Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (May/June 2011), News, Volume 19

‘Do you kick with the left foot or the right?’ is a sure way of telling Catholic from Protestant in the North (so some people say), but a new twist has been given to it by historian Raymond O’Regan, who says that it extends to hands—the Red Hand of Ulster, that is. Using as proof an old poem by J. Vinycomb, an expert on Ulster history and heraldry, he argues that the right hand is the true Red Hand of Ulster, while the left is only for the coats of arms of baronets. Tyrone GAA, Queen’s University, the Northern Ireland flag and even the UVF all use the right hand for the province. And we wouldn’t argue with them. Fine Gael can be a bit evasive about the party’s own genealogy, but they have agreed in the programme of government with Labour to promote genealogical tourism by putting the Genealogical Office on a proper statutory footing, modernising its operations and publishing the 1926 census to stimulate genealogical research. There is also talk of a ‘genealogy quarter’ in Dublin (whatever that means). So Enda Kenny and Co. are quite happy for everyone else to explore their family tree, especially if it brings in some revenue. ‘Let the dead rest in peace’ is an old saying, and divers in Cork have asked for just that after finding a First World War U-boat sunk off Cobh. They were following up reports of its sinking when they found the U-C42, which went down with all hands in 1917 after one of her own mines prematurely exploded. All 27 of the crew were trapped inside the vessel. Shortly afterwards British navy divers identified the submarine, and it has lain there undisturbed ever since. Ian Kelleher and Niall O’Regan want it kept that way. They placed a plaque commemorating the crew of U-C42 near the U-boat’s propellers and hope that it will continue to be respected as a war grave. This year sees the 25th anniversary of Dublin’s Jewish Museum. The occasion was marked by a special ceremony, with President McAleese as guest of honour. Supported by voluntary donations, it commemorates the once-thriving Jewish community in Dublin. Situated in Portobello, it is well worth a visit. It was also one of the first museums to be featured in our Museum Eye column, way back in Winter 2004. Just think twice before you clear out your attic. A retired chocolate factory worker in Dorset, England, recently took an old vase in a cardboard box to an auctioneer’s in Dorchester. To his amazement it turned out to be a Chinese vase belonging to the Ming dynasty (no, nothing to do with Luke Flanagan!). It is the largest example yet found of a very rare type of fifteenth-century blue and white vase known as a moon flask. We don’t know what the man originally paid for it but it is expected to fetch up to £1 million when it comes up for auction. The FBI has been investigating Jonathan Swift and has found him guilty of lewd behaviour. Oxford academic Abigail Williams employed the expertise of the FBI to examine the original manuscripts of Swift’s letters to Esther Johnson and her companion Rebecca Dingley. It has long been known that he had a relationship with Johnson, whom he nicknamed Stella, but now the bawdy nature of their friendship has been shown. Parts of the letters, which were scored out by Swift himself, are now revealed. He used explicit sexual imagery and suggestive language in writing to Stella. He called the two ladies ‘saucy sluts’, ‘rogues’ and other names that we couldn’t possibly print. Fine Gael has dropped the pledge to abolish Irish as a core subject in schools, and that is just as well, if Dr John Walsh is to be believed. The latest book from the NUI Galway academic argues that the loss of Irish as the main language in the nineteenth century led to a loss of self-confidence in the Irish people, with devastating social and economic consequences. Walsh brings social science analysis to bear on the history of the language. He contrasts Ireland with similar-sized European countries that retained their own tongues and concludes that Ireland is far behind in terms of economic growth, social development and creativity. Is mór an trua é! Don’t believe all you read in the papers. In 1941, after the German bombing of the city, the Belfast Telegraph ran a front-page story on ‘little orphan Billy’, who was the only member of his family to survive the bombing. Now 70 years later Billy has revealed his true identity. Hugh Doherty was the boy in question. His father was away in the merchant navy and he was being looked after by his mother and sisters. Of course Hugh, although only 2? years old at the time, knew who he was. He had gotten separated from his family, but shortly after the story appeared in the paper his mother came to claim him. To this day Hugh does not know why the Telegraph decided to run the ‘orphan Billy’ story. Bedad and begorrah! But didn’t yer man Lenin turn out to have an Irish brogue! Daltún Ó Ceallaigh has put the cat among the pigeons of Red Square by claiming that Lenin, the Russian revolutionary leader, spoke English with an Irish accent. It seems that Roddy Connolly, son of James, met Lenin in the 1920s and the two conversed in English. Roddy later revealed that Lenin spoke with a ‘Rathmines accent’. Lenin lived in London for a short time and did learn English from someone believed to be Scottish but who, it turns out, was probably Irish, resulting in the Russian leader sounding like a resident of one of Dublin’s most middle-class suburbs. Well, if that don’t bate Banagher!


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