Although the people of Glengarriff are not officially being informed about what’s happening on Garinish Island they can watch busy activities on Ilnacullin. Last year saw the felling of many trees in the Walled Garden, parts of which now look different: brighter and not any more jungle-like.
Violet Bryce’s Cottage, the old Sullivan’s cottage and the East Pier are really being prepared for a new lease of life. According to rumours the “Museum” will be opened in July. The entrance area is digged up, heavy vehicles are busy changing the small path to the lovely old cottage.
Lots of small yews were planted between old but quite bare yews on the Southern side of the pond area. The ancient sarcophagus in the Walled Garden disappeared a good while ago, but it might return to its old place, as there was a roof built for it. Even the loose banister in the Martello Tower was fixed over the winter. The winter 2013/2014 had brought back the “hats” for some of the mushrooms on the way to the Temple and lots of the steps to the Temple and to the Martello Tower were bedded in concrete. Well done! But Leo the ancient lion who had lost his face in the winter’s frost of 2010 didn’t return so far. And the exhibition in the Casita is still (again) dark, the back part isn’t accessible.
The once sparkling lily pond is still muddy and brown. For how many years wasn’t it cleaned??? Such a shame! Violet Bryce wrote the following description for the magazine Gardening Illustrated in January 1929: “This lily pond is lined with small blue-green tiles to give the illusion of sea water, and round the edges in the water are pots raised on bricks of Iris kaempferi, tiny Bulruhes and Reed of various kinds. This Lily pond contains myriads of goldfish, and in the early morning the brilliant many colored king-fisher is to be seen darting over the pond.” It would be really great to see the water blue again this year, just a little scrub of the bottom and the lower walls would do it (and maybe a bit more of water…)
The last summer talk was held by the very sympathetic and engaged Dorothy Scott, niece of the late Murdo Mackenzie. She came all the way from Scotland to tell the history of Garinish Island through the eyes of her passionate head gardener uncle. She had spent many a holiday on the island when she was a young girl. Unfortunately she got no permission to enter the house which was the home for her uncle for many decades. Violet and Roland Bryce had lived in this ‘Gardener’s Cottage’ before, as the family’s plans of building a huge Florentine style mansion failed. It was built around 1912 – the same time like the gazebos at three corners of the Walled Garden.
At the Summer Talk Evening yesterday evening we could see and hear news not only about the creative architect Harold Peto, who designed the main features of Garnish Island. Angela Rolfe and Liz Morgan from the OPW presented the first drafts for the conversion of the ‘Gardener’s Cottage’ (the place which is inaccessible for tourists and Glengarriff people alike) into an island museum. Building works might be started by 2013 and might be ready by 2014. On an extremely blurred photographic collage from about 1913, placed in an article about Garnish Island in the Southern Star from 1987 there was a house-like structure to be seen in the background (red circle). Apparently the cottage which became Violet Bryce’s home some 10 years later was one of the first buildings erected in a very early stage of the development of the garden island.
Two watercolour paintings from William Turner (1775-1851), which were in the possession of Roland Bryce and displayed in the so called gardener’s cottage where he spent the last 30 years of his life, can be admired in the National Gallery in Dublin each year for about four weeks in January (due to the low light which would otherwise affect the delicate colours). A third painting which might be from Turner too is also part of a major collection. Unfortunately there is no hint as to the real origin of the donation (the Bryce family is not mentioned).
A phantastic grant for Garinish Island: € 2.4 million for restoring the gardener´s cottage into a island museum to tell the story of the island and its occupants. This may be the time now to tell the story of the O´Sullivan-Garnish-family who lived on the island in 1910 for the very first time! Did you know? So let’s hope that not only the great byzantine marble tomb – which is now perfectly cleaned and sitting in the back of the casita – will get a worthy display in the near future. According to Harold Peto’s plans it was to be incorporated into the north facing wall of the never built mansion (you would have seen it climbing the slope after the many steps from the eastern gate of the walled garden).
The author Padraig Colum (1881-1972) knew W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Æ, and he was a lifelong friend of James Joyce. In „Cross Roads in Ireland“ he wrote (1930):
It was the happy thought of a lady living here to make one of the islets off Glengarriff, Garinish, into a garden. This happy thought has been realized in a way that recalls Edgar Allan Poe’s ‚Landor’s Cottage’. Mrs. Annan Bryce has now spent many years collecting and cultivating flowers, trees, and plants that can grow here – and many subtropical species can grow here. And she has made her island-garden part of the landscape: one looks down a vista of ilexes to the Kerry Mountains. One walks down an avenue of blooming Mediterranean shrubs to the water of this Irish bay. One sees fantastic orchids close to rocks on which the native heather has been left to flourish. Garinish has been made into a garden of gardens. And it is not merely an enchanting botanic display. There is a home amids this profusion of trees and plants and flowers – the friendly home of Mrs. Annan Bryce. Painters and writers have been made welcome here. Here is the lovely little house in which Bernhard Shaw worked at ‚Saint Joan’.
First editions of Colum’s work were presented to US president Barack Obama by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the occasion of his visit to Dublin, Ireland on 23 May 2011. The sepia view is from a postcard probably from the thirties: this is how Padraig Colum might have seen the island.
After an extremely strong winter: Many leptospermums didn’t survive the strong frosts but a few are starting to bloom. The struggling acacia (mimosa) at the steps to the temple died and the whole corner was cleared.
The rhododendrons are gorgeous!
Sooooo soft, those leaves of Rhodendendron yakushimanum are like velvet!
Even a fading rhododendron can be of immense beauty when it builds up a carpet of blooms.
The exhibition in the Casita isn’t illuminated anymore (and the wisteria seems quite week after the low temperatures). The ancient sarcophagus and good old leo (the one who lost his face) dissapeared, maybe for restauration?