John Pilbeam

In Memory of the late John Pilbeam who died today 09/09/23 aged 92 years.  

I joined the BCSS in 1983 and I was assigned to Croydon branch. We always had many visitors to our branch, particularly from Bromley branch. John Pilbeam, Bill Weightman Derek Bowdery and the baby of the group Doug Sizmuir.  Doug is the only one still with us and he’s 80 this year.

My friends and I were mostly new to the hobby, the other branch members were all old to us, as we are now. We were so lucky though we didn’t know it then – so much knowledge among the 4 of them.  They had been to habitat, sold plants but most important of all were willing to share their knowledge with all of us new members.

Within a short period of time 3 of us were going to Bromley branch meetings as well, then there were the shows and sales and they were always there too. John always had time for new members, even the general public who do seem at times to ask some silly questions but he always gave them the time.

Some years later John & Doug opened Kent Cacti together which eventually split. Doug keeping the name Kent Cacti and John Connoisseurs Cacti. I had moved to Selsdon by then so 15 minutes away. I spent most Saturday & Sunday mornings potting up and listening to the conversations going on around me and learnt so much. John was always writing articles or books.  Part of his researching was to grow the plants, so as he wrote a new book there were always new seedlings to pot up which were always ready to sell by the time the books were published.

I must have worked there for 10 years plus and learnt so much from his conversations with other people. It was far more interesting to me than being an accountant. I made friendships there that have lasted for the rest of my life. I can’t begin to think how many friends he made through his plants he always had time for people from the mere beginner to other people with a life time of knowledge of a particular genus. I believe his true love was always Mammillarias first and foremost. He shared his knowledge so freely with so many people, we are just so lucky to have known him. We will always be grateful for his friendship and help.

He will be sadly missed by many people.

Good bye our friend.

Kathy Flanagan, Mammillaria Society Chair, pays tribute to her dear friend.