Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

Whatever you think of Martin McGuinness, or of his remarkable journey from senior IRA commander and reputedly Army Council member to Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland government, one thing is clear.

He was engaged in secret peace discussions with the British Government from 1972 onwards. And there is little doubt that, along with Gerry Adams, McGuinness was instrumental in turning the Republican movement away from continued violence and towards political engagement. He was a man driven in his eyes to violence, who came to reject violence as a political tool.

What is also certain is that without him, in all probability, Ireland and Britain would still be mired in violence over the future of the six counties.

He took huge personal risks for peace. His critics, he said were afraid of change.

“They would love the IRA to go back to war. I’m delighted that we have not fallen into this trap.

“I’m delighted that we have an organisation which understands the political dynamics [of the peace process].

“There is a confidence and assertiveness among nationalists,” he continued.

“We know who we are, we are Irish, we are proud of it.”

His republican credentials remained impeccable to his death. And ultimately, we all owe him respect for playing a fundamental – perhaps the most fundamental – role in stilling the guns.

McGuinness was living proof that we really can – and sometimes do – beat the swords we grasp all too readily into ploughshares.

Ireland is poorer for his passing.

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forgotten- irish slavesThey came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.

Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.

We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we? We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade.

But, are we actually talking about African slavery?Fascinatingly, in this case, no.

King James II and Charles I led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed revolutionary Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanising one’s next door neighbour.

The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children most of whom died. Britain’s solution to their penury was to auction them off as well.

During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England.

In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.

Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish, and it is true that some were, and were held under less onerous regimes than the slaves. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle. They never became “free”, and they never returned home.

Meanwhile, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. And it is well recorded that ironically African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.

African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). But Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African.

The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.

mulattoIn time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in some cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: the settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. Some mulatto children obviously were born as a result of rape or consensual sex between owners and black slaves. Many more were the result of a deliberate breeding programme.

This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.

It is hardly ever spoken about, but there is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in this highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded at least this chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.

As we look ever more clearly at our past, Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories. Or is their story to be one that their English pirates intended: to have the Irish story utterly and completely disappear as if it never happened?

None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and history books conveniently forgot. It is time they were remembered.

A chance conversation today on the ghoulish nature of people’s interest in public executions in years gone by reminded me of the case of Michael Barrett, the last man hanged in public in Britain. If for no other reason that he was very likely innocent.

Michael Barrett (1841 – 26 May 1868) was born in Drumnagreshial in the Ederney area of County Fermanagh.

The ruins of the prison after the bomb blast

The ruins of the prison after the bomb blast

He was the last man to be publicly hanged in England, for his alleged role in the Clerkenwell bombing in December 1867. The bombing killed 12 bystanders and severely injured many more.

Barrett had positioned the bomb in a wheelbarrow outside the external wall of Coldbath Fields Prison in the belief that it would bring down the prison wall and allow Fenian prisoners to escape.

Michael Barrett was 27 when he joined the Fenians, which, in the 1860s, was a political movement that dominated Irish politics and defied the Catholic Church and middle-class nationalists who advocated milder approaches. Thousands of Irishmen in both Ireland and Britain were recruited into its ranks.

The Clerkenwell bombing was the most infamous action carried out by the Fenians in Britain. It resulted in a long-lived backlash that fomented much hostility against the Irish community in Britain.

The events that led up to the bombing started with the arrest, in November 1867, of Richard O’Sullivan-Burke, a senior Fenian arms agent who planned the “prison-van escape” in Manchester a few months earlier. O’Sullivan-Burke was subsequently imprisoned on remand in the Middlesex House of Detention, Clerkenwell. On 13 December an attempt to rescue him was made by blowing a hole in the prison wall. The explosion was seriously misjudged; it demolished not only a large section of the wall, but also a number of tenement houses opposite in Corporation Lane (now Row) resulting in 12 people being killed and over 50 suffering a range of injuries.

Public opinion, which had been sympathetic to the Fenians, soon turned against them.

Public opinion, which had been sympathetic to the Fenians, soon turned against them.

The bombing had a traumatic effect on British working-class opinion. Karl Marx, then living in London, observed:

“The London masses, who have shown great sympathy towards Ireland, will be made wild and driven into the arms of a reactionary government. One cannot expect the London proletarians to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of Fenian emissaries.”

The Radical, Charles Bradlaugh, condemned the incident in his newspaper The National Reformer as an act:

“calculated to destroy all sympathy, and to evoke the opposition of all classes”.

