The Emerald Isle is known for its gorgeous countryside, and rightfully so. From the rugged cliffs of the Atlantic coast to the lush meadows and lakes of the interior, Ireland is rich in imagery both awe-inspiring and serene. The vibrant streets of such cities as Dublin and Belfast, where modern architecture rubs shoulders with Georgian townhouses and Norman stonework, testify to the island's 21st century resurgence as the cosmopolitan 'Celtic Tiger.' From the remains of a Bronze Age ring fort to the soaring modern Spire of Dublin to the stallions of the National Stud, Ireland is a land of surprising variety.
The rich color images collected here weave together the portrait of a land where Paleolithic monuments, medieval castles, quiet fishing villages, and bustling cities all exist alongside each other. From the eerie, astonishing hexagonal stones of the ‘Giant’s Causeway’ in County Antrim to the cozy atmosphere of the town pub; from breathtaking wild landscapes to the exquisite gardens of stately homes; each page offers a new glimpse of Ireland’s multifarious beauty. The prehistoric tombs of Newgrange, the Gothic peaks of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the sublime scenery of Connemara National Park, and countless country villages, all are here. With a keen visual sensibility, Jay Ben Adlersberg captures the tiniest details and the most magnificent vistas that are at the island’s heart and that make Ireland one of the world’s loveliest places to travel—or to call home.
Here, too, is a journey through Ireland’s history. The soaring modern Spire of Dublin monument, the elegant campus of Trinity College, the ancient seat of Ireland’s kings at Tara—each evokes a different moment in Ireland’s many-layered past. Written in the land itself, Ireland’s history appears here in the slope of a thatched roof, in the grass-grown remains of a Bronze Age ring fort, in a field tilled for centuries. Finally, here is the soul of a land where, out of the hardships of the past, have come arts and culture alive with creativity and resilience, from traditional flute and fiddle music to a diverse literary tradition from which thirty poems and literary excerpts have been chosen to accompany Adlersberg’s images, including the romantic prose of James Joyce; the humorous boyhood memories of Frank McCourt; the celebration of natural beauty in the poetry of W.B. Yeats; and the folk tales of Douglas Hyde; as well as numerous others whose writings capture the unique spirit that is Ireland.
Samantha Bowser supplies the rich and nuanced captions for the more than two hundred photographs.
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About the Author
Jay has been voted one of the Best Doctors in New York. For the past 30 years, he has reported nightly on medical news for WABC-TV, and--together with other ABC NEWS staff--won a Peabody Award for coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
He lives in New York City.
Jay Ben Adlersberg website: http://www.jaybenimages.com
EDITOR, Samantha Bowser is an avid student of history and culture pursuing a career in archival work. She has contributed to a number of Welcome titles including Exodus and Red Carpet. She claims Irish heritage through her father and was thrilled to travel in Ireland with Jay Adlersberg for the creation of this book. She lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
from Ireland: In Word and Image
by Jay Ben Adlersberg
1 Introduction by Jay Ben Adlersberg
2 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
3 The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats
4 Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
If photography is about light and color, then Ireland is a prism between the sun and the Irish Sea. The North Atlantic Drift from the Gulf Stream brings warm air to meet a variable jet stream, and the result is four seasons of weather in one Irish day. Want flat light? You’ve got it. Want a golden sunset? That, too. Rain and fog over slieve and glen? Bring a slicker.
That wasn’t the view I had of Ireland at the outset. Green and Guinness, red hair, freckles, and civil war were what came to mind when I thought about the weeks I would spend there. I wasn’t at all sure that I was going to have a rich experience. I was wrong.
Indeed there was a lot of green, the green of the fields and sea, the amber-green of crops and falling leaves, the green-gray of hillsides shawled in mist and fog. This is an agrarian economy, and while light industry has come and gone, the green fields begin smack up against city lines and intertwine with villages and towns. The changeable weather guarantees an almost daily rainfall. The result is the richness and depth of color on the land, greens interspersed with a rainbow of crops, plants, and flowers.
The red hair, the freckles, and the Guinness need no further mention. The politics, however, do. My eyes were first opened when we pulled up at the old fort of Carrick Fergus in Northern Ireland, which is still a part of Great Britain. I got out of the car and dressed to take photos, putting on a floppy-brimmed jungle hat and a black photo harness and belt with a bunch of black lens pouches hanging from it. I was hefting a big, black DSLR and lens in my hand, completely obscured by a plastic rain sleeve in the bad weather.
