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Marjorie Blamey

Marjorie Blamey

We never cease to be surprised at the amazing range of talents our Calibre members display and 97-year-old Marjorie Blamey MBE is no exception. Although not formally trained, Marjorie became one of the world’s best known botanical illustrators and her wonderful work can be found in books such as Cassell’s Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe; Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland and Wild Flowers by Colour

As a child growing up in the Isle of Wight she loved art but when she presented a drawing of autumnal nuts and conkers to her teacher she was told that nobody would be interested in her decorative offerings. Undeterred, in adulthood, she nurtured her creative side through photography and performing; working as a photographer during the day and as an actress at night, following her RADA training. 

It was in Epsom in 1941 that she met her husband Philip and after a whirlwind romance of nine months they married. With her new husband away fighting in the army, mustering her customary verve she volunteered as a Red Cross nurse and ambulance driver as well as bringing up two children. When Philip was demobbed in 1946 he decided to pursue a career with a slower pace of life compared to his war experience. He began a two year apprenticeship as a cowman and the family moved to their first Cornish farm. Marjorie continued to take on private photographic work, two more children completed the family and following their move to their second farm, for her own amusement, she began painting the flowers around their land. Her work was spotted at a local art exhibition by botanist looking for an illustrator for his book and quickly she began working on her first professional commissions. These included a book on magnolias by Cornish horticulturist Neil Treseder and Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland from the Collins Pocket Guide series, marking the start of a long-term collaboration with naturalist and author Richard Fitter, and botanist Dr. Christopher Grey-Wilson. Botanists started to send samples from around the world which were stored in various objects around the farmhouse including a number of specimens in the fridge and the bath.

Marjorie was to go on to sell more than a million copies of her wildflower reference books in many languages around the world. In recognition of her work she was awarded an MBE, three gold medals from the Royal Horticultural Society, and two from the Alpine Garden Society. She also became a founder member of Plantlife International, the charity which promotes the preservation of wild plants for the benefit in all. 

Although many of Marjorie’s original works are in private collections, the thousands of individual flower paintings used to illustrate her many books are on permanent loan to Plymouth University. This will ensure that her floral legacy will be accessible for students, academics and researchers.

The Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland, Flowers by Colour and Flowers of the Mediterranean, have just been re-printed. 

Marjorie still lives in Cornwall taking pleasure in the natural world around her particularly birds which are a lifelong passion. She is an avid reader and enjoys books on travel (she treasures the memories of traversing the world with her husband), classic fiction, biographies, thrillers and history.  

She has listened to over 80 books in the last 15 months and says audio books are a lifeline since losing her husband. 

And her favourite flower? The primrose, growing wild in the Cornish hedgerows.