The day before the explosion, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, had banned all political demonstrations in London in an attempt to put a stop to the weekly meetings and marches that were being held in support of the Fenians. He had feared that the ban might be challenged, but the explosion had the effect of turning public opinion in his favour.

Months earlier, Barrett had been arrested in Glasgow for illegally discharging a firearm and allegedly false evidence was used to implicate him in the Clerkenwell Prison explosion which occurred the previous December.

In court, he produced witnesses who testified that he had been in Scotland on the date of the incident. The main case against him rested on the evidence of co-accused Patrick Mullany (a Dubliner who had given false testimony before and whose price was a free passage to Australia) who told the court that Barrett had informed him that he had carried out the explosion with an accomplice by the name of Murphy. Of the other 6 defendants, another was discharged as a police spy. After two hours of deliberation the jury pronounced Barrett guilty.

One of the trial lawyers, Montagu Williams, wrote:

“On looking at the dock, one’s attention was attracted by the appearance of Barrett, for whom I must confess I felt great commiseration. He was a square-built fellow, scarcely five feet eight in height and dressed like a well-to-do farmer. This resemblance was increased by the frank, open, expression on his face. A less murderous countenance than Barrett’s I have not seen. Good humour was latent in his every feature and he took the greatest interest in the proceedings.”

On being asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed, Barrett delivered an emotional speech from the dock, which ended:

“I am far from denying, nor will the force of circumstances compel me to deny my love of my native land. I love my country and if it is murderous to love Ireland dearer than I love my life, then it is true, I am a murderer. If my life were ten times dearer than it is and if I could by any means, redress the wrongs of that persecuted land by the sacrifice of my life, I would willingly and gladly do so”.

The next day the Daily Telegraph reported that Barrett had:

“… delivered a most remarkable speech, criticising with great acuteness the evidence against him, protesting that he had been condemned on insufficient grounds, and eloquently asserting his innocence.”

Many people, including a number of Radical MPs, pressed for clemency. In Fermanagh, Barrett’s aged mother walked several miles in the snow to appeal to the local Unionist MP, Captain Archdale, a staunch Orangeman who rejected her.

Barrett was executed outside the walls of Newgate Prison on 26 May 1868 before a crowd of two thousand who booed, jeered and sang Rule Britannia and Champagne Charlie as his body dropped. The night before both within the prison and without there had been jeering and mock-hymns, and jeering accompanied Barrett as he made his way to the gallows, the bells of Newgate and a nearby church tolling in the background. More police than was usual were in attendance, armed very visibly with cutlasses and revolvers because of the fear of Fenian action.

Newspaper reports of the hanging vary according to their political standpoint. Some have Barrett dying without a struggle, others tell of his convulsions, protruding tongue and distorted features. The crowd was said to have been silent as his end came, respectfully removing hats at the moment of execution. After his death, as was customary, the hangman was also abused by the onlookers.

The description of the crowd at the hanging in The Times the next day yields an unflinching and fascinating glimpse into the attitudes of the general public to such spectacles. It certainly seemed like a grim and tasteless affair.

Huge crowds would gather for executions: a fact which caused considerable anguished hand-wringing in the educated classes

Huge crowds would gather for executions: a fact which caused considerable anguished hand-wringing in the educated classes who felt the spectacle undignified.

