The kingdom of Scotland and Ireland?
THE BROTHERS BRUCE
Outlaw King, a new film just released, is a historical drama about Robert the Bruce, directed by David Mackenzie. It features the fine US actor Chris Pine in the title role. Apparently his Scottish accent is impeccable – he hasn’t, it seems, studied at the Dick Van Dyke Academy of Regional Accents.
You have to feel sorry for Robert’s younger brother Edward, all the same. He seems to be entirely forgotten by history, even though he wanted to be King of Ireland.
No films of him are in the pipeline – despite it being the 700th anniversary of his death last month.
Edward Bruce is buried near Faughart in County Louth, and of course in the border areas 700 years ago might as well be last weekend. Nonetheless, very few people ever make a pilgrimage to his grave overlooking the effortlessly beautiful Cooley Peninsula.
The brother, oh yes, everybody remembers his visit to Ireland. According to legend Robert’s famous encounter with a spider took place on Rathlin Island.
In hiding, his spirits were low – and he was tempted to give up the battle for Scotland. But a spider’s determination to spin a web inspired Bruce to return home. He subsequently headed back to Scotland, where the English were indulging in light slaughter, and sorted it.
Meanwhile Edward was busy, trying to enlist the help of Irish chiefs in his continuing battles against the English. He was killed at the Battle of Faughart in 1318, and is buried near the shrine to local woman St Brigid.
The view from Faughart, which Edward probably didn’t have time to savour, is spellbinding – north to Slieve Gullion, and south to the plain of Murthiene and on to the Cooley Mountains. There is a stone near his grave, which, according to legend, was used to decapitate him.
Meanwhile Outlaw King is on general release. Oddly enough it came out just as it was announced that Robert the Bruce was born in Essex and not Ayrshire as generally believed.
Former Stirling University academic Dr Fiona Watson is of the opinion that Robert was from a village to the east of London. So by rights he should be played, not by US actor Chris Pine, but somebody like Phil Mitchell.
YA BIG HAM YA
TWO arguing chefs at the Sony headquarters in London brought the area to a standstill recently as employees and pop stars inside feared that the arguing cooks were in fact a terrorist attack.
It seems that one of the chefs had become incensed with the behaviour of the other and had stabbed him in the backside.
Meanwhile, because of the shouting, celebrities and staff poured from the building. Police arrived, and one chef was arrested.
Yep, chefs can be unpredictable. I remember enjoying a drink one evening at a hotel in the depths of rural Offaly. In the dining area a fly had landed on a slab of ham on the counter.
The chef took the biggest meat cleaver I’d ever seen and with a great wallop flattened the hapless fly onto the ham. “Ah, we’re fierce particular about hygiene round here,” he explained.
Still, at least it didn’t start a terror alert.
A BRIDGE TOO FAR
Hong Kong-Zhuhai, the world’s longest sea-bridge has just opened, linking Hong Kong to mainland China via Macau.
It’s 55 kilometres long, and is equipped with special cameras on the look-out for drivers who show signs of getting sleepy – yawn three times and the authorities will be on your tail.
But this engineering feat begs the question – if the Chinese can build a bridge over 55 kilometres, surely we could build one across the Irish Sea?
After all, it isn’t even 20 kilometres at its narrowest point.
Certainly there isn’t quite as much trade between, say, the village of Largiebaan on the Mull of Kintyre and the townland of Lisbellanagroagh Beg in Co. Antrim as there is between Hong Kong and China, but it would still be a boon for the folks in those areas.
And what with more and more Chinese tourists visiting Ireland – maybe we ask them to build it.
AMAZON has helpfully sent this column a reminder that I still have time to buy a luxury calendar for 2019 that will be a great aid ‘to a luxurious lifestyle’. I suppose my idea of what constitutes luxury compared to Amazon’s is quite different.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
A mysterious cigar-shaped object spotted tumbling through our solar system last year may have been an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth, astronomers from Harvard University have suggested.
The object, nicknamed ‘Oumuamua’ was spotted just over a year ago in October 2017.
Since its discovery, scientists have been puzzling over its precise origins, with researchers first calling it a comet, then an asteroid, and finally a new class of ‘interstellar objects’.
But a study at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics raises the possibility that the elongated object, travelling at speeds of 196,000 mph, might have an ‘artificial origin.’
In other words, aliens on a day trip.
‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilisation,’ researchers concluded in the paper, submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters. But there is another possibility, I suppose. It might just have been a cigar.
A MUSEUM PIECE
In London for a few days, I went to one of the great libraries of the world, the British Library.
Should you be in the vicinity in the next few months pop in to see their Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War.
Highlights include the illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels, the Domesday Book and the 8th century Book of Durrow. The exhibition continues until February 19. While there I also came across a 25carat globule of trivia in one of the newspaper archives.
It seems that one Padraic Ó Conaire, born in Galway in 1882, spent most of his childhood in the Connemara Gaeltacht, learning to speak Irish fluently. He emigrated to London in 1899, landing a job with the-then British Board of Education.
Now, at the time the possession of a university degree entitled a British civil servant to extra remuneration, so as Patrick Conroy, the Galway man, approached London University so that he could sit a degree paper in Irish.
The university contacted Dr Douglas Hyde, who advised them he knew a Gaelic scholar called Padraic Ó Conaire.
The upshot was that, possibly for the first time in academic history, a candidate set, sat and examined his own paper, receiving a first. A very fine method for making sure you get maximum results in an exam, but what you might call a niche hint.
HERB WORRIES OVER
Fortunately, after last year’s tarragon scare, Irish supermarkets are reporting that the shortage in the global supply of this season’s tarragon looks OK.
Which means that once again we’ll be able to cook .... er... erm... actually, on second thoughts, I don’t think it’s going to make much difference to us.