Allan Mere Award for 2001:

Neill Campbell Simpson

Left: Neill Simpson with the Allan Mere at the 2001 Allan Herbarium naming ceremony. Photo: © Peter Heenan.
Right: Neill in 2019 at the age of 85. Photo by Debbie Jamieson, © Stuff Ltd.

“Neill Simpson is a field botanist with an exceptionally sharp eye. He has effectively, and enthusiastically, passed on his extensive knowledge to the wider botanical community.”

On 29th November Landcare Research hosted a whakaingoahanga or ‘naming ceremony’, in which the official title of the CHR herbarium at Lincoln became the ‘Allan Herbarium’, in honour of the first director of Botany Division, DSIR, Dr H.H. Allan. Guests, including the grand-daughter of Dr Allan, were clustered comfortably on chairs around one of Eric Godley’s historic kowhai on the lawn outside the herbarium, where they were welcomed by Andy Pearce, CEO of Landcare Research. Henry Connor, a former Director of Botany Division, DSIR, his lithe dancing figure glimpsed through the spreading trunks of the kowhai, gave an insightful personal account of his impressions of H.H. Allan, when as a young recruit he had joined Botany Division in Wellington. Henry spoke with affection, but somewhat in awe, of a Director who led research by example, and fostered further educational opportunities for his staff. The brief naming ceremony was then conducted by Ian Donald, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Landcare Research, and a plaque unveiled at the entrance to the Herbarium.

The Allan Herbarium is the home of the eponymous Mere, gifted by Lucy Moore in 1982 to commemorate the achievements of H.H. Allan, and now awarded by the New Zealand Botanical Society each year to a member of the botanical community who has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand botany. During the ceremonies at Lincoln on 29th November, the presentation was made for 2001, to Neill Simpson of Queenstown.

Neill’s contribution to NZ botany has been in both an amateur and a professional capacity and has stretched across the country. In 1968 Neill was the founder of the Wanganui Museum Botanical Group, and more recently of the Wakatipu Botanical Group. Nominations for him for this award came from both the Canterbury Botanical Society and the Botanical Society of Otago with a letter of support from the Wellington Botanical Society. From 1968 to 1975 he was honorary botanist at the Wanganui Museum, and from 1975 his paid employment also began to involve botany when he became a ranger at Tongariro National Park with responsibility for the botanical garden at Whakapapa. There followed a long career with the Department of Conservation. Since his retirement in 1995, through both his consultancy company and through voluntary organisations, he has continued his botanical contributions, whether it be in assessing weed problems or in locating populations of rare or threatened plants. Neill is held in high regard as a field botanist with an exceptionally sharp eye and passes on his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm through his plantings, photographs, publications, and talks.

The Mere now resides in a handsome display case in the foyer of the Herbarium, alongside a portrait of H.H. Allan.

Jessica Beever, c/o Landcare Research, Private Bag 92170, Auckland

Citation reproduced from the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter, No. 66, Dec 2001.