No Reader is an Island 3

An overview of Rathlin books (Part 3 - Shipwrecks, studies, natural history and place names)

The Harsh Winds of Rathlin, Stories of Rathlin Shipwrecks (1990),by Tommy Cecil, Impact Printing (of Coleraine) Ltd, 108 pages.
Availability: Library only.
A comprehensive and detailed survey of some 54 vessels, both large and small, that were wrecked on and around Rathlin between 1815 and 1981. Five maps show the precise location of each wreck and there are numerous photographs.
The most significant of these vessels was undoubtedly ‘The Drake’, a British heavy armoured cruiser (weight: 14,100 tons, length: 530 feet) that was torpedoed by German submarine U-79 on the October 2, 1916 off the north coast of Rathlin. The ship eventually sank in Church Bay where its presence is still marked by a large warning buoy. A considerable number of items have been retrieved from the wreck, many by the author, and some of these are on display in the Rathlin Boathouse Centre and the local pub.
The introduction also includes significant information on the history of the lighthouses (for obvious reasons) as well as a useful section on Marconi’s wireless telegraphy installation.
The author was born and lived on Rathlin until his death in 1997.

Living on an Island, An Integrated Study of Rathlin (1994), by J E Greer, Drumnamallaght Press, 51 pages.
Availability: Library, Rathlin Boathouse Centre.
John Greer’s book is an excellent resource for teachers and children, though the information that it contains will be of interest to anyone seeking a brief overview of the island’s past, its geology, architecture and natural history.
The format is large (as tall as A4 but wider), the text is clear and each section concludes with a number of suggested educational activities. There are numerous photographs and illustrations throughout.
The appendices include a family tree of the Gage family from 1746 to 1938 and schematic plans of the interiors of St Thomas’s and St Mary’s churches.
Some of the text deals with Rathlin circa 1994. Although it is inevitable that this material would benefit from revision, the study is still valuable, and will prove especially so to those leading educational visits to the island. 

A Flora of Rathlin Island (1994), by Margaret Dickson, 12 pages.
Availability: Library, Causeway Visitors Centre.
A small booklet listing the common English and Latin names of all the plants that have been recorded on Rathlin. The English name list also includes the first month of flowering for each species. The introduction includes a number of illustrations and a small amount of text describing some of the more distinctive Rathlin species. These include the various orchids, the parasitic Broomrape Thyme, and the carnivorous Sundew. 

Birds of Rathlin Island (1990), by G Bond, 52 pages.
Availability: Library, Rathlin Boathouse Centre.
A bird list of breeding and non breeding species common to Rathlin. A short paragraph describes the general features of each species and where they are most likely to be sighted on the island. The list excludes the grey heron which is commonly seen on the island, though does not breed here. Unfortunately, since the publication of this title, the chough has become locally extinct. The corncrake, once so common on Rathlin, is now an infrequent breeder, though the RSPB is making great efforts to try to attract pairs back to the island.

 The Place-names of Rathlin Island, by Donall MacGiolla Easpaig, Ainm, Bulletin of the Ulster Place-name Society, Volume IV, 1989-90, Belfast, 238 pages.
Availability: Library only.
A carefully researched list of 450 Rathlin place names with detailed location maps. Most of the names are, with few exceptions, Irish language in origin. Each name is listed along with a phonetic equivalent, an English translation and descriptive notes. In the introduction the author acknowledges the considerable assistance that he received from islander Alex Morrison, the author of Rathlin Island As I Knew It. 

Rathlin Tale (1991), by T Stampton, 16 pages.
Availability: Library only.
A small book of woodblock prints that briefly illustrates the story of how, in 1617, a protracted dispute arose between Randal McDonnell and a Scotsman named George Crawford, as to the ownership of Rathlin.
If the island was deemed to belong to Scotland, rather than Ireland, then Crawford’s claim would be validated. After much learned argument and counter argument it was declared that the absence of snakes on the island meant that it had to be part of Ireland (as Saint Patrick was reputed to have driven all the snakes out of Ireland). Considerable factual detail on this story may be found in Clarke’s Rathlin, Its Island Story.
 
By Jonathan Mitchell
Supported by the EU Programme for Peace & Reconciliation and Rural Development Council

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