THE Ellen Hutchins Festival held in Bantry in August is to become an annual event, thanks to the success of the award-winning event.
Ellen was an accomplished botanical artist as well as botanist, and prints of some of her seaweed drawings, drawn at Ballylickey more than 200 years ago, were exhibited in shop windows in Bantry and in the Bantry Credit Union during the festival.
Displayed in the Bantry Credit Union window with the drawings was a microscope from the early 1800s – very similar to the one used by Ellen Hutchins in Ballylickey House. It had a mirror to intensify the light from a candle or oil lamp. The technology available to botanists has changed enormously over the two centuries since Ellen ‘botanised’ and the participants in the festival’s two-day Lichen Foray were able to use the latest equipment to see their finds.
Interestingly, in contrast, botanical illustration by watercolour painting is today still of great importance and usefulness to botanists alongside photography. Here the technology has hardly changed at all, although thankfully the paints are no longer toxic.
The period microscope belongs to Madeline Hutchins, researcher on Ellen, and one of the organisers of the Ellen Hutchins Festival.
It was given to Madeline as a birthday present this year by her husband, Sean. Some members of the Hutchins family still live near Bantry, and others visit regularly from the UK and Australia.
Four great great grand nieces and nephews of Ellen (including Madeline) gathered in the Bantry Credit Union to view the exhibition, and met with Finbarr O’Shea, manager of the Bantry Credit Union, and Eileen O’Shea, chairman of the Bantry Development and Tourism Association, to thank them for their support for the festival.
‘Bantry Development and Tourism welcome this now-annual festival,’ said Eileen. ‘We are pleased to be associated with the Hutchins family in recognising the first Irish female botanist Ellen Hutchins and remember her achievements. 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,’ she added.
The 2017 festival will take place on August 19th-27th. See also ellenhutchins.com.