If Maps Could Speak

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If Maps Could Speak

Author: Richard Kirwan

Publication Date: October 2010

ISBN: 978-1-907535-09-3

Category: Memoir/History

Type: Paperback

Price: €16.99

If Maps Could Speak is an engaging combination of memoir, history and stories about people and places. Richard Kirwan, a former Director of Ordnance Survey Ireland, takes the reader behind the scenes into the minds and work of the early map-makers with accounts of their inventions, adventures, endurance and heroism in pre-Famine Ireland. Their struggles and achievements are counterpointed by the successful efforts of the author and the OS staff to bring the mapping of Ireland up to date with the help of photographic and computer technology in the final decades of the twentieth century.

This is also the story of a boy, brought up in Waterford, who loved the lines and boundaries on maps and got to know his city and its surrounds, its physical characteristics and its people in the company of a loving father and grandfather.

Although Richard Kirwan lost his father when still a young teenager he never lost his affection for the old maps and the people who created them – both map-makers like the first director of Ordnance Survey, the great Thomas Colby, whose achievements are felt throughout the book as a kind of inspiration, and the people of Ireland who gave the maps their placenames, their boundaries and their memories. Throughout If Maps Could Speak, the author writes honestly about his professional and personal struggles and in the final section, ‘The Two Cartographers’, provides a fascinating reflection on the differences between the old kind of map-making and the new, both of which served Ireland well.

‘I would recommend this book, as it is beautifully written, evocative in many places of a bygone era, and with enough personal reminiscences included to hold the attention of readers that might have little or no interest in maps, or map makers.’

Sean Duke, Science Writer, Science Spinning

Click here to read the full review.

‘A beautiful work. Brought back memories of playing in two watch towers, one in Parliament Street and the other in Mendicity Lane as I went to the Manor School.’

Liam Murphy, Arts Critic, the Munster Express

‘…a remarkable book by a man who lived for making maps of Ireland – and almost wrecked himself in the process. Fascinating, lyrical, affecting in its candour, Richard Kirwan’s If Maps Could Speak is a striking testament to a changing Ireland, right up to the Tiger years.’

Michael Viney, ‘Another Life’, The Irish Times

Click here to read the full review.

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