A few years ago an incredible book hit the Irish bookshelves, and only a few months ago was a bestseller on the NHBS, the Environmental Bookstore, website. I came across it when it first appeared in late 2008, and flicking through the pages discovered it to be a stunning work of scholarship by a somewhat mysterious Dublin author named Glynn Anderson. The book is Birds of Ireland: Facts, Folklore and History, one of the Collins Press’s prestige publications, and it is the most impressive Irish wildlife book you’re likely to ever come across. Each species of Irish bird is treated in fantastic detail, and what is even more spectacular is that rather than using modern photos the author has chosen lavish 19th century illustrations, mainly by the great naturalist John Gould. In short, a book I simply could not leave on the shelf, so I bought it.
This is one of those rare and brilliant books that should be produced by authors in every country throughout the world, but for which we in Ireland seem to have the monopoly, in the form of this one outstanding example. Here’s a very nice sample regarding the Gannet (Morus bassanus):
”Gannets must be careful to land exactly on their own territory as disputes can be deadly. Once down, the Gannet can only take off from well-defined and well-used ‘runways’. These runways are kept clear at the edges of the colonies and each Gannet must walk the gauntlet through other territories to reach them. The departing birds signal their intention by walking with their bills pointing directly into the sky as a swordsman would hold up his sword. Birds behaving so are granted passage but the ritual must be strictly adhered to…. The name ‘Gannet’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon ganot meaning ‘goose’. The Latin Morus bassanus translates roughly as ‘Foolish Bird from Base Rock’ (in Scotland). The birds are also called Solan Geese on Northern Ireland and Scotland from the rock Sula Sgeir (Gannet skerry) or Solan Rock some forty miles off the northern Scottish coast.’
While I was at Zoe Devlin’s book launch I got talking to one of the guests, who happened to be strolling around with a big camera taking photos of everyone to publicise the event. He said he had come to support Zoe because he had also had books published by the Collins Press, and introduced himself as Glynn Anderson - I instantly recognised the name and asked if he was the same Glynn Anderson who was the enigmatic author of the above book: he was.
It is still incredible that after this massive success Glynn has been hidden from the media, and not picked up by television or radio: the research and writing of his bird book took five years! It is such a popular book that you would imagine the media would have him on speed-dial, having proven his expertise, and at least would expect an appearance in a wildlife documentary, but he managed to maintain his mysteriousness. So it seems the privilege falls to me to introduce this great naturalist to the world in the photo below.
Glynn Anderson’s bird book (soon to be followed by his latest book, on cheese !) is available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Birds-Ireland-Facts-Folklore-History/dp/1905172729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320616264&sr=8-1
Niall MacCoitir’s books are also available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=niall+maccoitir&x=0&y=0