Liverpool blind veteran to have fuchsias featured in Hampton Court show garden

29 June 2017 16:00

A blind veteran from Liverpool who has received vital support from us, will be contributing to our show garden at the prestigious RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this July.

Roy Sinton, 92 and from Formby, will be supplying the fuchsias to the garden through Sintons’ Nurseries, the company he founded. He’ll also be making a miniature gardens for the garden as part of a special week of gardening activities for blind veterans with green fingers held at our  training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno.

Born in February 1925 in Irlam, near Manchester, Roy left school at 14 to work at a small local nursery, earning just eight shillings a week. At the age of 16 he obtained an apprenticeship with Manchester Parks, before enrolling on a three year course in horticulture at The University of Manchester. His studies were interrupted, however, upon the outbreak of the Second World War.

"I joined the Royal Navy in 1943, serving on HMS Stalker, an escort carrier. I took part in the landings in the South of France, as well as Rangoon. Later I was transferred to the Far East where I was on minesweeping duties. I was in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, just six months after the atomic bombs was dropped."

Unfortunately for Roy, his eyesight has long been a troubling factor in his life, though he admits it wasn’t until six or seven years ago that it began to severely impact his day to day capabilities. He says: “It all began in earnest around six or seven years ago. I already had age related macular degeneration, so it was gradual, but still very tough. I can’t read anything, but I can see people walking towards me, and from about two or three paces away I can recognise them.”

On how he came to hear of us, he explains: “It was my hospital radiologist who initially suggested it to me, and thank goodness they did. We’ve been to the charity’s Llandudno centre and absolutely loved it. The staff were wonderful, they couldn’t do enough for you. I just couldn’t believe there were people like that in the world. I’m proud to be part of the charity.” For Roy, gardening has been a passion of his for as long as he can remember. He explains: “According to my parents, I was just three years old when I asked for my first gardening set. It included a spade, a fork and a rake - my twin brother asked for a football!”

After Roy came home from the war, he would return to Manchester Parks where he was offered the position of journeyman gardener. He says: “I was too old to carry on as an apprentice so I had this new role instead. I went between various departments, learning what was required from each one. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I just wanted to be a hands-on gardener.”

After marrying his childhood sweetheart, Joyce, in 1948, Roy set up his own fuchsia business in 1950. He recalls: “It started off slowly but progressed well. I had a good name for quality, not necessarily quantity. There were so many new gardening centres opening up all over the country, and they were looking for something different.

"For me, it’s always been fuchsias. They’re easy to propagate and this was a big factor for us. There was a huge shortage of different varieties of them suitable for commercial growth, so I decided to capitalise on it. I developed varieties and kept breeding until I got it right. No one else was doing it, it was sheer quality and originality."

Not only did Roy run a successful fuchsias company, during which time he employed up to ten people, but his expertise was also called on by the government. He explains: “The government set up about twelve experimental stations to try and bring the country’s horticulture back to pre-war levels. I was invited to become part of the Advisory committee at Fairfield Experimental Horticulture Station, it was really quite an honour for someone who’d left school at the age of 14!”

Roy has been able to pass on control of the business to his son, Robert, having gradually retired from 1992 to 2000. He says: “We didn’t ever want to force him, but in his last year of university, he came home and asked if he could become part of the business, and that was it. He’s done a very good job and taken it past where I could’ve gone. He’s got the computer skills and is now delivering all over the country.

"Both my son and I are extremely proud to have been asked to contribute the fuchsias for the Blind Veterans UK garden at Hampton Court. We’ll be supplying 12 fuchsia baskets of the varieties Sir Matt Busby and Purple Fountain, and six standard fuchsias of the varieties Joyce Sinton and Pattie Sue for the Hampton Court Show."
When asked about us and why anyone would has served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, who is now battling severe sight loss should get in touch with us, Roy says:
“The helpfulness of the staff at the charity’s centres is superb. I hope that anyone who’s entitled to their fantastic support is able to make use of it and discover that they do not have to battle blindness alone.”

Our ‘It’s all about community’ garden has been designed by celebrated designers Andrew Fisher Tomlin & Dan Bowyer and it will be one of the largest show gardens at Hampton Court this year. To learn more about it click here