Landscapes in Literature (XII)

Aran potatoes and giant daisies.

“Inisheer, only 1400 acres in area, is a table-land of bare sheets of limestone slanting from north to south and dropping away completely into the sea where the lighthouse stands. From it the herculean labour of successive generations had removed millions of stones, which had been piled up to form great cairns and labyrinths of high dry-stone walls. In the thousands of stone enclosures so formed, which acted as windbreaks, here and on the other islands, soil had been mand-made too, by laying down alternate levels of sand and seaweed ferried in paniers on the backs of donkeys. The principal crop was potatoes (a boiled Aran potato is one of the most delicious culinary treats), but oats, cabbages and carrots were also grown. The grass was excellent, which is why cattle fattened so well, and in October giant daisies appeared in the fields. There were hardly any trees except a few osiers, growing in sheltered places, which were used to make baskets and paniers for the donkeys. There were no gates: the walls were knocked down to let the animals in and out, after which they were rebuilt.”

From Round Ireland in Low Gear (1987) by Eric Newby.


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Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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