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Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness - Tim Robinson | Print |  Email
Tuesday, 09 September 2008

Taking German philosopher Wittgenstein's description of the west of Ireland as his title, Tim Robinson's second volume of his Connemara trilogy moves from his own home in Roundstone to the wilder and more rugged coastal areas. His writing, however, remains consistent in both its erudition and its lyricism in continuing to reveal Connemara to his readers. From Killary Harbour all the way round to the lighthouse at Slyne Head, Robinson shares with us every aspect of the ground he covers, the etymology of the place names, the people associated with the area, both historical and mythological, the flora and fauna to be found there and, most importantly, his own reaction to what he sees.


Distinct from the depth of knowledge of, and fascination with, a number of disciplines, it is the imaginative turn of phrase which captures the attention. Describing the practice of mourners throwing pebbles into recesses where coffins were rested on their way to the graveyard at Little Killary, Robinson speaks of the pebbles still being visible, "in some numbers, fossil-beds of grief". Writing about Letterfrack he describes one of its former inmates, actor and writer Mannix Flynn, as being "built like a clenched fist". And again his command of the mystery of words is displayed in his description of sean nós singing: "There are Irish words so spacious you could hold a céilí dance in one syllable and a wake in another, without mutual interference". And who could resist the opening lines of the chapter on Ballynakill: "Lingering elegiac evenings of the summer solstice, when the parted day slips behind the mountains to the north like a child hiding behind a sofa…".


However Robinson's writings are not all extolling the landscape, for he has his criticism about development, notably the new airstrip at Cleggan to serve Inishbofin, and the twin extensions to Erriseask House Hotel "built to profit from that which they degrade". These criticisms aside, the author's description of Connemara in the closing chapters leaves no doubt in the reader's mind that here is a man who is totally in tune with his chosen "tract of the Earth's surface". For him Connemara is "an accumulation of connotations: wild shores and tiny fields, famine and folksong, mountains, lakes, heathers and lichens, the O'Flahertys and the O'Malleys, deserted cottages and russet-sailed turf boats". This in essence also sums up the all-embracing range of topics covered by Robinson in this rewarding successor to "Listening to the Wind".
(Penguin Ireland, ISBN 978-1-844-88155-0, pp374, €n/a)


A native of Yorkshire, Tim Robinson studied maths at Cambridge and then worked for may years as a visual artist in Istanbul, Vienna and London. In 1972 he moved to the Aran Island. He is the author of the two-volume "Stones of Aran" and of "Connemara: Listenign to the Wind", which one the Irish Book Award for Non-fiction 2006. Since 1984 he has lived in Roundstone, Connemara.


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