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Holy Grass Hero: The Life of Robert Dick Art Exhibition

Starts: 10:00am      Ends: 4:00pm

Dunnet Bay Distillers is proud to present its 2022/2023 winter exhibition, ‘Holy Grass Hero: The Life of Robert Dick’.

Northern Holy Grass (Scientific name: Hierochloe borealis later renamed Hierochloe odorata), was rediscovered growing on the banks of the Thurso River by Robert Dick (1811 – 1866), a Thurso based baker, botanist, and amateur natural historian.

In the Middle Ages, before churches in the British Isles had stone or wooden floors, they just had compacted earth floors and in a climate like ours, compacted earth floors, rain, and wet feet equaled mud floors! To soak up the mud, a grass which grew abundantly in the British Isles during the Middle Ages was strewn on church floors. However, when people stood on the grass it gave off a vanilla incense fragrance. These factors led to the common name for Hierochloe borealis – Holy Grass.

In the 1750s, scientists removed Holy Grass from the list of British flora declaring it extinct. It was reintroduced after publication in 1854 of a scientific paper by Robert Dick about his rediscovery of Northern Holy Grass. Robert Dick subsequently received requests from other botanists for Northern Holy Grass specimens, in return for which they would send him plants he could not obtain in Caithness. Robert Dick added these specimens to his herbarium collection, now housed in the North Coast Visitor Centre in Thurso. Holy Grass Vodka which takes the plant rediscovered by Robert Dick in Thurso as its hero botanical is a fitting legacy to an eccentric Victorian era polymath who was a scientific genius and local hero.

The artwork featured in this exhibition is inspired by and connected to the life and work of Robert Dick. The artists whose work is on display have interpreted this in a variety of diverse ways including the plants that grow in Caithness, and the landscape of Caithness which inspired Robert Dick to collect geological specimens, fossils, insects, and herbarium specimens.

Location: Visitor Centre, Dunnet Bay Distillery

Price: FREE


Phone: 01847 598252