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The Rule Of The Land

The Rule Of The Land, February 2017
by Garrett Carr

Faber & Faber
336 pages
ISBN: 0571313353
EAN: 9780571313358
Kindle: B01MAYEFEQ
Hardcover / e-Book
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"Ireland's border is open to visit, with history, legend and friendship"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Rule Of The Land
Garrett Carr

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted June 8, 2017

Non-Fiction History | Non-Fiction

As I enjoy driving and camping around Ireland I was interested to read THE RULE OF THE LAND: WALKING IRELAND'S BORDER.

The island of Ireland was divided in the early twentieth century when the southern part gained independence from Britain, but the largely Protestant population of the northern six counties, Ulster, were assured that they could remain British. Two administrations of course meant an opportunity for smuggling everything from petrol to cattle, because the hastily drawn border crossed farmland, villages, lakes and many roads. Conflict, sadly, scarred the border area until late in the twentieth century. Now, with security posts dismantled, Garret Carr decided to travel the length of the border itself, before the complications caused by Britain's choice to leave the European Union ensued.

Starting at the Irish Sea end of the border, Garret first travelled by canoe on Carlingford Lough. The waves beat against Haulbowline Lighthouse, which has been withstanding them since 1824; I like that we quickly get photos of the structures and beauty spots. The sea lough was named by the Vikings, who called the bay hollowed by glaciers a fiord. Just as in the Percy French song, the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. Two more lighthouses, built to resemble monastic round towers, lead the way along the border, and I enjoy the look Garret gives us at their engineer, Allan MacDonnell, who worked with Alfred Nobel and patented many inventions. Garret's camp is visited by seals and courting couples. Along his journey he learns the names of the wild birds from a handbook; swallows, kingfishers, razorbills, buzzards.

Juxtaposed with the Celtic tales of heroes and warrior queens who rode the borderlands, we get a tragic glance at the waste of the Troubles. This is a complex landscape geographically, volcanic, glaciated, wooded, and full of monuments in stone. The human tales are no less complex and deserving of respect. While driving up and down to the North I notice, as Garret does, the different qualities of tarmac laid by road workers on either side, and the signposts changing from kilometres in Ireland to miles in UK. As he discovers, there is no actual route along this border, just many across it. Maybe in future we will have a route walk, a tourist attraction, retelling the histories and celebrating the ancient monuments. Today, Garret found a paintball centre.

Garret reminds us that the author Colm Toibin walked the border in 1986. Mountains, small fields, hedgerows, dry- stone walls, boglands, lanes and lakes are what both of them found. Ringforts, souterrains, dolmens, crannogs, bog butters, security watchtowers. And a cheerful, indomitable, hospitable people, despite the rain. Come and visit. THE RULE OF THE LAND: WALKING IRELAND'S BORDER is a fascinating, gentle and fun account by Garrett Carr, author of Young Adult adventure books like 'The Badness Of Ballydog', which draw on his Irish setting.

Learn more about The Rule Of The Land


In the wake of the EU referendum, the United Kingdom's border with Ireland has gained greater significance: it is set to become the frontier with the European Union.

Over the past year, Garrett Carr has travelled this border, on foot and by canoe, to uncover a landscape with a troubled past and an uncertain future.

Across this thinly populated line, travelling down hidden pathways and among ancient monuments, Carr encounters a variety of characters who have made this liminal space their home.

He reveals the turbulent history of this landscape and changes the way we look at nationhood, land and power.

The book incorporates Carr's own maps and photographs.

What do you think about this review?


1 comment posted.

Re: Ireland's border is open to visit, with history, legend and friendship

This review gives us the ancient history of the Northern Border and its violent tragedy. I liked knowing why this book caught his attention. Carr also covers the present and projects the future of this tentative border. Knowing that maps and pictures are featured is an anticipating addition
(Mimi Jacoby 12:45pm June 13, 2017)

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