We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the Dunblane School massacre (13th March 1996) when a man entered a primary school in Dunblane, near Stirling in Scotland, and murdered sixteen children and their teacher, injured others and devastated the lives of innumerable families and sent ripples of upset and fear far and wide.
At the time of this horrific event I was the principal teacher (headmaster) in a small rural school in Bigwood, Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny. It is so hard to imagine today but then our front door, and our back door, was always open. It was never locked. In summer it was left wide open and parents, neighbours and even strangers were free and welcome to enter the premises.
Immediately after Dunblane we had big meeting of all the parents at the school. Even at our distance and with no personal connections the level of upset, sympathy and sadness was extraordinary and it brought with it an unprecedented level of worry and concern for the safety of their own children – and mine, as mine attended the school also. Locks and a pushbell were fitted to the doors and a time of confidence and of feeling safe had passed forever. How petty in comparison with the trauma suffered by the people in Dunblane but it serves to illustrate the impact of these horrific event even at our remove.
Dr. Evelyn Stevens gardened in Sherriffmuir near Dunblane, a garden where Meconopsis featured as she held a national collection, but she also had naturalised snowdrops in a woodland area of the garden and it was here that Galanthus ‘Sophie North’ originated. Jim Jermyn showed it at an RHS show in Westminster in 1996 where it attracted a great deal of attention and admiration and Dr. Stevens named it shortly afterwards for Sophie North, one of the children who was killed in the school in Dunblane. It has since been grown not alone for its intrinsic beauty but also for its connections.