Robert Lloyd Praeger

1865-1953 [vars. R. Lloyd Praeger; R. L. Praeger; fam. ‘Robin’]; b. Holywood, Co. Down; son of Willem Praeger, a Dutch linen-merchant from Hague, and Marie Patterson, dg. of the naturalist Robert Lloyd (1836-1906); influenced by his mother’s family, he participated in natural history explorations around Holywood with his brothers; a sis., Sophia Rosamn, became an artist and children’s writer; visited Cumbria at 14; ed. RBAI and QUB, where he joined the Belfast Naturalists’ Club; gave geographical paper, 1886; civil engineer with Belfast City Water Commission, engaged on harbour and supply works, 1886-92, including the and the construction of Victoria Dock which furnished the most complete sections of the local estuarine clay series; listed 186 species of molluscs, foraminifera, and other remains, with drawings, 1887; went on to list 291 marine shells, 1889;
applied unsuccessfully for post of Zoological asst. at National Botanical Gardens; MRIA, 1891; accepted post at National Library (Dublin), 1893; elected mbr. RIA, 1894; issued Irish Topographical Botany (1901); m. Hedwig [d.1952], 1902; appt. librarian of RIA, 1903; co-fnd. and ed. Irish Naturalist ; NLI 1893-1920; conducted first Clare Island survey, 1911-15; Chief Librarian of National Library, Dublin, 1920-1923, availing of the terms of the Treaty, retiring on full pension and thereafter interesting himself in the RIA; set out for Canary Islands to study Sempervivum genus; twice president Dublin Field Club; Gold Medal of Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland 1940; Pres. 1949-50; Associate Member of Linnean Society; fnd.-mb. Geographical Soc. of Ireland, first pres. 1937; sec. and president of Royal Zoological Soc; RIA President, 1931-34; fndr. and first president of An Taisce, 1948; hon. life member Botanical Soc. of the British Isles, 1951;
with R. A. S. MacAlisair, investigated passages graves at Carrowkeel, Co. Sligo; his two major surveys on Sedum and Sempervivum published by Royal Horticultural Society; works incl. Topographical Botany (1901); Tourist’s Flora of the West of Ireland (1909); The Botanist in Ireland (1934) A Populous Solitude (1941); The Way I Went (1947); Some Irish Naturalists (1949); The Natural History of Ireland (1950); travelled in the Balkans; increasingly deaf in later years; long resided with his wife at Zion Road, Rathgar (Dublin), where they kept a remarkable garden with some 2,000 species; later moved to a flat on Fitzwilliam Sq., 1920, before moving on death of his wife to the home of his sister Sophia Rosamund, at Craigavad, Co. Down, 1952; d. 5 May; bur. Dean’s Grange, with his wife; described partitioned Six Counties as ‘a mutilated area’; there is a 1931 portrait in oil by Sarah Harrison in the Ulster Museum. DIB DIW DIH DUB OCIL

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  • The Way that I Went [1st edn.] (Dublin: Hodges Figgis; London: Methuen 1947), 417pp. [see details].
  • ed., with W. R. Megaw, Flora of North-East Ireland, by Samuel Alexander Stewart, FBSE, and Thomas Hughes Corry, MA, FLS [2nd edn.], including Flowering Plants, Vascular Cyptogram, and Charophytes by Robert Lloyd Praeger, DSc., and Mosses and Liverworts by William Rutledge Megaw, BA (Belfast: Quota Press 1938), lix+472pp., hb.
  • A Populous Solitude (Dublin: Hodges & Figgis 1941), 272pp. [see details].
  • Irish Landscape: Cnéithe na hEireann Chomhar Cultúra Éireann [Cultural Relations Comm] (Dublin: Colm Ó Lochlainn/Three Candles Press 1953), 42pp. [cover design Patrick Scott]; another edn. (Cork: Mercier 1961; rep. 1972), 41pp. [25p.] - see extracts.

