In Mr. McGregor's Garden

Illustrations from The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, 1902

Peter Rabbit Day

Jul 28

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages, but he jumped up and ran after Peter, waving a rake and calling out, "Stop thief!"

~ The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, 1902

Gardening is so difficult nowadays with naughty rabbits everywhere! Today is the birthday of Beatrix Potter, born July 28th, 1866, author of Peter Rabbit and many other beloved children's tales. The devisor notes for this dance state that it was inspired by the music “McGregor’s Leap" (recalling Rob Roy MacGregor's famous leap across a chasm near the Bridge of Lyon in 1565) and suggests young Peter Rabbit sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden (to eat the vegetables that give him the energy to leap) as he is chased about the garden by Mr. McGregor. Historians believe that Potter derived the details for Peter Rabbit's infamous nemesis, the bad-tempered Scot, Mr. McGregor, from both her mycology mentor, Charles McIntosh, and her landlord, Atholl McGregor! Peter's father, as one will recall, was unfortunately caught by Mr. McGregor and put into a pie by Mrs. McGregor. Clan Gregor's fearsome and troublesome reputation lives on. Leap rabbits, leap! 🐇 🥕

In Mr. McGregor's Garden

Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist,  best known for her children's books featuring animals, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit.


Potter had numerous pets and spent holidays in Scotland and the Lake District, developing a love of landscape, flora and fauna, all of which she closely observed and painted.


Potter's study and watercolours of fungi led to her being widely respected in the field of mycology.  Drawn to fungi because of their colours and evanescence in nature, her interest deepened after meeting Charles McIntosh, a revered naturalist and amateur mycologist, during a summer holiday in Dunkeld in Perthshire in 1892.  He helped improve the accuracy of her illustrations, taught her taxonomy, and supplied her with live specimens to paint during the winter.


Educated by governesses and interested in all areas scientific (except astronomy) and curious as to how fungi reproduced, Potter began microscopic drawings of fungus spores and in 1895 developed a theory of their germination.  Through the connections of her uncle Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe, a chemist and vice-chancellor of the University of London, she consulted with botanists at Kew Gardens, convincing George Massee of her ability to germinate spores and her theory of hybridisation.


However, rebuffed by the Director at Kew, because of her sex and her amateur status, Potter wrote up her conclusions and submitted a paper, On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricineae, to the Linnean Society in 1897.  It was introduced by Massee because, as a female, Potter could not attend proceedings or read her paper. She subsequently withdrew it, realising that some of her samples were contaminated, but continued her microscopic studies for several more years. 


Potter later gave her other mycological and scientific drawings to the Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside, where mycologists still refer to them to identify fungi. There is also a collection of her fungus paintings at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery in Perth, Scotland, donated by Charles McIntosh. 


In 1967, the mycologist W.P.K. Findlay included many of Potter's beautifully accurate fungus drawings in his Wayside & Woodland Fungi, thereby fulfilling her desire to one day have her fungus drawings published in a book.  In 1997, the Linnean Society issued a posthumous apology to Potter for the sexism displayed in its handling of her research.


In her thirties, Potter self-published the highly successful children's book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Following this, Potter began writing and illustrating children's books full-time.


Potter wrote thirty books, the best known being her twenty-three children's tales!


For animation of the dance, click Potter's illustration of an angry Mr. McGregor pursuing Peter with a rake!

In Mr. McGregor's Garden
In Mr. McGregor's Garden

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