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‘Love letter’ to Connemara receives new lease of life

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

The Hidden Lakes of Connemara, the work of four Dutch scientists who have been regular visitors to Ireland for almost 50 years, was first published four years ago. This hardback book, incorporating science, poetry, short essays and visual art, documented botanical and chemical changes in 18 local lakes over a 35-year period.

That first edition is now out of print, but this beautiful publication has become available once more, thanks to Letterfrack publishing company, Artisan House.

Ton Roozen, Marijke von Mansfeld, Madeleine von Mansfeld and Jan van Groenendael began their work as students back in 1975, inspired by their college professor and mentor, Professor Victor Westhoff, who had a holiday home in Roundstone.

Their project went on to become a 35-year longitudinal study of the 18 lakes and their hinterlands, in an area south-west of Clifden and north of Roundstone.

As Mary Ruddy of Artisan House points out, it was a considerable achievement to condense their volume of research into this informative, accessible book.

Mary and her partner Vincent Murphy run Books at One in Letterfrack and had stocked The Hidden Lakes of Connemara in 2020.

But then it went out of print. The authors approached them about the possibility of Artisan House reissuing it.

It was never going to be a commercial enterprise, but that didn’t matter, Mary says.

“We felt it should be available because it’s so lovely and the content is so good,” she explains of the book, from which all profits are going towards conservation efforts in Connemara.

Back in 1975, the four Dutch students rented a cottage in the Bunowen Peninsula for six months. It had no electricity or running water, was lit by gas and heated by a gas stove and an open fire. They began collating and assessing their samples in a mini-lab they set up there, using distilled water, transported from UCD in large containers.

Pictured: Marijke van Mansfeld and Ton Roozen, co-authors of the book that involved more than 35 years’ research.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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