The Lake | BBC Radio 4 23rd January 2009

Friday 23 January, 2009
11.02 – 11.30


The Lake is a hauntingly evocative and unusual soundscape of Britain’s largest lake, and the voices which can be heard above and below its waves.

Lough Neagh in east-central Northern Ireland is not only the largest lough in Ireland but the largest freshwater body in the British Isles. The name “Lough Neagh” means “the lake of the horse-god, Eochu”. He was the lord of the underworld and according to legend is supposed to exist beneath its waters; some say in a village drowned beneath the waves.
Eighteen miles long and eleven miles wide, fed by several rivers and drained to the north by the Lower Bann, the lough is hugely important for wildlife attracting up to 10,000 waterfowl in winter. It has the largest concentration of diving duck in Britain and Ireland, and 6% of the world’s total population of whooper swans visit here in the winter. The Lough Neagh fly (or midge) may be harmless and non-biting, but when the midges swarm together to mate they produce such huge plumes that they have been mistaken for smoke from a burning forest.

Lough Neagh is so vast that it’s more like an inner sea than a lake; its undercurrents can be treacherous and fatal. It’s a wild untamed place with a unique unsettling allure. “At night, Lough Neagh is a broken necklace of lights; and if the necklace was ever made whole, then there would be no wild places left around its shores”.

Drawing on recordings by Tom Lawrence and Chris Watson, The Lake is a powerful sound portrait of the lesser known world of Lough Neagh, with stories about a drowned village, a horse-god, the three sisters, “waterguns”, wildfowl, waders and voices from the deep. Through these stoires and the sounds of the wildlife, wind, waves and water, the Voice of the Lough is revealed.