The journals of historic Irish naturalist and associate of Trinity College Botanic Garden John Templeton are being returned to the public domain.

John Templeton (1766 – 1825) was a pioneering Irish naturalist. He was held in high regard among prominent naturalists and botanists of his day, being one of the first to observe and record the flora, fungi and lichens of Northern Ireland, including many rare species. Naturalist and botanist Robert Lloyd Praeger (1865 – 1953) later described him as ‘an outstanding botanist’.*

Templeton recorded his work in great detail in a series of hand-written journals. Besides observations on flora and fauna his daily entries included fascinating accounts of visits and correspondence with many eminent botanists and academics of his time. Among them are accounts of several visits to the Botany Department of Trinity College and Trinity College Botanic Garden, including notes on discussions with the garden’s curator at the time James Townsend Mackay. Mackay himself was an accomplished field botanist and accompanied Templeton on many field excursions. The pair regularly exchanged plants and seeds, as Templeton’s s diary entry for 16 August 1819 records:

“Mon dry dark received from Mr Mackay Globularia vulgaris, Ophrys apifera, Slips of Androsace villosa, Parietaria tomentosa, Seed of Reseda phyteuma…”

Despite being referred to as the ‘Father of Irish Botany’, the majority of Templeton’s work was unfortunately never published, thus he and his substantial body of work were largely forgotten.

Templeton’s journals are currently held at the Ulster Museum. Recognising their value as an ‘important historical, scientific and social resource’ however, the Belfast Field Naturalists’ Club (BNFC) have begun the work of meticulously transcribing all of the journals, which span the last almost 20 years of Templeton’s life. Their goal is to shine new light on these valuable botanical, natural history, meteorological and horticultural chronicles of the day by making them publicly accessible.

As is true of many dedicated observers of the natural world, Templeton was also a fine artist and painted many beautiful illustrations to accompany his manuscripts.

We at Trinity Botanic Garden are delighted to have rediscovered for us some of our links with John Templeton and his legacy and to help BNFC and Ulster Museum to celebrate his life and work. No doubt some delving into the Trinity Botany archives will yield yet more fascinating accounts of this important association.

Many thanks to the BNFC for contacting Trinity’s TCD Association of Northern Ireland with this information.

BNFC have made their journal transcriptions available to download at

The original journals are currently held at the Ulster Museum and available to view as pdf copies.