Thursday 23 July 2015

Ellen Hutchins, Ireland's first female botanist.

Bantry Bay shoreline from Ardnagashel
Image: S. Maskey
A lovely surprise this week: we were contacted by Madeline Hutchins, great great grand-niece of pioneering Irish botanist Ellen Hutchins. This is what Madeline had to say: 

"I thought that BSBI members would like to know about the events happening in Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland, during Heritage Week this August (23rd to 30th) to celebrate that life and work of Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815) Ireland's First Woman Botanist, who worked mostly with algae/seaweed, bryophytes and lichens. 

Bantry Bay, Co. Cork.
Image: S. Maskey
"Donal Synnott, ex Glasnevin, is giving a talk, What the Eye Can See, about Ellen's botanical achievements, and there are a series of walks, In the Footsteps of Ellen, covering seashore, woodland and mountain, and a boat trip, all with botanists, to explore the areas in which Ellen collected plants. 

"There is a day focused on her home territory of Ballylickey and Ardnagashel, and a Pop Up exhibition of books and letters of hers, and including one of her botanical dictionaries, which will appear at various locations during the week.

"A small exhibition in the Bantry Library will tell her story through words and pictures, and at Bantry House there will be an art exhibition of her watercolours of seaweeds (prints of some of those held at Kew Gardens); this being the first time they will have been exhibited in Ireland.

Seaweed specimen collected by Ellen,
stored at Trinity College Dublin TCD
Image courtesy of The Herbarium,
Botany Dept., Trinity College Dublin.
"A plaque will be unveiled on the wall of the churchyard of Bantry old church where Ellen is buried, at present with no stone. This is one of the big blue plaques commemorating Irish scientists. 

"A smaller stone will be placed on the garden wall of Ballylickey House to mark her birthplace and home.

"I am giving a talk about her life and work, and including new material found in recently discovered letters from her to her brothers, and to James Mackay.

"The Bantry Historical Society, the Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve (NPWS) and the Hutchins family have worked together to present the programme, with funding from the Heritage Council, Cork County Council, NPWS, Bantry Bay Port Company, and Bantry Development and Tourism Association, and support from many local organisations and businesses.

"The events' dates and times are all listed on and the Heritage Week site

One of Ellen's watercolours of seaweeds
Image: S. Maskey
"There will also be a little piece about Ellen and the discovery of some of her specimens in Trinity College Dublin's herbarium on RTE radio's Sunday Miscellany some time soon".

Many thanks to Madeline for telling us about these celebrations for the life and work of Ireland's "first female botanist" Ellen Hutchins. 

I hope some of our Irish members will be able to make it along - if you do, please take some photos to share here!

Stop press: Ace Irish botanist and bryologist Rory Hodd tells me that he and the amazing Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington, Emeritus Senior Lecturer in Botany at the University of Galway, are two of the botanists leading guided walks In the Footsteps of Ellen! He also acknowledges the huge effort that Clare from Glengarriff NR has put in behind the scenes to make this event a success. Clare is also the new County Recorder for West Cork VC H3.  

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