Remembering a map-maker: watch Tim Robinson’s Connemara on TG4 03|06|2020

Tim Robinson’s Connemara with a “Connemara stone” from Ballyheigue Beach.

Things happen in threes, so they say. 

Cathy Galvin, a poet and journalist whose family emigrated from Mason’s Island in Connemara, contacted me about Charles R. Browne’s ethnographic study of Carna. Cathy also sent me an essay by Kevin T. James on the meaning of “emptiness” in Connemara. 

James built his essay around an entry in the visitors’ book of Mongan’s Hotel, the pub/shop/hotel operated by Martin Mongan in Carna in the 1890s. Mongan is an intriguing character and, as usual, I consulted Tim Robinson on Mongan, Mason’s Island, and the tricky issue of the emptiness of Connemara.

I had just begun re-reading Robinson’s Connemaralistening to the wind (first published in 2006) when I went for a walk (keeping within 5K) on Ballyheigue Beach and found several “Connemara Stones” in the intertidal zone, a favourite haunt of Tim Robinson’s. “Connemara Stones” are erratics, granite rocks that were picked up by a glacier in Connemara and carried south until the ice melted and dropped the stones at various sites in Kerry (see the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 119, 2 (2008): 137-152). 

Synchronicity or what?

Tim Robinson 1935-2020 (Photograph: Nicolas Fève).

Then, TG4 announced the screening of a new film that it is broadcasting in memory of Tim Robinson and his wife and longtime collaborator Mairéad Robinson. The film explores the Robinsons’ topographical study of Connemara over thirty years. 

Tim Robinson’s Connemaralistening to the wind is an intriguing book that has at its core an environmentalist’s awareness of the tension between emptiness and settlement over several centuries of social, political, and cultural disruption, a theme that he developed in a series of walks through the landscape. 

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