The Darling Sophie North

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.

Sophie North, one of the children lost at Dunblane

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.

G. 'Sophie North'  (1)
Galanthus ‘Sophie North’
Galanthus 'Sophie North'  (1)
Galanthus ‘Sophie North’
Galanthus 'Sophie North'
Galanthus ‘Sophie North’

Paddy Tobin




4 thoughts on “The Darling Sophie North

  1. Reblogged this on Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener and commented:

    It is the 25th anniversary of the horror that was the murdering of the children at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland. At this moment there is a television programme on ITV recalling the events of that day. Looking at it again is a deeply distressing experience which brings back the enormous upset which arose from the loss of the children in Dunblane. I can still remember the reactions of parents at the school where I worked, the level of upset and worry that it caused in them; the concerns for their children that suddenly burst out and the changes which it brought about in our own little rural school. It changed life forever.

    I wrote this blog five years ago and feel it appropriate to air it again.


  2. I remember planting bulbs in my garden a month or so after 9/11 and knowing that I would love seeing them each spring and then a moment later, knowing I would always remember when and I planted them. Thank you for a lovely remembrance.

    Liked by 1 person

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