Plants And Books - 31st Jan. 1948

Plants And Books: Text Version

31st January 1949


Very few of us, it must be admitted, know anything worth while about the flowers and plants that we see every day in the fields around us. What could we say, for example, of the flora of our native county? Or where would we direct a person in search of rare botanical specimens in our district? Lough Gur, it seems, is the place that has most attractions for the naturalist in Limerick. By the lake shore there flourishes the Golden Dock, a plant now almost extinct in Ireland and in its waters Hornworth and other uncommon species are found in abundance. When we go to Lough Gur we think only of cromlechs, crannogs and stone circles and never think that if we opened our eyes we might find there other things also worth seeing and noting.


If interested in flora we would go from Lough Gur to the Shannon, somewhere near Limerick City, for we would find in the muddy graves there a very rare plant – the Three-Angled Bullrush, unknown elsewhere in Ireland and in Great Britain confined to a few river estuaries in Southern England. Then, perhaps, we would go to Askeaton to pick specimens of the rare Salzburg Eyebright and if we continued our journey and did a bit of roving around Foynes and Newcastle we would find sporadic patches of Giant Butterwort and Irish Spurge. The occurrence of these unusual plants would show us that we were on the approaches to the flourishing vegetation of the South-West – the botanist's paradise.


Not a word of this could I have written if I hadn't the good fortune to read a book called" The Way That I Went." This wonderful book teems with the most interesting pieces of information, the fruits of a long life of exploration and research. It shows us Ireland from a new angle, the angle of the naturalist, but that is not to say that only one interested in the work of the naturalist would enjoy it. The lore of people and places, archaeology, fairies, entomology, gold rushed and a hundred other subjects are treated of in its 407 pages. The man who tours Ireland, or any corner of it, without this book, is going to miss half the wonderful places that Robert Lloyd Praeger tells of.


For Robert Lloyd Praeger is the name of the author of "The Way That I went." In a short preface he begins by quoting James Thompson:-

"Let my voice ring out and over the earth

through all the grief and strife

With a golden joy in a silver mirth:

Thank God for life."

He tells us his book is a thank offering for "seven decades of robust physical health in which to walk and climb and swim and sail throughout or around the island in which I was born, to the benefit alike of body and soul" – "an account of the beautiful land in which I have spent my su ptuagesimal holiday" – what a beautiful way to describe it. He reminds us of Chesterton in his gratitude for being alive and his joy in living.


Talking of books – I was in at the headquarters of the Limerick County Library in Henry Street the other day and while Bean Uí Aodha and Mairtin Mac Caba were discussing the affairs of the library in Irish, I had a peep through the register of books requested by readers in different parts of the county. If you want some rare book like, let us say, "Some Aspects of Phoenician Navigation and Transportation," or "How to Make Ends Meet," you just send a card to Mr. D. Doyle, the County Librarian and he does the rest. Your request is entered in the register I have been telling you about, as a preliminary to the search. The list of books entered in that register would amaze you, particularly when you'd remember that many of the requests came from remote parts of the county, places miles away from towns or villages.


Here are a few of the books tat Co. Limerick men want to read:-

"Music for the Man Who Enjoys Hamlet," "Art of Counterpoint," "Bottling and Pickling of Fruits and Vegetables," "Some Commentary on 'Rerum Novarum,'" "Gill's Irish Reciter," "Etymological Dictionary," of the Gaelic Language in Stirling," "Evenings With Music," "Roman vigil," "Pickwick Papers," "Tusa a Mhaicin," "Anthology of Modern Verse," "Palaestra Logica," "Great Fraud of Ulster," "principles of Agricultural Botany," "producing Plays," "Madame Markievicz," "Saint Joan," "Mozart's operas," "Story of San Michele," "The Robe," "Sweet Making," "Training of dogs," "Knocknagow," "The Irish Republic," "ideas Behind the Chess Openings," "Toy-Making and Fretwork," "The Farm by Lough Gur," "War and Peace" "An Fhiannaidheact," "The Abbe Edgeworth," "Ice-cream Making," "Notes on thermodynamics," "Bee-Keeping," "Biography of Francis Thompson," "Cardinal Richelieu," "Aerial Navigation," "nature and My Cine Camera," "Lady Gregory's Journals," "Post Renaissance Sculpture in Europe," "Homer and His Age," "Iosagan," "The Riddle of the Sands,"


Well, what do you think of that list? And that's but a fraction of all the books wanted. Mr. Doyle would like to see, among many other things, Irish classes taking up part-singing and will be glad to provide the necessary books for this purpose. It is an idea that should be carefully considered by Irish teachers. And while we are on the subject of Irish classes, may I make a suggestion to the Librarian. What of some worth-while Irish books and sending them out to the classes? The books could be continually circulating from one class to another and so an Irish reading public might be built up.


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