Sunday 18 February 2018

'We are all blow-ins, we blew in 400 years ago'

Aengus Fanning talks to the seventh Earl of Rosse about his pride in his credentials as an Irishman and about his work to keep the flag of scientific endeavour flying in Birr Castle

THE seventh Earl of Rosse of Birr Castle, known to some as Brendan Parsons, occupies a somewhat ambiguous place in Irish society. We don't know whether to consider him an Irishman or a British aristocrat, though Lord Rosse himself, at 73, is in no doubt as to his credentials as an Irishman.

"Of course, we are 'blow-ins', but then so is everybody," he argues vigorously. "And we have been 'blow-ins' since the early 1600s. Not many can claim nearly 400 years of being blown in."

What is beyond any ambiguity is the huge contribution the family has made to Irish life, and to science and botany. Almost everyone knows about the historic and now fully restored Birr telescope, about the Parsons steam turbine engine, about the magnificent demesne and gardens which attract visitors from all over the world.

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