Friday 20 September 2019

Well, I'm glad you asked ... it's all here in Erindipity

By Catherine Troy Did you know that the best place to get abducted by aliens is Boyle in Co Roscommon? Where is the best place to survive a nuclear war? Who has the distinction of being Dublin's most evil Lord Mayor? How loud was Ireland's loudest roar?

By Catherine Troy Did you know that the best place to get abducted by aliens is Boyle in Co Roscommon? Where is the best place to survive a nuclear war? Who has the distinction of being Dublin's most evil Lord Mayor? How loud was Ireland's loudest roar?

You won't find the answers in any conventional encyclopaedia - but all is revealed in a new book: Erindipity: The Irish Miscellany, by David Kenny. This Evening Herald journalist digs up the most eclectic and eccentric facts about our land and people, all crammed into 125 entertaining, rambling essay.

Everything from the sublime to the ridiculous gets a nod... and the answers are interesting, surprising and quirky. For instance, did you know that Ireland's shortest place name is Inch? Ireland's longest place name is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, Co Galway. Did you know that the longest stretch of stone wall is standing on Inis Mor in the Aran Island?

While everyone knows that Cork is the largest county on the island, it's a little known fact that Louth is the smallest - measuring only 821 sq km.

It's not surprising that religion features strongly, with revelations that the most Masses in Ireland have been celebrated in Ballintubber Abbey, Co Mayo - where the sacrament has been celebrated every Sunday since 1216. Further down the religious path we learn that the oldest church in Ireland is St Patrick's, George Street, Co Waterford.

And Ireland's smallest church? Well, that would be St Gobhnan, Portbradden, Co Antrim. The church measures 2m wide - somewhat ironic in that St Gobhnan is the patron saint of builders.

The longest funeral cortege in Ireland was that of Michael Collins' funeral in 1922. Glasnevin, originally called Prospect Cemetery, was opened in February 1832. It is the resting place of Charles Stewart Parnell, Daniel O'Connell and Brendan Behan.

While touring North America, Brendan spotted a billboard with the exhortation 'Drink Canada Dry'. "I'll give it a go," he is reported to have quipped.

Another great one for the gab is Gay Byrne. Gaybo holds not only the Irish record but the world title for the longest-serving chat show host. He pipped the late Johnny Carson by just a couple of months at 29 years, nine months in the chair.

On a geographical scale, Ireland doesn't rate among the big guns - in truth, our natural features are mere ponds and hills on a worldwide scale. But that doesn't stop Kenny from expounding the fact that our highest waterfall - 121 metres - is at Powerscourt Demesne, Co Wicklow.

Our highest mountain is Carrauntoohill, Co Kerry, which is 1,041 metres. As regards our weather, the book states that on New Year's Day, 2005 a mini-tornado damaged around 100 houses in Clonee, Co Meath. The sudden storm ripped slates from roofs, smashed windows and overturned cars. Meanwhile, the fire services responded to dozens of calls in counties Dublin, Kildare and Louth.

The author's architectural knowledge of Irish pub culture is also impressive. For instance, we are told that the smallest pub in Ireland is the Dawson Lounge, Dublin. The lowest pub is The Cellar bar, Merrion Hotel, Dublin. The highest pub is Johnnie Fox's in the Dublin Mountains. And the oldest licensed pub is Grace Neill's, Donaghadee, Co Down.

Southerners think that the North of Ireland is full of strange little people. And, indeed it's hard to dispel these impressions when one hears that the town of Ballybofey holds a Whistling Festival on July 10 each year... where Orangemen are expected to whistle and speak at the same time.

We know that we live in a divided island but a close examination of historical facts in this book only serves to highlight the whole nonsense of it all. When the Boundary Commission was set up in 1924-25, the people of Newry wrote to the commissioner requesting that their town be included in the South. But Newry, which at the time was 75% nationalist, was refused permission as the area is home to the province's biggest reservoir.

Speaking of water, what is the largest lake that just happens to be an entrance to hell. Why it's Donegal's Lough Derg. St Patrick, apparently found a cave on the island which was a second entrance to the Underworld.

And the answers to the big questions? The tallest Irishman was Patrick Cotter O'Brien was born in Kinsale, Cork in 1760 and measured 2.46 metres. He was the tallest man in the world during his lifetime and made a living performing in front of toffs in England.

It transpires that the best place to survive nuclear attack is the at the Uranium Storage Unit at the UCC campus in Cork.

Ireland's loudest roar, which rated an ear-blistering 125.4 decibels, was recorded at Lansdowne Road during the Ireland v Scotland Triple Crown rugby match on February 7, 1989.

And the worst Lord Mayor of Dublin was Walter Ball... he executed his own mother while in office in 1584.

'Erindipity: The Irish Miscellany', by David Kenny, is published by Mentor Books at ?14.95

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