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The Dark Stuff: Stories from the Peatlands Hardcover – June 12, 2018
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People living on the edge or in the midst of moorland have interacted with their environment for centuries, utilizing its resources and drawing upon its unique features to provide shape and meaning for their lives.
Donald S. Murray's new book is an examination of the moorland, ranging from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and even Australia. Murray explores moorland in all its different guises and roles, considering its scientific, aesthetic and preservative qualities, reflecting on how for centuries humans have represented it in literature, art and folk tales. He reveals both its industrial heritage and how we still use and abuse it today. In particular, Murray examines the politics of ownership and the way Europe's moorlands have been employed for punitive purposes and in rebellions against the authority of the state.
The Dark Stuff weaves in Murray's childhood memories and his experiences from the Isle of Lewis as he investigates oral histories, poetry, songs, and historical records about these locations. He also confronts some of the darker realities of how European moorland has been employed in the recent and historical past, examining current political debate and scientific knowledge, and delving into social, economic, and religious histories to provide broader context.
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About the Author
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Wildlife (June 12, 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1472942752
- ISBN-13 : 978-1472942753
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.71 x 1.03 x 8.69 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,402,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A writer whose roots are firmly embedded in a land of peat bogs, initially on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and currently on the Shetland Isles, he is well qualified to discuss the subject of peatlands - and he does so in a scholarly yet sociable and entertaining manner. Including many literary and historical references, he illuminates the role of the peat bogs in the survival of those whose lives were governed by such an environment, the iniquities enforced upon the moors by warring armies, and their ecological importance world-wide.
He takes us on rambles through the peat bogs of Scotland, not only in the highlands with which they are generally associated, but also into those moorlands of the south-west that were ingloriously stained by the blood of religious and political strife in Scotland’s turbulent past. He exposes much of the history, lore and importance of the peat moors in Ireland, Holland, Germany and Finland. And nowhere is the dark stuff darker than in the moorlands of north Germany, scene of some of the darkest deeds in world history, which now embrace the bones of thousands who were dumped into mass graves, stripped of their dignity and their lives in the dreaded Nazi concentration camps.
Involving us in his encounters with the people in these places, his story-telling style is addictive. It is the quintessential voice of the Gael (with all the lyrical qualities of the poet that he is), and that undoubted advantage in power of expression that the bilingual tongue offers. It has both the lilting sigh of the wind as it murmurs over moor and machair in a warm June evening, and the biting lash of the winter storms that hurl themselves untrammelled over his native moors.
For me, this book was like a warm, woven tweed embracing the colours, sounds and scents of the moors - a comforter that wrapped itself around me as I sat by the fire with a glass in my hand, absorbed in the weft and weave of his story. It spoke to me, as if he had been sitting there opposite me with a dram, blethering away as two old bodachs are wont to do. And it left me with the lingering afterglow of a peaty west coast malt, my head shaking in admiration, and my voice muttering: ‘Aye Donald… Not bad at all, at all.’