© 1987
A Short History of the Margaret Mee Amazon Trust
Her life embraced art, politics, the threatened environment and a quest for a very elusive Amazon flower. Most of all all Margaret was an brilliant story-teller .
Part 2

Compiled by Tony Morrison in 1993 and completed in 1995 —   FLP = For Later Publication


Successful foundation   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.

In 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 from Brasil.

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 London, England 

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 Mee.

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].


         Wednesday November 30th 1988

Margaret Mee died in an ambulance on the way to hospital following a car accident near Seagrave in Leicestershire.

Margaret 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.

With 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 institutional.

[A Will was found in Brasil and will be considered in a later section of the archive - Editor ]  

Thursday 12th January 1989

Greville 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.

  Monday 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 soon after.   

Fund Raising

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 Harewood House.

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.[Aircraft Division]

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.

The Brasilian Foundation

Simon 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.

With 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.  

August 1990

£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 flow.

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.  


References [FLP]

1) Review by Wilfrid Blunt. Royal Horticultural Society, 1969

2) Personal communication.

3) Memo from Simon Mayo, RBG Kew, 10th February 1988.

4) Letter from Margaret to Christopher McLaren 28th February1998.

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 amabassador.


The total sum paid for the Amazon Collection was £227,139.00 and it is kept at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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 [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 occasional awards.


The 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 ideals.

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