Bibliographical details
The Way that I Went: An Irishman in Ireland [1st edn.] (Dublin: Hodges Figgis; London: Methuen 1947), 417pp.; further edns. incl. Do . facs. rep. [reduced] (Dublin: (Dublin: Allen Figgis [riverrun] 1969); Michael Viney, intro., Do. (London: Collins; Dufour Edns. 1998), 432pp.; intro. Michael Viney (Cork: Collins Press 2001; 2008), 464pp. [See Contents & Extracts, infra.]

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A Populous Solitude (Dublin: Hodges & Figgis 1941), 272pp., 9 ills; [epigram from Byron’s “Childe Harold”: ‘populous solitude of bees and birds and variformed many-coloured things’]; Chap. 5: ‘Dr. Boate and Dr. Barton’, pp.112-38, refers to Boate’s comments on petrifying properties of waters of Lough Neagh, elaborated in Dr. Barton’s lecture of 1751; also cites Walter Harris’s trans. of Roderick O’Flaherty’s Ogygia making reference to same; includes a notice of William Hamilton of ‘palaeosophy’ fame, pp.133-38.

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R. L . Praeger, The Way that I Went: An Irishman in Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co./London: Methuen 1947), 416pp.
Epigraph from Shelley; Preface cites at head James Thomson’s verses, “… Thank God for Life!” [v].
I. Ireland [1]
Introductory: Position; Surface; Climate; Rivers; Woods. Autobiographical:; The Field Clubs; Queen’s College; Irish Topographical Botany; Amenities of Field Botany. Things endemic in Ireland; Gold Lunulae; Round Towers; Noddies and Jingles; Outside Cars and Bianconis; the Orange Drum.
II. Donegal  
Ancient Crumplings; Resistant Quartzite. Inishowen; Wealth of Early Christian Remains; The Grianan of Aileach; The Picture Rock. “Inis”. Mulroy Bay; Sheep Haven; Errigal and Muckish; Horn Head; Tory; A Night at Sea; Arranmore. “Sport”. Portnoo; The Nameless Doon; Slieve League; Glencolumkille; Killybegs to Rockall; Rockall again. Donegal town; The Annals of the Four Mastas; Lough Eask; Croaghgorm. Lough Derg; St. Patrick’s Purgatory; Bundoran; The Erne gorge. H. C. Hart.
III. The Volcanic North
Eruptions of Eocene times and their results. “Ireland”and “Eire”. Londonderry; The Gold Ornaments Trial; Benevenagh and Magilligan; The Sperrins. The old Chalk Land; Early days at Castlerock ; Portrush; The Great Neptunist-Vulcanist Controversy. The Antrim Coast; Raised Beaches and Neolithic Man; Rathlin; the Eruption of Knocklayd. Belfast; John Templeton; William Thompson; S. A. Stewart. Lough Neagh.
IV. Mid-Ulster
Tyrone; Knockmany. Fermanagh; River Erne; Upper Lough Erne; Enniskillen; Lower Lough Erne; White Island; Poulaphuca and the Shean area. Lough Melvin. The Marble Arch Caves.
V. The Silurian Region (Down, Armagh, Louth, Monaghan, Cavan) [118]
The Silurian wedge. The Down Dialect. Bangor Monastery and the Antiphonary. Scrabo; Nendrum; Sir Hans Sloane; Birds of Strangford. St. Patrick’s Country; Downpatrick; Ardglass; Dundrum. The Mourne Mountains. Louth; CarEngford. The Black Pig’s Dyke. Armagh; Emania. Monaghan. Cavan; The Shannon Pot.
VI. The Limestone Plateau (Leitrim and Sligo) [142]
Slieveanieran; Mining in Ireland. Boyle and Lough Key. Carrowkeel; Bronze Age Cairns. Keshcorran and its Bear Dens. The Ox Mountains; Collooney Pass; Knocknarea; Carrowmore; Sligo; Lough Gill; Ben Bulben Plateau; Land-slips and Alpine Plants. Inishmurray.
VII. Connemara and the Hills Of Mayo [157]
That final “o”. Curraghs. The Basking Shark. Beans from the West Indies. Armada Wrecks; Captain Cuellar’s Adventures; Don Marcos de Aramburu’s Escape. Hy Brasil. St. Patrick and the Fweecawn. Connemara; Roundstone. The Secrets of the Bogs. Dog’s Bay; Its Foraminifera and Kitchen-middens. Rare Plants. Clifden and its “Coral” Strands. Hydrilla. The Twelve Bens. Connemara Marble. Killary Fiord; Mweelrea. Croaghpatrick. Banishing the Reptiles; What about the Frog?; Irish Pests. Clare Island; Inishturk; Inishbofin; Achill past and present. Sailing and Swimming. Ducks and Goats. Erris; The Golden Eagle; Ravens; Peregrine Falcons; Choughs; The Red-necked Phalarope. Erris; Nephinbeg; Loughs Comn, Carra, Mask, Corrib.
VIII. The Land of Naked Limestone (Clare, East Galway, East Mayo) [223]
Cong; The Monasteries of Ross and Clare; Galway; Tuam; Knockma; Galway. The Aran Islands; Dun Ængus. The Turlough Region; Flora of the Turloughs. Burren; Problem of the Burren Flora. The Clare Coast. The Shannon Estuary; Scattery Island.
IX. In the Central Plain (North Tipperary, Leix, Offaly, Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon) [244]

