Many circumstances contributed to the successful foundation of the Trust during
a meeting held at Canning House. Above all stood Margaret's work and her reputation,
not just as a traveller or brilliant artist but as someone who could inspire.
And if she did not have the chance to do that personally at the first meeting
of the Trust then those around the table who knew her personally spoke enthusiastically
on her behalf.
1988 'the Amazon' was one of the green issues of the year and its destruction
was receiving unprecedented Press coverage. Thus Margaret's work was timely and
the success of the' Moonflower 'Journey planned and partly funded by Nonesuch
Expeditions early in the year added romantic appeal.
Friday 21st October 1988
Margaret and Greville Mee arrived in London, England
Thursday 27th October 1988, Canning House,
Belgrave Square, London, England
Margaret and Greville Mee attended a meeting of the
Margaret Mee Amazon Trust
Monday November 28th, Holland Park, West
A meeting of the Finance sub-committee held at the
London home of Christopher McLaren .
Present - Tony Morrison [Chairman], Christopher McLaren,
Sally Duchess of Westminster,
Simon Mayo and Margaret and Greville
Tony outlined to Margaret the details of
the proposed purchase of her work and how it would be exhibited [ point 1.iv -minutes].
Margaret and Greville agreed in
principle that they would accept the
sum of £200,000.00 [exclusive of VAT - 'Value Added Tax' - a sum added
by the State to most items purchased / sold ].
Margaret and Greville Mee asked for guarantees:-
1) That the collection should not be put
into an archive that was not easily available to the public.
2) It was their wish for personal
reasons that the paintings should not be returned to Brasil
[at that time Margaret and
Greville were British Citizens resident in Brasil with 'permanencia' -
long stay visas].
November 30th 1988
Margaret Mee died in an ambulance on the way to hospital
following a car accident
near Seagrave in Leicestershire.
was with Greville in the rear seat of a small car driven by his younger brother
Lawrence (77 years old). Olive, Lawrence's third wife was in the passenger seat.
The car was struck on the rear-left-side by a car approaching on the southbound
carriageway of the A46 road at the Seagrave-Thrussington crossing about 9 miles
from Leicester. They had been intending to spend the evening with Greville's niece.
Margaret Mee sustained severe chest injuries from and
the Coroner' s verdict was 'accidental death' -contrary to some accounts she did
not suffer a heart attack.
Margaret Mee's death there was a sudden urgency to purchase the collection. Her
Will* needed to be examined -[* the document she made ensuring a distribution
of her goods after her death] The document would have complications as she
was resident in Brasil and had died in the United Kingdom [different countries
meant that different laws were involved - Editor] Greville Mee the most likely
beneficiary generously gave an undertaking that he would allow the 'Trust' time
to gather the funds before he would offer the collection for sale elsewhere. The
Trust then began to raise money from many different sources, some private some
Will was found in Brasil and will be considered in a later section of the archive
- Editor ]
12th January 1989
Mee was recuperating in a family home of friends in Regent's Park, London England.
Tony Morrison called to see him during the afternoon to confirm the way he would
help the Trust. Time was needed for raising funds.
16th January A memorial service for Margaret was held the parish church of....
Saint Anne, on Kew Green, Richmond, Surrey England and Greville returned to Brasil
1989 and 1990 became a high point of activity largely
due to Simon Mayo's dedication and the success of events such as the Sadlers Wells
benefit play 'On the Verge' with award winning actress Juliet
Stevenson, the Exeter Festival with 'The Plague and the Moonflower' by
composer Richard Harvey and cartoonist Ralph Steadman, an exhibition at 'Wildlife
in Art Gallery' near Gloucester, and an exhibition at Harewood House supported
by Christies the London art auction house. [Harewood House a magnificent 18th
century mansion set in opulent grounds in Yorkshire is a great tourist venue]
The first twelve months also saw Margaret's estate
passed to Greville Mee and the way cleared for the Trust to purchase the Amazon
Collection as funds allowed. The first students were chosen and the scholarship
scheme was started. But to the great sadness of the founding committee, Sally
Duchess of Westminster died a few days after the opening of the exhibition at
The idea of a Brasilian branch of the Trust was mentioned
in Rio de Janeiro at about the time of Margaret's forthcoming visit to Britain
and launch of 'In Search Of Flowers of the Amazon Forests' Philip Jenkins
who had lived in Rio since 1958 and knew Margaret and Greville, [particularly
Greville] kept in close touch with them and with his wife Molly travelled to London
at about the same time.
Philip Jenkins had been representing British companies
especially Rolls Royce.
At the committee meeting of the Margaret Mee Amazon
Trust on October 27th the idea of a branch in Brasil was discussed. Margaret and
Greville arrived at the meeting at 4.30PM and supported the plan.
By late November Philip Jenkins and Simon were in touch
by letter. Also plans were well ahead in Rio for the launch of the book whichwas
being advertised by Rio Life the local 'free newspaper ' for the British
community. Central to the Rio launch was a reception at the Ipanema,
[a district of Rio] headquarters of H.Stern , the Rio gem dealers and international
jewellers. The reception was arranged for 7 PM Wednesday 14th December, the day
after Margaret' s intended return.
