Bob Spotts, California

Fred Silcock Has Died

February 12, 2019
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Categories: American Daffodil Society, Daffodil Enthusiasts, Daffodil Types, General, Growing Daffodils, Hybridizer, Hybridizing, Standards

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Fred Silcock, one of the world’s finest daffodil hybridizers, left this earth on February 7, 2019 after a short illness. Fred’s magnificent seedlings were not widely known because he avoided entering his blooms in shows. He simply disdained the recognition his blooms would have awarded him. Neither did he register his creations – feeling that he had even better seedlings in his pipeline. He did place a group of his flowers for display each year at the local daffodil show in Kyneton, near his home in Mt. Macedon, Australia. Most recently Fred did place a collection of his blooms in the Australian National Show in Canberra.

When one visits a prominent hybridizer’s home patch, looking for the best blooms can quickly identifies the breeder’s favorite Divisions. When visiting Fred Silcock, Richard Ezell and I were inundated with stately trumpets of every color combination possible! Yellows, whites, reverse bicolors, pink coronas, even rimmed trumpets – not as yet a recognized field! None named of course. Work of a trumpet genius!

What will be his blooms future? Hopefully a way to select among and rescue some will be found. In any case, Fred was an ADS member that will long be remembered.

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14 Responses to Fred Silcock Has Died

  1. Jolene Laughlin, Louisiana
    February 12, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you for letting us know, Bob. I am so very saddened by this news. Fred is the person who sent me Clyde’s Guide to Carving Daffodils because he thought it would make an interesting article for the Journal. It was a unique and generous gesture that resulted in one of  my favorite and most unusual learning experiences. He subsequently wrote to thank me and to say that he was right – it had made an interesting article. I had so looked forward to meeting him in person. 
    I didn’t know the extent of his work with daffodils and would love to see some of his creations. I hope that something can be done to preserve his hard and valuable work. I extend my sincerest sympathy to his friends and family.  
    Wherever a beautiful soul has been, there is a trail of…daffodils. 
    Godspeed, my friend. 
    — Jolene Laughlin

  2. Larry Force, Mississippi
    Larry Force, Mississippi
    February 13, 2019 at 4:12 am

    So sorry to hear of Fred’s passing. I used to read of Fred’s hybridizing and the wonderful daffodils he was creating. Was so excited to visit his place and meet him with a group with the World Daffodil Convention. I was not disappointed went we visited. Some wonderful daffodils were in bloom and we only saw a small part of his plants. We visited another field where supposedly the best had been dug. There were still many winners there in my eyes. Yes, the Daffodil World Has Lost A Great  One.

     

  3. Becky Fox Matthews, Tennessee
    Becky Fox Matthews, Tennessee
    February 13, 2019 at 7:16 am

    By chance I sat next to Fred on one of the World Convention bus tours in 2012 and had a nice quiet conversation about daffodils and hybridizing.  Like Bob, I also hope someone will be able to rescue some of his flowers so he can be recognized, even after his passing, for his work in daffodils.

  4. Melissa Reading, California
    February 13, 2019 at 8:36 am

    I met Fred in Dunedin in 2012. He and I had a lovely conversation sitting on a stone wall in the Rollinson’s garden. Subsequently we struck up a correspondence—a nice old-fashioned, pre-digital one on actual paper. We continued the exchange for some years, with one content thread being mycorhizzal associations with Narcissus. I found him entirely charming, of lively curiosity, and utterly kind and humble. I feel fortunate to have known him.
    Melissa

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Nancy Tackett, California
    Nancy Tackett, California
    February 13, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Bob, when I heard about Fred’s passing, I closed my eyes and thought back to September 2004.  Melbourne was hosting the World Daffodil Convention and some of us had the pleasure of helping stage Fred’s beautiful entries.  One of Fred’s daffodils won Best in Show! He was such a humble man and was in disbelief  that one of his blooms received this honor.  The big treat was when we visited Fred’s patch of beautiful blooms.  It was breath-taking. I too hope that Fred’s daffodils and records can be rescued and  preserved.

    Nancy

  6. Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    February 13, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks Bob.