History of the Bogs. The Killaloe Rune. The Puzzle of the Shannon Valley. Lough Derg; Iniscaltra; Slieve Bloom; Clonmacnois; The Clonfinlough Stone. Westmeath Lakes; The Hill of Usnagh ; Puzzling Monuments; Crannogs. Lough Ree. Clonfert. Athlone.

X. The Region Of The Pale (Dublin, Kildare, Meath) [261]
Dublin: Name; A City of Duplications; The Wagtail Roost; City Ferns; The North Bull; Shells upon the Moumtain-tops; Maxwell Close; Glacial Geology; Ballybetagh and the “Irish Elk”. Howth. Lambay and the Barings. Nathaniel Colgan. The History of the Shamrock. Caleb Threlkeld and his Synopsis Stirpium . Kildare; Killeen Cormac; Ogham Inscriptions. The Boyne; New Grange ; Tara.
XI. The Wicklow Highlands [299]
Geological History; Slate and Granite; Dry Gaps and Glacial Lakes ; Wicklow Gold; Ireland’s Mineral Wealth. Gold Ornaments; Recent Finds. The Flora. Glendalough. Mountams and Lakes. R. M. Barrington.
XII. The South-East (Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow, South, Tipperary, Waterford) [312]
The River System and its History. Kiltorcan and its Ancient Plants. Wexford; the dialect of Forth; Lonely Shores; The Saltees; Birds by the Million. Early Rising; A Canary Island Sunrise. R. J. Ussher. Waterford. The Barrow. Kilkenny; The Cave of Dunmore. Jerpoint Abbey; Cashel; Holycross. The Comeraghs; The Galtees; Knockmealdown. Mitchelstown Cave; Bone Caves. The Waterford Coast; The Great Auk. Luminous Owls.
XIII. From Cork to Limerick [356]
Incoming of the Kerry Flora. The Lee; Gouganebarra, Lough Allua, The Gearagh. Cork and its River-valleys. The Cork Coast. Deep-sea Dredging; W. S. Green; Life in the Sea. The Blackwater. Rook versus Starling. Lough Gur. Adare. Limerick. The Shannon Estuary; Askeaton.
XIV. The Kerry Highlands (Kerry and West Cork) [373]
The Armorican Folding and its Results. Climate; 141 Inches of Rain! West Cork; Lough Ine and its Deep-sea Fauna. Glengarriff; Kenmare. The Flora of the South-west; Giant Butterwort. “Beautifying the Country-side”. The Carrabuncle. Kerry in Spring. Killarney; pros and cons; The Lakes; The Reeks. Staigue Fort. North Kerry; Bog-flows; Tralee; The Dingle Penmsula; Brandon; The Prehistoric City of Dunmore; The Blaskets; The Skelligs.
  Explanatory Note on Geological Terms

Some extracts
‘If we imagine Ireland as it was until some couple of thousand years ago, before drainage and peat-cutting had affected the surface, we get a striking picture. The central part in particular was little more than an archipelago—ridges and knolls of firm ground set in a sea of shallow lakes, deep swamps, and wide peat-bogs. Traffic within this region must have been much constricted, and no doubt the frequent coincidence of esker-ridges with present-day roads gives a hint of past conditions.’ (p.5.)

