Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Leicester Hugo Kyle. 1937 to 2006.

I met Leicester soon after I enrolled at Canterbury University College in 1957. I walked across the road to the botanic gardens and asked the curator who I could contact in Ch.Ch. about my interest in N.Z. native orchids. His reply approximated "Go and look in the fernery and you will find an amateur who is one of the most knowledgable people in N.Z. "
Leicester was one of the new apprentices and we became firm and lasting friends. Years later, after he simply walked out of the gardens and into College House one day (having found God in a big way), I was visiting him in his room when up the stairs floated a vision in a sunfrock carrying a chocolate cake. It was his sister Sonia who I remembered as a very young flat chested teenager with prominent teeth and a flaxen plait. What a transformation aged nineteen! She later became my wife and until she left we spent a reasonably happy fortythree years together.
At the time I met Leicester he had excavated a square hole near the back door of his parent's home. It was roofed and on the shelves was an extensive collection of potted native orcchids growing beautifully.
I see now the good thing about my marriage was the guarranteed connection with her brother and we visited him and his family at most of the vicarages they lived in. After Miriel's death I spent time with Leicester at Millerton on a no. of occasions and like him , relished the diversity of flora and fauna in the region. When I retired we moved to a wonderful cottage and garden on the banks of the Ngakawau river at the start of The Charming Creek Track - one of the very best walks in N.Z. We only stayed two years as the floods were somewhat offputting and not too long after our return to the North Island Leicester rang and told me a snail shell I had picked up on Mt. Augustus years earlier had turned out to be new species. What a lot of grief that find has gived Solid Energy!
Only last February I stayed with Leicester for a week and we tramped the plateau - looking in particular for different forms of Celmisia. These are just some of the unique plants soon to disappear for ever. We also did some track repair work to restore access to one of the mine sites revealed to the public in the new Millerton Heritage Park he was instrumental in getting established. A cottage he bought acted as the Millerton Information Centre. I wonder if that great facility is still operating with it's photos. supplied by D.O.C., maps and poems. Visitors could make a hot drink and all that was asked was a donation.
While staying with Leicester on this last occasion I had the pleasure of reading works in progress and hope he finished the family sequence in particular. I enjoyed the series loosely based on his days in the Ch.Ch. Botanic Gardens too and was pleased to be able to replace some of the poetry burnt by Sonia a couple of years ago. How that was meant hurt Leicester I don't know but it was certainly a blow to me.
One poem in particular I would love to replace was a short one of Miriel's passing.
It is hard to believe that within a few weeks of being there enjoying his and Carol's company while putting his sister's departure behind me his kidneys should fail and that he is now dead.
Such a great loss.

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