Diarmaid Ferriter: Tim Robinson long understood what crisis has taught us

Writer’s connection to islands around us an example of artistic wisdom society has undervalued

The late Tim Robinson photographed near Roundstone in Connemara. Robinson ‘became a victim of Covid-19 at the very time when the Covid crisis emphatically underlined the importance of his work and mission’. Photograph: Brian Farrell

The late Tim Robinson photographed near Roundstone in Connemara. Robinson ‘became a victim of Covid-19 at the very time when the Covid crisis emphatically underlined the importance of his work and mission’. Photograph: Brian Farrell

It seems cruelly ironic that the late Tim Robinson became a victim of Covid-19 at the very time when the Covid crisis emphatically underlined the importance of his work and mission. When Yorkshire-born Robinson moved to the Aran Islands in 1972, his original aim was to write a novel and in that first winter “what captivated me was the immensities in which this little place is wrapped”. It was not enough, however, to fill a “diary of intoxication” with Aran. He yearned for a way to contribute to the island and so began work on a map of it at the suggestion of the island postmistress to assist tourists visiting a simple bare place but with richness attached to even “the tiniest fragment of reality”.

We’ve become much more aware of the immensities of little places and the tiniest fragments in recent weeks; partly because we have no choice but also because we have more time to look so closely at what is beside us. We are all islanders for a while and, interestingly, Robinson found something “compulsive in one’s relationship to an island ... it is as if the surrounding ocean like a magnifying glass directs an intensified vision on to the narrow field of view. A little piece is cut out of the world, marked off in fact by its richness in significance.”

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