McWhirter joined the Alpine Garden Society in the mid 1970's,
and has been an active and enthusiastic member of the Ulster
Group ever since. His organisational flair and friendly
personality made him an obvious successor to Mrs Marjorie Watts,
when she decided to stand down as secretary in 1978.
priorities upon assuming this role were two-fold. Firstly, to
increase the Group's membership, but also and perhaps even more
importantly, to bring a friendly and informal atmosphere to all
the Group meetings and other activities. To this end. one of the
most effective measures to be introduced by him was the wearing
by members, of name badges.
Another area where
his attention to detail would become very evident, was in the
planning and preparation for visits to gardens. No matter where
the garden to be visited was located, John always made it his
business to make the trip himself beforehand, so that all the
logistics involved, right down to the smallest details, were
meticulously accounted for, thus ensuring that the outing went
After sixteen very
successful years as Group Secretary, John decided, in 1994 to
relinquish the position, although he had no intention yet, of
being "put out to grass"!
His enthusiasm for
the Society and gardening in general has not diminished in the
least. He rarely misses a meeting or Show, and his generosity
with his time, his knowledge and especially his plants, is well
known and appreciated by his many friends in the gardening
world. Indeed the esteem in which he is held was acknowledged by
his peers, in November last year (2003) when members of the
Dublin Group and the Ulster Group met together for the annual
Termonfeckin weekend. On the occasion all present joined in the
celebration of his 90th birthday.
well as continuing to actively maintain his garden, other
interests and challenges are enthusiastically embraced by this
indefatigable nonagenarian. He has just had his computer
upgraded for the third time and has taken to email like a
natural. His zest for life, and forthcoming hip replacement
should see him striding confidently on to his century. I am sure
we would all wish it so.