The execution differed little from other similar exhibitions. On Monday the barriers were put up, and on Monday night a fringe of eager sightseers assembled, mostly sitting beneath the beams, but ready on a moment’s notice to rise and cling to the front places they had so long waited for. There were the usual cat-calls, comic choruses, dances, and even mock hymns, till towards 2 o’clock, when the gaiety inspired by alcohol faded away as the public houses closed, and popular excitement was not revived till the blackened deal frame which forms the base of the scaffold was drawn out in the dawn, and placed in front of the door from which Barrett was to issue. Its arrival was accompanied with a great cheer, which at once woke up those who had been huddled in doorsteps and under barricades, and who joined in the general acclamation. The arrival of the scaffold did much to increase the interest, and through the dawn people began to flock in, the greater portion of the newcomers being young women and little children. Never were there more numerous than on this occasion, and blue velvet hats and huge white feathers lined the great beams which kept the mass from crushing each other in their eagerness to see a man put to death. The crowd was most unusually orderly, but it was not a crowd in which one would like to trust. It is said that one sees on the road to the Derby such animals as are never seen elsewhere; so on an execution morning one see faces that are never seen save round the gallows or near a great fire. Some laughed, some fought, some preached, some gave tracts, and some sang hymns; but what may be called the general good-humoured disorder of the crowd remained the same, and there was laughter at the preacher or silence when an open robbery was going on. None could look on the scene, with all its exceptional quietness, without a thankful feeling that this was to be the last public execution in England. Towards 7 o’clock the mass of people was immense. A very wide open space was kept round the gallows by the police, but beyond this the concourse was dense, stretching up beyond St. Sepulchre’s Church, and far back almost, into Smithfield—a great surging mass of people which, in spite of the barriers, kept swaying to and from like waving corn. Now and then there was a great laughter as a girl fainted, and was passed out hand over hand above the heads of the mob, and then there came a scuffle and a fight, and then a hymn, and then a sermon, and then a comic song, and so on from hour to hour, the crowd thickening as the day brightened, and the sun shone out with such a glare as to extinguish the very feeble light which showed itself faintly through the glass roof above where the culprit lay. It was a wild, rough crowd, not so numerous nor nearly so violent as that which thronged to see Muller or the pirates die. In one way they showed their feeling by loudly hooting a magnificently-attired woman, who, accompanied by two gentlemen, swept down the avenue kept open by the police, and occupied a window afterwards right in front of the gallows. This temporary exhibition of feeling was, however, soon allayed by coppers being thrown from the window for the roughs to scramble for. It is not right, perhaps, that a murderer’s death should be surrounded by all the pious and tender accessories which accompany the departure of a good man to a better world, but most assuredly the sight of public executions to those who have to witness them is as disgusting as it must be demoralising even to all the hordes of thieves and prostitutes it draws together. Yesterday the assembly was of its kind an orderly one, yet it was such as we feel grateful to think will under the new law never be drawn together again in England.

On 27 May, following the execution, Reynold’s News commented:

“Millions will continue to doubt that a guilty man has been hanged at all; and the future historian of the Fenian panic may declare that Michael Barrett was sacrificed to the exigencies of the police, and the vindication of the good Tory principle, that there is nothing like blood.”

Barrett’s execution was the last public hanging to take place in England. Until their transfer to the City of London Cemetery, Michael Barrett’s remains lay for 35 years in a lime grave inside the walls of Newgate Prison. When the prison was demolished in 1903 it was taken to its present resting place. Today the grave is a place of Irish pilgrimage and is marked by a small plaque.

After the explosion the Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli advocated the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Britain, as was already the case in Ireland. Greater security measures were quickly introduced. Thousands of special constables were enrolled to aid the police and at Scotland Yard a special secret service department was established to meet the Fenian threat. Although a number of people were arrested and brought to trial, Michael Barrett was the only one to receive the death sentence.

gladstoneWithin days of the explosion, the Liberal leader, William Ewart Gladstone, then in opposition, announced his concern about Irish grievances and said that it was the duty of the British people to remove them. Later, he said that it was the Fenian action at Clerkenwell that turned his mind towards Home Rule. When Gladstone discovered at Hawarden later that year that Queen Victoria had invited him to form a government he famously stated, “my mission is to pacify Ireland.”

He can hardly have imagined that the task would take another 150 years or so.

I am indebted to the food section of Yahoo for raising this topic, which is fascinating.

If only because forewarned is forearmed. On the basis of this news, the Wellthisiswhatithink clan is going to start hoarding tins of Stag Chilli and Fray Bentos meat pies forthwith. If our home is suddenly subsumed by some nearby Pompeii-like eruption future archaeologists will surmise the modern Australian diet considered of nothing else. Well, and coffee, of course.

The domesticated cow is going to fart itself to oblivion if it's not careful.

The domesticated cow is going to fart itself to oblivion if it’s not careful.

For all sorts of very good reasons, you see, Dear Reader, meat is going to play a lesser part in our diet moving forward. For one thing, all sorts of domesticated animals, and especially cows, burp and fart a lot.

And we mean, a lot*.

Methane, primarily. From their gut.

As one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is, if we could rid the world of farting cows we could all afford to drive gas guzzling SUVs back and forth to the shops till the, er, well, till the cows come home, and the world wouldn’t be affected much at all.

(One of the great myths of global climate change is that cars are strongly implicated – they aren’t, really, as engines become ever more efficient, and hybrid technology grows. Other factors are much more serious. Cars are just “in our face”: an easy target.)

Plus it takes an awful lot of grass – and water – and time and effort (and more greenhouse gases) – to “grow” meat protein compared to, say, veggies.

And our environment also suffers from the deleterious effect of cloven-hoofed animals wandering pristine grasslands digging up the surface soil so it can blow away to end up in the sea.

All in all, we can expect to see the price of beef and lamb/mutton especially climb to exorbitant levels. It will become an occasional luxury, and an environmentally unsustainable one at that.