The effect made our driver, Jerry, visibly upset. He thought that I might be taken as a bomb-vested terrorist brandishing a concealed .45 Colt 1911. He was very serious; I got that it was not a joke. Fortunately, nothing happened. However, Jerry insisted that I have my picture taken in that getup so he could show the other drivers at Pro Bus and Car, to illustrate what he said was his best story ever.
Jeremiah Ginnifer reminded me of Ireland’s tradition of storytelling. Jerry was a raconteur. He was a storyteller in the tradition of Ireland’s four Nobel Prize winners in Literature (no other country matches that renown: Yeats, Bernard Shaw, Beckett, and Heaney). As a young Corkman in the South, he had worked the country’s forests and sailed its seas. For the last few decades, he had driven its roads professionally. He knew Ireland.
He regaled us with the tales of an Irish upbringing in a tight-knit home of fourteen children raised in a small house in County Cork. Jerry’s chronicles of that upbringing helped pass the time like a breeze across a loch as we drove for a month between landmarks and vistas.
My favorite story was of Jerry one night in a pub as a wild young man who countered a drunkard’s taunt with a barbed retort. Before things fell to fisticuffs, an older, wiser friend drew an agitated Jerry aside, and told him a fishing tale, of his failure time after time, year after year, to catch a wily old trout. He asked Jerry if he knew the reason for the poor luck.
Jerry shook his head. The man said, “It was because he kept his bloody mouth shut!”
As funny as that was, woven into Jerry’s stories was his detailed, intense recollection of the fighting between the North and the Republic in the South: “us and them,” as Jerry put it. The Troubles, the insurrection of the Republicans against the Loyalists in Northern Ireland, have raged over the last half-century. The 1998 Good Friday peace accord is a veneer, and to this day, the wood underneath is gnarled with enmity, distrust, and violence.
Jerry showed us every landmark of insurrection, every mural-splashed wall, every monument to the struggle of his people against the British, who had, in the minds of many, occupied his country for nine hundred years.
I was not prepared for the politics of Ireland, but I did anticipate the vistas, which were breathtaking. There were mountains that tumbled into vast areas of forest and farmland, all of it rolling down to the sea. Grinding down to the West Coast was a moonscape of stone and grass, the Burren Hills, or simply the Burren, a glacier-dump of stone from prehistory, scarring the otherwise fertile fields surrounding it.
Nearby were the coastal crags of the Cliffs of Mohr. But to my surprise, there were beaches, deep stretches of sand scalloped around the edges of the island, and a number of beautiful coves where the cliffs seemed to disintegrate into pebbles and silica that ran to the sea. There were actually bathers in the chilly water, surfers as well … red-haired surfer girls, with freckles.
From the beach, we drove up into the fog and mist hanging on the hills and blowing softly through the glens. It had a spiritual quality and gave me goose bumps. There is much said about “magical, mystical Ireland,” but you don’t feel it until you step out of a fog bank into a still, eerie forest black-green with moss-coated trees, and edge over to a stream white with foam and red with iron from the soil. I didn’t see a banshee or leprechaun, but I felt I was standing on their home turf.
The sense of spirituality extended to the graveyards that dot the landscape like freckles on a lass’s face. The final resting places of these Irish were not foreboding; they were almost welcoming, the stones marking lives spent lovingly and conjuring families richer for them.
There was an old graveyard on the grounds of a beautiful hotel where we stayed outside the town of Kerry. One early evening, I heard the strains of “Amazing Grace.” I looked out the window to find dozens of cars parked on the wide hotel lawn and hundreds of locals gathered in the graveyard for a mass. I later learned that this gathering happened once a year, when the townspeople came to pay their respects to some of the dead who had no one else to mourn them.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The caring of a whole town of people for those they had never known is just one example of Irish warmth and hospitality. One time, we pulled over near a tractor moving bales of hay. Jerry told the young driver that I was taking photos for a book and wanted to shoot him laboring away (he was a college student working the family farm for the summer). He pointed to a hard metal edge in the one-person tractor cab and said “Hop in!” I did, and, scrunched in by the cab door and sitting painfully on the steel support, I spent an hour taking shots of the young man as we drove from field to field.
Another time, I asked Jerry to stop after we overtook a restored 1920 Austin so I could shoot it driving past. A while later we were stopped behind it at a light. I jumped out and ran over to the driver, explaining that I wanted some more photos of his gorgeous two-seater convertible. He said, “Hop in!” I did, and we drove ten miles together to an antique car show in Galway town for a grand afternoon.
