Celebrating Ellen Hutchins: Ireland’s first female botanist

Posted on: 4th August, 2015

Category: Home, Garden & Environment

Contributor: West Cork People

Above: A seaweed specimen collected by Ellen Hutchins in 1807 (reproduced with the kind permission of the Herbarium, Botany Department, Trinity College Dublin).

A festival to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Ellen Hutchins, Ireland’s first female botanist, is taking place in and around Bantry during Heritage Week (Saturday, August 22 to Sunday, August 30). Ellen was born in Ballylickey in 1785 and died 200 years ago in 1815. She was an extraordinary woman who, despite chronic ill heath, discovered many plant species, at least 10 of which were new to science and were named after her. She specialised in mosses, liverworts, lichens and algae (seaweeds), roaming the land and sea around Bantry Bay in search of them. She was also an accomplished artist, producing exquisite botanical illustrations that were used in some of the seminal botanical publications of the time.

The Ellen Hutchins festival will ‘follow in the footsteps’ of Ellen, visiting her favourite plant hunting grounds such as Whiddy Island, Ardnagashel and Glengarriff Woods in the company of expert botanists and relatives of Ellen. To complement the outdoor activities, there will be an exhibition of her art in Bantry House and an exhibition about her life and work in Bantry Library. Talks about her life and work are also taking place, including one in Glengarriff by the ex-Director of the National Botanical Gardens, Dr Donal Synnott.

Ellen lies in an unmarked grave in Garryvurcha graveyard in Bantry, so a plaque will be erected there to commemorate her achievements and life. A summary of the events is listed below, but for full details of all the activities taking place, visit the Events page on www.ellenhutchins.ie or the Heritage Week website www.heritageweek.ie. All the events are free, except for the art exhibition at Bantry House (entry fee to the house required).

The festival is being jointly organised by Bantry Historical Society, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Madeline Hutchins (great great grand niece of Ellen). Funding has been provided by the Heritage Council, Bantry Historical Society, Cork County Council, Cork Port Authority, the Ballylickey and Bantry Tourism and Development groups and local charity shops.

• An exhibition about Ellen’s life and work, Bantry Library: Tuesday, August 18 – Tuesday, September 1 (9:30 – 17:30, closed Sundays and Mondays).

• Exhibition of Ellen’s botanical illustrations, Bantry House (upper landing): August 20 – Saturday, September 5 (10:00-17:00).

• Knockboy (Cnoc Bui) – Botanical mountain walk with Dr Rory Hodd: Sunday, August 23 (10:30-15:00). Booking required (see website).

• Nature walk and willow weaving for children in Glengarriff with Jessica Mason: Monday, August 24 (14:00-16:00). Booking required (see website).

• Unveiling of plaque to commemorate Ellen Hutchins, Garryvurcha Graveyard, Bantry: Thursday, August 27 (18:45-19:15).

• An illustrated talk about Ellen Hutchins’ life and story by Madeline Hutchins (Ellen’s great great great niece), Bantry Library: Thursday, August 27 (20:00-22:00).

• Ellen’s birthplace and home – a walk with Madeline Hutchins around Ballylickey: Friday, August 28 (11:00-12:30). Meeting point: Ouvane Falls.

• Ardnagashel and the Hutchins’ Arboretum – a walk with Bill Hutchins: Friday, August 28 (14:00-17:00). Meeting point: Rent an Irish Cottage, Ardnagashel.

• An illustrated talk about Ellen’s botanical achievements by Dr Donal Synnott (ex director of the National Botanic Gardens): 20:00-22:00, Park Hotel, Glengarriff.

• Boat trip to Whiddy Island via Ardnagashel: Saturday, August 29 (11:30-13:00). Booking required (see website).

• A botanical walk on Whiddy Island with Dr Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington: Saturday, August 29 (14:30-16:30). Meet Bank House, Whiddy.

• Official opening of art exhibition and botanical art demonstration by Shevaun Doherty: Saturday, August 29 (18:00-20:00). Bantry House.

• Seaweeds and lichens along the Ardnagashel shore with Dr Howard Fox and Maria Cullen: Sunday, August 30 (11:00-13:00). Meeting point: Rent an Irish Cottage, Ardnagashel.

• Woodland walk in Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve ‘then and now’ with Dr Fionnuala O’Neill: Sunday, August 30 (15:00-17:00). Meeting point: Main car park, Glengarriff Woods

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