A personal recollection by Andrew leonard
I first met Tim Pyner when he attended a BPS meeting to Tenerife in 2002. I was leading the meeting and although Tim had joined the BPS over 10 years before, this was the first meeting he attended.
His long-term partner Beverley accompanied him, though she didn’t share his interest in ferns. The meeting was quite eventful, not all in a good way, but Tim seemed to enjoy it, and over the next 16 years, we went on many fern outings, some BPS and some private. Most of the meetings were in Europe and particularly Macaronesia.
Tim and I were like chalk and cheese. He was calm, stoical, and solid and I am volatile and mouthy. However, we had a great interest in common. Travelling and seeing ferns in the wild. I think we were not the fittest of botanists and although we spent many hours in the countryside, we did not cover very great distances.
It soon became apparent to me that Tim enjoyed driving and thus he became my driver to the extent that he refused to let me drive at all. I cannot say that I minded this.
I have a kind of “gestalt” method of identifying ferns, which is probably largely unconscious and I often have difficulty explaining to another person why I “knew” what a particular fern was. Tim liked to read books and incorporate the identifying features into his brain. I always thought I was more reliable on European ferns but I would defer to Tim on world ferns outside Europe.
Tim had a wide and encyclopaedic knowledge, not only of ferns but also of botany in general. He became the website expert on the “What’s this fern” page.
In recent years, Tim went on many long haul holidays with Beverly. But he also went on dedicated fern holidays with various groups to China and Japan (twice). I know he was fascinated and delighted by finding different ferns and ferny places in exotic foreign locations. I would have very much liked to invite him to Taiwan, which I know he would have enjoyed.
Tim was a very good gardener and grew a wide variety of exciting foreign hardy plants. He was very good at growing xerophytic ferns in troughs. He was also very generous and gave away many beautiful ferns not only to me but also to others.
Tim took me to Cornwall to see a variety of gardens, private and public. The warmth the owners showed to Tim struck me. I think he was universally liked as a person and admired for his depth of botanical knowledge.
Tim was a very humble man and tended to hide his lights under his bushel, but when it came to identifying plants he could be quite vocal, even dogmatic and very occasionally, wrong.
Tim came back from Borneo in 2017 with a sore throat that did not get better. I think he must have started fearing the worse but he hid most of his fears from me. The last meeting I attended with him was the BPS Devon meeting. His voice was very hoarse and it was difficult for him to speak. He seemed to be in low spirits, which was unusual for him. He had started proper medical investigations but as far as I knew, there was no conclusion.
Soon after that, he dropped the bombshell that he had cancer. He had to cancel his trip to Madeira with us and started to extricate himself from his responsibilities with the BPS.
I do not know how much he knew but I realised it was serious. He had chemotherapy and very sadly lost the use of his legs. It was a very sad experience but he was able to put on a brave face and perhaps save me from the full realisation of what was to come.
The last time I saw Tim was at the hospice. He looked relatively well and I told him about my trip to Taiwan. I was nervous that he might not want to hear about it but he did. It was a very brave thing and was typical of a man with a very generous spirit.
I will miss Tim enormously and it is very sad that we will not be stumbling around some countryside arguing about the identification of ferns, or whether Coca-Cola is good for you, or whether global warming matters, or how awful Donald Trump is, or who was the best driver.
I was very lucky to meet Tim and it is an honour to call him a friend.