Extinct in Ireland, September 24th- Rannoch rush (Scheuchzeria pallustris) and the life of John Moore

220px-Scheuchzeria_palustris_-_floweringFrom Wikipedia:


Scheuchzeria palustris (Rannoch-rush,[2] or pod grass), is a flowering plant in the family Scheuchzeriaceae, in which there is only one species and Scheuchzeria is the only genus. In the APG II system it is placed in the order Alismatales of the monocots.[3]

The only species, the only genus, and only in one site in the British Isles: Rannoch Moor, in Scotland.

But it was not always so. From the Facebook page of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council:

In the early days of the peat industry Pollagh Bog in Co. Offaly was scheduled for development by Bord na Mona. This site had an extensive spring-fed flush habitat which was the only known station for Scheuchzeria palustris (the RANNOCH Rush). Prof John Moore – a peatland expert – wanted the bog conserved, but at the time that was not on any commercial agenda. With the extinction of the rush imminent, Prof Moore transplanted it to the soak system on Clara Bog. It did not survive. Today Pollagh Bog is part of the post industrial Lough Boora Parklands which people enjoy visiting – such a pity we lost this interesting bog plant.

I did a little bit of searching from Prof John Moore. It seems (I am not entirely sure, but the times seem to fit) that Prof Moore is Prof Fr John Moore SJ, profiled in this article. I don’t know if anyone can confirm this?

The interview with Prof Fr Moore linked above is from 2016. He certainly had an eventful life, (like Fr Padraig de Brun one wonders if his intellectual achievements would be more celebrated in contemporary Ireland if he wasn’t a priest), as indicated from the below:

When John Moore entered the Society of Jesus’ noviciate straight from secondary school, it was customary at the time. Like the other young Jesuits who came straight from secondary school, he was assigned to study for a degree in UCD. He did first Arts but switched over to Science the following year. In his final year one of the research projects he undertook was a follow up survey of vegetation in the Dublin Mountains, which had been researched 50 years previously by the famous naturalist, Lloyd Praeger, the results being published in 1905. He was required to re-survey the parts closer to Dublin and write up the results.

After getting his B.Sc. degree he was sent to study philosophy in the Irish midlands. A few days before he left Dublin, the Fr. Provincial (who had been his Master of Novices and knew all about his scientific interests) suggested that he might look around and start work in an informal way on his Ph.D. during his spare time. He was fascinated by the vast areas of Bogland which stretched in all directions and discovered that a local bog had two very rare plants growing on it: one a rare rush never seen in Ireland before, the other one found in only one other place in Ireland. So he decided to work eventually on a Ph.D. thesis on the ‘Bogs of Ireland’.

During the holiday periods he decided to finish the re-survey of the mountain area south of Dublin, covering the whole area of Praeger’s original survey. He wrote up the results during his spare time while studying Theology at Milltown Park. He finished the job before leaving for ‘Tertianship’, the final year of Jesuit formation which focusses on deepening one’s spiritual life. He was sent to Germany for this stage of his formation, so he left the manuscript with the Professor of Botany to see it through the printing process.

While in Germany his paper on the “Resurvey of the Vegetation south of Dublin” appeared in print and his Professor in Dublin sent him a few reprints. These he distributed to some of the ecologists living on the European Mainland. To his surprise, a reply came back immediately from the famed German ecologist, Reinhold Tüxen. He, along with the famous French ecologist Braun-Blanquet, had been invited to Ireland after Europe began to recover from the effects of World War II. They published their results (in German) in 1952 and John had critiqued some of their work in his paper. Tüxen was extremely pleased. He wrote “Although we published our Irish material 10 years previously, nobody seems even to have read it, let alone critiqued it! “Can you visit me before you return?” Tüxen asked. And so began a long and valued relationship of scientific interests with Reinhold Tüxen.

Before John’s ordination, his Provincial casually mentioned to John that UCD (University College Dublin) had requested to have him on its staff after he had finished his Jesuit studies. “I said ‘Yes’ – is that OK for you John?” All he could say was “You are the boss! If you want me to take up the offer, that is OK by me.”

So John taught for 23 years at UCD, Botany Dept., being eventually appointed Professor and Head of Department.

In the 1970’s the Irish Government was sending quite a lot of official aid to Zambia University, financing lecturers from the Irish Universities to give courses at the University of Zambia. Fr Michael J. Kelly, SJ, a good friend of John since the novitiate, was at this time Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University in Lusaka and was much involved in arranging this government aid; he petitioned the Irish Government to finance John to come as External Examiner of the Biology Department. John accepted the offer and was very struck by the difficulties of running a third world University according to First World standards. When his work in the University was finished John stayed on for some time in order to visit the Irish Jesuit Missioners and help in their work.

John returned to UCD in time to organise things for the new academic year. It was while making his annual retreat in the Jesuit retreat-house, Manresa in Dublin that it happened.

John had been 23 years in the Botany Department of UCD. He was unexpectedly overcome with a very strong feeling that he should relocate to Zambia! Having prayed over the matter, he sent a letter to the Provincial requesting to be sent to the Zambian mission. He was quite late going onto the missions at 56 years of age.

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