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  Dont Die in Autumn

Sometimes good things slip by unnoticed, lost in the hustle andDont Die in Autumn bustle of life. Such a very good thing indeed came to light when I dropped into to see our cheerful librarian Joan recently. Helpful as always, she brought to my attention the wonderful memoir by famous Birdwatcher Eric Dempsy published in 2015. The author is well known in Cape and is a legend in Ornithological circles. Titled Don’t Die in Autumn, The Magic and Madness of a Life for the Birds it’s a very brave leap from the world of ornithology into the mostly personal realm, a well written, easy flowing, poignant at times but a mostly light hearted account of his life and times including of course his many visits to Cape Clear Island. And so, it can be regarded as another worthy addition to the library of books relating to the Island and one which gives an excellent insight into the sub culture of birdwatching. Those lads and lassies in their green jackets and wellies, tramping around the Island in the autumn mostly, mostly soft-spoken, familiar and welcome faces but also a little removed from our normal life, this is the best chance ever to understand what it’s all about including what makes our Island so special.

And much of the book is not about birdwatching at all, rather the story of a person’s life and times. I found it quite uncanny to read his account of the Dublin bombings in 1974 as viewed from the northern outskirts of Dublin. Living as I did at the time in Dún Laoghaire my experience was almost exactly the same. I too recall all the families simultaneously emerging from their houses into their front gardens to wait anxiously to see if their husbands and fathers were coming home that day. And yes, in our case too, our community prayers were answered that day.

So the book has many anecdotes relating to the Island from the 70’s on, to growing up in Ireland of the 60’s and 70’s, to birdwatching and life in general. Described as a ‘joyously honest chronicle’ by Michael Viney, we give it a belated but nevertheless hearty endorsement and recommended it to all who have an interest in Cape Clear Island, its cast of characters and its place in the wider world.

Don’t Die in Autumn by Eric Dempsey was published by Gill & Mc Millan in 2015.

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