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…)
After Violet Bryce, the co-founder of Garinish Island (or Ilnacullin as she preferred to name it) died, her son Roland L’Estrange Bryce continued her work. The passionate amateur botanist and gardener further developped the plantings together with head gardener Murdo Mackenzie. Roland suffered from very poor eyesight and – according to photographs of his later years – from obesity. After he fell ill during a visit to London the had to undergo surgery but he died on 4th December 1953 at the age of 64 in a hospital quite near to his former family home in Marylebone but was laid to rest at “The Abbey” in Bantry. He bequeathed the garden island “to the Irish people”. In a newspaper from 1940 article he was described:
Here is a big broad-shouldered man, red-haired, bushy thickets of eye-brows above his sholarly spectacles, open-complexioned, very Irish – and proud of it. His broad sturv hands touch a plant with the gentleness of a surgeon – are they not the children of his mind and imagination, and of his daily care? Over steep paths, along bays lined with tall birches and over terraces with fountains smothered under maidenhair, we come back to the little house, so hidden in the foliage that no tourists ever espy it. Electric light (1940!) glows up over the hundreds of books on the white lacquered shelves. The Squire of Ilnacullin speaks of Oxford, were he studied; of Belgrade, where he was Times correspondent; of Carinthia and Montenegro, where as a diplomat he supervised plebiscites and elections. Tea is poured from a lovely silver hair-loom. Fritz, the big silver-haired Schnauzerdog, inspects the home-made cakes.
Various obituaries described his career and his passion:
Mr. Bryce was a well known horticulturist. He retired to Garnish Island on the death of his father and added to and maintained the already well-known collection.
After a distinguished course at Oxford Mr. Bryce became attached to the British Foreign Office and served in the 1914-18 war. His attachment to Glengarriff was so keen that he sacrificed his career to take up permanent residence there. He was later entrusted with the task of settling the boundaries of Yugoslavia, then Serbia. His father was Liberal M.P. for Aberdeen in 1917 and his uncle, Lord James Bryce, was at one time Chief Secretary in Ireland.
Mr. Bryce was at one time Vice-President of the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland and Governor of the Collge of St. Columba, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin. He was also president of the Glengarriff Tourist Development Association and the local golf club.
Mr. Roland L’Estrange Bryce has been appointed peace commissioner for the County Cork and the adjoining counties in 1939.