16 March 2013

10 Strange and Fun Facts About Ireland

With St Patrick’s Day coming up on 17 March, it is appropriate that we share with the world some fun and interesting facts about Ireland.

The Obama Connection
In 1850 a gentleman by the name of Falmouth Kearney made the journey, like so many others, from Ireland, to the United States.  One of the huddled masses, he prospered and his line flourished.  His great great grand daughter gave birth to a boy, who she named Barack. So it is that President Obama may join the estimated 40% of American presidents who can claim some Irish heritage. Above you can see the President being greeted by his 8th cousin, Henry Healy in the small town of Moneygall, whence Kearney emigrated to New York City all those years ago.

Nosey, nosey!
Ever been called a nosy parker?  Well the name has its origins in Ireland.  Edward Parker (died in 1896) was a gentleman from County Laois.  He was a sergeant in the British army, which must have made him popular.  What made him unforgettable, however, was the huge tumour he had on the end of his nose.  This tumour was so large it extended way below his chin.  The soldiers he worked with – generous to a soul – gifted him the name Nosey Parker which lived with him even after death.  Even today when people clamour for fame of any kind, it would be a particularly odd person who would wish to be remembered in this way.

Bury me right!
There was once a Doctor of Dublin – Jonathan Osborne was his name.  His own peculiar claim to fame comes from the fact that he had himself buried in an upright coffin.  Many have heard jokes about coffins shaped like a Y, but this is a strange one.  It seems on his death in 1864 he did not wish to be at a disadvantage when the Day of Resurrection came.  The poor chap had arthritic hips, you see…

Tongue Twister!
Wales may have the longest place name in Europe but Ireland isn’t far off!  The village of Muckanaghederdauhaulia is located in County Galway.  The name means “marsh of the pigs between two seas” – in this case two inlets (but no one could ever accuse the Irish of exaggeration, could they!).  Although not the longest name place in the world by along way, it is believed to be the longest name for a port.  The shortest, incidentally, is “U” in the Caroline Islands.

The Irish Empire
The English weren’t the only ones prone to a bit of colonialism.  Montserrat is often referred to as “The Emerald Isle of The Caribbean” and boasts areas caked Kinsale and Cork.  Many of the locals have Irish last names.  This was because the island was settled in the seventeenth century by Irish Catholics.  Unfortunately, the Irish settlers chose poorly as there was a huge volcanic eruption in 1995 which made a lot of the island uninhabitable and it is only just starting to recover now.

Scientific Eire
The Irish may not have as rich a heritage of scientific discovery as say, the Scots, but John Tyndall (left), an Irish scientist, discovered the answer to one of those really irritating questions that almost every child comes up with at some point.

The question is, of course, “Why is the sky blue?”.

The answer is because the eye is most sensitive to the colours blue and reddy purply stuff,  The molecules in our air scatter the bluey molecules quicker than the reddy purply stuff.

So, in the day and without clouds, the sky looks blue as the sun is close to you at the time and reddish in the morning and evening because the light must travel further to get to you and the more of the bluey light has been scattered.

Until Tyndall people thought it was because it was dustier in the evening.

Up the Pole(s)
It’s official!  According to the most recent census, there are now more Polish people in Ireland than there are native speakers of the original language of the isle, Gaelic.  Obviously the Emerald Isle has a huge plumbing problem that isn’t mentioned often…

Girls Allowed
Although Ireland doesn’t necessarily spring to mind when one is asked to name countries at the forefront of gender equality, it certainly holds one record.  Mary Robinson (above) was the first female President of Ireland.  She was followed, with little fuss, by Mary McAleese.  This is the only instance in the world where one female President was replaced by another.

Who wants to live forever?
Have the Irish discovered the secret of immortality?  The most recent census showed that the population had risen to 4.2 million and the rise was a fifty fifty split between immigration and births.  However, the average age was 33, meaning that the Irish as a population did not grow any older between to censuses.  They now have a younger population than any of the other states of the European Union.

Like they say…
The best Irish proverb? “A man is incomplete until he marries.  Then he is finished.”