Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Several years ago, in the context of my document on maternal genealogy entitled A Little Bit of Irish [access], I tackled briefly (in the final four pages of chapter 2) the idea that my great-great-grandfather Charles Walker [1807-1860] might have been Scottish rather than Irish. In my analysis of the evidence, I made use of a principle employed in historical research concerning the stories of Jesus. At the time of writing about my Braidwood ancestor, I had forgotten where I had heard of this principle, which I evoked in a rather fuzzy manner. Well today, quite by chance, I discovered both the name of the principle and a good description of its origins and use.

Invented by the prolific American historian Will Durant [1885–1981], the principle has an amusing name: the criterion of embarrassment. Faced with a questionable item of alleged historical data, we should ask the question:
"Can we consider this item of data as somewhat embarrassing for the people who were writing the history in question?"
If so, then the item has a good chance of being valid, because historians wouldn't have retained data that was, not only embarrassing, but false. Put differently: Historians are only tempted to falsify the alleged facts that they are describing when the outcome of this falsification is likely to be positive; and embarrassing facts cannot normally produce a positive outcome.

In the case of my Braidwood ancestor, the idea that he might have been a Protestant Scotsman was indeed embarrassing for Walker descendants, since most of them had become members of Irish Catholic communities in Australia. And the situation was particularly embarrassing when we realize that 32-year-old Charles Walker might have lied blatantly about his background with the sole aim of being authorized to marry a girl who infatuated him: the 17-year-old daughter of an Irish convict. Consequently, the speculation that Charles might have been brought up as a Scottish Protestant was so outlandish that this rumor should normally have been squashed forever as soon as it first appeared.

Eliminating the rumor should have been a simple matter. It would have been sufficient to produce documentary evidence of Charles's birth, supposedly in Cork, along with other basic evidence linking him to Ireland. But no such documents have ever been brought to light. Although Charles Walker was employed on an English vessel, the Caroline (the ship that had taken the Henty brothers and their merino sheep to Western Australia), and in spite of his reputation as a respectable and prosperous citizen and a friend of certain distinguished English landowners in the Braidwood region (such as Captain John Coghill and Dr David Reid), we know less about Charles Walker's background in the Old World than for any other of my many Australian ancestors.

Funnily enough, the rest of the speculation, today, is not at all embarrassing for a descendant such as myself. Back in 1980, I was informed that one of Charles Walker's grandsons used to tell an amazing story about his Braidwood grandfather.

The storyteller, John Albert Walker, claimed that his grandfather Charles who had come out to New South Wales on a ship in 1833 was in fact a young brother of Johnnie Walker [1805-1857] of Kilmarnock, the inventor of whisky.

I've tried to research this speculation, but have been incapable of either confirming or disproving the question.

In recent years, the criterion of embarrassment has been used above all in investigations concerning the so-called historical Jesus: that's to say, the real man behind all the evangelical fantasy upon which the future religion of Christianity would be based. Prominent adepts of the criterion of embarrassment are to be found among the 150 or so scholars who belong to an amazing organization known as the Jesus Seminar, founded in 1985 in Oregon. They operate in a most democratic manner, voting by means of colored beads in order to express a consensus view on whether Jesus might or might not have made such and such a statement. Beads are of 4 colors: red, pink, gray and black.

Click here to examine some of their conclusions, many of which would horrify the pope.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ireland finally attacks the pope

Enda Kenny is the Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland. On 20 July, in the Dáil Éireann (lower house) of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament), Kenny delivered an extraordinarily virulent speech motivated by the recently-published report concerning the failure of the Catholic diocese of Cloyne to handle cases of sexual abuse of children by 19 priests. He castigated explicitly the Vatican in a style that would have been unthinkable up until recently.

This amazing speech will surely go down in Irish history as marking the moment when the once almighty church was finally brought to reckoning.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Irish folk

And here's to you, Mrs Robinson.
Jesus loves you more than you will know.
Woah, woah, woah.
God bless you please, Mrs Robinson.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray.
Hey hey hey. Hey hey hey.

BREAKING NEWS: I knew I wouldn't be particularly original in associating the famous song by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel with today's tale of the Irish couple. In Ulster, over the last week, downloads of this song have apparently shot up by a factor of twelve. Other joyful fallout from this affair is the sudden fame of Mrs Robinson's 21-year-old friend Kirk McCambley, who has become a new gay icon in the UK. Gay, this youthful gigolo? No, not at all. The reasons for his fame are a little more subtle. Iris Robinson had become an arch-enemy of the gay community when she declared on the BBC in 2008 that homosexuality was an "abomination", and that she knew of gay men who had been successfully transformed into heteros through medical therapy. Today, the gay community sees poetic justice in the fact that Mrs Robinson has been metaphorically screwed by Pretty Boy Kirk.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Irish law on blasphemy

On this first day of the new decade, Ireland's medieval law on blasphemy becomes operational.