Insects will probably play a much more central role in our diet ... like these dung beetles.

Insects will probably play a much more central role in our diet … like these dung beetles. Just don’t think too hard about what they eat.

OK, meat’s out. What next?

So what can we change our diet to? All sorts of yummy items. Not.

Insects are already a common source of protein in some parts of the world less wealthy, and less squeamish, than the West.

With the world’s population predicted to hit 9 billion by 2050, our diet will have to change as food production struggles to keep pace with the boom.

And there are lots of good reasons why we should consider ordering a dung beetle burger next time we’re at the pub.

Not only would insect farming be kinder on the environment than our current agricultural industry with its focus on factory farming large animals such as cattle and sheep (just think of all the methane produced as a side effect of our love affair with beef), insects are surprisingly nutritious too.

According to a BBC report, 100g of ground dung beetle contains 17.2g of protein, 30.9mg of calcium and 7.7mg of iron. A 100g serving of minced beef provided 27.4g of protein, 3.5mg of iron and negligible amounts of calcium.

Deep fried grasshoppers. Well, er. OK. If I must.

Deep fried grasshoppers. Well, er. OK. If I must.

Now we just need someone to tell us they taste just like chicken, and we’re in.

Visiting China (amongst other places) one often sees skewers of deep fried grasshoppers on offer from street stalls, along with a lot of other little beasties that one can’t even identify without a biology manual.

Indeed, over 1000 species of insects are eaten by people around the world, like these Thai deep-fried grasshoppers.

Artificial meat?

Of course, we might not be able to give up our addiction to flipping hamburgers on the BBQ and scientists may have one answer. Artificial meat grown from stem cells could solve the problems caused by the huge amount of water and energy required in traditional animal production.

But while scientists are in theory able to create a lab-grown burger that looks like the real deal, taste is another matter.

The taste of meat is created by blood and fat, and is difficult to recreate in an artificial setting. Not to mention, presumably, the mouth-soothing sensation of fat, which is one of the most obvious reasons that we all love eating marbled meat, ice cream, buttered bread and so forth.

Then again, watching the way clever chefs can use other ingredients to mimic the flavour they are searching for, one supposes that anything’s possible.

There is, presumably, a chemical formula for every type of taste sensation, so if we want to keep chowing down on beef we may have to accept that it means munching bowls of noxious chemicals too.

Don't look in their eyes. Just don't look in their eyes.

Don’t look in their eyes. Just don’t look in their eyes. Awwwwww.

“Here Skippy, here boy …”

Well, in Australia, at least one very obvious opportunity presents itself.

Kangaroo meat is lean (2 per cent fat) and protein-rich, and its harvesting is more sustainable than beef and lamb, requiring less water and emitting far less methane than introduced breeds of livestock.

Selling kangaroo meat for human consumption is a relatively new development in Australia, having only been legalised in 1993.

Yet kangaroo meat is already now exported to 55 countries around the world, and has even given rise to a new diet dubbed ‘kangatarianism’ – an otherwise meat-free diet that permits consumption of kangaroo due to its eco-friendly status.

It’s sometimes hard to explain to non-Australians just how sensible a switch to roo meat would be.

For one thing, they are incredibly common, without any farming whatsoever. No one is quite sure how many roos are out there – it’s a big country, guys, and mainly un-populated – but the 2002 population estimate for the commercially harvested kangaroo species released by the federal government puts their numbers at 58.6 million. This means there are more than twice as many kangaroos in Australia as there are cattle (28.7 million). It also means the total kangaroo population is a little more than half that of the Australian sheep population (113.3 million).

That’s one helluva lot of roo stew waiting to be made. And if you think they’re just too cute to eat, then have you looked in the big brown eye of a calf recently?

Personally, I think we should be exporting breeding pairs of roos all over the world and you can all grown your own. And before you ask, darker than beef, quite a strong gamey flavour which puts some people off, the tail is the part most usually eaten, and in sausages, pates, terrines and pies, where is it “cut” with cereals and other items that reduce the gamey-ness of its flesh, it is truly delicious. “Kanga bangers” (that’s link sausages to our America readers) do really well here; kids love ’em.

Repeat after me: "I love Brussel sprouts. I do. I love Brussel sprouts."

Repeat after me: “I love Brussel sprouts. I do. I love Brussel sprouts.” Hey, this is what they look like growing? Who knew?

Plants scream too, you know

If you don’t want beetles, grasshoppers or kangaroos for tea, then the obvious answer: grow your dreadlocks and slap on the sandals. Let’s all become vegetarians.

