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Lough Hyne memories rediscovered

Lough Hyne (book cover)

Terri's photographic history of Lough Hyne includes more than 200 photos of Bristol staff and students

Lough Hyne (researchers)

Lough Hyne (researchers 2)

15 December 2014

Two newly published books about Lough Hyne, a marine lake in Ireland, promise to bring back fond memories for zoology staff and students at Bristol.

Rachel Stephens’ (BSc 1957) memories of picturesque summers spent in Ireland with her University peers, triggered her recent return to Lough Hyne, a salt-water lake west of Skibbereen in West Cork.

Rachel had worked at Lough Hyne, Europe’s first marine nature reserve, for two summers in the 1950s and on her visit was recognised immediately by Terri Kearney, curator of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre and author of Lough Hyne: The Marine Researchers – in Pictures and Lough Hyne – From Prehistory to the Present.

Terri had featured pictures of Rachel three times in her first book, a photographic history of the lough that includes more than 200 photos of Bristol staff and students carrying out research on the site.

A biological 'laboratory'

Lough Hyne is one of the most studied marine sites in Europe on account of its many different habitats, and the rare and beautiful species of plant and animal that live there.

The first on-site research 'laboratory' was set up in the 1920s by Professor Louis Renouf, from University College Cork, in an ex-army hut on the lake’s shores. Bristol students and staff first visited in 1937, and have since written more than 45 internationally renowned scientific papers inspired by this precious and beautiful research ground.

'The Skibbereen Heritage Centre illustrates the way in which the local ecology of the lough itself, "The Rapids" [a narrow tidal channel linking the lake to the sea] and the bay connecting them with the Atlantic Ocean, has formed part of current global understanding of marine and coastal species ,’ explains Rachel. ‘I feel very privileged to have taken a small part in that process. Thank you Skibbereen, Bristol University, and Cork University.'

Familiar faces

Terri's books explore and document the stories, pictures and scientific journals that demonstrate Bristol’s ongoing link to Lough Hyne. Any alumni who spent summers working at the reserve will be delighted to see photographs of familiar faces carrying out research, relaxing and making the most of this phenomenally beautiful and innovative site.

Rachel says: 'My most vivid memories include looking out from the Fishguard-Cork Ferry as we glided up the estuary to Cork Harbour. What a magnificent start to the month at Lough Hyne - as I knew it. I shall never forget standing on top of Fastnet lighthouse holding on to the lightning conductor - unlike Pat Scholes in the book, I was not holding a handbag!'

Fond memories

Professor Michael Sleigh (BSc 1953) also recalls idyllic moments during his research visits to Lough Hyne in his memoirs, written for Kearney a few years ago. ‘The most common trip was to Clear Island itself, with Jack [Kitching, scientific leader of the group and later Professor of Ecology at the University of East Anglia] sitting astride the prow of the boat with one leg down each side, where he could watch the waves, the porpoises and the birds […] there were always lots of birds – guillemots, both common and black, razorbills, the occasional puffin, cormorants and sometimes flocks of gannets diving repeatedly for fish.’

Michael also writes how Professor John Ebling (BSc 1940, MSc 1944) directed recreational projects while maintaining constant cheer and humourous charm throughout. Sleigh particularly praises Ebling's 'meticulous planning and communication skills [which] not only made the expeditions practicable, but made them go with a smooth buzz.'

Both Terri's books, Lough Hyne: The Marine Researchers – in Pictures and Lough Hyne – From Prehistory to the Present, are available to buy online at Terri would also love to hear from you if you visited Lough Hyne as a student (or member of staff), and would be happy to put you in touch with other former Lough Hyne researchers. You can get in touch with Terri at  (+353 28 40900) or through the Skibbereen Heritage Centre Facebook group.