Natural History
Alive Alive O! The Shellfish and Shell-fisheries of Ireland

Alive Alive O! The Shellfish and Shell-fisheries of Ireland


ISBN: 978-1-873821-299-6

23.0 x 21.00 cm  illustrated in colour and monochrome 


After a long period of neglect, Ireland is once again embracing its marine resources as the patrimony of the nation. And we are doing it in a way that enhances our environment and further enriches our diet. Many of our Continental visitors know and appreciate the value and the benefits of our shellfish. It is we ourselves who need reminding of our country's long love  affair with them (and their contribution, in turn, to our love affairs!). Drawing on mythology, archaeology, history, oral tradition, biology,  economics and a wealth of personal experience Alive, Alive-O tells the story of Ireland's shellfish and shellfisheries.

Our Bronze Age ancestors gathered them in their millions; St. Patrick sheltered inside one of them; they staved off famine for the hungry poor; the rich and famous roistered with them; Countesses built houses with them; pilgrims wore them as badges; Aran islanders used them as lamps, and Molly Malone hawked them around the streets of late Victorian Dublin crying 'Cockles and Mussels, Alive, Alive-O!'­ at tuppence a quart. Some species were the fast food of the industrial revolution; others are a new and exotic addition to the modern diet.

These are just some elements of the story of Irish shellfish. In our long history we have used and abused them, embedding them in our legislation and in our languages ­ Irish and English ­ as firmly as they embedded themselves in the limestone bedrock of our country over 400 million years ago. Today the humble shellfish of Ireland support an industry worth almost thirty million euro annually that gives employment, confidence and sustainability to our coastal communities. But in some sad cases the wild stocks are being driven to extinction by overfishing and greed.

This book is a beginning to the celebration of one of our prime marine resources. Sampling the recipes given will be even more enjoyable. Cherishing, sustaining and respecting the traditions and lifestyles of our coastal communities are the ultimate goals that this book aims to achieve.


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The Book of the Burren

The Book of the Burren


ISBN: 978-1-873821-15-2 2nd edition, paperback

20.6 x 22.0 cm   264 pp.     2001     illus in colour and monochrome

This book's first edition, published in 1991, was part of a growing affirmation of the importance of the Burren, a hymn to its diversity, beauty and singularity.
Ten years later, our contributors describe how the natural heritage of the Burren depends on traditional farming practices and why the impact of booming tourism has not been entirely beneficial. This 2nd edition published in 2001 also updates the natural history and archaeology and includes new chapters on poets and artists in the Burren.

"The Book of the Burren is a guide, a reference book, and, in the loving particularity of its illustrations, a hymn to this corner of Ireland."
Nuala O'Faolain, The Irish Times

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The Shores of Connemara

The Shores of Connemara

out of stock. Order from Tir Eolas

Translated and annotated by Padraic de Bhaldraithe

ISBN: 978-1-873821-14-5
192pp, 22.0 x 16.0 cm, 16 colour plates, 12 newly commissioned etchings by Sabine Springer  2000

First published in Irish in 1938 as Cladaí Chonamara and not previously available in English, The Shores of Connemara is both a naturalist's guide to the seashore and coastal waters of Connemara, Co. Galway and an account of the life of the people who lived there in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Séamas Mac an Iomaire was born in 1891 near Carna in Connemara and wrote about the way of life he knew and the environment in which he grew up. He describes the flora and fauna of the seashore, the living people made from them and the crafts involved, such as kelp making, boat building and fishing. With this English edition a new audience can discover this classic of Irish social and natural history.

