Thursday, 16 September 2010

It's All Relative

Those of you who've read the book will know that my ancestry is largely comprised of poverty-stricken guttersnipes living in parts of slums that even other slumdwellers would look down their noses at. Both sides of my family have generations' worth of London dockworkers stretching back to the mid-nineteenth century. We were dock labourers, ships' launderers and even hull scrapers. My maritime legacy has always been so far down the hierarchical ladder that it's within hailing distance of Davy Jones's Locker itself.

Until now.

The book gave me a taste for genealogy and since I finished it I've set about trying to complete other branches of the family tree. And yesterday I made a startling discovery. My paternal grandmother's family came from Scotland, the coast of Ayrshire, and I've been tracing them back as far as I can. Now, when I reached my 5xgreat grandfather John Ritchie from Saltcoats, I found that he is responsible for one of the greatest maritime legacies in the world.

In 1791 his brother William Ritchie gave up his little shipyard in Saltcoats and travelled over to Belfast, where he began a shipbuilding business on the banks of the Lagan. It went so startlingly well that his brothers Hugh and John, my ancestor, went over to help run and expand the businesses. Directly as a result of these three men's work, Belfast became one of the world's great shipbuilding powerhouses of the next two centuries.

Their first ship was launched on July 6 1792. It's name? The Hibernia.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Next Handcart Leaving At...

There are occasions living here when I feel as if Father Ted was actually a fly-on-the-wall documentary. They're thankfully rare, but when they come along they are well worth the wait. The last 24 hours has produced two of them, and they are belters.

Conor Lenihan is the Minister for State with special responsibility for Science, Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources. The Science Minister for short. Ol' Sciencey Trousers, if you like. Actually, he's probably not known as Ol' Sciencey Trousers, but you get what I mean.

Either way you can imagine the disbelief in Ireland last night when it emerged that he'd agreed to launch a self-published anti-evolution polemic by a man who says his book is "unceremoniously unashamedly and unmistakably going to expose the fiction of evolution".

So, that's the Irish Minister for Science launching an anti-evolution book. A little bit like the health minister appearing at the launch of The Booze, Fags and Kebabs Diet,or the Sports Minister turning up to endorse Sit On Your Arse All Day And Night, It's Great!

Now, since the story broke to widespread incredulity Mr Lenihan has pulled out of the launch (saying that he'd agreed to go because the author was a personal friend and constituent). Rumours that he will be launching If The Earth's Round How Come Australians Don't Fall Off? and If We're Descended From Monkeys, How Come There Are Still Monkeys? over the next couple of weeks are as yet unconfirmed.

Then this morning the Taoiseach Brian Cowen appeared on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, roughly the Irish equivalent of the Today programme. You can hear the interview here but it's not what he says that has had the nation talking this morning, rather how he says it. At first I just thought it was a case of 'morning voice', but he definitely sounds a little...refreshed.

His party Fianna Fáil are in Galway this week for an annual pow-wow called a 'think-in', where many think that the Taoiseach may have taken the time away from Dublin as a chance to, ah, enjoy himself well into the night. He's since claimed that he was suffering from congestion, leading one leading member of the Irish Twitterati to posit this morning that she's "going out to get absolutely congested tonight".

So, a science minister cavorting with anti-evolutionists and a new euphemism for a night on the sauce. It's been an eventful 24 hours in Hibernia.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Public Image Limited

The publicity bandwagon is creaking into gear and look, there's me running behind it trying to attract its attention so it'll stop and pick me up.

This afternoon I shall be droning on about myself on Sean Moncrieff's show on Newstalk from 2pm, and tomorrow morning I shall be up with the lark and the burglar alarm from that house where they've gone on holiday and the alarm's been going all night to show my pasty, whiskery face on Ireland AM on TV3 some time just after 7am. Yes, 7am.

After that, if I'm not a sleep-deprived zombie, I shall be on Phantom FM at around 3 o'clock and then of course it's launch time at the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar at 6.30, then afterwards in the Stag's Head where we've reserved the upstairs bar from 8pm to make me feel extra important.

Then on Thursday - note how the publicity dept have allowed me the whole of Wednesday to recover from the night before - I'm on Ray Darcy's show on Today FM.

Cor, eh? Cor!