Tag Archives: Bantry

Heritage Trail leaflet and audio guide launched

Leaflets for the Ellen Hutchins Heritage Trail arrived last Friday, 18th May, at the Tourist Office in Bantry, and some of the people most closely involved in producing the Trail collected to be the first to see the leaflets and to listen to the audio guide tracks alongside them.

Neil Jackman and Roisin Burke of Abarta Heritage looking at the leaflets in the Bantry Tourist Office

The sun shone as we gathered for a photo outside the Tourist Office and then we headed to Spot 2 on the Trail, the beach by the airstrip, known to Ellen as “the shore under Blue Hill”.

Madeline Hutchins: Ellen Hutchins Festival, Eileen O’Shea: Bantry Development and Tourist Association, Roisin Burke: Abarta Heritage, Clare Heardman and Angela O’Donovan: Ellen Hutchins Festival, Breda Moriarty: Deep Maps Project UCC.

Listening to the audio guide introduction track

Madeline Hutchins, one of the authors of the Trail and Ellen’s great great grand niece, on the shore under Blue Hill, by the airstrip.

The Trail has nine stops, most of them reached by car, but then there is the opportunity to explore the area and some have significant circular walks from them, such as the Coorycommane Loop Walk from Coomhola Bridge. For each spot, the leaflet and the audio guide provide information on the place, the plants and an aspect of Ellen’s story.

See the Trail page from the menu above for the online version of the leaflet and links to the audio guide.

 

 

New Ellen Hutchins Heritage Trail

Team Ellen, of the Ellen Hutchins Festival, and Abarta Heritage have been busy this winter completing work on an exciting project, the Ellen Hutchins Heritage Trail. The results of the hard work have paid off, and the Trail Leaflet and Audio Guide are now available free to anyone interested in following in Ellen’s footsteps and hearing her story partly in her own words.

The Trail takes you round, at your pace and times of your choosing, to nine significant sites to Ellen’s story, round the shores and islands of Bantry Bay and into its neighbouring woodlands, heathland and mountains. An episode of Ellen’s story is linked to each site, written in the leaflet and enhanced by the Audio Guide, which has actors reading extracts of letters as well telling more of Ellen’s story.

The project was made possible by funding from the Heritage Council and FLAG South (Fisheries Local Action Group).

See the Heritage Trail page in the menu above for links to both leaflet (online copy) and the Audio Guide.

Festival underway in Bantry

Part of the exhibition in Bantry Credit Union

Part of the Ellen Exhibition in Bantry Credit Union


Botany is in focus in Bantry, West Cork until Sunday 28th August (Heritage Week) with walks, talks and exhibitions as part of the Ellen Hutchins Festival. Ellen was Ireland’s first female botanist and the young woman who put Bantry Bay firmly on the map as far as botany is concerned, and seaweeds in particular.

Seaweeds feature prominently in the exhibition of prints of Ellen’s drawings of seaweed and photographs of her specimens (dried plants on paper) which opened on Saturday 20th August. Unlike normal exhibitions, this one takes to the streets, and is in shop windows across Bantry town centre and in Bantry Credit Union, Bantry Library and the Tourist Office. There are also sites in Ballylickey and Glengarriff. See here for more information.

In the evening on Thursday 25th, at the Westlodge Hotel, Bantry, there is a talk and panel discussion on Ellen: her story, her botany and her art, and before this a Pop Up exhibition with some of Ellen’s letters and books, and materials relating to rediscovering her story. Click here for more.

If you fancy picking up a paint brush and being given expert guidance on how to draw plants, there is a one day botanical art workshop, run by award winning artist, Shevaun Doherty, in the gardens and stables at Bantry House on Friday 26th. Shevaun welcomes all levels of experience and none, and says that the day will be relaxing, enjoyable and above all fun.

On Saturday 27th, upstairs in Organico Cafe in Bantry, you can drop by and see Shevaun in action, in a demonstration of her botanical art. The demo runs from 10am to 12 noon. Members of the Hutchins family will be there with prints of Ellen’s drawings.

A few places are still available for the botanical art workshop, see here for booking details, and information on the other events within the Festival.

Drawings of Seaweeds from Bantry Bay 1808 – 1812

Ellen Drawing 054

Ellen’s drawing of Fucus asparagoides. 1811

On Thursday 20th August 2015, an exhibition opened in Bantry House of Ellen Hutchins’ watercolour drawings of seaweeds. This was their first showing in the Republic of Ireland and their home coming. They were drawn by Ellen Hutchins, at Ballylickey, about four miles from Bantry House, on Bantry Bay.

Ellen was born at Ballylickey in 1785 and lived there most of her life. She died two hundred years ago, in 1815, after a long illness, aged only twenty nine.

Seaweeds

Ellen described seaweeds as a ‘curious and difficult branch of botany’ and other botanists at that time called them ‘neglected’. She appreciated their beauty and puzzled over their similarities to each other.

Remarkable botanist and accomplished artist

 Botanical illustration was, and still is, incredibly important to those who study plants. In the early nineteenth century, some botanists engaged a botanical artist to draw for them; others, such as Ellen had the skills to do the drawing themselves.

The first mention in Ellen’s letters of her drawing plants is in July 1808, and then again in December when she wrote to fellow botanist, Dawson Turner:

‘Dear Sir, Your most interesting letter found me employed finishing the drawing you wished for of Fucus tomentosus. I have sent it with drawings of some Confervae. … These are the very first that I have attempted.’

