Family pays tribute to Galgate's popular radio and TV gardener Fred Downham, who passed away at age of 91

The family of Fred Downham have paid tribute to a man whose passion for gardening was 'second to none'.

Friday, 28th August 2020, 11:29 am
Updated Friday, 28th August 2020, 2:06 pm
Fred Downham has passed away at the age of 91.

Fred was born and raised in Galgate and remained there his whole life.

He lived to the ripe age of 91 but passed away peacefully in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary on August 11 after a short illness.

His funeral service and committal were held on August 24 at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium.

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Fred leaves a wife, Susan, and daughter Jo. He also had a daughter Jackie, who has passed away, and another daughter Sylvia from an earlier marriage, who has also passed away.

Fred first became interested in gardening through his father, who ran a nursery in Galgate.

He met his wife Susan at one of his gardening classes; they fell in love and were together for more than 40 years.

Fred once ran a flower shop in King Street, Lancaster, where he loved arranging bouquets for occasions such as weddings.

He also taught gardening to groups of patients at the former Moor Hospital, giving them little projects to do.

Daughter Jo said: "His knowledge and passion for gardening were second to none. He tried to teach me as a child and I was planting onions; little did I know he was turning them all the right way round after I had finished. I did get fairly good with tending to the sweet peas though.

"He grew so many vegetables and flowers as he used to write about them in a newspaper, and he also commented on equipment sent to him. Every meal we had to give our opinion on taste, colour etc."

Fred went on to broadcast on Radio Lancashire, where his garden became the Radio Lancashire garden and people would come from all over to walk around - up to 7,000 people visited one year.

He also appeared on Classic FM and Gardeners Question Time, and was a judge at the Chelsea Flower show where he and wife Susan met many celebrities.

Fred also appeared on TV, including in the observation round of the Krypton Factor with Spit the Wonder Dog. He also appeared in a Gardeners Question Time panel on Emmerdale, where character Seth asked him how to make moonshine.

Jo said: "His knowledge and passion also took him and my mum around the world. He judged in Jersey, showed people around the botanical gardens of South Africa and went on many cruises that were specifically designed for gardening fanatics."

Away from gardening, Fred enjoyed acting in local pantomimes, usually as a dame or ugly sister. The village had lots of fun watching the shows, and Fred and Susan still have many good friends from these occasions.

When he wasn't pottering in his garden, Fred also enjoyed sketching his favourite flowers.