The Byrle Patterson Memorial Garden, located on Hope Town’s Back Street, near the Hope Town Harbour Lodge, had lain unnoticed by many for several years. However, that has all recently changed and the garden is now a beautifully landscaped retreat where one can enjoy sitting for some quiet time and reflecting under the gazebo, or wandering around the garden admiring all the interesting plants and plaques placed in memory of many loved ones.
The garden, which is situated on Crown Land on which once stood the old Commissioners House, was started several years ago by the McAleer family who wanted to memorialize Byrle Patterson, who was one of the matriarchs of Hope Town. She is remembered as being a phenomenal lady who was always carrying out good works amongst the people of the community and for the church and the museum.
Mrs. Patterson died in 1981 at the young age of 51 leaving five children. The McAleers, who also ran the museum for several years, put in plants which were donated and some benches. But once the McAleer family were no longer on Elbow Cay the garden became untended.
Then came along a veritable dynamo from England named Cliona Bacon. Mrs. Bacon and her husband, Alan, purchased the house opposite the memorial garden and she was saddened to look out over this area and see how untended it had become. She therefore decided to ask if she could take care of the garden.
Her desire was to transform this area into something of lasting beauty but wanted to do it properly so once the permit to go ahead was granted by the local authority work began. The day Cliona started on the project still stands out very clearly in her mind; it was on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at precisely 7:30am. She had the help of a Haitian whom she said “worked extremely hard” and also help from Chris Thompson and his late wife Peggy.
Since Mrs. Bacon is only here for a certain number of months out of the year, Louanne Judge, who is a professional garden designer, and Danny Trembley continue the work while she is away.
“There was nothing there except weeds and no landscaping at all so I found some stones from the foundation of the old Commissioner’s house, marked out a design and with borrowed tools cut the stones into the shapes I needed to form small retaining walls around flower beds. People began donating plants and I had lots of volunteers. It was a complete community effort and I like to think of it as their garden,” says Mrs. Bacon.
Hope Town Landscape architect, Michael Myers, drew up plans for the garden which he presented to Town Council. The Hope Town Association under the presidency of Dan McCully gave money to build an entrance arbour for which Pat McCully donated the wood. Hope Town Association gave money for Billy Gates to build the arbour which now stands as a beautiful entrance to the memorial garden with its name up above and two bench seats on either side.
An attractive gazebo, which was donated by visitors from France, stands at the far end of the garden to provide a welcome shady spot in which to sit and enjoy the view. Also at the far end is an area which would lend itself very well to the formation of a small amphitheater so Cliona Bacon has this in mind for a perfect spot for wedding ceremonies, christenings or theatrical performances.
Once through the entrance arbour the first thing that catches the eye is an exquisite bronze sculpture of two seagulls by well-known bronze artist James Mastin. This sculpture is in honour of Byrle Patterson for whom the garden is named. A little further back is another bronze sculpture of dolphins believed to be by Pete Johnson of Little Harbour.
The design of the garden is understated and peaceful consisting of two central circular flower beds flanked on each side of the garden with casual plantings of very attractive native plants. Many of the plants are accompanied by eye-catching natural wood signs painted with a picture of the flower and some interesting information about the plants and their medicinal properties. These signs were all made and donated by two very artistic young ladies, Ellie Strube and Mary-Beth Hawes who are frequent visitors to Hope Town.
The largest tree on property is a Miracle Tree which was planted years ago by the community and is believed to heal 400 different ailments.
Pathways lead from the arbour around the garden and each of the pathways is inlaid with special paving stones from Florida which are beautifully inlaid with shells and sea glass. In the centre of each paving stone is an 8” x8” space prepared to hold a bronze plaque. Many of these spaces have already been filled with plaques donated by family members and friends to memorialize persons who have passed on.
Mrs. Bacon emphasised that these plaques are in memory of loved ones who have already passed on and not for people who are still living. “I see this as a way of permanently linking people to this island who have passed so that generations to come will come and sit by a plaque and feel the essence of the person memorialized,” she says and encourages persons to purchase plaques for their deceased loved ones.
Information about all persons memorialized will be kept on file in the archives at the Wyannie Malone museum so that family members and friends can come and look up the records at any time.
The sea wall which separates the property from the beach is in a very bad state of repair and is in fact very close to falling down. This sea wall provides a retainer for the property protecting it from the ravages of the ocean. Quotes of up to $50,000 have been received for the repair of this sea wall and it is hoped that some monies can be raised from the selling of the memorial plaques but much more will be needed and so donations are being sought.
Anyone wishing to donate may send a cheque made out to “The Byrle Patterson Memorial Garden” c/o Debbie Patterson, Hope Town, Abaco, Bahamas. More information may be obtained from Mrs. Patterson at 366 0088 or by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.