Little Stories from a Small Town
by Mabel Hoyle Knipe
THE WINSOR PINK
The spring months of 1911 were traumatic ones in Great Britain as the entire nation made elaborate preparations for the coronation of King George V and his consort, Queen Mary. The coronation events were to take place in June, and there were scores of decisions to be made as the great spectacle approached.
Among other momentous anxieties, the young queen struggled with the question of a coronation flower which would grace her own person, those of her retinue, and be decorative at the hundreds of gala occasions which would be arranged in honor of the new monarchs.
From all over the world, florists had submitted superbly developed specimens of floriculture for the honor of Mary’s choosing. Hundreds of varieties of flowers blooming in June were offered for inspection. Then, she was subjected to much pressure from all sides, but ultimately, the choice narrowed to three finalists – the sweet pea, the rose and the pink or carnation.
The young queen was a very practical woman. She listened to all advice but kept her own counsel. She was reminded that the rose had worthy antecedent from the days of the Plantagenets. The sweet pea was fragrant and colorful and had the virtue of graceful draping potential. Mary felt the pink had special beauty and lasting qualities suitable for hot June hours. So she decided upon this flower and sought among the many submitted – the most beautiful and unique specimen of this genus.
The one she finally chose was the “Winsor Pink”. It had been developed and submitted by a young horticulturalist – a Mr. Peter Murray of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, U.S.A.! It was a fragrant and delicious bloom
– light pink in outer petals with a deeper rose tinged center like the “mouth of a shell.”
All over the empire, “Winsor Pinks” celebrated the great occasion. They were planted hopefully in tiny gardens. They appeared in great bouquets at balls and galas; in profuse clusters before windows of stately London homes; on festive banquet tables and in the buttonholes of simple Britons throughout the realm.
Thus, to a pleasant house on the corner of Green and Centre Streets in the little town of Fairhaven – there came great honor. This attractive brick house was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter P. Winsor, and their gardens and conservatories, which were thrown open each year for free inspection – were a joy to the town. Their grounds were in the charge of a talented horticulturalist, the Scotsman, Peter Murray, who at eighteen, had emigrated to America, taking up employment with Mr. Winsor in 1893
– and remaining for twelve years. Ever an experimenter, he had created in 1904, the lovely “Winsor Pink” – named in honor of his employer.
Mr. Murray served a period as town tree warden, and in 1905 struck out on his own and became known as “Murray the Florist” with stores in Fairhaven and later in New Bedford.
During that coronation year of 1911, the “Winsor Pink” was so popular in England that its price became prohibitive, and the street flower vendors were no longer able to afford it for their patrons.
Of this entire delightful episode, the BOSTON SUNDAY POST comments in 1911:
“Instead of the War of the Roses – it is the twentieth century version of a new treaty between the two branches of the Anglo Saxon race. England and New England may shake hands!”