'Islands and Images', the first essay in this collection, describes the Aran Islands themselves; 'Setting Foot on the Shores of Connemara', the title-essay, elevates the map-maker's craft into art; 'The View from Errisbeg' integrates the landscapes of Galway Bay, the Burren and Connemara by way of topography, botany and geology; 'Space, Time and Connemara', centrepiece to the collection, surveys the archaeology and human geography of the West, its settlement patterns, families, dispersals and privations, its missioners and the modern tide of tourism and mariculture; 'A Connemara Fractal' is a fascinating autobiographical digression through Cambridge and the convergences of mathematics, geometry and geology, towards landscape-theory and the Book of Connemara as yet unwritten; 'Place/Person/Book' introduces Synge's masterwork, The Aran Islands; 'Listening to the Landscape' takes for its theme the Irish language and placenames as an emanation of the land; 'Four Threads' connects four archetypal figures - smuggler, rebel priest, land-agent and wandering rhymer - to their histories in nineteenth century Connemara. Other texts rehearse the potencies of discovery, botanical (Erica mackaiana in Roundstone), archaeological (a Bronze Age quartz alignment in Gleninagh) and personal. Some are anecdotal, some meditative; each is individually conceived as a work of literature.
Tim Robinson has been stepping into spacetime since 1972, mapping the unknown by way of the known. WithSetting Foot on the Shores of Connemara,he captures the numinous in a net of words and images, and creates his own illuminated manual of memory. In these fourteen related works, we witness a great writer, artist and cartographer united with his subject, conveying the vivid experiences of a quarter-century of exploring and mapping the Aran Islands, the Burren and Connemara.
'Potent and original.' The Irish Times
'Robinson's prose speaks more powerfully than a camera ... captivating and totally rewarding.' SUC Bulletin
'Belongs in every cultivated Irish home.' Michael Viney, The Irish Times
'In these glittering essays he is by turn historian, archaeologist, geographer, cartographer, botanist and, above all, a ravishing storyteller.' Penny Perrick, The Times
Born in England in 1935, Robinson has lived in the west of Ireland since 1972, working as an artist, cartographer and writer. On the evidence of the 14 essays in this collection, he also appears to be a born naturalist, geologist, archaeologist and linguist. Filled with wise and surprising personal observations, these fluent essays reflect their author's knowledge of local settlement patterns, rural customs and Celtic mythology. Throughout, Robinson regards the bleak and haunting Connemara landscape with an artist's eye, a lover's affection and a scientist's detached precision; and he writes with the grace of a poet. Though his particular territory is the west of Ireland, his larger subject expands beyond and incorporates the intersection of natural history, the human presence and the human past. He hints at his method in the opening of "A Connemara Fractal": "To spin a few threads of ideas out of my experience... and tie them to some specific features... in the hope that they will lead off into wider territories of thought." Cartography is a metaphor for our relationship to the places we inhabit: "We could not use or even bear to look at a map that was not mostly blank. This emptiness is to be filled in with our own imagined presence." In "Listening to the Landscape" Robinson explores the "connection between language and reality" and concludes that "placenames are the interlock of landscape and language." This book is a door into a place and a reality that few of us ever are privileged to know. It is a sheer joy to read.