Ellen Hutchins, Ireland’s first female botanist, is one of the three Famous Faces on the newly launched Historic Town map of Bantry. Her life and botanical studies are celebrated in the annual Ellen Hutchins Festival during Heritage Week in August, when, by following in her footsteps, we can learn more Ellen, the wonderful botany of Bantry Bay and its natural heritage.
Ellen was born and lived almost all of her short life at Ballylickey, and this is where she studied seaweeds, and other non flowering plants – lichens, mosses and liverworts. She died just before her thirtieth birthday in 1815. She is buried in an unmarked grave in the Garryvurcha graveyard in Church Road, Bantry, where there now is a commemorative plaque for her.
This August there was a special homecoming, when some of the seaweed specimens that Ellen had found in Bantry Bay over two hundred years ago were exhibited in Bantry Library. They were kindly loaned by Trinity College Dublin, and displayed in a cabinet funded by the Bantry Credit Union.
Eileen McShea of Bantry Development and Tourism opened the exhibition and said that Bantry was very proud of Ellen Hutchins and welcomed the Festival as an annual event. The Bantry Tourist Office is now host to a small display on Ellen, there is a permanent information panel about her in Bantry Library and a display at Future Forests, Kealkil. See www.ellenhutchins.com for more information.