Earlier this year, Professor John Parnell of the Botany Department of Trinity College Dublin helped a small team of Ellen Hutchins researchers to hunt in the Herbarium there for specimens of seaweeds, mosses, or lichens collected by Ellen in the Bantry Bay area more than 200 years ago.
The story of the search for them is told by scriptwriter Sean Moffatt in a piece he wrote for RTE’s Sunday Miscellany programme. It was first broadcast on Sunday 16th August 2015, and repeated the following Wednesday. Click here for the link to listen to it; there is a short musical prelude and the piece itself is about eight minutes long.
Here are the pictures that go with the search:
Trinity College Dublin
Sean Moffatt searching drawers full of small brown envelopes
A 19th century sketch of the hills, forests and inlets of Bantry Bay by Ellen’s niece, Louisa Hutchins
Herbarium corridor; TCD
Prof John Parnell searching the herbarium
On the top rung
Regrouped with large folder on small table
Specimen of Fucus sanguineus (Delesseria sanguinea); collected by Ellen Hutchins, Bantry Bay over 200 years ago
Sean is transfixed as more of Ellen’s specimens come to light
Conferva stricta 1809
Polysiphonia Sp 1809
The Sunday Miscellany piece ends with Sean Moffatt describing the homecoming of Ellen’s drawings for an exhibition in Bantry House.
With wonderful synchronicity, the broadcast went out as Madeline and her husband Sean were driving over from England to Ireland, with the prints of the seaweed drawings from the Archives of Kew Gardens in the back of their car; all mounted, framed and labelled, ready to be hung in the Upper Landing gallery space at Bantry House, for their first ever showing in the Republic of Ireland. They were crossing the Severn Bridge at that moment, from England to Wales, with coast and seaweed below.
One of the Festival Organisers kindly emailed Madeline and Sean the link to the broadcast, and they listened to the Sunday Miscellany piece as the ferry pulled out of Pembroke Dock. Just as the piece finished, they saw, right in front of them, a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the ferry. It all felt very special.
And that special feeling continued throughout the Ellen Hutchins Festival. The organisers were pleasantly surprised by the large number of people attending all events, both locals and those who had travelled great distances; and the level of interest shown in Ellen was inspiring and gratifying. The view from the summit of Knockboy in the sunshine was spectacular. The children made splendid journey sticks and woven wonders in Glengarriff Woods. The botanist Donal Sinnott’s talk was captivating, showing how Ellen dried and laid out her specimens, the sort of microscope she would have used, and other fascinating details. The scientific knowledge of the botanists brought a new dimension to the walks, and the botanical art demonstration was delightful. Every time the events were outside, the rain stopped and often the sun came out. As if to provide a perfect ending to the Festival week, on the final evening before the journey home, there was a stunning sunset over Bantry Bay.
Bantry House Gardens, looking out over Bantry Bay
Madeline unpacking prints of Ellen’s drawings in Bantry House. 18 August 2015
The prints grouped ready for hanging
The Exhibition is ready 19 Aug 2015
The Official Opening and Botanical Art Demonstration by Shevaun Doherty
Stunning sunset over the bay at the end of the festival; caught by John Crellin of FloralImages Brecon
Madeline Hutchins: great great grandniece of Ellen Hutchins, researcher on her life, and one of the organisers of the Ellen Hutchins Festival, Bantry, Heritage Week, August 2015