Ellen Hutchins Festival

Now an annual event celebrating the life and work of Ireland’s first female botanist

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This year’s Ellen Hutchins Festival will take place in Bantry, Glengarriff, and Ballylickey in Heritage Week, 19 to 27 August 2017. The plans are being made, the funding applications are in or being written, and details will be posted here as soon as they are ready. There will be walks with botanists, a botanical art exhibition (with a difference), a seaweed event, two children’s workshops, a Pop Up Ellen Hutchins Exhibition and much more. Some events will again be hosted by Bantry House on the day when the gardens are open for free.

August 2016’s Ellen Hutchins Festival in and around Bantry was as successful as 2015’s award winning Festival, and the decision was made to make the Festival an annual event. This decision was made with the support of the Bantry Development and Tourism Association.

Eileen O’Shea of the Association says that “Bantry Development & Tourism welcome this now annual festival. We are pleased to be associated with the Hutchins family in recognising the first Irish female botanist Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815) remember her achievements, and walk in her footsteps. The festival takes place during Heritage Week in late August. This event is growing and is now part of the Calendar of Events for West Cork.” Eileen added “We look forward to working with the Bantry Historical Society, the National Parks & Wildlife Service and the Hutchins family in promoting and taking part in this wonderful event to commemorate Ellen’s work in natural science.”

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Ellen Hutchins of Bantry Bay

Ellen Hutchins is a highly respected and well- known name in the specialist worlds of botany / plant sciences, botanical illustration and the history of science. Although she died just before her thirtieth birthday she made a significant contribution to the understanding of the non-flowering plants. Ellen Hutchins was a pioneer in natural history and Ireland’s first female botanist. She specialised in non-flowering plants: seaweeds, lichens, mosses and liverworts.

Born at Ballylickey House, on the shores of Bantry Bay in 1785 she lived there most of her life. From the age of twenty until illness prevented her from continuing eight years later, she devoted as much of her time as she could to the study of plants. She collected and identified them, dried and preserved them, and made detailed watercolour drawings of her finds.

Her skills and dedication, combined with the previously unexplored wealth of flora in the area, enabled her to find many new species. Her specimens (dried plants on paper) and drawings were circulated to the leading botanists of the day in Ireland, and across the British Isles. She was highly praised for her work. Plants were named after her, and her discoveries and drawings appeared in key botanical publications of the period.

Her specimens of seaweeds, lichens, mosses and liverworts continue to be used by botanists internationally for research - over 200 years since she collected them in Bantry Bay. Today her name appears on Lists of Significant Irish Scientists, and Irish Botanical Artists.

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