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Georgie Benjamin - Legend

Unwelcome reading on the cover of the latest edition of 'The St Helena Connection' the official news magazine of the Society of Friends of St Helena which arrived last week.

I was introduced to Georgie by agronomist Richard Gillett in early 1985 after expressing an interest in painting the wild flowers of St Helena, the South Atlantic island that was my home from October 1984 -  October 1987. 

Our first outing took us part way along the uneven rocky route to Lots Wife Ponds on the Sandy Bay side of the Island and we weren't successful on that day in finding an example of 'Babies Toes' or 'Old Man Live Forever' or maybe even the 'Salad Plant'.  Can't remember in truth what we were looking for now - but I do remember the feeling of anticipation and adventure and the sun and 'newness' of being out in the open air in such a different landscape.

Subsequently, Georgie showed me where all the different flowering endemic plant species could be found and over time we traversed the Island from one end to the other and also ventured to the highest point 'Diana's Peak' on several occasions.

The photo of Georgie (below) in his garden at Pounceys' was taken in 1997 and kindly sent by Peggy Visick - though a decade earlier when I last saw him he was even thinner if anything and almost always wearing his dark, slightly oversize work coat whilst going about the business of tracking down plants.........

Below is an extract from Peggy's letter - click to enlarge - in which she describes him as a 'natural lovely man' and of course, he was.

One of the last outings with Georgie was to the Peak to inspect the last surviving 'St Helena Olive' tree and to collect a specimen to paint and I vividly remember clambering through the undergrowth beneath the canopy of the steep wooded slope and looking up at the tree he discovered in 1977.

He refers to 'the olive' in an excerpt from his letter below, dated September 2002 - click to enlarge - and also the Boxwood, another plant that had previously been thought extinct.

Visit The St Helena Independent and scroll down to pages 14, 15 & 16 to read tributes from Basil George and the staff and members of the St Helena Government Conservation Section and also the story of his discovery of the St Helena Ebony written by Rebecca Cairns-Wicks.

It's hard to accept the passing of another unique individual from the world, someone such as George, self effacing and modest but with huge knowledge and awareness and enthusiasm for his enduring vocation -  the conservation of the native plants of the Island of St Helena.

That short time of shared history and the memories that remain after 25 years can only be treasured.


  1. What a beautiful post you have written from your heart here Lesley. A lovely tribute.

  2. So sorry for your loss Lesley, but what an honour to have met such an inspirational and clearly genuinely lovely man...touching tribute xx


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