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Peter Gregory, 1929 - 2020

Peter Gregory, 1929 - 2020

Peter Gregory
Peter Gregory, Co-Founder of The Maple Society

Born in June 1929, Peter was the eldest child of Alan and Edith Gregory. The Great Depression threatened the family stability and it was his grandmother who kept the family together over the next ten tumultuous years, until he and Pauline his younger sister, were evacuated to Northampton. In those days, Pauline was always his protector, often putting him before any thought of her own safety.

As a youngster he often ran down Edgeware Road, in London, to swim in the Serpentine a round trip of 10 miles. It was on one of these London jaunts he noticed Harrods was recruiting and to his surprise, they were prepared to take on a fourteen year old with no qualifications. He started as a messenger and quickly progressed, becoming their youngest ever cashier, an honour which he probably still holds.

When called up for National Service he was delighted to learn that he was to be attached to the Fleet Air Arm, but 1946 coincided with many pilots returning from the war and rather than taking demobilization most signed up for a further period of service, so Peter’s dream of becoming a pilot didn’t happen. After completing initial training he became a physical fitness officer excelling in many sports.

Once his national service was finished, Peter gained a Forestry degree at Bangor University and shortly afterwards he began working for the Forestry Commission, where he conducted various projects.

In the late 1950s he was posted to Knighton, mid Wales, where he met Margaret, a teacher at the local primary school. Margaret was a keen tennis player and belonged to the local club. Peter followed his heart and Margaret and took up tennis. They married in 1960 and had 34 wonderful years together before she died in 1994. They moved to Thetford and then in the early 1980’s he became Superintendant for their flagship arboretum at Westonbirt, a place Peter had always wanted to work. He retired from Westonbirt in the early 1990’s.

With Roy Lancaster’s and others support he became co-founder and chairman of the Maple Society and was soon known as a leading expert in Maples. He was editor of our quarterly magazine until he stood down in 2016. Gradually the society grew and with Peter’s encouragement, the North American branch was formed in 1990. 

He always contributed a maple profile to our quarterly newsletters focusing on the maple species.  These profiles have been meticulously researched and form the backbone of our newsletter. Thanks to his generosity these profiles are now also published on the Maple Society website and will be a lasting tribute to a very generous man.

He was the International Maple registrar for many years. Peter has travelled widely, especially N. America, he knew J D Vertrees well and took on the revisions of “Japanese Maples, the complete guide to selection and cultivation” after his death. In 2009, the IVth edition was printed.

As well as being a world maple authority he was also one of the nicest and most generous people you could ever meet and it was always a pleasure to spend a day with him. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

Hugh Angus, February 2020.


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