By Gordon D’Arcy | The Collins Press | Hardback | September 2016 | 304 Pages | 63 Colour Illustrations | ISBN: 9781848892682
The Publisher’s View: The Burren has experienced an explosion in exposure since the 1980s. Simple tourist pamphlets have given way to glossy booklets and highly illustrated books, with diverse information catering for an increasingly wide range of interests.
Belfast native Gordon D’Arcy happened upon Cassidy’s pub in the Burren some time in the 1970s during a downpour. A warm fire, traditional music session and several black pints held him and his hitch-hiking friend contented till closing time. D’Arcy said, ‘When we requested permission from Bobby Cassidy (the present owner’s late father) to pitch a tent on the grass in the shelter of the building, he answered, “I wouldn’t put a dog out in that weather.” Not only did he put us up for the night but he also furnished us with a full Burren breakfast in the morning before we left to explore Carron’s flooded turlough. Money was not mentioned.’
Since then, D’Arcy has spent over 30 years living on the Burren’s edge and exploring its remarkable natural heritage. Now, with The Breathing Burren, his unashamedly art-weighted new book (The Collins Press, price €24.99), he celebrates the region with thought-provoking essays and attractive watercolours that convey a deep affection and intimacy. He also pays tribute to the people with whom he shares the wonders of the Burren and who have contributed to an understanding and appreciation of it.
He continued, ‘It seems that every aspect of the extraordinarily rich natural and social heritage has now been covered in text and photography, most of it admirably. The Breathing Burren, though part of this, is different in that while it seeks to inform, it is essentially a work of salutation.’
A compendium of personal experiences connected to natural history, derived mainly from diary extracts, the essays range from bird and animal (…what does this person think birds are, plants?!) encounters, through floral forays, to underground and night-time explorations and low-tide discoveries. They have been chosen not especially for their uniqueness but rather their memorability; they are mainly experiences that have struck a chord, which D’Arcy feels enthusiastic about sharing.
Join Gordon D’Arcy in rambling the length and breadth of this renowned place, through its moods and seasons, befriending its diverse inhabitants, and breathing the Atlantic air that whispers its welcome to all comers.
Other Views: “I have read several books about the Burren, Ireland’s ecological showpiece, but none offered such rounded, instructive enjoyment as The Breathing Burren.” – Michael Viney, The Irish Times
The Author: Gordon D’Arcy is an environmental writer, artist and educator. The main focus of his work has been the limestone habitat of the Burren. Guiding Burren lovers and visitors alike, educating schoolchildren, and lecturing in the Burren College of Art, he has always kept his enthusiasm for this internationally important landscape. The author of several natural history books, he has illustrated Ireland’s Animals: Myths, Legends and Folklore (2010) and Ireland’s Birds: Myths, Legends and Folklore (2015) both by Niall MacCoitir.
Fatbirder View:I visited Ireland just once back in the mind 1980’s at about the time when the author found an off-course Belted Kingfisher there. As I was taking a group of elderly Irishman back to see their ‘home country’ I had little time to rejoice in the soft beauty of Ireland although a day spent in Connemara showed me just how stunning its landscapes can be.Now I really feel as if have visited a second time having been taken to the breathing Burren by someone whose love of it and his inborn artistry paint a picture in words at picturesque as can be. Indeed, one of the many highlights of this book are the painted illustrations, impressionistic water colours leaving the viewer to fill in the fine detail.I had assumed this book would not be for me as it is part travelogue, part gazetteer, part educational diary and part poetry. But somehow as I read it I heard the soft lilting accent of the land of saints and scholars (probably quite different in life as the author hails from Belfast) and it lulled me like a saga told on a winter’s evening by a master story teller. If you like wild places, wildlife and tales the educate gently while entertaining you greatly you’ll love this book. The Irish Times called it ‘instructive enjoyment’ – a perfect phrase I wish I’d coined.
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