Long gone are the days when laughing children and happy adults were enjoying summer days at the bathing box near the East Pier on Garinish Island. On the right photograph from 1912 later owner Roland Bryce is sitting on the first step of the wooden ladder, his sister Margery (middle of the ladder) is looking into the camera. She became an actress who mainly performed in London. Recently a nice photograph with her portait was published and is being sold as a notecard (click).
Now the bathing box is a deserted and dark spot reminding of times past when the island was loved and tendered by it`s gardeners and owners.
Around some paths though there is a magnificent display of colours.
Even when the sky is grey the azaleas can be admired from far away. Some are highly fragrant and attract amazed visitors like hungry bees…
It is thought that the Bryces brought over tons of topsoil from the mainland, but this is only speculation, as there was a ‘quarry for soil’ marked on Harold Peto’s map of Garinish Island. American writer Harold Speakman (1888-1928) describes his encounter with Violet Bryce in „Here’s Ireland“ (1925):
The lady greeted me cordially. ‚I hope,’ she said, as we went up a path made rich by the scent of early roses, ‚I hope that you haven’t heard the ridiculous story about our bringing boatloads of earth here from the mainland!’ ‚Millions of boatloads…’ I quoted. ‚Now where could you have heard that!’ she demanded with some warmth. ‚I never knew anything so stupid!’ ‚It was an old woman coming over the hill,’ I said. ‚But it doesn’t seem so bad to me. If a place were barren and one wanted to live here, why shouldn’t soil be brought from anywhere?’ She looked at me imperiously and a little scournfully. (Evidently this was a subject of long standing and some delicacy.) ‚In the first place, there isn’t land on the mainland to take away; in the second, the thing is too silly. I can’t imagine any one doing a thing like that – except perhaps an American millionaire!’ ‚Whew! This isn’t beginning very well,’ I thought. But in another moment she had forgotten her annoyance and was showing me a path so completely carpeted with fallen pink blossoms that in places it was entirely hidden from sight.
However it took years to enrich the existing thin peaty soils which was mainly Murdo Mackenzie’s achievement as he was known to collect leaves and other natural debris from the mainland to enrich his compost heap. In the Irish Times from 13 February 1931 the issue was described as follows:
The greatest compliment paid to Mrs. Bryce is the legend that all the soil for the garden had to be imported: some say from the mainland, and some say from England. This of course is quite incorrect, the fertility of the island being due to its own soil and climate, together with a great deal of well applied industry. In fact there is no reason why the mainland should not yield the same results if properly cultivated, and the possibility of fruit-farming in the district is one that could well be investigated.
© of Harold Peto’s map: OPW Office of Public Works, Dublin
Do you recognize the steps behind the boathouse? looked quite different back in April 1912! Those and the boathouse were among the very first structures built on Garinish.
Before the building works in the Italian Garden were even properly started the first artefacts arrived on the freshly built pier in April 1911, safely packed in wooden boxes. Where might the lovely marble with the two lovers be?
I added some colour to an extremely rough photograph of the Happy Valley so it is better to recognize that there was a nice path along the Port Rock which is now overgrown. It is from The Sunday Independent from October 1927. At the right side of the picture the steps to the Temple can be seen (the Temple is dissolved in the mist of the blurred background).
Unfortunately another staddler stone along the path to the temple lost its ‘cap’ recently. Will this and the other lost upper parts of those devices (which were once used to protect the grains against mice and rats) be replaced for the next season? Have a look at the old photograph, spot the difference to the nowadays terrace!
This feature is one of the signatures of Harold Peto. In his own garden in Iford they are placed along a very steep path leading to the Edvard VII column.
Most people think of Violet Bryce as a ‘British society lady’. But she was extremely proud of her Irish roots and was very fond of the Irish language. In a letter to the editor she wrote in 1930: “… I beg to say I was brought up on Joyce’s ‘Names of Irish Places’, my father having been a keen Irish scholar, and know ‘Goul’, ‘Gowel’, ‘Gabhal’ means a fork, but information was taken from from a pre-Joyce book which I found … in an old book …which contained a description of Glengarriff and its surroundings, and mentioned Sleive Ghoile (spelt thus) as meaning ‘the hill of the mist’ or ‘the hill of the little men or people’. This description pleased me so much that I have always thought of it as ‘the hill of the mist,’ and I feel that so long as we do not call it ‘Sugar Loaf’ we can put our own interpretation to the name.”