The Dark Stuff: Stories From the Peatlands


by Donald S. Murray

‘Who would have thought that peat could be so enthralling? I loved The Dark Stuff. Full of people and stories and beguiling evocations of the author’s childhood on Lewis, it’s a humane, lyrical but unsentimental paean to the moorlands that for centuries enriched the culture of so many communities and meant everything, quite literally, to life – Sally Magnusson, author of The Sealwoman’s Gift

‘Donald Murray’s unique voice infuses The Dark Stuff like the peat in a fine single malt: earthy, tangy, with a touch of sweetness – and yet packing a real punch. Nature writing at its best’ – Stephen Moss, author of Mrs. Moreau’s Warbler: How Birds Got Their Names

‘Engaging, inquisitive and beautifully articulate’ Roger Hutchinson, author of Calum’s Road, West Highland Free Press

Hardback: 256 pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018

Language: English

Out of stock

Donald S. Murray spent much of his childhood either playing or working on the moor, chasing sheep across empty acres and cutting and gathering peat for fuel.

The Dark Stuff is an examination of how this landscape affected him and others. Donald explores his early life on the Isle of Lewis together with the experiences of those who lived near moors much further afield, from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and even Australia. Examining this environment in all its roles and guises, Donald reflects on the ways that for centuries humans have represented the moor in literature, art and folktale, and he reveals how in some countries, these habitats remain an essential aspect of their industrial heritage and working life today.

On his journey, Donald confronts the unexpected – how Europe’s peatlands are part of the dark heart of that continent, playing a crucial role in the history of crime and punishment in several countries. He also examines our current perception of moorland, asking how for the sake, perhaps, of our planet’s survival – we can learn to love a landscape we have all too often in our history denigrated, feared and despised.

Donald S. Murray comes from Ness at the northern tip of Scotland’s Isle of Lewis and now lives close to ‘the Ness’ at the southern end of Shetland. Donald’s prose and poetry is often about islands and the wildlife on and around them. The men who hunt young gannets every year on the island of Sulasgeir, off the north-east coast of Lewis, were the inspiration for his books The Guga Hunters and Praising the Guga. Gannets also feature in his wonderfully eclectic collection The Guga Stone: Lies, Legends and Lunacies of St. Kilda, shortlisted as one of The Guardian‘s Nature Books of 2013.


Additional information

Dimensions 14.2 × 2.6 × 22.3 cm

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