Documentary on Newstalk recently aired the premiere of ‘The Bots’, my radio documentary about the National Botanic Gardens, and the lives of those who live, work, study, and relax there.
Using a lively mix of interviews, location recordings, sound effects and music, The Bots explores the stories behind one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions.
Director Matthew Jebb gives an overview of the role of the Botanic Gardens and explains how it hosts six hundred thousand visitors each year. Matthew also tell of its research role, and how the blight that caused the Potato Famine of the Eighteen Forties was identified by the then director of the Gardens.
Blathnaid Farrell, who grew up nearby, reminisces about the Gardens when she was a child, while librarian Alexandra Caccamo tells of a history going back much further, with some books in the library dating back to the sixteenth century.
Matthew Jebb talks of the joys of living on site, and tells the story of the Director’s Residence, which predates the founding of the Gardens in 1795.
Brendan Sayers gives an insight into the running of the glasshouses, and how tropical heat needs to be generated for some plant species.
Glyn Anderson and Charlotte Salter Townsend talk about the guided tours they give, with Glyn reflecting on the refreshment options available to the modern-day visitor.
Contributors and visitors reminisce lightly about their memories of the first thing they ever grew, while Ciaran Kavanagh and Alfreda O’Brien, who run the nearby Gravediggers pub, talk about the colourful associations between their premises and the Botanic Gardens.
John Mulhern, Principal of the Teagasc College of Horticulture, discusses how hundreds of students study at their Glasnevin site within the Gardens, while Felicity Gaffney, the manager of the Visitor Centre, gives details of the surprising range of cultural and artistic events that are staged each year in the fifty-acre grounds.
Matthew Jebb tell of the wildlife he’s encountered while living on site, and Colin Kelleher talks of his role as a taxonomist and the task of naming the vast numbers of specimens that have been catalogued in the Gardens.
The programme concludes with contributors revealing what the Botanic Gardens means to them, and their hopes for its future.
Quotes from THE BOTS:
“The first place we made for was the glasshouse. And when you went in the heat would just hit you. In those days you wouldn’t have central heating at home – so that was super.” Blathnaid Farrell, childhood visitor to the Botanic Gardens.
“Our back garden is about an acre and it backs onto the Botanic Gardens and the cemetery. The neighbours are basically the cemetery people and plants.” Ciaran Kavanagh, The Gravedigger Pub.
“One of the real pleasures of the job is that I wake up at work each morning.” Matthew Jebb, Director, Botanic Gardens.
“Our book collection extends back to the Fifteen Thirties.” Alexandra Caccamo, Librarian.
“The pub, the cemetery, the Botanics, it’s like the Bermuda Triangle – you do disappear in that triangle in Glasnevin, and before you know it, four hours have passed.” Alfreda O’Brien, The Gravedigger Pub.
“In the Herbarium there are about six hundred thousand dried specimens”. Colin Kelleher, Taxonomist.
“The world is changing quite a lot, and I think the big positive is that more and more people are paying attention to the natural world.” Charlotte Salter Townsend, tour guide.
“It took 25 years to put it together. There are 11 kilometres of glazing bars in this building, and it’s a work of art.” Matthew Jebb, Director, Botanic Gardens.
“I used to go into the hothouse – when I missed Italy.” Ciaran Kavanagh, The Gravedigger Pub.
The Bots can be listened to as a podcast on Documentary on Newstalk.