Happy birthday to one of Wellington’s most distinguished residents. Bob Corbin is 100 years old today.
His family have marked the occasion by commissioning a portrait of Bob by distinguished painter Paul Saville.
One of the high points of Bob’s long career as a horticulturalist was the post-war restoration of the Royal Parks in London and advising the Queen on restoring the ceremonial lawns at Buckingham Palace.
However, his day job at the time was landscaping the new LCC housing estates springing up across war-torn London. Bob’s handiwork is visible whenever you visit the capital.
Yet suprisingly for a man who rose to become President of the Institute of Groundsmanship, Bob began his working life as the most junior teenage gardener (one of a team of 16) at a mansion in Hampshire, where his father was a dairy farmer.
His 2007 autobiography, Travels of a Bothy Boy, tells the story of his remarkable working life and steady progress to the absolute top of his career.
Bob moved to Wellington over ten years ago to be close to his daughter Anita Corbin and now lives at Oak Tree Court residential home. Author Jen Green, co-author of Bothy Boy with Bob Corbin, wrote the following poem to honour his birthday.
THE MAN WITH A SPADE AT HIS SIDE
So Robert Corbin! Your century at last.
One hundred years of life have strolled past.
Schooled in the forest where you were hatched
With five other brothers to make up the batch.
From New Forest Bothies to Royal Parks gardened
Every which way your experience just broadened
Edwardian Mansions with acres of space
Brought you Bothy Boy status to set the pace
To study at RHS Wisley where you found your growing charms
Until the Second World War called you to arms.
You joined the Royal Navy and headed for sea
Was holed a few times, as expected to be,
But good fortune was with you when ‘Hood met its fate ’
You were due on board ship but the train arrived late.
Back on dry land after all that had happened
Rebuilding the landscape the enemy had flattened.
Changing Blitzed London whatever it takes
Planting thousands of trees on the bombed-out estates.
Upgrading Royal Parks where tourists would take a stroll
Advising the Queen on her camomile lawns, that was also your role.
Travelling thousands of miles to let the world know
Sound horticulture was the right way to go.
Later you were locked up in most UK Prisons
Judging the inmate’s floral visions
Then you flew to Australia to inspect a ‘duff’ wicket
Just to be sure all’s fair in cricket.
You founded many Institutes to represent
Groundsmanship, Horticulture and were elected their President
Then especially invited to join just 100 fellows of Linnaeus
Later helping ‘old gardeners’ to get a charity status.
Very few households in the UK today
Have not been touched by Bob Corbin’s fair play.
Described by his friends and very well meant
Our Bothy Boy is a true gardening gent.
Your pocket full of memories must not miss out
The three vital women who brought it about?
Violet Mary your mother and Alda your wife,
And Anita your daughter who still shares your life.
Three strong women whose futures were laid
On the day Robert Corbin took to the spade.