David Robinson was a Irish horticultural scientist who made important contributions to the national and international field of horticulture and agriculture throughout his entire life. After a working life in the field of research, retirement saw his life change. He became a journalist and television/radio presenter and, as a sideline, led gardening tours around the world. He also managed the internationally renowned Earlscliffe garden in Baily, Co. Dublin, Ireland.
He gained practical early experience on a fruit farm near Pershore and a vegetable farm at Musselburgh, East Lothian. He worked as Horticultural Adviser in South Co. Down, Northern Ireland for the Ministry of Agriculture (1950 - 53). However, the late 1940s and early 1950s was a time of great food shortage in Europe and Governments were pouring money into horticultural research. New Research Stations were being set up in a number of countries and so in 1953 he was appointed Deputy Director at the newly formed Horticulture Research Centre in Loughgall Co Armagh. His first major job was to help clean up the weed problem in fruit crops. His research into the many chemical tools that were becoming available at the time established him as an expert in this field. However, he had at the time no training in research methods or statistical analysis and felt that he was in a job for which he was inadequately trained. This was soon to change.
As David later wrote, "I knew early in 1954 that the well endowed W.K. Kellogg Foundation was giving grants to people in Britain to provide further training in the USA for agricultural graduates. I happened to be in London in March 1954 and by pure chance I passed by the headquarters of the Foundation. I still don’t know what gave me the courage but I walked in, asked to see the Director (without an appointment) and told him I wanted a Kellogg Foundation Grant to study at Cornell University in New York State for a year. At the time I worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in Northern Ireland, a most bureaucratic organisation, and when I returned all hell was let loose for the Ministry felt (understandably) that they and they alone should decide who would benefit from Kellogg grants. Anyway I was released for a year and spent 1954/55 in the States where I learned a great deal about research and plants. The US had not suffered from the War the way Europe had and it was an exhilarating time.
David remained a research worker at the Horticultural Centre, Loughgall, Northern Ireland until 1964. During that period he had been invited down south to the Republic of Ireland on a number of occasions to give advice. John Daly, the father of the RTÉ gardening expert Gerry Daly had invited him on several occasions in the 1950s to come and lecture to the fruit growers in Wexford on his research into weed control. At that period there was virtually no contact between the horticulturists of the North and South. It was as a result of these trips down south that he eventually got the post as Director of Horticultural Research in the Kinsealy Research Centre, Agricultural Research Institute (now Teagasc) in the Republic of Ireland. He remained in this post for almost 25 years (1964-88).
He was a Past President of the Horticultural Education Association of Great Britain and Ireland (1971 - 72) and represented Ireland on the Council of the International Society for Horticultural Science from 1964 to 1990. He was also chairman of BASIS (Republic of Ireland). BASIS was an independent organisation from interested sections of the agrochemical industry aimed at raising standards of handling, storing, utilization and dissemination of information on agricultural pesticides. David was on the Editorial Board of Scientia Horticulturae (1970-1989), Associate Editor of Crops Research Journal (1982-1989) and on the Editorial Board of Chronica Horticulturae (1992-1995).
He carried out garden/plant reconnaissance tours in the Caribbean, Borneo and Sweden, and led gardening tours to these and many other countries including New Zealand, Australia and Majorca. He lectured on cruise ships and led shore excursions in the South Pacific, Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, round Britain and in the Madeira/Caribbean/Azores areas
David died in March 2004 and is survived by his wife, Muriel, daughter Karen, son Ivan and their families.