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The Seals and the Curragh is Lockley's account of that idyll. And though the curragh gets major billing in the title, it plays a minor role in the book, which concentrates more on the seals, on conservation, and on Lockley's charming relationship with Tessa, a 13-year-old girl, a refugee from London who lived in the home of a local Welsh farmer and who brought Lockley milk, helped him in his studies, and kept him company at his secluded campsite. This was a time when a man's intentions toward minors were assumed to be honorable (or, at least, those of men of a certain class), and Lockley's description of his innocent relationship with Tessa recalls what seems now a time of great naivete and purity (strange, that, during the most destructive war in history, describing a relationship between an injured soldier and a girl who had lost her mother to a German bomb and whose soldier father was presumed dead in Singapore).
So the curragh gets fairly short shrift, overshadowed by the seals, Tessa, and Lockley's progressive concern for the natural environmental. We are, however, treated to the following:
Giddy -- that's how the Irish describe a curragh in one natural word of caution; but it gave you a marvellous feeling to watch a Dingle or Blasket man handle one. Like a fleet-toed dancer the curragh skimmed over the white breaking currents, a living bird of the waves, safe in the skilled hands of the men of the Irish south-west.
The Welsh fishermen had gasped at her long length of twenty-five feet and narrow beam of four feet with horror. Nor had these men of the grey coast appreciated the smiling eye and shark teeth which I had painted each side of the bow, in the Iberian fashion, to give life to the black tarred hull. It was the evil eye to them; they were afraid of that which they could not understand.
|Lockley's extraordinarily painted curragh running before the wind. The lightweight boat appears to be on plane.
|Lockley and Tessa voyaging to a small island near the seal nursery to check on Lockley's sheep. Illustration by Lockley.