‘[Within the] period of deposition of our peat-bogs drier spells permitted of the growth over immefise areas of the Scotch Fir, and that the slightly warmer climate that prevailed during-Neolithic times allowed such forests to spread even to the exposed islands of the west coast. By the way, Caleb Threlkeld in his Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum, 1727 [see p.269] puts forward a theory of the presence of these now buried pine-forests which has at least the charm of novelty: “But whether the Firr-wood taken out of Mosses or Bogges, which being split into small Sticks do burn like a Torch, or Link, be of this Tree [Scotch Fir] or the Abies mas in Irish Crann Giumnais, planted by the Danes and after their expulsion cut down, and left to be burryed in the Earth by the Natives to extinguish the Badges of their Servitude, is not to be determined by me”.’ (p.6.)

‘[Counts the Ulster Drum as being] among others things, an emblem of an ineradicable characteristic of Irish people - that of looking backward rather than forward. We can never let the dead past bury its dead. Fin M’Coul and Brian Boru are still with us; and I should not blame the friendly Saxon who carries away with him the impression that Catholic emancipation happened yesterday, that the Battle of the Boyne was fought last Thursday week, and that Cromwell trampled and slaughtered in Ireland towards the latter end of the preceeding month.’ (p.22.)

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  • Sally Montgomery, Robert Lloyd Praeger 1865-1953 [Primary Science, Irish scientists and inventors] (Belfast: Blackstaff Press) 1995), 24pp.
  • Seán Lysaght, Robert Lloyd Praeger and the Culture of Science in Ireland, 1865-1953: The Life of a Naturalist (Dublin: Four Courts Press 1998) 256pp. [var. 1999, 204pp.].
  • Michael D. Guiry, ‘No Stone Unturned: Robert Lloyd Praeger and the Major Surveys’, in Nature in Ireland: A Scientific and Cultural History, ed. John Wilson Foster & Helena C. G. Chesney (Dublin: Lilliput 1997), pp.299-307.

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Seamus Heaney, ‘the Sense of Place’ [lecture of 1977] , in Preoccupations (London: Faber & Faber 1980), remarks of Praeger’s account of Co. Tyrone that ‘his sense of the place is, on the whole, that it is no place’, quoting: “Now that I wish to write about it, I find it is a curiously negative tract, with a paucity of outstanding features when its size and variety of surface are considered [… &c.] A minor excitement excitement is caused by the occurrence in this neighbourhood of a small coal-field, but the strata have been so much disturbed by earth-movements that the seams are broken up by faulting, tending to make mining difficulty and expensive.’ (no source; here p.144.) [Cont.]

Seamus Heaney (‘The Sense of Place’, in Preoccupations, 1980), cont. - ‘Heaney comments: ‘This is also a subjective reaction, of course: who is to say objectively that Tyrone is a “curiously negative tract” and that the Sperrins are “the least inspiring of the Irish mountains”? Who (except someone with an incurable taste for punning) will [144] agree that a small coal-field constitutes “a minor excitement”? The clue to Praeger’s sense of place comes a couple of paragraphs later when he moves into Fermanagh and declares it “more picturesque and from many points of view more interesting”. His point of view is visual, geological, not like Kavanagh’s, emotional and definitive. The Tyrone landscape, for him, is not hallowed by associations that come from growing up and thinking oneself back into the place. The eye is regulated by laws of aesthetics and the disciplines of physical geography, and not, to borrow a phrase from Wordsworth, by the primary laws of our nature, the laws of feeling. [… &c.] (pp.144-45).

