It's so long ago since the site was used as a botanical gardens and the duration of its existence so short, that the memory of it is almost gone from the public consciousness.
To find the site today, you need to look for Saint Joseph's Cemetery. Once the short-lived gardens were closed, the site became one of the largest public cemeteries in the city.
The Cork Botanical Gardens were established in 1808 by the Royal Cork Institution, which itself had been founded in 1803. The RCI had a huge influence on educational matters in Cork, supportive of the establishment of Queen's College Cork (now UCC) and the institution itself was a forerunner of Cork Institute of Technology. The gardens were themselves just one element of the RCI's plan to promote scientific and cultural matters in Cork.
|James Drummond with one of his grandchildren|
The Scottish botanist James Drummond (1786-1863) was chosen to curate the new gardens and he continued to do so until its closure, due to lack of funds, in 1828. Drummond was just 22 when he arrived in Cork from Scotland. On the closure of the park, Drummond, his wife (Sarah Maxwell Mackintosh) and six children travelled to the Swan River Colony (Western Australia) where he took up various roles as Government Naturalist, farmer, and plant collector. A hill and nature reserve in Australia, as well as over 100 plants have been named in his honour. A memorial to Drummond stands in Pelham Reserve, overlooking the family farm at Toodyay, Western Australia.
Drummond's father, Thomas, was a noted bryologist (collector of mosses) in Scotland and his grandfather, also Thomas, was a gardener.
|Hogan's reclining angel atop the Murphy tomb. The inner wall of the cemetery and botanical gardens is visible in the background.|
|Grave of Fr. Theobald Mathew|
Now, all that remains of the gardens is the inner stone wall which once housed Drummond's glasshouse and which is now crowded with headstones and monuments. No significant planting remains. The street opposite the main gates to the cemetery is still however called Botanic Road. Unfortunately, nothing else marks the site of Cork's first Botanic Garden. Although further public and private botanic gardens were to be established, including that associated with University College Cork, this site at Ballyphehane has a unique place in the cultural and scientific heritage of the City. A place which has been all but forgotten by the general public.
The site should be marked with a suitable and modest marker to celebrate the vision of the Royal Cork Institution and the hard work of James Drummond.