Not only are veggies less environmentally harmful to grow (although pesticides and fertilisers need to be used with considerably more regard to the overall safety of the biosphere, with an acceptance of lower yields as a result) but we could all do with learning a lot more about how they can be prepared and presented to be truly delicious.

On the principle that human beings rarely do anything until push comes to shove, maybe rump steak at $200 a pound might be the incentive we need to learn how to make eggplant parmigiana properly.

Because the incentive is obvious. At least one 2012 study, from Sweden, argued that a global water shortage could mean that by 2050 animal production for food, which uses five to 10 times more water than plant-based food farming, could become a distant memory.

And while we are learning to love the lettuce, let’s remember that the plant kingdom offers many opportunities that, as a planet, we don’t make the best of.

How do you like your algae, Sir, braised or baked?

How do you like your algae, Sir, braised or baked?

I am referring, of course, to the harvest of the oceans.

We’ve pretty much eaten all the fish – surely a complete ban on commercial fishing for three years to return stocks to sustainable levels could unite the world? I would gladly pay more taxes to support the fishermen if it meant I could still enjoy a feed of flathead or Atlantic cod before I die – but fish are just the beginning of what’s on offer in the deep blue yonder.

One of the most useful products to come out of the seas are some of the most basic lifeforms yet discovered.

Algae: simple, single-cell organisms, can be cultivated in areas unsuitable for conventional farming, such deserts and the ocean. Algae also offers a cleaner source of energy than plant-derived ethanol, and can be used to feed animals and as a fertiliser for crops.

And if algae doesn’t float your boat (sorry about the dreadful pun, Ed.)then as some societies have known for years common-or-garden seaweed is totally yummy, prepared in all sorts of different ways.

Already a regular on Japanese plates, it is eco-friendly, great for digestive health and is packed full of nutrients, including calcium, iodine, folate and magnesium. (In fact, the current Western craze for sushi is leading to one unexpected problem – a few people are getting iodine overload from eating too many sushi rolls while wandering shopping malls. The best advice is apparently the most obvious – moderation in everything.)

Everything worthwhile in life is free.

Everything worthwhile in life is free.

Deep in the last millennium, I had a mother-in-law who would love to wander the seashore, grabbing scraps of seaweed off the rocks and munching it happily, reminiscent of her childhood in Ireland. “Dillisk”, as she was brought up to call it, is a reddish seaweed from the Atlantic coast of Ireland, collected at full moon, when the tide was lowest, and dried on huge sheets in the garden.

As Wikipedia kindly reveals: Palmaria palmata (Linnaeus) Kuntze, also called dulse, dillisk, dilsk, red dulse, sea lettuce flakes or creathnach, is a red alga (Rhodophyta) previously referred to as Rhodymenia palmata (Linnaeus) Greville. It grows on the northern coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is a well-known snack food. In Iceland, where it is known as söl, it has been an important source of fiber throughout the centuries.

is a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables, contains all trace elements needed by humans, and has a high protein content.

It is commonly found from June to September and can be picked by hand when the tide is out. When picked, small snails, shell pieces and other small particles can be washed or shaken off and the plant then spread to dry. Some gatherers may turn it once and roll it into large bales to be packaged later. It is also used as fodder for animals in some countries.

It is commonly used in Ireland, Iceland, Atlantic Canada and the Northeast United States both as food and medicine. It can be found in many health food stores or fish markets and can be ordered directly from local distributors. In Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, it is traditionally sold at the Ould Lammas Fair. It is particularly popular along the Causeway Coast. Although a fast-dying tradition in today’s McDonald’s-ridden world,there are many who still gather their own dulse. Along the Ulster coastline from County Antrim to County Donegal, it is eaten dried and uncooked in a manner similar to that in which one would eat snacks at a drinks party. It is also used in cooking. (Its properties are similar to those of a flavour-enhancer). It is commonly referred to as dillisk on the west coast of Ireland. Dillisk is usually dried and sold as a snack food from stalls in seaside towns by periwinkle-sellers.

Fresh dulse can be eaten directly off the rocks before sun-drying. Sun-dried dulse is eaten as is or is ground to flakes or a powder. In Iceland the tradition is to eat it with butter. It can also be pan fried quickly into chips, baked in the oven covered with cheese, with salsa, or simply microwaved briefly. It can also be used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, or added to bread/pizza dough. Finely diced, it can also be used as a flavour enhancer in meat dishes, such as chili, in place of monosodium glutamate.

The earliest record of this species is of St Columba’s monks harvesting it 1,400 years ago.