'Ribe ribe róibéis, tabhair dom greim ar bharr do shlata bige agus tabharfaidh mé duit arís amárach é.’ (Give me a grip of the top of your little rod, shrimp, and I’ll give it back to you tomorrow.) This was the chant that children recited on the shores of Connemara as they attempted to persuade the rock pool shrimps to desert their crevices and allow themselves to be captured. This is but one of the many customs and practices that linked the people of Connemara to the abundance of sea creatures that surrounded them. The Shores of Connemara presents a wonderful description of marine life, not according to the norms of scientific natural history, but as the people themselves saw it.  Séamus Mac an Iomaire combines his own acute observations of nature with the rich maritime traditions and customs of the people of Maínis to produce an informative, uplifting and original account of the sea life of the Irish Atlantic coast. The clarity and charm of his writing, so faithfully translated in this book, will appeal to a wide variety of readers, including naturalists, environmentalists, and social historians, but most of all to anyone fortunate enough to spend time walking and boating along the Connemara coast. The book is greatly enriched by the striking original illustrations of Sabine Springer.

Contents: Foreword – Introduction – Maínis – Fishing – Searching for Bait – Shore Creatures – Sea Fish – Boat Races in Connemara – Material for the Púcán – Kelp Making – Seaweed – List of Names of Invertebrates – List of Names of  Fishes – List of Names of Seaweeds – List of Place Names – Index of English Names of Fishes, Invertebrates and Seaweeds – Bibliography.

'Mac an Iomaire's is an original and clear story, a commentary on the social life of a people co-existing with nature and the cycles of the sea.'  Wild Ireland

'This is one of the most interesting and captivating books about nature ever written in Ireland. Here is a joyful supplement to the solemnities of regular field guides. A major cultural text and also one of the most enjoyable and revelatory books in the whole of Irish writing about nature. The rich illustration includes original etchings of fish by Sabine Springer that rank with the best in marine illustration. The whole book is a labour of love.'  Michael Viney, Irish Times

About the author

Séamas Mac an Iomaire was born in 1891 on Maínis, an island off the coast of Connemara. As a boy he learned all the traditional skills of the way of life on the seashore - sailing, fishing, cutting seaweed and similar activities. He also absorbed the heritage of songs, storytelling and folklore of this Irish speaking region. As a youth he was involved with the Irish Republican movement and he was arrested and briefly imprisoned, as were his father and one of his brothers. He began writing while in his teens and his essays and stories were published regularly in the Irish language press. He started to teach Irish through the Gaelic League and worked as a teacher until he emigrated to the USA in 1926. He at first taught Irish for the New York Gaelic Society then worked for a railway company. He worked mostly underground, spending months on end without seeing the light of day and it was then that he contracted TB and was hospitalised.

His friend Seosamh Daibhéid encouraged him to continue writing while in hospital and he began to record what later became Cladaí Chonamara. Seamas wrote (in Irish) "I was in bed when I wrote most of the pieces as I was not allowed to get up. The doctor told me there was no harm in writing three or four pages a day, that is, after having already spent six months on the flat of my back not being allowed stir. I often wrote eight pages a day, although the doctor doesn't know that yet. I got so immersed in such desirable memories that I would forget altogether that I was in a foreign country lying on the flat of my back with TB."

After his recovery Séamas continued to work for the railroad company until his retirement in 1960. He visited his native home from time to time and died in 1967.

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The Waves of Tory / Tonnta Thoraí

The Waves of Tory / Tonnta Thoraí


The Story of an Atlantic Community / Scéal Pobail Atlantaigh

21.0 x 26.6 cm.    vi, 138 pp.  2006  fully illustrated with  colour photographs and maps  Bilingual English/Irish  text

In a world where everything seems tame and familiar, islands promise wildness and difference. Tory Island, the most remote and exposed of all the inhabited Irish islands, is no exception to this rule. The great seas ranging in from the Atlantic and the strong currents sweeping along its southern coast have isolated the island thus helping in the retention of a way of life that has long since disappeared on the mainland and the survival of Irish as the spoken language.

The Waves of Tory tells the story of this small community in terms of their attachment to the land, their reverence for and awe of the sea, and their well-preserved egalitarian society, where dancers, musicians, storytellers and painters take pride of place. The text, in English and Irish, is interlaced with legends and tales of the supernatural, and illustrated with accounts of island customs and beliefs.