When the news of Margaret's death reached Brasil the
plans were not changed and the book launch became a reception as homage to her
name and work. Much of the occasion was inevitably impromptu with a general
feeling of goodwill towards her environmental cause. Philip Jenkins asked for
a show of hands from those who would support a 'Margaret Mee fund'. The response
was unanimous and Elizabeth Wynn Jones a Director of Rio Life, Bill Searight
a retired area manager for Castrol, [an international lubricants company] and
Sylvia de Botton Braugtigam of the family-owned Brasilian 'Mesbla Group'were invited
to form a founding committee. Philip Jenkins was chosen as the Director.
Mayo was in Rio for the H. Stern reception and delivered an eloquent address in
faultless Portuguese. He kept in touch with Philip Jenkins and they met in January
to discuss the development of a Brasilian branch of the Trust subsequently they
met in Rio in January 1989. The first thoughts suggested a sub committee of the
London 'Trust'. The name Fundação Margaret Mee was proposed and
unlike the British Trust the name Amazon was not included as Amazon issues were a delicate
subject in Brasil.
Various names for the committee were proposed both
in London and Rio. Among them was ex-Ambassador Mario Gibson Barboza who was suggested
by Sir William Harding and Tony Morrison as someone who had wide experience of
London and the USA. Sir William wrote to Gibson Barboza.
the sympathy felt in Rio following Margaret's untimely death the embryionic Fundação
received magnificent support from Brasilian and international communities. In
February 1989 the London 'Trust' voted a £500.00 'float' [an initial
funding , normally temporary Editor ] to help the Brasilian launch costs -
[up to that time being borne by Philip Jenkins- :Editor ].
27th January 1989
The young Fundação commemorated Margaret
Mee's life and
death by planting a tree in the Botanic Garden [Jardim
Botânico] in Rio de Janeiro. Greville Mee attended together with a large
gathering of her friends and colleagues.
The Rio committee soon had offers of local funding
and decided to establish a totally independent body:It became the FUNDAÇÃO
BOTÂNICA MARGARET MEE with Philip Jenkins acting as Director.
£00***[FLP] was paid to Greville Mee for 29 of
the 60 gouaches in the collection. RBG Kew experts made the selection and
the sum included part of the money promised by the RBG Kew at the meeting on 3rd
June 1988. Because funds accumulated slowly single items were purchased to maintain
The purchase of the collection from Greville Mee was
completed in 1992 when a private legacy promised to the RBG Kew enabled the final
thirty to be acquired. At the end of the transaction a balance of £00**
[FLP] was available and in mid-1993 Greville agreed that he would accept this
sum in return for 27 sketchbooks and Margaret's field notes.
1) Review by Wilfrid Blunt. Royal Horticultural Society,
2) Personal communication.
3) Memo from Simon Mayo, RBG Kew, 10th February 1988.
4) Letter from Margaret to Christopher McLaren 28th
5) Letter from Tony Morrison to Sir William Harding
5th April 1988
6) Margaret Mee's Amazon- by Dr Simon Mayo ISBN 0 947643
13 3 [The definitive guide to the Amazon Collection.].
7) Letter from Margaret to a friend in London, July
1988 Referring to the Trust she wrote ' It is really fantastic , it will enable
Brazilian students and botanists to study in Kew, or I imagine in English universities
or in the Amazon. For me this is one of the highlights and hanging on to
my paintings has proved worthwhile.'
The full story can be found in the minutes of the Trust
compiled by Simon Mayo until he returned to his research in mid-1990. Simon was
succeeded by Martin Pendred and when he 'retired', by Michael Daly an ex- British
The total sum paid for the Amazon Collection
was £227,139.00 and it is kept at the Royal Botanic Gardens,
Up to that time a further sum approaching £70,000.00
had been raised by the Trust alone for the education of Brasilian students. By
the end of 1993 thirty two students had been funded.
The Fundação has achieved some notable
successes including raising funds for students working in Brazil, raising extra
funds to help with air travel for the London Margaret Mee Amazon Trust students
and creating considerable awareness in Brazil for the forests. The Fundação
has staged many fine events including the exhibitions and the concert at the time
of the 'Rio Earth Summit' in 1992.
Thursday December 7th 1995, Canning House, Belgrave
Square, central London, England
At the 46th meeting of the Appeals Committee held at
Canning House the day-to-day working of the Trust was passed to a committee based
at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The Amazon Trust was to be wound-up and care
of the scholarship programme given to the Kew Committee. Further funding was anticipated
from the Kew Foundation [The RBG’s own charity and with many USA connections.]
[Footnote added in 1995]
The student scholarship scheme has become the 'Margaret Mee Fellowship Programme'
and Dr.Simon Mayo continues with the day to day organisation. Michael Daly CMG
who succeeded Martin Pendred, is the Honorary Secretary. Due to a lack of funding
by the Royal Botanic Grdens, Kew the umbrella organisation, the Fellowship scheme
ceased providing regular scholarships in 2007. But the scheme continues to make
Fundação Botânica Margaret Mee continued under the
stewardship of Philip Jenkins with growing support until his untimely death in
July 2007. Philip was 84 years old. Molly his wife died soon after and the impetus
for the Fundação disappeared with them. The organisation was disbanded
in 2008 though some of the Directorate continue to foster Margaret's work and
TO RETURN TO PART ONE