Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


Article Index

THINGS THAT MATTER:  Andromeda Gardens – Beauty Chained to a Rock

Henry S. Fraser

“Andromeda: a princess from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster.”   (Wikipedia, on Greek Mythology)
Iris Bannochie, widow of the equally famous Dr. Harry Bayley (founder of the Diagnostic Clinic, Beckles Road and memorialised in the Harry Bayley Observatory at Clapham) was an extraordinary person.  Both she and Dr. Bayley were heroine  and hero of mine – he because he reputedly saved my life from paratyphoid fever when I was nine, and she because she was simply such an impressive person, with the uncanny ability to make young people feel special.

Iris inherited from her family, the McConneys, the property that is now  Andromeda Botanic Gardens.  In 1954 she and Dr. Bayley began to clear the land of bush to build their “weekend retreat”, and develop the garden that has become, in the words of Paula Deitz of the New York Times (February 17, 1991) “A cascade of brilliant colours and lush tropical foliage.” And Andromeda is arguably the finest botanical garden in the Caribbean today, although perhaps not the largest, and certainly not the oldest! (In fact the oldest is probably Bath Gardens in St. Thomas, Jamaica, established in 1779, while plant collection was occurring in Kingstown, St. Vincent, around the same period, and Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame  brought the breadfruit to the botanical garden there, in front of the Governor’s house, in 1793.)  Government House in Barbados played a similar role under Governor Baron Seaforth (1801 – 1810).  Hence the splendid gardens at our Government House, and the largest Cannon ball tree in the island.

Iris named her garden Andromeda, after the Greek princess Andromeda, who was reputedly chained to a rock as a sacrifice.  Andromeda’s mother, Cassiopeia the Queen of Ethiopia, had said that Andromeda was more beautiful than the beautiful Nereids, the daughters of the sea god Nereus.  According to legend, to punish the queen for her arrogance, Poseidon, the god of the sea, sent a sea monster to ravage the coast of Ethiopia, and the Oracle of Apollo advised that the only solution was to sacrifice Andromeda to the monster, chaining her naked to a rock by the sea.  Andromeda was rescued by Perseus, who married her, and they produced a profusion of children. Hence Andromeda Gardens, and the profusion of plants so lovingly introduced from all over the tropical world, and lovingly nurtured by Iris!
When Iris died in 1988, at 74, she was the doyen of horticulture in Barbados and the Caribbean.  She had been influential in promoting floriculture in Barbados, leading to the export of heliconias and ginger lilies, and led in the early days of Barbados’s remarkable success in winning gold medals at the world famous horticultural extravaganza, the Chelsea Flower show. In 1977, she was awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society for her contribution to tropical horticulture, and Andromeda was established as one of six international Heliconia Centres; indeed a heliconia cultivar is named after her - the Heliconia stricta ‘Iris Bannochie’.

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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