    Fred was shy, modest, and very protective of his privacy. This stood in stark contrast to his extraordinary achievements in daffodil breeding. I often found this inexplicable.

    I asked Fred last autumn why he started daffodil breeding. The answer was that in the late 1960’s he saw a trade stand at a daffodil show. At the back of the stand was a vase of white trumpet daffodils that seemed so unreal that he went behind the stand to examine them more closely.

    Although his interests broadened I agree with Bob that trumpets were his speciality. And in trumpets he looked for a broad overlapping perianth with a long narrow trumpet that finished with a neat roll. These flowers are as exquisitely refined as they are difficult to breed. Not surprisingly, Fred had extraordinary unselected seedlings that did not meet this exacting standard.

    Fred’s health had been deteriorating for a while. He spent September in hospital and was only able to do one cross. How he managed it I do not know. By December he was in palliative care.

    I understand that Fred did not make secure arrangements for his daffodils. But there are people, and organisations, who do value them and who may be in a position to preserve and distribute them. Fred’s work is a national aesthetic and genetic treasure and hopefully it will be valued and respected as such.

    I have no fitting photos of Fred’s daffodils. The best I can manage is this white trumpet seedling that Fred showed in Canberra in 2013. In great sadness I conclude with this: –

  7. Mary Lou Gripshover, Ohio
    Mary Lou Gripshover, Ohio
    February 14, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Bob, thanks for letting us know about Fred.  Like many others, Fred and I carried on a correspondence on “paper,” and it was always a treat to read his letters.  The convention in Australia in 2004 gave us all a chance to see the wonderful work Fred was doing.  I do hope his daffodils can be saved for others to enjoy, and to further his breeding aims.  I’ve attached two photos from 2004–one of Fred in his “patch,” and the other talking with visitors.

  8. David Adams, New Zealand
    February 14, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    My first contact with Fred was at the Hobart Convention in 1998. Fred arrived with a few short stemmed Y-R trumpets in his hand. Not for show, just to share. We were amazed at the quality and form of these flowers which appeared to be light years ahead of the Jacksons and Radcliffs. . He remained very private yet continued a keen interest in many of us and ensuring that he inquired of our well being after the 2010 earthquake.

    Although many of us visited one of his plantings in 2004 I believe that we only saw his unselected seedlings. Many were amazing but the best were closer to home. Bob and Richard were very privileged to see the latest.

    One comment he made to me that seemed interesting was ‘I believe that daffodils have a life span and become weak and die off after time.’ He also wrote a book with an interesting theory of the namarimbee – (sp?).

  9. Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    February 15, 2019 at 1:18 am

    Hi Dave,

    This is probably it: –

    ‘The Min Min Light: The Visitor Who Never Arrives’ by Fred Silcock

  10. Wayne Brown, Australia
    Wayne Brown, Australia
    February 17, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    On Tuesday 12th we learned of the passing of Fred Silcock in the early hours of Thursday Feb 7th.

    Fred was Victoria’s most esteemed daffodil breeder, and a national and international daffodil breeding treasure.

    Fred’s magnificent work was not widely known because he avoided entering his blooms in shows. He disliked attention the competition might bring, and only put up a small display as gift to his local Kyneton show. He did enter his new seedlings in national shows, which were always a talking point.
    Few of his bulbs were registered…. he always had more and better blooms coming on.
    We grew to admire him, respect him, and appreciate his eccentric and gentlemanly ways. We knew that a quiet genius was amongst us, and marvelled at his achievements whenever there was the chance.
    We know the world-wide daffodil breeding community has lost a champion, and we are proud in Victoria to say he was ours!

    (Posted on the Victorian Daffodil Society Facebook page last week, and shared now with Daffnet friends!)

    Champion Seedling 2017 National Championship Canberra

  11. Wayne Brown, Australia
    Wayne Brown, Australia
    February 17, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Fred Silcock’s passing has surprised and saddened us all.

    Because Fred was such a modest and private man, few people were aware that Fred was seriously ill, requiring surgery, after Christmas 2017. He repaired well. although was warned of danger of infection, and joined with Kyneton members of the VDS when Lawrence Trevanion came down in April to address the Vic. Society in Melbourne. It was a memorable night, with Fred freely reminiscing of past days, which included life as a jockey, a meat inspector, and the time when the ethereal white daffodil lured him onto a new path of discovery.

