OBITUARY: Tom Shearer: 1925-2012

Tom Shearer. Broughton. Tweeddale Citizen of the Year 2007.
Tom Shearer. Broughton. Tweeddale Citizen of the Year 2007.
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Tom Shearer was born at the Astley-Ainsley hospital in Edinburgh on the November 16, 1925.

He spent the first 21 years of his life at home with his parents, three brothers and one sister at Hillhead Park, Bonnyrigg, and was the youngest of the family.

The house had a large, one-acre walled garden and it was here that Tom’s lifelong interest in gardening started when he was around four or five years old.

He was a pupil at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh and at the outbreak of war in 1939, became an evacuee and attended Lasswade Secondary School.

Because the school roll had now doubled, only half-day education was available. Tom was sad to say he felt he didn’t learn very much in that period. The only thing he remembers was from a class of religious instruction where he recollects a school pal, when they were asked to compose a prayer, writing one word: “Amen”.

Tom left school in the summer of 1940, aged 14, and started work at Dobbies in Gilmerton, which was a nursery at that time. His wages were the grand sum of eight shillings and six pence (46p) for a 48-hour week.

By falsifying his age, Tom was able to join the Bonnyrigg Unit of the LDV when it started. There was no uniform, just arm bands. He recalls a large quantity of pikes arriving at the unit. Later he acquired a Royal Enfield motorbike and became chief despatch rider for the Bonnyrigg Unit. He served throughout the war until the Home Guard was disbanded.

Enrolling as a student at the East of Scotland College of Agriculture in Edinburgh in 1942, Tom was the only student studying horticulture, qualifying in 1944 with the Scottish Diploma in Horticulture, and following further studies, gaining the National Diploma in Horticulture.

He was then invited to join the College of Agriculture’s staff in the position of horticultural adviser to help the nation grow more food, and remained in the same post for 40 years. Latterly, he was in charge of the Horticulture Unit at Liberton as a senior horticultural advisor for the south east of Scotland.

A keen rugby player, Tom turned out for Lasswade and Peebles, and was a founder member and chairman of Peebles Round Table and president of Peebles Rotary Club.

Tom married Annette England in Liberton Parish Church on the June 20, 1955. They lived in Eddleston for five years and moved to Broughton in May 1960. They had a loving marriage and raised three children, Colin, Julie and Wendy. There are now four grandchildren: Claire, Peter, Hannah and Julia.

Tom opened Beechgrove Garden in Broughton to the public around 1965, and it has been open ever since for charity, giving pleasure to many. The BBC Scotland TV series of the same name featured the garden more than once.

Tom received a number of awards including the Scottish Horticultural Medal and Citizen of the Year for Tweeddale. He was awarded the MBE in 2004