Ellen to Turner 2nd December 1808

The first three drawings exhibited at Bantry House, of Confervae, are dated October and November 1808, and are some of Ellen’s ‘very first’. Dawson Turner was full of praise for them and encouraged Ellen to continue drawing.

‘Your Fucus tomentosus will be very soon engraved. The others, I am sorry to say, seem doomed ‘to blush unseen’ in my portfolios, but they shall not be wholly lost. I trust you will not fail to cultivate this art, without which it is scarcely possible to study the Confervae with success. … Let me advise you also, if the trouble is not too much, to sketch the leaves of the mosses you examine under the microscope. It saves a prodigious deal of trouble.’

Turner to Ellen 21st March 1809

In July 1809, Ellen wrote that she had drawn ‘near 76 Confervae and a few Fuci.’

‘Botanical Illustration involves the painting, drawing and illustration of plants and ecosystems. Often meticulously observed, the botanical art tradition combines both science and art.’ Irish Society of Botanical Artists

Despite the advent of photography and digital technology, botanical illustration continues to be of great value to science today.

Ellen bequeathed her extensive collection of plants to Dawson Turner. Her sister in law, Matilda Hutchins, at Ardnagashel, Bantry Bay, who was organising this, suggested to Dawson Turner that he should have Ellen’s drawings as well: to you as a botanist I should hope they would be a great acquisition; if there should be duplicates of any of the drawings, I would feel much obliged by your returning the inferior ones.’ (Matilda Hutchins to Dawson Turner 14th December 1815) We do not know if this happened. The Hutchins family has only one of Ellen’s drawings, of Fucus Asparagoides which is included in the exhibition at Bantry House.

The drawings passed from Dawson Turner to William Jackson Hooker, another young botanist encouraged by Dawson Turner, to whom Ellen’s liverwort finds were sent. Either Turner or Hooker had the two hundred and thirty seven drawings bound into a volume with an index. In 1841 Hooker became the first official Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London. The volume was in Hooker’s private library, and is now in the archives at Kew Gardens, where you can make an appointment to see it.

One evening during the exhibition saw a demonstration of botanical art by Shevaun Doherty; and a Pop Up exhibition of one of Ellen’s botanical dictionaries, some of her books and letters.

The exhibition of the seaweed drawings at Bantry House, and the one which ran concurrently in Bantry Library, Ellen Hutchins, the young woman, her work and her world were part of the Ellen Hutchins Festival in and around Bantry for Heritage Week 2015.

An amazingly strong friendship through plants and letters

Dawson Turner, in Yarmouth, England, was preparing a book on seaweeds. He received some of Ellen’s specimens from James Mackay, assistant curator at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Turner was delighted and in April 1807 he sent a parcel of plants to Ellen as a thank you. This was the beginning of a seven year correspondence, lasting right up to Ellen’s early death aged twenty nine.

Dawson Turner

Their early letters were full of descriptions of plants. Often the letters had specimens identified by numbers, pinned to the pages. Ellen and Turner offered to fill in each other’s collections and asked each other to help with identification. Ellen gave substantive detail; where she had found each seaweed, moss and lichen, their appearance. In the case of seaweeds, she wrote which season they fruited in, and which others they resembled. She described the colour changes as they dried, and talked of what she hoped to be able to find next season. Turner wrote about plants too, initially mostly providing Ellen with answers to her questions relating to her specimens. He also told her about other botanists he was in contact with, their tours and publications, meetings he was attending in London and he sent her botanical books.

Dawson Turner invited Ellen to stay with his family in Yarmouth; Ellen explained that her caring duties prevented her from leaving home. She, in turn, suggested that the Turners would be welcome at Ballylickey. Turner explained that a visit to Ireland is as improbable as Ellen coming to Yarmouth.

Gradually the topics covered in the letters extended past plants and botanists. His letters start to cover ‘domestic concerns’ of the Turner family, and the illness and death of friends and botanists, and Ellen wrote of her mother’s ill health and her own. Ellen described how much she enjoyed the stillness and solitude of the night by the riverside, and clambering over rocks and up mountains in search of plants. Turner quoted poetry. They conferred on literature they had enjoyed and he recommended books to Ellen.

Thus an incredibly strong and supportive friendship developed through the correspondence. Ellen had periods of illness that prevented her doing any botanizing, and she alluded to family troubles but didn’t give any detail. Ellen found the letters and the friendship a wonderful source of comfort when she was immersed in dealing with her own and her mother’s illness. Dawson Turner and his wife faced great sadness when a child of theirs died. Turner named one of his daughters after Ellen and asked her to be the child’s godmother. He said that Ellen of all women in the world is the one he would be most pleased for his daughter to emulate. Ellen collected and sent sea shells to Tuener’s eldest daughter, Maria. Ellen and Turner showed real concern for each other in times of stress and illness, and sought to console and encourage the other.

By 1813, Ellen’s health was poor and she and her mother moved to Bandon for better medical care. When Ellen’s health deteriorated further in 1814, and she was bed-bound and under doctor’s orders not to exert herself by letter writing, She disobeyed and sendt Turner a letter to reassure him that she was still alive. He was extremely relieved and wrote back immediately. She replied that she read his letters ‘with tears of gratitude and affection for such kindness.’ In this, her last letter to him before her death, she ended with ‘Send me a moss – anything just to look at.’

Ellen died on 9th February 1815 at Ardnagashel, just along the coast of Bantry Bay from Ballylickey, her lifetime home, at the house of her brother Arthur and his wife Matilda who had nursed her for the last nine months of her life.