John Metcalf, ‘North Down’s Literary Associations’, Fortnight Review (Sept. 1993) [Supplement]: ‘Praeger took fond accounts of Irish landscape, flora and fauna into the realm of literary merit.[ top ]

G. V. Whelan, reviewing Collins rep. of The Way that I Went (1998), recites account of a symposium on bogs ‘held in the middle of one of the wettest of them’, where they participants stood in a ring until ‘under the unusal superincumbent weight, whether of mere flesh and bone or of intellect, the floating surface of the bog slowly sank till we were all half-way up to our knees in water’ (n.p.; Books Ireland, Nov. 1998, p.302.)

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Irish Landscape: Cnéithe na hEireann [Chomhar Cultúra Éireann / Cultural Relations Comm.] (Cork: Mercier 1961; rep. 1972), 41pp. ‘As to its actual frontiers, the turbulent ocean on the one side and the less formidable Irish Sea on the other provide around their margin an inexhaustible variety of no-man’s-land where the waves have eaten into the rocks, forming dark cliffs or sandy bays, also the less conspicuous reverse condition where the sea has been forced back owing to a rising of the coast, resulting in new land planed smooth by the former action of the defeated ocean, and now carrying a population of land animals and land plants. Inside the shifting coast-line lies the main mass of our island. Though the surface of Ireland is on the whole smooth, it has passed during its history through great and long-continued periods of stress, when gigantic internal forces have here and there crumpled the surface into ridges and hollows, producing the delightful variety of form which we call scenery. Streams have deepened their courses, carving out valleys, sometimes wide and fertile, sometimes narrow and gorge-like. In a rainy country like Ireland, all hollows, large or small, are filled with water, so that Ireland is indeed a land of lakes. The central parts have for a long time suffered little from large earth movements, so that much of the surface forms a great plain of limestone still retaining much of the horizontality which characterised the muds as which it was originally laid down under the ocean. At present raised some few hundreds of feet above the level of the sea, it forms a land surface much older than that of most countries of Europe. And a further point - the decayed rocks, mixed with the remains of thousands of years of grassy vegetation, have produced a soil singularly suitable for the food of grazing animals. So Ireland is and [6] has been since man and his flocks first arrived, preeminently a cattle country. That is its destiny, and in the absence of extensive mineral deposits, so it will remain. That is its doom and pride. And though our carpet of luscious grass over limestone may not tend to produce for mankind the worldly wealth that would come from beds of coal or iron below the surface, who would not prefer the lovely verdant undisturbed countryside with its refreshing greenness, starry wildflowers, limpid brooks, health-giving atmosphere and golden crops to the slag-heaps and spoil-banks, factories and slums, which are the usual accompaniment of more wealth-producing conditions?’ [Cont.]

Irish Landscape: Cnéithe na hEireann (1972) - cont. ‘Ireland is essentially an agricultural country, with plenty of open space and little hurry or overcrowing; that is the main reason for its being so pleasant a refuge for those who seek rest after toil. The pity is that such conditions are, in the nature of things and the worship of “progress,” ephemeral. We realise this by looking backward, not by looking forward. The urge for “improvement” goes on incessantly. “The old order changeth, giving place to the new,” even when the old was better in a hundred ways. I confess that, in order to envisage the Ireland of my best years, I throw my mind back for half a century. There were many “disadvantages” - few bicycles, no motor-cars on the roads, no domestic electricity, no tarmac, no jazz (or worse), but there was less rush, time to think about things, and time to hold communion with nature, which is much the same as communion with God. But I believe that life on the present-day city model - incessant hurry, incessant noise and glare and excitement, and especially the deplorable craze for ugliness which is rapidly on the increase, carries within itself the germs of failure and disillusion; and that a return to simplicity and a [7] less fervid existence will include a wider appreciation of nature and natural things.’ (pp.7-8.) (Cont.)

