Chris McCully


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Proofing Names

Thursday, 14 July 2022 at 20:32

Names of the Fish entry for dace The page proofs of Names of the Fish arrived last week together with a list of editorial queries, so I've spent the past few days attending to both the queries and the proofs, giving the whole text an intensive re-reading as I've been working. The job was completed this morning and I don't think it will be long before the text appears on sale. Jon and Rosie at Medlar have done a most wonderful job of setting up the work and (not least) illustrating it so well and so appropriately. I hope readers - yea, even those multitudes yet unborn - will enjoy it and that the text will form a modest contribution to our contextual and cultural knowledge of freshwater fish.

Names of the Fish in British and Irish Freshwaters may (eventually) be ordered from the Medlar Press, see


Tuesday, 5 July 2022 at 19:48

Cranesbill and a bee The cranesbill is an unassuming geranium with strikingly coloured, nectar-rich flowers. The plant has long carpels and it's from this that the plant gets its name. The OED states that cranesbill (or crane's-bill) was a translation by C16th herbalists of Dutch craenhals ('crane-neck') - again referring to the long carpels within the flower. The -bill of cranesbill is related to the bill or beak of birds, especially (continues the OED) when the bill is slender or weak.

The Dales rivers are fining down from a small lift of water last weekend. The trout are resuming typical summer positions, tucked under bankside trees and lying in places tricky for a fly angler to reach. Still, with ingenuity and a touch of luck it can be done. During a truncated day I caught four, killing a brace of stocked fish and releasing two wild ones. One of the trout I spooned had been eating smallish brown beetles.

Poppy, meadowsweet and trout (1)

Friday, 1 July 2022 at 08:57

Meadowsweet The etymology of meadowsweet is splendid - it's not meadow+sweet, as in a plant which gladdens the eye when one looks at a meadow, but mead+sweetener: parts of the plant were used in sweetening mead (the drink). Grigson provides an etymology in Old English medo-wyrt ('mead+root'), which gives a mediating form 'mead+wort'. All the same, because the plant does strike the onlooker with its creamy freshness I prefer the metaphorical appropriacy of meadowsweet to meadwort.

  Poppies and meadowsweet, and summer in full flight and fancy. Yesterday there was also a small rise in water level. The trout responded sporadically and we released a brace and a half in the afternoon, the best of them two wild fish of around 12 inches. I was pleased to see them: wild trout of that size have been relatively absent from my own catches this season so far.

Poppy, meadowsweet and trout (2)

Friday, 1 July 2022 at 08:48

Field poppy The time of poppy and meadowsweet and (on any summer lift of water) of occasional trout coming to hand. House martins were looking after their nest in the rafters of the hut; the dale looked rain-freshened. In the fells there were cloudbursts which caused a short-lived lift of water in the afternoon.
     The poppy's been named and used for centuries. Every part of the plant is toxic; it's the pods, crushed and distilled into opium, which are used medicinally. The plant's also been employed as a symbol for love, loss, death and remembrance. The English etymology goes back to Old English popig, earlier popaeg, from a Low Latin form papavum, from a Classical Latin form papaver, which in turn was borrowed from Sumerian (according to Grigson). The diachronic depth of the etymology attests the practical and symbolic importance of the plant.

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