In 1915 the Irish Times called Charles Frederick Ball ‘one of the best known botanists and horticulturists in Ireland’. He had been Assistant Keeper of the Royal (now National) Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, editor of the journal Irish Gardening, and a noted plant breeder – Escallonia ‘C.F. Ball’ is named after him. Had he not been killed at Gallipoli in 1915 he could have expected to succeed Sir Frederick Moore as Keeper.

In this illustrated talk Seamus O’Brien and Brian Willan aim to shed new light upon C.F. Ball’s life and work. They tell the story of his early years in Loughborough in Leicestershire, his apprenticeship and training at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, his arrival in Dublin in 1906 and his subsequent work at the Botanic Gardens, his plant-collecting trips to Europe, his time as editor of the journal Irish Gardening from 1912.

It is also a story of love and sacrifice. C.F Ball courted and then married Alice Lane, the youngest daughter of a well to do Anglo-Irish Dublin family. When war broke out he enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was then sent out to Gallipoli to take part in the Suvla Bay landing. He was killed by shrapnel, when going to the aid of a colleague, on 13 September 1915.

Seamus O’Brien is Head Gardener of the National Botanic Gardens, Kilmacurragh, a well known author and a noted authority on Irish horticulture.

Brian Willan is a former publisher, a grandson of Alice Ball by her second marriage, and has drawn upon C.F. Ball’s letters to Alice to write an account of his life and work.

The talk will take place in the Lecture Theatre, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, on Wednesday 28 September, at 3pm.


Close up of pink flowering Escallonia 'C F Ball' from Kilmacurragh in July 2014

Escallonia ‘C F Ball’

A black and white portrait of C.F. Ball in uniform by F. Newton, Nield Loughborough

C.F. Ball