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648 Billion Sunrises - a geological miscellany of Ireland

fyukir7As the subtitle says, Patrick Roycroft’s ‘Geological Miscellany of Ireland’ is just that, a collection of 18 short essays. They range from a description of the Variscan-age chevron folds in Carboniferous limestones and shales sequences exposed in the coastal cliffs of Loughshinny, North County Dublin, through a discussion of Irish meteorites, to the dearth of Irish dinosaurs and a biographical notice of the Haughton dynasty of Earth scientists. So the book is, to use some geological terminology, a somewhat curious mélange - or olisthostrome - of Irish geology, which appears to have been guided mainly by the author’s personal interests.

Irish born, bred and educated, Patrick Roycroft is a petrologist who did his PhD in University College Dublin (UCD) on the muscovite micas of the Leinster granite. He is currently working on the curation and conservation of UCD’s extensive and historically important mineral collection.

Roycroft sets the geological scene for his collection with a synopsis of Irish geological history from around 1780Ma and the oldest known rocks in the country - the Paleoproterozoic syenitic gneisses of Inishtrahull in County Donegal, described and dated by Stephen Daly and colleagues in 1991 (Journal of the Geological Society of London, 148, 639-42). However, his mineralogical interests tend to dominate and are reflected in a number of the book’s essays, such as ‘the Irish Flag in a Different Light’ – a very brief piece about the association of green chlorite, colourless muscovite and orange-brown biotite in a petrological thin section from the Leinster granite; chapters on Irish gold and other minerals, one on gemstones, etc.

Other geological themes, such as paleontology, only get a bit of a look in here and there with snippets about why there is such a dearth of dinosaur fossils in Ireland;  some exceptionally preserved conchostracans recovered in the late 1990s from a drill-core into Upper Carboniferous strata of Castelcomer and described by Patrick Orr and colleagues (Special Papers in Palaeontology, 1999, 62, 1-68, Paleontological Association).

Many of the pieces have the author’s ‘voice’ clearly coming through the text with interesting stories and historical references. For those interested in Irish geology ‘648 Billion Sunrises’ will be a most enjoyable source of information and geological anecdotes – indeed ‘A Geological Miscellany of Ireland’.

Reviewed by Douglas Palmer

648 BILLION SUNRISES: A GEOLOGICAL MISCELLANY OF IRELAND by PATRICK ROYCROFT 2015. Published by Orpen Press, Dublin, Ireland. ISBN-10: 1909895687 hardback; ISBN-13: 978-1909895683 softback. 194pp. List price €16.99