Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A hero in the matter of walking

Robert Lloyd Praeger, the celebrated Irish naturalist, had a hero in the matter of walking. This was the naturalist and literary scholar Henry Chichester Hart (1847–1908). From May 1875 till October 1876 Hart served as naturalist on HMS Discovery on an expedition to the North Pole, though they returned without having made it to the North Pole. At home in Ireland Hart was know for his vigorous walking.  In 1889 on a wager of £50 from Richard Manliffe Barrington (1849–1915), he walked about seventy-five miles from Dublin to the summit of Lugnaquilla, the highest mountain in Co. Wicklow, and back again in a single 24 hour period. Praeger recorded another episode, one that remains celebrated in Irish naturalists’ circles. Hart met one day with Barrington, for a day’s botanizing near the Powerscourt Waterfall in Wicklow.  The day was wet, of course, and both naturalists were soon soaked to the skin, and yet both men walked in silence. Hart took to walking through the briars and long grasses to discourage Barrington.  In response Barrington walked into the river, sat down, and commenced to eat his lunch.  Wordlessly, Hart did the same and both sat until they were drenched.   Barrington is usually described as having being delicate, at least as a child.  I heard this story first from David Bellamy, the botanist, when he visited Dublin in the 1980s.

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