Several days later, we stopped in the rain at a peat bog to watch a man gather wet pieces of peat to dry for winter fires. He said burning dried peat to heat his house cost him only about $250 a year. When I told him I wanted some photos, he pointed to his tractor, got in the front seat, and said “Hop on!”
This hopping thing was now wearing thin as I tried to balance on the back of the open bin behind the tractor, one hand on a wet and slippery roll bar and the other snapping images with a heavy, rain-slickered camera as we bounced along, tracking though the wet mud of the ancient bog.
While we’re talking of peat, I visited the Fields of Ceide, essentially acres of rolling peat bog, where archeologists have found ruins going back thousands of years to the original immigrants. Thousands of years before that, glacial ice melted to create lakes into which standing vegetation fell and settled to the bottom. Over millenia, the compressed organic matter displaced the water and, with the growth of sphagnum moss, formed a peat bog.
The smell of burning peat is unique, by the way—intense and musty. It’s a pleasurable aroma, much earthier than the smell of a wood fire. Even the ancient Irish were aware of the value of peat, and the archeological digs show a history of its use even earlier than the Viking invasions of the 900s (the source of the red hair and the blue-eye genes, and maybe the freckles).
There’s a sad side to Ireland. The country is pockmarked with the homes of people who suffered through the Potato Famine of the mid-nineteenth century. Potatoes and a little buttermilk for protein had kept the poor alive to till the land. But in 1845, when a blight killed the potato crop, Irish families died—a million people. Another million scraped money together for sea passage abroad. They were the lucky ones. Both the living and the dead left their homes behind.
These houses stand to this day. The roofs are gone now—just the skeletons of the walls remain. These so-called “famine cottages” are the only visual testament to the near death of an entire nation. The Irish have preserved them, perhaps as reminders of their dependence on the land, perhaps to remember their loved ones who passed, or who fled death for life in lands far away.
Don’t go to Ireland with preconceptions. Keep an open mind. Beyond the green land and the auburn hair, there is a rich history dating back nine thousand years, including the influences of invasions by just about every nation in Northern Europe. But the Irish have survived as a people, with the genetics of hope, the scent of peat in the air, and the richness of tale-telling.
Yes, Ireland’s writers helped their people survive. Though this book project started with photographs, it grew to include the literature that chronicled the country’s history and the writers who were inspired by the places pictured here. Read Daniel O’Connell’s embrace of his homeland next to a country landscape; Pat Boran’s ode to man’s best friend, adjoining (what else?) two Irish setters; Samual Beckett’s terse epitaph bordering a graveyard he could be describing. The combination of the visual and the word will draw out your emotions as quickly as any moving picture.
Speaking of moving pictures, there’s a line in a movie about the Troubles, where an Irish-American asks an IRA man visiting the U.S. how he could have gotten involved in the mayhem and bloodshed of the conflict. He replies, “It’s an Irish thing.”
Ireland, the entire country, is an Irish thing, a unique realm of landscape, culture, and politics. Only by being there, even for just a while, will you be able to understand and revel in the country and its people.
2. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
He looked northward towards Howth. The sea had fallen below the line of seawrack on the shallow side of the breakwater and already the tide was running out fast along the foreshore. Already one long oval bank of sand lay warm and dry amid the wavelets. Here and there warm isles of sand gleamed above the shallow tide: and about the isles and around the long bank and amid the shallow currents of the beach were lightclad figures, wading and delving.
In a few moments he was barefoot, his stockings folded in his pockets and his canvas shoes dangling by their knotted laces over his shoulders: and, picking a pointed salteaten stick out of the jetsam among the rocks, he clambered down the slope of the breakwater.
There was a long rivulet in the strand: and, as he waded slowly up its course, he wondered at the endless drift of seaweed. Emerald and black and russet and olive, it moved beneath the current, swaying and turning. The water of the rivulet was dark with endless drift and mirrored the highdrifting clouds. The clouds were drifting above him silently and silently the seatangle was drifting below him; and the grey warm air was still: and a new wild life was singing in his veins.
Where was his boyhood now? Where was the soul that had hung back from her destiny, to brood alone upon the shame of her wounds and in her house of squalor and subterfuge to queen it in faded cerements and in wreaths that withered at the touch? Or, where was he?
He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life.
3. The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
4. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Grandma warns me to take the dinner can directly and not be meandering, looking this way and that, kicking canisters and ruining the toes of my shoes. This dinner is hot and that’s the way Bill Galvin wants it.
There’s a lovely smell from the dinner can, boiled bacon and cabbage and two big floury white potatoes. Surely he won’t notice if I try half a potato. He won’t complain to Grandma because he hardly ever talks outside of a snuffle or two.
