Harold Lawlor (centre) with son Martin and grandson Colin
The top honour of the British vegetable growing world is about to be bestowed on a 96 year old expert gardener from Laois.
Harold Lawlor from Durrow began winning awards for his vegetables 84 years ago and is still winning them, but next Sunday August 11 at the Tullamore Show he will receive a special accolade.
Harold will be presented with the National Vegetable Society Fellowship Award for services rendered to the National Vegetable Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
It will be presented by the president of the NVS Medwyn Williams, who has been a judge at the Tullamore show for many years and has become a good friend of Harold and the Lawlor family.
“I am looking forward so much to meeting up once again. On this occasion I will be very proud indeed to be awarding you the fellowship award. To me though, this award goes much further than that for a lifetime’s dedication to horticulture in all its aspects. You have been a great Ambassador for All Ireland as well and held in high esteem by so many people,” Medwyn wrote to Harold in a card send on his recent birthday.
Harold himself has judged competitions for 60 years and given countless talks sharing his knowledge to groups.
He is proud to receive the fellowship award.
It is an honour only given to a chosen few who have shown excellence in growing, exhibiting and sharing their expertise in the society. He will be the oldest person ever to win it and the first from Laois.
“It's a great honour, I'm very pleased. I'm a bit nervous but it is extra special that Medwyn will presenting it to me,” he said.
He is not just going to the show to collect the accolade, he is still out to win for his growing skills.
“I hope to win the All Ireland championship again, I've won it about seven times,” he said.
Harold, or “the boss” as his family refer to him, is a third generation market gardener from Dublin. He has passed on his passion and his thriving Lawlors Nursery business in Durrow to sons Martin and Oliver.
Harold's grandson Colin will be competing directly against his grandfather in the “collection of vegetables” category.
“Colin is my biggest competitor now, I helped him but now he helps me too with the heavy lifting,” said his grandfather.
Martin will also be competing in the show with his award winning dahlias, having scooped first prize for the past ten years. He is proud of his father's upcoming award.
“It is a huge honour, the competition is very strong, it's a once in a lifetime award, when your peers acknowledge the fact that you are super at what you are doing. It's like getting a masters,” he said.
A big contingent of the Lawlor family will attend his big moment.
Harold's career is remarkable.
His knowledge grew as a child growing vegetables, flowers and fruit in the family's market garden beside the Phoenix Park.
Aged 12 he won his first first prize at a Drumcondra show.
He worked in the nursery until his early 20s when he left to manage the garden of the American embassy, growing vegetables during WWII.
Harold married florist Sheila from Rathmines in 1949 and in 1951 they moved to Bagnelstown in Carlow to run the gardens in Dunleckney Manor. In those times the big houses competed against each other to grow the best crops.
Harold won several first prizes in the RDS in 1952. He began entering many local shows, and became a judges assistant.
In 1956 they moved to Captain Hamilton Estate in Moyne, Durrow. For the next ten years Harold exhibited all over Ireland for his boss winning every prize possible.
In 1966 the couple opened their own nursery in Durrow village to supply the Dublin markets and reared 11 children.
“The boys all helped growing up. We grew roses, dahlias, and grafted our own plants,” he said.
After he retired Harold got back to winning awards, including the All Ireland Bridge House Collection of Vegetables and the Board BIA Potato Championship, cementing his reputation as a national expert.