Died in this city, on the 1st inst., in his 87th year, Mr. John Tweedie, Gardener and Botanist.
Deceased was a native of Lanarkshire, Scotland, and his profession, properly speaking, that of a landscape-gardener. His intelligence and activity, added to the thorough practical training he had received, under some of the ablest masters of that time soon brought him under the notice of the leading men of the profession. At an early stage in his career he attained the situation of foreman in the Dalkieth Gardens, and subsequently the same rank in the Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh. In both of these he had many precious opportunities both of seeing and acting, under the ablest superintendence; and with his natural predisposition for the pursuits in which he was engaged, these opportunities were not thrown away. These were subordinate posts, though of great trust and responsibility. But the term of probation approaches it close, and he must now assume a leading part, relying on his own resources, and directly accountable for the results.
About the close of the last century, a new garden and pleasure grounds were to be formed at Castle-Hill, in the immediate vicinity of Ayr, and the subject of this hurried memoir was selected for the purpose. Here he had a long and arduous struggle with an uncongenial soil and bleak climate, but the munificence of the proprietor, and the skill and indomitable perseverance of this juvenile gardener, at last prevailed. This undertaken he ever after, regarded as the crowning triumph of his professional career. The mention of recollection of Castle-Hill seemed as grateful to him, as we may suppose that of Waterloo or Marengo to have been to the greatest captains of our age. Ten years of this rugged but pre eminently successful enterprise.
His success at Castle-Hill next recommended him to the proprietor of the adjoining estate of Sundrum, were he was employed for about seven years, in remodelling and extending the garden and pleasure-grounds of the venerable and princely mansion.
His mission at Sundrum fulfilled, he removed to Blairquhan Castle, the property of the late Sir David Hunter Blair. Here he had to renew a struggle similar to that at Castle-Hill, though on a smaller scale, and of a shorter duration. About six years sufficed to put the garden and pleasure-grounds of Blairquhan in working order; and then the charm for Mr. Tweedie was gone. His genius was essentially invented and creative, and consequently opposition and obstacles his true element; just as there are seamen who prefer the excitement of the tempest to the monotony of the calm.
His next and last appointment in Scotland, was that of gardener at Eglinton-Castle, during the minority of the late lamented Earl. He had now attained the acme of his profession in his native land; and at the mature age of fifty, most men would cheerfully have settled down, to enjoy the quiet and comforts of declining life. He might have done so, with the best of prospects, under the auspice of a generous and patriotic nobleman, whose memory will be long cherished with grateful veneration, throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.
But Mr. Tweedie had aspirations not yet satisfied. He had heard of the botanical and floral riches of South America, and felt attractive towards them, as by some magnetic influence, that to his ardent temperament was quite irresistible. In consequence, he abandoned his snug retreat at Eglinton Castle, and in 1825, arrived in the port of Buenos Aires.
During the residence of 37 years in this country Mr. Tweedie prosecuted his professional avocations, so long as health and strength permitted, with enthusiastic zeal and perseverance. Of his taste as a landscape-gardener, Santa Catalina, in the vicinity of this Capital is still a noble monument after all the vicissitudes era. His gorgeous plantations, that in Great Britain, and most other parts of Europe would have required centuries of careful cultivation, show at least the capabilities of our soil and climate; and we may add, that were his original plans revived and carried out, Santa Catalina might easily be made a suburban Villa, fit for prince or president.
Latterly, his attention chiefly directed to botanical and floral productions of the Republics of the Plate and of the Empire of Brazil. In quest of these, his peregrinations, at his own risk and cost, extended from Bahia Blanca in the south, to Tucumán in the north, embracing the coasts of the Plate, the Paraná, the Uruguay, the Rio Negro, &c, and that of the Atlantic as far north as Rio de Janeiro. With what success he fulfilled his arduous mission, may be seen in the botanical record of the United Kingdom and inferred from the active correspondence maintained for many years with Bonpland, Sir William Hooker, Dr. Gillies, of Mendoza, Dr. Gordon of Cordoba and other names distinguished in these departments of natural science.
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© Graeme Wall 2005