Robin Crawford has been a bookseller, manager, and cluster leader with Waterstones in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and now Dundee for twenty five years. As a writer he is interested in Scottish and North Atlantic European culture. Trained as a sculptor, he has lectured at Edinburgh University and given lunchtime talks at the National Galleries of Scotland. When not squelching through bogs or drinking over-brewed tea in island croft kitchens he likes to read, garden and post quirkily on his blog www.robinacrawford.com He lives in Fife with his wife who grew up on the peat rich island of Lewis, and also works in the book trade. His cottage has gas central heating; gas hob, electric oven; a wood burning stove; and in his living room fire burns a mixture of coal and peat.
Their surface is a glorious tweed woven from tiny, living sphagnums rich in wildlife, but underneath is layer upon layer of dead mosses transforming into the peat.
One can, with care, walk out onto them, but stop and you begin to sink into them.
For time immemorial the peatlands have been places – for humans at least – of seasonal habitation but not of constant residence. In this book Robin A. Crawford explores the peatlands over the course of the year, explaining how they have come to be and examining how peat has been used from the Bronze Age onwards.
In describing the seasonal processes of cutting, drying, stacking, storing and burning he reveals one of the key rhythms of island life, but his study goes well beyond this to include many other aspects, including the wildlife and folklore associated with these lonely, watery places. Widening his gaze to other peatlands in the country, he also reflects on the historical and cultural importance that peat has played, and continues to play – it is still used for fuel in many rural areas and plays an essential role in whisky-making – in the story of Scotland