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Vol 37  No 15
June 9, 2005


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Oration honouring Bernard Jackson

It was often wondered whether Bernard Jackson fled England in the wake of the controversy over the republication of D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in its time a byword for sexual athletics. What is the connection? Well, the central male character is a gamekeeper, Jackson’s original calling. It has been said that the unfortunate publicity afforded gamekeeping’s extra-curricular skill effected a remarkable decline in the profession. Perhaps this is why we were lucky to get Bernard Jackson on our side of the water in 1957. And he certainly was able to put his job as gamekeeper to use at Oxen Pond. Once when patrolling the park he encountered a couple in the bushes enjoying more than the flowers. While observing that they were more (or less, depending on your notions of propriety) than naturally clad, he was appalled to note that the male member of the party was very quick to whip the blanket out from beneath the lady in order to protect his dignity, little concerned about hers. Jackson was more appalled by the gentleman’s lack of chivalry than by the couple’s questionable conduct. But that sort of attitude, and his tweeds and a dog at his heel, is the reason why the volunteers regularly addressed him as The Squire.

They also admired ­ and were much encouraged by ­ his palpable enthusiasm for all things he dealt with. He would, during one of the Garden’s fund-raising plant sales, often became so eloquent about the virtues of a particular item that he would not only convince the enquiring customer but also all the volunteers within earshot so that the item disappeared off the sale table at that moment. One can only hope the plant purchased was not one of those few weeds that Bernard Jackson was unable to recognize. Once when he was weeding the rockery, he came across a strange new specimen. The younger members of the crew collapsed in laughter when it was shown to them and they were immediately able to identify it as marijuana.

However, Vice-Chancellor, do not fear that the park is a grow-op. You are spared that embarrassment but do note that embarrassment may have been its mother. The Oxen Pond Botanical Park was brought into being because the university had been judged less than environmentally conscious when it improperly destroyed a biologist’s bird collection. The creation of the garden was an attempt to assert that the university was concerned about such matters. It has since become one of this university’s great prides and Bernard Jackson has been a principal in its development. It was he who developed the volunteer base which made the garden such a remarkable community effort and kept it running through times when declining budgets might well have seen it disappear. When he needed an office building he asked the university but when the price came in at $750,000 the answer was, “No.” So Bernard offered to do the building for $100,000 ­ but had to be given a free hand in the contracting. To that the university said, “Yes,” and it was built for $90,000 with Bernard returning the extra $10,000 to an amazed Mose Morgan, a credit he was ever after able to draw on.

Great at improvisation, he was also very good at interpretation, producing 10 pamphlets for the park on birds, butterflies, nature photography and gardening. One important project he undertook was to record and collect “Heritage Plants,” plants that had been commonly grown here and that had demonstrated a capacity to survive this climate. He also encouraged people to look at cultivating in their own gardens plants that could work for Newfoundland and, in so doing, gave a new impetus to the local horticultural industry and to the now general interest in gardening. Fellow of the Linnaean Society and life member the Newfoundland Horticultural Society and the Friends of the Garden, winner of an award for nature photography at the New York World’s Fair and the Aldridge Science Public Awareness Award, Bernard Jackson, through his work at the Botanical Garden has created a remarkable facility for the better understanding of nature. Chancellor I present to you for the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, he who cultivated our own small Eden, Bernard Jackson.

Shane O’Dea
Public orator

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