    During that autumn (yes April is fall down under) Fred was enlarging a new plot for his seedlings, fortified with netting to repel cockatoos, and barbed wire to dissuade kangaroos.

    Late winter, Fred needed to return to hospital for a period to combat infection. He returns to realise he had missed the Kyneton (local) show, and more than all, most of the opportunity for hybridising. “We’ve lost the season” he exclaimed with frustration.

    All was not lost. Lawrence Trevanion had given Fred a bulb with pink in the perianth, and it was the only cross he managed last year. But when Fred posted back the resulting seed to Lawrence in December, it was a sign that all was not well. Fred was in pain, and had little energy, but continued through January to reside at home. until the nurse caring for him decided upon hospital. Even in his last week a stoic Fred returned home several times, until that fateful Wednesday when he re-entered hospital and passed away in the very small hours of Thursday morning.

    Typically no-one really knew or expected Fred was in hospital. With Fred there were no medical bulletins, his condition downplayed in conversation, even (we believe) a phone-call from hospital without revealing the place or severity of the situation. But this is the Fred Silcock we knew. As I stated elsewhere “We grew to admire him, respect him, and appreciate his eccentric and gentlemanly ways. We knew that a quiet genius was amongst us, and marvelled at his achievements whenever there was the chance.”

    In the last few days we’ve been trying to piece together the situation of Fred’s passing, and of his daffodils. A meticulous and tidy man, he instructed his assistant, to pull the posts and tags and return the daffodil blocks to the farmers. Sadly this has already been done for two blocks. The good news is the newest plot and house block remain as they are, so not all of Fred’s valuable work is lost. His breeding books have also been retained. His affairs are in the hands of public trustees, so we may have to see where we go from there.

    Saddened we are, but rejoice to have known such a man who was so much his own person, and applied his fastidiousness, wisdom and skill to creating such wonderful achievement.

    My best memory lies with persuading a “plane-weary” Fred to attend 2017 National Championship. “Only if I can get a lift with some-one” was my cue for deciding to drive the 700 km to Canberra.. “Careful of that big one” he said as we strapped a seat-belt around his special treasures. They, of course won the seedling competition. and the “big one” was Champion seedling of the show. Many moments of delight have been given to us all by this un-assuming, generous and determined man.

    Particularly I will forever enjoy two pieces of Fred Silcock wisdom

    “They’re not champions every season.”

    “Time and pollen waits for no man”

    I offer this account to overseas friends whose admiration, respect and appreciation of Fred are asking so many questions at this time.

    Wayne.

  12. Larry Force, Mississippi
    Larry Force, Mississippi
    February 18, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks so much Wayne for those words about Fred, I only met him once for a short time when we visited his place with the World Daffodil Conference.  I treasure the fact that I was able to meet him. We certainly admire and respect the remarkable work he did with daffodils. I do hope some of his creations can be saved and he can gain more recognition for his hybridizing.

  13. David Adams, New Zealand
    February 18, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Wayne,

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Fred. For those of us fortunate to have spent a little time with Fred in person your summation is apt and entirely accurate. Thanks again. We now realize how much we have missed by not spending more time with him.

    David Adams

    Christchurch

  14. Wayne Brown, Australia
    Wayne Brown, Australia
    February 19, 2019 at 3:12 am

    The Boy from Snowy River, by Fred Silcock, Arcadia published 2017

    But what do we know of the backstory to the man and the famous ride?

    To help fill in the gaps is The Boy from Snowy River, an engaging novel that sets out to create a possible scenario.

    It is not an authenticated biographical account, but historical fiction. This should not be seen as a reason to give the book passing attention. We have, after all, no other evidence.

    The novel is essentially a good yarn.  To get the full benefit of the story, it is advisable to read the poem first and, better still, have it beside you as you read, as the novel follows the poem closely in terms of the sequence of events.

    The Boy from Snowy River is an undemanding, but fulfilling read and there is plenty here for readers of any age.