Or as my old Mum was wont to say, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

Well, she would have said it, if she spoke French.

So now you know. Rib-eye and french fries is doomed. Ah well. We all might live a little longer, perhaps.Or as in the famous old joke, it might just seem that way.

And just remember, everyone. “Soylent Green is people!”**

*Much more than you ever wanted to know about belching and farting animals
Agriculture is responsible for an estimated 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. A significant portion of these emissions come from methane, which, in terms of its contribution to global warming, is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization says that agricultural methane output could increase by 60 percent by 2030 [Source: Times Online]. The world’s 1.5 billion cows and billions of other grazing animals emit dozens of polluting gases, including lots of methane. Two-thirds of all ammonia comes from cows.Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence. Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day (or about 26 gallons to about 53 gallons), while others say it’s up to 500 liters (about 132 gallons) a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.To understand why cows produce methane, it’s important to know a bit more about how they work. Cows, goats, sheep and several other animals belong to a class of animals called ruminants. Ruminants have four stomachs and digest their food in their stomachs instead of in their intestines, as humans do. Ruminants eat food, regurgitate it as cud and eat it again. The stomachs are filled with bacteria that aid in digestion, but also produce methane.With millions of ruminants in Britain, including 10 million cows, a strong push is underway to curb methane emissions there. Cows contribute 3 percent of Britain’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and 25 to 30 percent of its methane. In New Zealand, where cattle and sheep farming are major industries, 34 percent of greenhouse gases come from livestock. A three-year study, begun in April 2007 by Welsh scientists, is examining if adding garlic to cow feed can reduce their methane production. The study is ongoing, but early results indicate that garlic cuts cow flatulence in half by attacking methane-producing microbes living in cows’ stomachs [Source: BBC News]. The researchers are also looking to see if the addition of garlic affects the quality of the meat or milk produced and even if the animals get bad breath.Another study at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, is tracking quantities of methane and nitrogen produced by sheep, which provide a good comparison model for cows because they have similar digestive systems, but are less unruly. The sheep in the study are living in plastic tunnels where their methan­e production is monitored across a variety of diets.Many other efforts are underway to reduce ruminant methane production, such as attempting to breed cows that live longer and have better digestive systems. At the University of Hohenheim in Germany, scientists created a pill to trap gas in a cow’s rumen — its first stomach — and convert the methane into glucose. However, the pill requires a strict diet and structured feeding times, something that may not lend itself well to grazing.In 2003, the government of New Zealand proposed a flatulence tax, which was not adopted because of public protest.

With the development of large-scale agriculture in the mid-20th century, farming became a big business for some companies. Farms became consolidated into large enterprises with many thousands of animals across large acreages.

Initially, grazing areas were filled with a variety of grasses and flowers that grew naturally, offering a diverse diet for cows and other ruminants. However, in order to improve the efficiency of feeding livestock, many of these pastures became reseeded with perennial ryegrass. With the aid of artificial fertilizers, perennial ryegrass grows quickly and in huge quantities. The downside is that it lacks the nutritious content of other grasses and prevents more nutritious plants from growing. One commentator called it the “fast food” of grasses.

This simple diet allows many cows to be fed, but it inhibits digestion. A perennial ryegrass diet also results in a significant number of weak and infertile cows, which have to be killed at a young age. This is where the methane comes in. The difficult-to-digest grass ferments in the cows’ stomachs, where it interacts with microbes and produces gas. The exact details of the process are still being studied, and more information may allow scientists to reduce cows’ methane output.

A study at the University of Bristol compared three types of naturally grown pastures to ryegrass pasture grown with chemical fertilizers. Lambs were fed on each type of pasture. The meat from lambs fed on natural pastures had less saturated fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamin E and higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a “good fat” that is believed to fight cancer. The meat from these lambs was considered very high quality and scored well in flavor tests.

Because of concerns about ruminant diets, many researchers are investigating ways to alter what livestock eat and to mix the best of old cow pastures – diverse, naturally growing, nutrient rich grasses and plants – with the best of the new – fast-growing and resistant to invasive species. One possibility is to increase the ability of beneficial, nutrient-rich plants and flowers to grow alongside the fast-growing grasses commonly used in pastures. Another branch of research focuses on plants that are high in tannins, which are believed to lower methane levels in ruminants and to boost milk production – although excessively high level of tannins are harmful to a ruminant’s growth.

A study by researchers in New Zealand recommends the use of plants like birdsfoot trefoil that are high in alpha-linoleic acid, which boosts CLA levels. Planting legumes and genetically engineered plants to trap airborne nitrogen will also improve nitrogen levels in the soil, which is important for rich soil and healthy plants.

