Denis Priest

State Representation

Australian National Championships – Queensland Open Team 1981, 1972, 1965, 1962

State Titles

1986 Queensland Open Pairs – [with Mark Sarris]

1981 Queensland Open Pairs – [with Tony Jackman]

1973 Queensland Open Teams – [with Harold, Tony Jackman, Mike Pemberton, Mike Robson]

1972 Queensland Open Teams – [with George Cuppaidge, Frank Jarvis, Mike Robson, Mike Pemberton]

1968 Queensland Open Pairs – [with Tony Jackman]

1967 Queensland Open Teams – [with Tony Jackman, Tom Landy, Mike Robson]

1965 Queensland Open Teams – [with Harold Hiley, Tony Jackman, Bruce Meares, Mike Parfitt, Bob Williams]

1962 Queensland Open Teams – [with George McCutcheon, Harold Hiley, Tony Jackman]


1967 Gold Coast Open Teams Championship – [with Tony Jackman, A Selinger, G Westcott, J Fahrer]

1963 Gold Coast Open Teams Championship – [with Tony Jackman, George McCutcheon, Tim Seres, Roelof Smilde]

1962 Gold Coast Open Teams Championship – [with Harold Hiley, George McCutcheon, Tony Jackman, Bruce Meares, Bob Williams]



In remembering Denis, the first thing that comes to mind is his kindness.  A brilliant wit and natural raconteur, it is Denis’ many acts of generosity that define him.

Born in London, England in 1932 Denis had an early setback in his life when he suffered a traumatic childhood injury that left him unable to fully straighten his right leg.  Despite this, he never let his misfortune define him.  In his chosen career he was always as much at home in the field among his beloved plants and fungi as he was in the lecture theatre.

Denis graduated with a D.I.C. – Diploma of Imperial College of Science and Technology (Royal College of Science) and a Ph.D. in Botany-Plant Pathology, both from London University, winning many awards and scholarships including the prestigious George Mitchell Gold Medal in Science.  He was the University Scholar in Science (Botany) 1957-1960, the only student ever to have gained this award in a written subject.  For two years Denis was also a Research Fellow at St Johns College Cambridge University, concurrently running a bridge club at Mayfair in London.

He married his first love Rita Durrant in London and shortly after they migrated to Australia in 1961 for Denis to take up a position as Senior Lecturer in Botany at the University of Queensland and later also Examiner-in-Chief, Queensland Schools (Biology/Botany).   In his early career Denis was an inspirational and entertaining teacher.  Students taught by him would often fondly recall his memorable lectures and support many years after.

During this period Denis was also active in another of his great passions, contract bridge.  A highly competitive player he was active in the Queensland Bridge Association for many years.  He was one of the originals behind the Gold Coast Bridge Congress in the 1960s and ‘70s, being part of the winning team’s event in the inaugural 1962 Congress at the Chevron Hotel.  He had a weekly bridge column in the Courier Mail and the Sunday Mail for over 30 years and he combined his love of bridge and storytelling with publication of the award-winning books “Problems in Play” in 1962, followed by its equally engaging sequel in 1984.

Over time Denis’ love of gardens took on a larger role in his life.  Having created the Alumni Teaching Garden (1976-1985) and been appointed as Foundation Curator at the University of Queensland, he left UQ to embark on a new career of landscape garden design.  A Capability Brown for South-east Queensland, his imprint is indelibly to be found in and around the Gold Coast today at numerous integrated resort developments and residential estates including Seaworld-Nara Resort, Royal Pines Golf Course, Hope Island International Resort Golf Course, Palm Meadows Golf Course, Coomera Island and Oyster Cove residential estates.  His Gold Coast Botanic Garden is a gift for everyone to enjoy.

Denis met the love of his life Eve in 1988 and they were an immediate heady mix of mutual attraction, hard work at all hours, lavish home entertaining and exciting trips twice a year for twenty years to UK, Europe and USA where they married at the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas in 1992.  Their Tamborine cottage and rainforest garden was sold in 2004 and they built their hilltop home outside Beaudesert in 2005 where Denis created a beautiful bird and butterfly-attracting perennial garden principally of conifers to compliment their two-storey Italianate home.   

Denis was possessed of a beautiful mind.  He passed away peacefully on 2nd September 2021 at the age of 89.  He is survived by his wife Eve, his children Cheryl and Russil and his brother Ronnie.

George Cuppaidge

October 2021