A pioneering Southport musician’s love for bonsai trees has raised nearly £10,000 for Queenscourt Hospice.
Ken Shalliker always brought huge creativity and passion to whatever he took on in life, and to those who knew and loved him, his enthusiasm was inspiring.
Ken became a fixture on the highly influential Merseybeat music scene in the 1960s, playing bass guitar as an original member of Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes, which helped to create the world-famous Merseyside sound.
He was also an active session member of many of the other Merseybeat groups.
His passion for playing guitars led to him becoming a qualified Luthier, a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars.
Over the years Ken designed and built all manner of original stringed instruments, mainly of the Rock n Roll variety, which even led to some of his instruments being included in an exhibition at The Museum of Liverpool.
In his 20s Ken fell in love with the ancient art of bonsai, the skill of growing ornamental, artificially dwarfed varieties of trees and shrubs in pots.
It became much more than a hobby, with Ken helping to found the National Bonsai Society.
He displayed and sold his beloved bonsai for over 40 years at Southport Flower Show, and was awarded numerous awards during that time.
Ken showed off his bonsai trees at Southport Flower Show for the last time in 2015 – after 42 years exhibiting there.
Ken started displaying his trees at Victoria Park in 1973 as an amateur, at the age of 21.
He found his passion for Penjing trees, the Chinese art of depicting trees and landscape, at the Show.
Speaking in 2015, he said: “I came just to see the show. There was a big display of lilies and in the corner there were bonsai trees.
“I asked the chap: what are these?
“He said: ‘I think they are called bonsai trees, they were sent to me by my supplier, that supplies the bulbs, as a present’. I asked him: ‘Do you want to sell them?’ He said: ‘No, they are a present’. I just fell in love with them.”
Ken took a while to find out a bit more about those trees. He did just that a few years later when his neighbours moved in.
His neighbour was a journalist that has been out in China and Japan and his wife had learned about the trees so she was able to teach Ken. He went from an amateur to a professional in “Penjing” in just seven years.
“When I became a professional I got in touch with people in Japan, China, Korea and I was able to find out more,” he said.
Ken learned with bonsai masters and studied the art. He ended up being a lecturer and a demonstrator of the trees, writing for bonsai magazines He spent six months at the Liverpool Museum talking about them to visitors.
He said: “I won around 40 gold medals at Southport Flower Show and I got 740 gold medals in total (from all competitions he participated in). I am very lucky.”
“I have enjoyed it, it has been nice.”
One of Ken’s last gifts was to bequeath his beloved bonsai collection to Queenscourt Hospice, as a thank you for the exceptional care given to his late daughter, Janet.
Ken wanted to acknowledge the outstanding support Janet and the whole family received from Queenscourt Hospice, as they managed to create a happy, warm environment where treasured memories were created at the saddest of times, something he was eternally grateful for.
Ken’s bonsai were auctioned by the National Bonsai Society and raised a massive £9,651 for Queenscourt Hospice.
As a small local charity with a big reach, Ken’s legacy will help Queenscourt Hospice to continue providing exceptional compassionate care for patients and their families, when they need it the most.