Some dairy farmers use processing systems to harvest methane from cow manure. The energy is used to power the farm while excess is often sold back to the local electrical grid.

Believers in naturally grown, mixed-species pastures say that the use of them will reduce greenhouse gases, improve animal health and meat quality and reduce the use of artificial fertilizers. Efforts like methane-reducing pills or the addition of garlic may just be stopgap measures that fail to address some of the core problems of livestock, namely ground and air pollution, cutting down of forests, the production of weak animals that later have to be culled and the use of artificial fertilizers and steroids.

Another possibility exists in trapping the methane gas and using it as energy or selling it back to the electrical grid. Some farmers already extract methane from livestock waste, but that does not solve the bigger problem of belched methane. Harnessing that methane would mean trapping it in the air, perhaps by housing cattle indoors or outfitting them with special muzzles that may inhibit eating.

(The above information on the digestive system of ruminants was copied from howstuffworks.com)

**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green

Stout

Ah, St Patrick's Day. When the whole world turns Irish. Or at least our livers do.

Ah well, here we go again. ‘Tis the season for parades, green beer, shamrocks, and articles talking about why St. Patrick’s day isn’t all about parades, green beer, and shamrocks.

First, a few misconceptions about the real St Patrick put to bed.

Patrick isn’t really a Saint with a capital S at all, having never been officially canonized by Rome. In fact, many patron saints of countries aren’t.

And Patrick couldn’t have driven the snakes out of Ireland because there were never any snakes there to begin with.

He wasn’t even the first evangelist to get to Ireland. (Some bloke called Palladius had been sent in 431, about five years before Patrick went).

And shock, horror, Patrick wasn’t even Irish! He was from what’s now Dumbarton, in Scotland, just northwest of Glasgow.

St Patrick

Do you think this icon makes me look fat? No come on, tell me the truth, now.

Patrick was just 16 years old in about the year 405, when he was captured in a raid and became a slave in what was still radically pagan Ireland.

Far from home, he clung to the religion he had ignored as a teenager. Even though his grandfather had been a priest, and his father a town councilor, it is said that Patrick “knew not the true God”when he was snatched. But forced to tend his master’s sheep in Ireland, he spent his six years of bondage mainly in prayer. He eventually escaped at the suggestion of a dream and returned home to Scotland.

More than 20 years later, Patrick was in his mid-40s when he returned to Ireland, and grew to love the country, spending the rest of his life there.

Palladius had not been very successful in his mission, and the returning former slave replaced him.

Intimately familiar with the Irish clan system (his former master, Milchu, had been a chieftain), Patrick’s strategy was to convert chiefs first, who would then convert their clans through their influence. Reportedly, Milchu was one of his earliest converts.

Though he was not solely responsible for converting the island, Patrick was quite successful. He made missionary journeys all over Ireland, and it soon became known as one of Europe’s Christian centers, and, indeed, where the light of Christianity was kept alive through the so-called “Dark Ages” after the collapse of the Roman Empire. This, of course, was very important to fifth-century Christians, for whom Ireland was one of the “ends of the earth.”

Finally, did Patrick really use the shamrock to explain the Trinity to the Irish? Well, it is simply impossible to know historically if he did or didn’t. But why spoil a good story with a few facts, eh?

There’s yet more interesting stuff about the real St P here: http://chiefofleast.com/2012/03/16/saint-patrick-green-beer-has-nothing-to-do-with-him/

Now – let’s get into a fruitless and unresolvable argument about whether Guinness is better in the can, from the tap, in Ireland, or wherever we happen to be drinking too much of it on St Pats Day, eh? That’ll while away a few happy hours.

(Actually I will confess, I can’t stand the stuff, although I do quite enjoy it mixed with champagne. This fabulously intoxicating rocket fuel is known as Black Velvet and is a beer cocktail made from stout beer (often Guinness) and white, sparkling wine, traditionally champagne.

Brooks's Club - which back then was my type of place by the look of it. This painting is by Thomas Rowlandson.

The drink was first created by the bartender of the Brooks’s Club of London in 1861, to mourn the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria‘s Prince Consort. It was supposed to symbolise the black or purple cloth armbands worn by mourners.

My family historically drank it with turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day, playing darts with neighbours and friends. God knows why, the reasons are lost in the mists of family time.

