC Annual Conference in 2012 at The Royal Hospital Kilmainham when his topic was "Gardens in a Royal Park - The Savill and Valley Gardens".

Mark will be sadly missed. The Directors and Committee of the NIHGT belatedly extend their sympathy to his family circle and his many friends in the Horticultural world.

Tributes had also come from the highest places. As soon as she heard of Mark's illness the Queen appointed him a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO), an honour exclusively in her gift, and this was presented at Mark's bedside in Harefield Hospital. Horticulture was slower to respond, but rather remarkably, the Royal Horticultural Society broke with 118 years of tradition to posthumously award Mark the highest accolade in horticulture, the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH), news broken by Tony Kirkham in his eulogy. The VMH can be held by only 63 living recipients at any time and there is no doubt that as he approached the level of elder statesman it would have come to Mark.


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