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648 Billion Sunrises: A geological Miscellany of Ireland review by George Sevastopulo

* Please note, this review (by George Sevastopulo) was sourced from The Irish Naturalists’ Journal.

I thoroughly enjoyed this eclectic collection of essays that are focused on the rocks, minerals, fossils and geologists of Ireland. Patrick Roycroft’s book would make a splendid Christmas present for someone with a general interest in the Natural History of Ireland.

The book consists of 19 chapters, each devoted to a particular theme, with titles that any subeditor would be proud of: When is a volcano not a volcano? When it’s a sugar-loaf (the origin of the Sugar Loaf, south of Dublin, contra the explanation of school text-books of yore); In awe of aurum: is our ore not our ór? (a discussion of Irish gold, in particular the source of the gold of the remarkable Irish Bronze Age ornaments); and Beach bang begets shock birth (Robert Mallet, the Irish father of seismology).

A substantial part of the book is devoted to minerals: Irish gem and semi-precious stones and minerals with Irish connections (named after Irish locations or people, either nationals or closely associated with Ireland) are described; and each County is ascribed a geological nickname, and a County mineral, rock and fossil. Not everyone will agree with the choice of these. As a devotee of crinoids, I would like to think of Wexford as the crinoid county because of the renowned fossiliferous coast of Hook Head; and surely Meath should be the zinc, rather than the lead county, based on the relative abundance of the two elements in the world-famous zinc-lead deposit at Navan.

I learned a lot of facts (new to me) that one day might be useful for participation in a tablequiz – Roscommon was once a major clay pipe producing county; the discovery of the mineral Taafeite by Count Edward Charles Richard Taafe (a charming story); and the demise of Mr Woods, the proprietor of a rape mill between Birr and Banagher in the nineteenth century, purportedly by a meteorite which crashed through the roof of the mill, blew out all the windows and struck him dead.

There are a few slips of the pen that should be remedied in a future edition: for example Killary Harbour, rather than Killala is renowned as the largest fjord in Ireland. But these are minor blemishes in what is a highly entertaining and accessible collection of geological miscellanea.

George Sevastopulo

Sevastopulo, G.D. (2017) Review of: ‘648 Billion Sunrises: A Geological Miscellany of Ireland’.

Irish Naturalists’ Journal 35: 160-161.

648 Billion Sunrises: A Geological Miscellany of Ireland