Della blossomed into one of the country's best artists

Share this article

Renowned botanical painter and mentor Della Purves has died aged 62.

SHE was born on July 6, 1945, and by the age of two, Della Purves and her family had left Paisley for Edinburgh, where she was enrolled at St Margaret's School.

On leaving the school she went on to study agricultural botany at the East of Scotland College in Cupar, Fife, before training as a seed tester.

In the late 1960s, she spent a year working with the Department of Industry in New Zealand, where she was able to indulge in her other passion – folk singing.

She returned to the Capital in the summer of 1969 and started working at the Royal Botanic Garden at Inverleith as an exhibition designer.

It was when Della was singing traditional Maori songs she had learned in New Zealand at a folk night at Kingsknowe Golf Club in 1969 that she met her future husband, Rab, who was at the event playing the fiddle.

After discovering a shared passion for traditional music, romance blossomed and they married at the St Mary's and All Saints Church at Tollcross in September 1970. They moved into a family home in Juniper Green and were married for over 37 years.

Della left the Botanics in 1976 to concentrate on a career as an independent artist, but her association with the garden remained.

Throughout her 40-year career, Della saw her work exhibited in America, Germany, Japan and Ireland and the Queen's botanist Sir George Taylor described her as one of Britain's leading artists, a view shared by many in the field.

Della's friends have described her as a vivacious person who always gave her time generously to young artists, encouraging them even when stricken by serious ill health in the last six years.

Husband Rab, 67, said: "Everyone who met Della liked her. There didn't seem to be anyone she didn't like. She could talk for Britain on the phone at night to friends.

"Della could be strong-willed and determined but at the same time she had a great sense of humour and loving nature. She had a generous spirit and never complained even when it got difficult."

Della died on January 17 after battling a wasting and painful liver condition.

A memorial service, with hymns chosen by Della and a lament played by Rab, was held at Norton House on January 25.

She is survived by Rab, daughter Maryanne and son Campbell.

Back to the top of the page