“She was highly intellectual and simply gave herself for her children.” Randal Parsons on his mother, Mary Parsons, Countess of Rosse

Mary Rosse

Mary Rosse
Mary Rosse

Mary Rosse (née Field) was a rich Bradford heiress who taught herself astronomy and engineering and became an influential pioneer of photography; most unusually for a woman of her class, she was a skilled blacksmith. She created her own dark room at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, which survives – indeed, it is believed to be the oldest surviving dark room in the world, and therefore a place of great interest to historians of photography. An exhibition of her photographs and photographic equipment forms part of the Historical Science Centre, established at Birr by (William) Brendan Parsons, seventh earl of Rosse, the present custodian of Birr. Mary Rosse had eleven children, only four of whom survived to adulthood.