Gentil (once deputy head of the college's horticulture department and later head
of business and management), died last year. His widow, Elizabeth,
accompanied by her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, attended the planting
and commemorated her husband by unveiling a plaque (below, right) in the orchard.
establishment of a Community Orchard came from Tony. Trees have
been planted in the orchard in stages over the years and the latest planting
included apple and pear trees from the Tony’s fruit tree nursery. Eventually
there will be more than 30 trees (apple, pear, and cherry) in the orchard.
the plaque unveiling ceremony was Tom Deans who, as a former Head of
Horticulture at Reaseheath, was once Tony's line manager.
The Chairman of Nantwich in Bloom, Doug Butterill, and Sue Hughes, the Secretary,
were also present, as was Jeff Stubbs, Chairman of Greenspaces South Cheshire C.I.C., who
is also Chairman of Nantwich Civic Trust.
Butterill launched the unveiling ceremony by saying: "This Community
Orchard was started about five years ago with just five apple trees
provided by Cheshire Landscape Trust and the inspiration came from
Tony Gentil. Last year we had more apple trees from the trust, again
inspired by Tony.
"He has been a wonderful inspiration to me, Nantwich in Bloom, and
Greenspaces South Cheshire. We miss him now.
didn’t know so much about him working with Reaseheath College so I’m
delighted that we have Tom Deans here. He was Head of Horticulture
when Tony worked at Reaseheath."
Deans said: "It is unusual for this sort of event to be held out in
the open. It's usually fancy drapes and pull strings and the Queen’s
here. You haven’t got the Queen; sorry to disappoint you.
"I first knew Tony when he came to Reaseheath as a student – as did
his wife. Reaseheath is to blame for Tony and Liz getting married.
It was the best thing he ever did.
"Having said that, he did many good things. He was a very fine
lecturer and when I became head of department he was a very close
colleague and he did a fair job in horticulture at Reaseheath.
"There was another side to Tony – a side for conservation. He was
what we call in the trade, a good knifeman – he could propagate
anything. He could grow roots on an old chair leg.
"He found some of the old varieties of fruit in the area, and in the
country, and with his skills he was able to propagate them on to root
stocks. Hence we have some of these old varieties now being
perpetuated in his memory. I cannot think of a better commemoration
of a gardener. He was a gardener; let’s not talk about heads of
department and deputies. He was a gardener; we were all gardeners.
"There is no better monument for a gardener than something living.
And this orchard, as long as it is here, will be living proof that
Tony shared so much with us. We are so grateful to him for his
contribution to everything.
is lovely to see his wife, and his grandchildren as well because it
perpetuates things. I want to say, Liz, it’s been a pleasure to be
here to remember Tony for what he was – a gentle man.
ELIZABETH responded with: "When
Doug asked me, back in September, whether I would mind if this new
orchard planting was dedicated to Tony's memory my first
thought was how surprised he would be.
"He was one of the most modest and
unassuming people I ever met. He was never one to push himself
forward, or to seek accolade or status. He was known by those close
to him to be the sort of man who gets on with things quietly, working away
in the background, achieving great, and sometimes extraordinary,
things but rarely having these
publicly acknowledged - until today.
"He has left us a great legacy. Over his career he did much to
help change the face of arboriculture from “someone called a
forester who does things with trees” to a respected profession where
practioners' achievement was measured in the same way as academic
achievement - by peer
scrutiny. He influenced many people with his calm and pragmatic
approach to management, teaching them from his lifetime's experience
of real work in local government and horticulture.
"After he retired from Reaseheath he
was in demand to speak to professional groups both in horticulture
and other fields including, once, a meeting of psychiatrists.
"He had a contract over three years to
promote orchard planting in Wales, which was funded by the Welsh
government and the E.U.
"The one word that I have heard more
than any other used to describe Tony over the past weeks is inspirational.
He had that profound and lasting effect on people. Tony's
dedication to everything he undertook means
that we have a number of apple and pear varieties now in
cultivation that were thought to be totally lost. He tracked down,
and he corresponded with, the heirs of those who developed Cheshire
varieties such as Elton Beauty and Millicent Barnes, And he
rediscovered and brought several varieties back in to cultivation
including the Aston Town pear
which we have just planted this morning.
chiefly, his family will remember him as a loving, immensely
kind-hearted and tireless gardener who was never as happy as when he
was working outside in his wellies and bodywarmer, whatever the
weather. When we care, at
Briarfields, for his hundreds of fruit trees we will feel
close to him. Who else but Tony would grow peaches, nectarines,
apricots and figs alongside his apples, pears, and plums?
"I hope that this community orchard
flourishes and, like Tony, provides inspiration and fruit for many
years to come."