The distinguished botanist and dendrologist, Augustine Henry had close family connections with our parish, although he was not born here. His father was a native of Greenlough, his mother a native of Ballinascreen by the name of McNamee. He was born in Dundee, Scotland on the 2nd July 1857. Augustine studied Medicine at Galway University and at Belfast but his real interest was botany and dendrology.
He travelled extensively in Asia, especially in China where he did his main researches into rare plants. He sent specimens to the Botanic Garden at Kew and Glasnevin and invented a system of classification of plants. He collaborated with H. J. Elwes in the monumental work: The Trees of Great Britain and Ireland in 7 Volumes 1906-1913. He lived with the Lollo people, an unknown tribe at the time and learned how to trek for great distances and climb mountains without tiring. In later years, his stamina surprised his students when he was a professor in Dublin. Augustine Henry’s family lived at Old Tyanee Road where the family of Mervyn & Ruth Kelso live now. His reminiscences of Greenlough where he spent the happy times of his childhood and later his vacations are summed up in these words, “The churchyard on the hill with the green graves, the quiet, peace-loving people, so refined, the Ancient ceremonial – all called to one’s imagination and one wished no change in the scene”. He wrote these words after coming from Mass in Greenlough. He was staying with his brother, Tom Pat Henry, at Tyanee in the early 1900s. Previously, when staying in Belfast, he came up against some bigotry and wrote in a letter to a friend, “What a comfort the good old religion was! Men pretend that material progress, money and games are real things. Yet we all know better”.
Dr Augustine Henry died fortified by the rites of the Church in Dublin on 23rd March 1930 aged 73 years and is buried in Dean’s Grange in Dublin. There is a beautiful inscription on his tombstone:
TO THE BELOVED MEMORY OF
Augustine Henry 1857 – 1930
He was the first to reveal by his travels and collections the surpassing richness and interest of the flora of Western China. His work in the East has beautified the gardens of the West and his profound research has established on a scientific basis the study of all the trees that grow in Great Britain and Ireland.
AND HIS WIFE
Elsie (Alice Helen) Henry 1882-1956
who carried on his greatest work to its successful conclusion in our Botanic Gardens and who enriched our era by her gracious personality.