Ordinary daily life and education in Llandudno shortly after the war are set against an extraordinary life lived close to nature in some of the wilder parts of Snowdonia. Continually crossing the border between town and country, a fly-fisherman by the age of ten, McNeillie relives his life in nature during a period of increasing urbanisation.
Once is a beautifully written eulogy for a retreating countryside now valued more for its leisure potential than as a repository of nature and source of human fullfilment. The narrative is underlain by a way of thinking informed by the natural world and by nature poetry, and is an evocative and memorable book about the nature of experience of memory and writing.
Andrew McNeillie was born in north Wales in 1946 and read English at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is the Literature Editor at Oxford University Press; in 2002 he established the Clutag Press to publish poetry. He has published three collections of poetry, Nevermore (2000) which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, Now, Then (2002) and Slower (2006). He also published the memoir An Aran Keening (2001), about his life in Ireland, to which Once is the prequel.