Almost a century after the original Clare Island Survey, the Royal Irish Academy has now published the first volume of the New Survey of Clare Island, entitled History and Cultural Landscape. The first in a series, this richly illustrated and accessibly written volume introduces the reader to the history and folklife of this unique island in Clew Bay, County Mayo, and to the survey that provided the inspiration for the Academy's new multidisciplinary endeavour.
The Clare Island Survey of 1901-11 was the most ambitious natural history project ever undertaken in Ireland and the first major biological survey of a specific area carried out in the world. The New Survey, which was formally launched on Clare Island in 1991, constitutes a fresh baseline study using up-to-date methods and assesses almost a century of change. It will become an invaluable source for future environmental monitoring. To date, twenty-six separate studies have been carried out. Publication of the results begins with this first volume, which contains four contributions.
Timothy Collins gives a lively and comprehensive account of the origins of the first Clare Island Survey and of the subsequent careers of the participants, among whom Robert Lloyd Praeger was a key figure. Criostoir Mac Carthaigh records aspects of the island's folklife-farming and fishing practices, vernacular housing, boat and house construction. Kevin Whelan considers the evolution of landscape and society in the pre-Famine west of Ireland and focuses on the reshaping of Clare Island's settlement patterns by the Congested Districts Board from 1895. Lastly, Nollaig O Muraile documents the rich body of the island's place-names.
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