It’s better if I eat the other half potato so that he won’t be asking why he got a half. I might as well try the bacon and cabbage too and if I eat the other potato he’ll surely think she didn’t send one at all.
The second potato melts in my mouth and I’ll have to try another bit of cabbage, another morsel of bacon. There isn’t much left now and he’ll be very suspicious so I might as well finish off the rest.
What am I going to do now? Grandma will destroy me, Mam will keep me in for a year. Bill Galvin will bury me in lime. I’ll tell him I was attacked by a dog on the Dock Road and he ate the whole dinner and I’m lucky I escaped without being eaten myself.
Oh, is that so? says Bill Galvin. And what’s that bit of cabbage hanging on your gansey? Did the dog lick you wit his cabbagey gob? Go home and tell your grandmother you ate me whole dinner and I’m falling down with the hunger here in this lime kiln.
She’ll kill me.
Tell her don’t kill you till she sends me some class of a dinner and if you don’t go to her now and get me a dinner I’ll kill you and throw your body into the lime there and there won’t be much left for your mother to moan over.
Grandma says, What are you doin’ back with that can? He could bring that back by himself.
He wants more dinner.
What do you mean more dinner? Jesus above, is it a hole he has in his leg?
He’s falling down with the hunger below in the lime kiln.
Is it coddin’ me you are?
He says send him any class of a dinner.
I will not. I sent him his dinner.
He didn’t get it.
He didn’t? Why not?
I ate it.
I was hungry and I tasted it and I couldn’t stop.
Jesus, Mary and holy St. Joseph.
Table of ContentsIreland: In Word and Image
Table of Contents
Introduction by Jay Ben Adlersberg
First Love by Samuel Beckett
The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
A Munster Twilight by Daniel Corkery
Nightfall by Daniel Corkery
The Piper and the Púca by Douglas Hyde
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Dubliners by James Joyce
The Dead by James Joyce
Homes on the Mountain by Benedict Kiely
Marbhan's Hymn of Content by Lady Gregory Augusta
Hurrish by Emily Lawless
On the Empty Shore by Seosamh Mac Grianna
Angela’s Ashes By Frank McCourt
Going Home by Brian Moore
Home Sickness by George Moore
Floodtide by Máirtín Ó Cadhain
A Fanatic Heart by Edna O’Brien
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien
Speech at Tara Daniel O'Connell
Guests of the Nation by Frank O’Connor
The Hawk by Liam O’Flaherty
The Reaping Race by Liam O'Flaherty
The Matter With Ireland by George Bernard Shaw
The Irish Sketchbook by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Tóibín
Beyond the Pale by William Trevor
The Earth-Shapers retold by Ella Young
After the Storm by Eva Gore-Booth
The Little Girl’s Riddle by Eva Gore-Booth
Blessing of the Moon by F. Marian MacNeil
Rocks by Tim Goulding
The Blessing of the Elements by Saint Patrick
The Dance Half Done by May Ann Larkin
The Ram’s Horn by John Hewitt
The Shadow House of Lugh by Anonymous, 8th Century
Windharp by John Montague
Digging by Seamus Heaney
Quote from Edna O’Brien
Fair Hills of Eire by Donnchadh Rua Mac Conmara
I Am of Ireland by Anonymous
Bring Home the Poet by Patrick MacDonough
Prelude by J. M. Synge
The Passing of the Gael by Ethna Carbery
The Song of Wandering Aengus by W.B. Yeats
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats
A Man Is Only As Good… by Pat Boran
Irish Nocturne by C. S. Lewis
Epic by Patrick Kavanagh
Lament of the Irish Emigrant by Helen Selina, Lady Dufferin
Spenser's Ireland by Marianne Moore
The Cow by James Stephens
The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith
The Emigrant's Adieu to Ballyshannon by William Allingham
The Fair Hills of Ireland by Samuel Ferguson
The Giant’s Causeway by William Hamilton Drummond
The Green Glens Of Antrim (song)
The Paps of Dana by James Stephens
Under Ben Bulben by William Butler Yeats
Westland Row by James Stephens
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Beautifully printed and very inspirational for lovers of the Emerald Isle.
W34e are enjoying the pictures of various places in Ireland. It hits a few high spots but does not include many other places that would be of interest to us. The photography is stunning, and very attractive on the large size pages. I am enjoying dipping gradually into the selections of poetry and prose. The book is a good reminder to us of a trip to Ireland in 2010 and of our close friendship with a now deceased friend who was born and raised in Derry.