Harry Bruins-Lich

In 1924 he spent some months at an Utrecht floral nursery where he worked with ‘‘veel liefhebberij en ijver” (much love and diligence), according to his testimonial. The following year, aged 21, he ‘entered’ the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (as his student gardener's certificate puts it). To obtain experience in subtropical gardening, he spent July 1926 to July 1927 at La Mortola Gardens (also known as Hanbury Gardens), Ventimiglia on the Ligurian Riviera.

He joined the staff of Plantation House, Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, as horticultural officer in 1928 where he seems to have had much opportunity to follow his own initiative, like introducing bee-keeping to the island. ‘‘He converted the Town Gardens which had become a waste and derelict open into a most attractive garden,” the governor of St. Helena wrote in 1932, upon Bruins-Lich's retrenchment due to ‘‘the need for drastic economy”. Under his ‘‘tactful chairmanship” the island's horticultural association obtained a contract with the Union Castle shipping line to provide fruit and vegetables.

The young man's adventures were not yet at an end. In the same year, 1932, he was appointed curator of the Royal Botanical gardens of Trinidad where he spent 3 years, upon which the governor wrote in beautiful handwriting (Bruins-Lich kept all these letters, framed) that he and his wife would ‘‘sadly miss your beautiful floral decorations”. Of his time in Trinidad, he'd tell his children many stories, like how he'd go fishing for barracuda, which was so plentiful that rotting barracuda carcasses would be put down as manure around the mango trees.

SA Association conference in Durban, 1939

Conference of South African Association of Parks' Superintendants. Durban, August 1939.

He returned to South Africa, replete with enthusiasm and experience, and took a post in the Pretoria parks department. He also got married to Margaret Williams (and, of course, did the bouquets himself, as he would later for his daughter Penny's wedding).

JH (Tom) Venning, formidable director of the then Parks and Estates Department, took retirement in September 1942 and there was only one obvious choice to fill his shoes. >>