The Tory islanders are a people whose roots go back to prehistoric times; typical is the King of Tory, Patsy Dan Rodgers, whose office is pre-Christian in origin. Links with the past are everywhere in evidence from the Iron Age fort, home to Balor of the Evil Eye, to the impressive remains of the early Celtic Church of St Colmcille. Superimposed on this pattern are the clustered settlements and vast open fields of the ancient Rundale farming system and the piers, boat rests, and kelp-pits, the products of man’s more recent activities on the sea and the shore. These survivals from the past strike deep resonances with those in search of the “real” Ireland.

The Waves of Tory comes at a time when Ireland’s Atlantic heritage is under threat as it has never been before. Important changes have taken place on Tory in recent times, which have threatened the very existence of the island community; the demise of farming and the cessation of fishing have encouraged persistent rumours of evacuation. It would be a tragedy if this little island, which has given so much to Irish music, song, dance, art and storytelling, were to be evacuated like many other Atlantic communities during the twentieth century. This book will help to alert a wider audience to the vibrant culture that still pertains in this very special place on the uttermost edge of Europe and to the need to conserve it for the benefit of generations yet to come,

The King of Tory is tireless in his efforts to save his island home from evacuation. In his own words “May God in Heaven help us if we don’t win. No matter where you are, the place where you are born and reared is the place you love best. We have every right to stay here. We want to remain here and hand it on to the future generations”.


Jim Hunter has a deep interest in Irish culture and traditions of the countryside. He has travelled throughout Ireland collecting myths and folklore, which he uses to enliven his writings. He has broadcast regularly on radio and television and has written a series of books on local history. He first visited Tory in 1957 and over the years has done much to promote the island through the organisation of guided tours and primitive art seminars. He has also mounted exhibitions of Tory art and arranged cultural events to highlight island music and dance throughout Northern Ireland.


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The Shannon Floodlands. A Natural History

The Shannon Floodlands. A Natural History

£12.50 paper covers

167pp, 20.5 x 22.0 cm, 12 colour & 70 b&w illustrations    1993

A study of the Shannon Callows, the fascinating and distinctive landscape seasonally flooded by the River Shannon, and the rich variety of plants, animals and birds found in this unspoilt wetland habitat.

"This book will have an immediate appeal for all those who love the wild places and their inhabitants. It is a work that should be on the shelves of every nature lover."   Irish Examiner

" The great virtue of Stephen Heery's book is its revelation of the Callows entire and very special ecosystem – a complete web of wild lives and
"eco-hydrology" shaped over thousands of years."   
Michael Viney, Irish Times

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The Burren Wall

The Burren Wall


ISBN: 978-1-873821-16-9

15.5 x 23.0 cm,  64 pp.    82 colour illustrations & photographs   2006
Subject: Natural and Social History

The Burren and the Aran Islands have some of the most distinctive stone walls to be found anywhere. Visitors are invariably intrigued while locals, having lived with them for generations, pass little comment. The walls, in their use of local stone and economical design, nevertheless stand as linear monuments to local skill and hard won endeavour. This book deals with their social history, from the earliest prehistoric examples to the most modern, indicating how different styles may be attributed to specific periods of construction.

Celebrating the aesthetic qualities of the Burren wall in photographs, illustrations and quotations, this book also informs about natural history, presenting the wall as a habitat for myriad flora and fauna.

Gordon D'Arcy is a naturalist, environmental educator and artist.  He has published several books including the Natural History of the Burren (Immel, 1992) and contributed chapters to The Book of the Burren (Tir Eolas, 1991 & 2001) and the Book of Aran (Tir Eolas, 1994).

This book, the culmination of many years spent investigating this remarkable limestone land, is replete with his photographs and illustrations. He lives with his wife Esther-Mary in south Galway, a few miles from the edge of the Burren.

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