Preparation

A Black Velvet is made by filling a vessel, traditionally a tall champagne flute, halfway with chilled stout beer and floating the sparkling wine on top of the stout. Or vice versa, as opinions seem to vary. The differing densities of the liquids apparently causes them to remain largely in separate layers (as in a pousse-café). Iam reliably informed the effect is best achieved by pouring over a spoon turned upside down over the top of the glass so that the liquid runs gently down the sides rather than splashing into the lower layer and mixing with it. (Like when you add cream to the top of an “Irish”coffee – bet a few of those get drunk on the 17th too.)

Or, if you get bored, or too drunk to care, just mix them together, which is what we always did, in a great big jug. The more you drink, the easier it is to end 16, double 16, in a game of 501. Would I lie to you, guvnor?

Similar drinks

  • When cider or perryis used in place of the more expensive champagne, it is known as a “Poor

    Black Velvet. Yum. Yum yum yum, hic.

    Man’s Black Velvet”. The recipe differs in that the stout is floated on top, since cider and perry have a different density than champagne.

  • In Germany, a version of this mixed beer drink made with schwarzbier (a dark lager) and served in a beer stein or beer mug is called a “Bismarck“. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the “Iron Chancellor” supposedly drank it by the gallon.
  • A similar effect is achieved by the “Black and Tan“, which is a mixture of a dark and a light-colored beer, though the more similar specific densities allow for less distinct layers.
  • A variation called Velluto Italiano – Italian Velvet – which substitutes two parts Birra Moretti La Rossa as the grain component and one part Proseccoas the grape component.The drink was developed to span the range between sweeter cider and dryer Champagne variations, while taking advantage of the current increased interest in Prosecco in the USA.

Anyhow, my work here is done. Happy St P’s Day, everyone. P.S. Leave the car at home, eh?)

In a classic case of supply and demand, not to mention fashion trends and so-called popular opinion, the world’s largest sperm bank is no longer taking donation from redheads.

Red sperm? Nej Tak.

Red sperm? Nej Tak.

Cryos in Denmark has reached its capacity of 70 litres of semen and a waiting list of 600 donors – so it can afford to pick and choose.

Director Ole Schou told Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet: “There are too many redheads in relation to demand.”*

“I do not think you choose a redhead, unless the partner – for example, the sterile male – has red hair, or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that’s perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case.”

He said demand for sperm from redheaded donors came mainly from Ireland, where it sold “like hot cakes”.

*Does this mean a higher proportion of red haired men volunteer to become sperm donors than others? I think the people should be told.

Today’s fun facts:

The pigment pheomelanin gives red hair its distinctive color. Red hair has far more of the pigment pheomelanin than it has of the dark pigment eumelanin.

About 1-2% of the world’s population are “Gingers”. Also, stories that red hair is about to die out are false. Red hair is caused by a relatively rare recessive gene, the expression of which can skip generations. It is not likely to disappear at any time in the foreseeable future

Redheads may have different pain tolerance to non redheads.

Researchers have found that people with red hair require greater amounts of anesthetic. Other research publications have concluded that women with naturally red hair require less of the painkiller pentazocine than do either women of other hair colors or men of any hair color.

A study showed women with red hair had a greater analgesic response to that particular pain medication than men. A follow-up study by the same group showed that men and women with red hair had a greater analgesic response to morphine.

The unexpected relationship of hair color to pain tolerance appears to be because redheads have a mutation in a hormone receptor that can apparently respond to at least two different hormones: the skin pigmentation hormone melanocyte-stimulating hormone, and the pain relieving hormone known as endorphins. (These hormones are both derived from the same precursor molecule, POMC, and are structurally similar.)

Specifically, redheads have a mutated MC1R gene, which produces a mutated MC1R receptor, also known as the melanocortin-1 receptor. Melanocytes, which are cells that produce pigment in skin and hair, use the MC1R receptor to recognize and respond to melanocyte-stimulating hormone from the anterior pituitary gland. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone normally stimulates melanocytes to make black eumelanin, but if the melanocytes have a mutated MC1R receptor, they will make reddish pheomelanin instead.

The MC1R receptor also occurs in the brain, where it is one of a large set of POMC-related receptors that are apparently involved not only in responding to MSH, but also in responses to endorphins and possibly other POMC-derived hormones. Though the details are not clearly understood, it appears that there is some “cross talk” between the POMC hormones that may explain the link between red hair and pain tolerance.

Whether or not any of this is an excuse to bring more freckly, ginger-haired kids into the world is less clear.

Oh come on, I’m KIDDING.

PS Try googling “Ginger Kids” for endless amounts of socially-irresponsible, unworthy and politically-incorrect fun. But you didn’t hear it from me.

(Thanks to Yahoo)