Irish Landscape: Cnéithe na hEireann (1972) - cont. ‘The Limestone Plain of Central Ireland, the [8] dominant physical feature of the country, is covered in the main with either grass or bog. Peat-bog is a very characteristic feature of Ireland and the Irish landscape, about one-seventh of the whole surface of the country being covered by this strange vegetable blanket. Out in the Central Plain the wide treeless purplish flat or convex surfaces of the bogs give a quite unusual aspect to the wider areas. This spreading peat is a very recent happening from the geological point of view. Our great bogs are only a few thousand years old, the operating conditions being the oncoming of a wet coldish climate subsequent to the Ice Age. In many areas the growth of peat has now lessened or ceased. The bacteria which cause the decay of vegetable matter lost their vigour under the wet cold conditions, and in consequence decay lessened, acidity increased, and accumulation of dead plants resulted, until up to forty or fifty feet of peat may remain, useless except for fuel (when dried). The surface layers of the bogs are generally so acid that a specialised dwarf vegetation has occupied the ground, of which the chief ingredient is the common ling, accompanied, on account of the scarcity of food, by some interesting insect-eating plants and others. At present the cutting of peat for the production of electric energy in particular is increasing greatly, and unless new sources of heating are discovered - as no doubt they will be - the problem of heat-supply in this rainy country will one day become acute.’ (pp.8-9.) (Cont.)

Irish Landscape: Cnéithe na hEireann (1972) - cont. ‘To go from the gigantic to the small. I never heard an explanation of the massive gate-pillars, built of stone and mortar, round, with conical shaped tops, and mostly white-washed, that one finds in many parts of Ireland - five or six feet high, quite imposing objects, and yet erected for quite trivial use - merely to hang a light iron gate on. They seem a waste of time and labour as compared with the simpler obstacle they often replace - an old cart wheel, or a furze bush, or the end of an old iron bedstead, or the ruins of a bicycle. But no doubt there is a philosophical explanation. (To keep the pigs in or out - you facetiously suggest.) Are they the descendants of some prehistoric type, or do they merely represent a way of getting rid of superfluous field-stones? Or are they degenerate forms of the Irish round tower motif, which they much resemble? But a tour in Ireland soon convinces you that the pig, far from being a universal animal there, is by no means so. The white-faced bullock is the Irish agricultural animal par excellence, and should figure on the Irish coat-of-arms, if any animal be so honoured, the harp, once favoured, is extinct as a national instrument, but exists still as an emblem, like the unicorn on the English arms.’ (p.16.). The text includes a Hiberno-English narrative of a crippled woman who is sent by a wise man to Lough Nahanagan, Co. Wicklow, where her fright at encountering the water-horse monster of the lake sends her scarpering back to him in Co. Down, after which her legs are straight and good. (pp.20-22.)

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Belfast Central Public Library holds Beyond Soundings (1930); The Botanist in Ireland (1934); Irish Landscape (1953); Marine Shells of the N. of Ireland (1889); Natural History of Ireland ... (1950); Official Guide to Co. Down and the Mourne Mts. (1900, 1924); Old Fashioned Verses and Sketches (1947); A Populous Solitude (1941); ... Investigation of Gravel Beds ... (1890); Some Irish Naturalists (Dubdalk 1949); A Tourist’s Flora of the West of Ireland (1909); The Way that I Went (1947); Weeds, Simple Lessons for Children (1913). University of Ulster Library (Morris Collection) holds Official Guide to Co. Down and the Mourne Mts (1898).

Hyland Books (Cat. 224; Dec. 1996) lists John O’Mahony, The Sunny Side of Ireland (rev. 2nd ed. 1902), with Praeger’s chapter on Natural History, maps, ills. [Hyland 214]; Official Guide to Co. Down and the Mourne Mountains (1st end. 1898), xv+232+(24)pp., maps and ills.; Do., rev. edn. 1900 [Hyland 219, Oct. 1995]. Tourist’s Flora of the West of Ireland (1909), 5 folding maps, 27 photos; 17 text ills.

Emerald Isle Books (Cat. 95) lists Praeger with G A. J. Cole, Handbook to the City of Dublin and the surrounding District (Dublin UP 1908), 441pp., maps, ill.

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William Emlius Praeger - see more under William Patterson, [q.v.]; see also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 6, for contemp. reviews of his books.

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