Examples of Ellen Hutchins’ illustrations of the flora she studied in Bantry Bay.

UCC renames ERI in honour of botanist Hutchins

Alex O'Sullivan

This week University College Cork announced it is to rename the headquarters of the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in honour of the pioneering botanist and Cork woman Ellen Hutchins.

Within the ERI building, the Ellen Hutchins Reading Room has now been unveiled.

Widely recognised as Ireland’s first female botanist, Hutchins overcame a series of challenges in her personal life to identify several previously unknown species of plants, in and around her native Bantry Bay.

Now Ellen Hutchins’ indefatigable spirit will be immortalised in the naming of UCC’s ERI building on Cork’s Lee Road.

The reading room contains archival material and artefacts such as a number of pressed modern seaweed specimens, a number of books, several letters and a single drawing by Ellen.

The official naming ceremony took place yesterday, 21 September with contributions from a number of speakers including Madeline Hutchins, Ellen’s great-great grandniece and an organiser of the Ellen Hutchins Festival.

John O’Halloran UCC President Professor said: “We are delighted to make this announcement, and to give Ellen Hutchins the recognition her pioneering work so richly deserves. Here at UCC we are committed to continue Ellen’s legacy through our UCC Futures and Sustainable Futures projects, which will deliver cross-disciplinary solutions to the great environmental challenges of our time.”

Professor Sarah Culloty, Director of the Environmental Research Institute said: “This is a very special day for the UCC ERI. By sharing in the legacy of women like Ellen Hutchins, we hope we can encourage generations of UCC students to find inspiration in Ellen’s remarkable story.

“This is the second building to be named after a female trailblazer here at UCC, with the Iris Ashley Cummins Civil Engineering Building named in February of this year.”

Madeline Hutchins said: “I am immensely proud that UCC has chosen to name its ERI building after my great-great-grand-aunt, Ellen Hutchins. The challenges she faced in overcoming illness and balancing caring responsibilities with her own interest in botany, span the centuries and are just as relevant today as they were at the time." She added: "I hope that UCC students and staff will be encouraged by Ellen's life and her love of nature and strive to protect our environment for future generations.”