Lough Neagh (Skimming the Surface)' has recently come into my hands and is one which will grace any bookcase.
It is artistically designed with nothing but the highest quality paper used throughout and an attractive easy-on-the-eye typeface.
As well, the theme - a ramble down memory lane - is one dear to my own heart, an especially well worn one actually, and a wonderfully comprehensive history of every aspect of life on Lough Neagh's banks.
It is unique in that four different researchers, each with his own unique expertise, have combined to present an all embracing picture of an area rich in culture and historical heritage.
Space limitations prevent me from listing the multitude of personages and subjects which are featured but the researchers obviously cast their nets wide, very wide. More than three score of sources are listed under bibliography.
Local historians of the 19th and 20th centuries feature alongside fireside balladeers, with space given to a veteran local basket-maker making his first essay into verse in the same book as the 'daddy of them all' noble laureate, Seamus Heaney. Material dating back to the dawn of Christianity, and beyond, with a dash of other world and humour neatly inserted, gives a picture of an era of strong community shared-ness.
What impresses me is the acumen displayed in winnowing the grain from the chaff. Think of a subject or authority and you will find it in this delightful publication, mind you, it will not be easy as indexing has been omitted but chapter headings are fully informative.
They are as follows: 1, Townlands and Placenames; 2, Farming, Fishing and Cottage Crafts; 3, Peat; 4, Transport; 5, Family Names; 6, Cures and Charms, Myths and Legends; 7, Pastimes, Hobbies and Sport; 8, Poems and Writings. The four researchers are: Pascal Downing, Thomas Glenny, Henry McCorry and Gerard Ryan.
Readers will be interested to find Osier Culture and Basket-making is given special mention in the book which was launched at Lisburn Museum.
A video based on the book was purchased by every primary school on Lough Neagh's banks and I am able to say that it will shortly be available on DVD.
Hopefully, the Lough Neagh Regeneration Association Committee's expertise in producing this book of reference will be harnessed to save the age-old craft of basket-making from extinction. I would have liked to have seen that craft and the phasing out of turf-making in the Montiaghs given just a little more highlight, but of course, Brankinstown does not have the only bit of moss of the Lough Neagh wetlands.
Lisburn's rural districts feature prominently. You will learn a lot about church history, legends and charms, superstitions and pilgrimages. The ancient church of La Loo and Portmore Castle, for example, provide many gems of lore. Glenavy, the Church of the Dwarf, the monastery on Ram's Island, the Middle Church and the Ballinderry oak timbers are all chronicled. Even the origin of the name, Gawley's Gate.
I suggest you park the laptops and the ubiquitous mobile, put your feet up and have a good read. The book is available at the Linen Centre, priced £15.
(PS) My mind boggles as I strive to visualise what the people (scribes) of the next century will compile about the 'robots' of our present age so engrossed in instant worldwide communications, the web, etc, etc, that they don't have time to stand and stare. An age of separation in place of togetherism, Every man and woman for him/ herself.
By Pat Smyth