Scottish Rock Garden Club Forum

Administration => Notice Board => Topic started by: Maggi Young on August 16, 2021, 03:21:56 PM

Title: James L.S. Cobb. plantsman and Meconopsis expert, has died.
Post by: Maggi Young on August 16, 2021, 03:21:56 PM
On Sunday 15th August 2021, Dr James L. S. Cobb  passed peacefully away after a  long illness.

James was  a retired zoologist from St. Andrews University on the East Coast of Scotland and a great plantsman and grower and educator.   Many of you will know him as the author of the excellent Meconopsis book published in 1989 and for his website Meconopsis World - A Visual Reference  (


His dedication of his book to his wife is as apt today as when he wrote  “For Calla, the perfect gardener’s companion” - James and Calla were a devoted couple, so very proud of their  three daughters.

James had an interest in all sorts of plants and was successful in growing and showing many fine examples of plants that are not the easiest to please.  His own garden at Kingsbarns could be very dry so when researching  in meconopsis he took advantage  of the  three  gardens of  his daughters, spread around the  country, to grow  test  beds of meconopsis to trial them in differing climates.

James was also an ornithologist  - ringing birds and  observing them - often in the company of one of his faithful dogs who were always called 'William',  plus their  number  in the  canine  sucession - one of his charming eccentricities. He was very committed to these dogs, and they to him.

James was a complicated, quiet and kind gentle man of large intellect with a deep love for, and pride in, his wonderful wife and their family - a devotion amply returned.

He will be much missed by his family and indeed, all who knew  him.

James Cobb with his Forrest Medal winning Iris nusariensis at Stirling  SRGC Show at Dunblane 2006

James Cobb with his Forrest Medal winning Daphne petraea grandiflora at Perth SRGC Show 2006

 Sandy Leven with James Cobb at Perth Show  2009
Title: Re: James L.S. Cobb. plantsman and Meconopsis expert, has died.
Post by: Maggi Young on August 29, 2021, 03:56:28 PM
Funeral notice from The Courier
Originally printed on August 20, 2021.

COBB It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr James Leslie Stiles Cobb, on August 15, 2021, the family has been greatly comforted by the messages of support and encouragement received. A service will be held on August 30, 2021, at 12.30 p.m., in Kingsbarns Church, to which all are respectfully invited. Family flowers only, please, but donations, can be given if wished, at the door of the church or on James' Just Giving page, in support of Wateraid.

Obituary by Chris Ferguson from The Courier:

Dr James Cobb, a zoologist who battled the elements to create bird habitat at Fife Ness, has died aged 79.
He was also a regular on the Radio 4 science-based panel game The Litmus Test which ran between 1989 and 1992.
Dr Cobb’s love of bees, a passion he shared with his wife Calla, saw them feature on a BBC television programme filmed at their Kingsbarns home.
In 1989, Dr Cobb published the book Meconopsis, about the blue poppy which can grow in ideal conditions in Scotland.Meconopsis plants did not thrive in the dry conditions of Dr Cobb’s Fife garden but he sent samples to his daughters in Wick and Cumbria, who cultivated them in the damper soil there.

Dr James Cobb.

Dr Cobb spent most of his career lecturing in zoology at St Andrews University. He took early retirement aged 55 but returned to lecture part-time for three years.

James Leslie Stiles Cobb was born in Haywards Heath, Sussex, in 1941 to Joan and John Cobb. His father had served with the East Sussex Yeomanry during the Second World War.

A move to Wales
While he was still young, the family moved to Brecon, Wales, and James completed his education at Christ College.
It was while at school in Brecon that James met his future wife, Calla, who was a pupil at Brecon Girls’ Grammar School.
James was accepted to study science at St Andrews University and his first year was spent at Dundee, then part of St Andrews University.

He studied biology and zoology and graduated with first class honours in 1964. He was also awarded the D’Arcy Thompson Medal that year.
In the same year, James began his PhD studies into the nervous system of starfish, which he completed in 1967.
Now, Dr Cobb, James and Calla, who had married in 1965, spent two years in Australia when James was awarded a Queen Elizabeth Fellowship to undertake zoology research in Melbourne.

The couple went on to have three daughters, Emily, Caroline and Victoria.

After their return to the UK, the couple lived first in Crail before their move to Kingsbarns.
James had always been a keen bird ringer, gardener, fisherman and beekeeper.
He bought a plot of land for the Scottish Wildlife Trust at Fife Ness which was planted with trees to provide shelter for birds.The area was exposed to the wind and sea so they first planted shrubs to give cover to the saplings.
Very gradually, sycamores and pine began to grow. Many of these trees began life in the couple’s own nursery which they developed by buying some garden ground behind the pub in Kingsbarns.

Dr Cobb was heavily involved in the Junior Hortus Society at St Andrews Botanical Gardens, was a past chairman of Kingsbarns flower show and did voluntary work at Kingsbarns Primary School.
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