My article of 26 November 2009 entitled Damnable Irish Catholic behavior [display] evoked a report on disgusting sexual crimes involving children committed by Catholic personnel in Ireland. Today, it's frankly preposterous that this same nation should be intent upon promulgating a law against blasphemy. This ugly law must be repealed as soon as possible!

People might react by claiming that Ireland is an independent nation and that the Irish have the right to outlaw blasphemy if they so desire. In other words, if Ireland wants to remain backward, it's none of my business. Well, I would reply that, since the creation of the entity known as Europe, everything that's decided in Europe in the way of new laws is the business of every European. But there's a stronger reason for worry. This kind of archaic law about blasphemy is wind in the sails of extremist Muslims who've been lobbying at a UN level for the drafting of new international laws designed to protect religion... which means, of course, their religion and religious customs.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ireland wants to stay aboard

It's tremendously encouraging to see that a popular vote in Ireland has confirmed the nation's desire to accept the Lisbon treaty and stay aboard the boat of Europe.

The central issue was, of course, economic. Were Ireland's political leaders simply telling lies and trying to scare the people when they suggested that the almost bankrupt nation would be in dire straits if ever it rejected the treaty a second time? Many shortsighted citizens believed this persistent rumor.

Let's see now how Poland and the Czech Republic react to Ireland's yes.

BREAKING NEWS: Allow me to get a kick out of translating from French into English the words of our most European president, Nicolas Sarkozy, for whom this Irish vote was a major milestone:

This vote—which crowns the efforts made in particular by the French presidence [of the European Union] in order to answer preoccupations expressed by the Irish—is a great satisfaction for all Europeans. It will allow us to take a decisive step towards the actualization of the Lisbon treaty. France hopes that states that have not yet done so [proclaimed their allegiance to the Lisbon treaty] will accomplish as soon as possible their ratification so that the Lisbon treaty can become operational before the end of the year, which is the engagement of the 27 [nations that have already ratified the treaty].

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sharing power in Northern Ireland

Normally, these two allegedly Christian leaders wouldn't share a piece of bread if they were hungry, let alone power. Like many of their fellow countrymen, they haven't evolved much at a religious level over the last four and a half centuries, since the days when England's Henry VIII decided to break from papal allegiance, and found a new church, so that he could get rid of his wife Catherine of Aragon. Be that as it may, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein made a promise today that they will share power in Northern Ireland starting on 8 May. The world will be watching them, warily.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Genealogy and genes

The Internet has changed genealogical research in both good and bad ways. First, the bad news. For me, it's summed up in the names of two money-making outfits named and Genes Reunited, which pester researchers constantly with publicity, trying to trap them into becoming paid-up members. These organizations lure newcomers into believing absurdly that family-history data will fall miraculously from the heavens, like rain, as soon as they join up.

On the positive side, I'm constantly thrilled by contacts from folk who've come upon one or other of my slowly-evolving websites concerning ancestors of my father and of my mother.

I'm eagerly awaiting delivery by Amazon of a new book: Stephen Oppenheimer, Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland. According to a review that appeared a few days ago, this medical geneticist from the University of Oxford claims that most present-day English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh people are highly similar from a genetic viewpoint. This leads to the interesting conclusion that Britain and Ireland have probably been inhabited for thousands of years by the same genetic stock, which would have been only marginally diluted later on by the arrivals of invaders described in history books: Celts, Romans, Angles , Saxons, Vikings and Normans. For the time being, Oppenheimer's views remain hypothetical, and other specialists in the genetic approach to genealogy have reached different conclusions.

Meanwhile, as Wednesday's votes are being counted in Northern Ireland, and Gerry Adams is waiting for a gesture of friendly conciliation from Ian Paisley, Ulster's tiny mind will no doubt find it impossible to conceive of the shocking notion that Catholics and Protestants might both be similarly-constituted human beings with identical genetic roots. Last night, French TV showed a brainwashed Belfast kid who was aghast, lost for words, when the reporter asked him if he could have friends on the other side of the wall. [Literally, the city is studded with walls to separate the communities.] We shouldn't even say it's religion that separates these two camps. It's just plain garden-variety ignorance and stupidity... of the kind that "inspired" many of our Australian bushranger "heroes".