JAPANESE GARDENS – A BRIEF HISTORY
19th May 2017
Creating the wonder…
As it is coming to the time of year when the amount of shrubs and plants in flower are just too numerous to mention, I thought I’d share a little of the history of the garden which tends to get overlooked.
The Tully estate was originally bought by Colonel William Hall Walker (made Baron Wavertree of Delamere in 1919) in 1900. By 1915, when he presented Tully to the state, he had established the stud farm and had also created the Japanese Garden which lies adjacent to the farm.
From 1915 to 1943, Tully was owned by the British National Stud and for part of this time a nursery was maintained in the stud grounds. This nursery was overseen by Mr. W.H. Paine who was in charge of the garden aswell. By the time the Irish National Stud Company took over the Tully estate, the Japanese garden was in quite a dilapidated state and it wasn’t until the appointment of a gardener from The National Botanic Gardens [Paddy Doyle] in 1946 that things began to improve. In 1973 John Colleran took over the supervision of the garden and continuing to this day there has always since been a horticulturist overseeing the continued maintenance and restoration of the garden.
Colonel Hall Walker (a conservative politician and businessman with an interest in art), knew Japan well, and recognised that the swampy site at Tully, with natural springs, could be developed as a Japanese garden. It’s worth remembering at this point that a fascination for all things Japanese had spread throughout Europe starting in the 1850’s and this culminated in the ‘Japan British Exhibition’ of 1910 in London.
In1906 Hall Walker commissioned Tassa (Saburo) Eida, (whom records lead us to believe, was an art dealer), to design and oversee the construction of this garden. We have no idea whether or not Eida had any formal training in horticulture, but we do know that he was involved in designing gardens for the ‘Japan British Exhibition’, and the garden here at Tully is testament to the fact that he had a good knowledge of Japanese garden design.
It took forty labourers four years to lay out the garden at a cost of £38,000. Hundreds of tons of rock were carted from the Silliot hills and large mature Scots Pines were transplanted from Dunmurray. Eida’s brother lived in Japan at this time and between them they organised a chartered cargo from Japan to bring stone lanterns, plants, bonsai, a teahouse and a miniature village carved out of lava from Fujiyama, to Tully.
Eida returned to England in 1911 in poor health, with heart problems caused – it is said- from lifting rocks in the garden. He died soon after.
In a book entitled ‘The Counties of Ireland’ (1930’s I think), John O Connor has a wonderful description of the Japanese garden:-
‘An exquisite piece of oriental sophistication in the middle of boglands with squalid towns which don’t even boast a public lavatory’.
Something for the weekend!