To cram Family History Research, The Clancy Centenary Ride, the Shackleton Autumn School, and a pilgrimage to the South Pole Inn, all into one little trip to Ireland resulted in what felt like a real epic voyage.
So there are some reflections and contemplations to be mulled over.
On the very first day, I learned the correct local pronunciation of my old family name.
"C'nyon." And slight variations.
On almost the last day, in the South Pole Inn, a family from Dublin was having lunch. The mum was very well-travelled particularly in Africa. But in Ireland as well.
She asked about my family research, and pronounced the name "C'nnahn."
"It'll be 'C'nyon' in the west," she told me, "But 'C'nnahn' here in the east. It's like that for a lot of names. What about 'Rabbit', have you come across that?"
Well, I had. In our B&B just up the road from the pub.
Where I found this:
I feel bits of jigsaw coming together. I found a headstone in the old part of the Tulrohaun graveyard listing three generations of Cunnanes. That graveyard was dangerous to explore. It was completely unkempt with grass a foot high hiding everything including sunken old headstones ready to trip you up. But most effectively, the grass hid the scores of rabbit holes. Deep rabbit holes which swallowed your leg at every other step, needing both hands constantly free ready to steady yourself.
A librarian in Dublin had also mentioned the Rabbit connection.
You never stop learning.
In the same B&B in Annascaul there was a very old map on the wall, which displayed this little gem:
Common myles of Irland. A good old Elizabethan measure. Handy to check that my GPS is getting things right, what with it having settings for statute miles, nautical miles, kilometres, minutes of arc, and heaven knows what else.
For family interest, here's County Mayo from that map. I don't recognise anything. GPS map-making was just a glimmer in Sir Walter Raleigh's eye; satellites in those days disintegrated everytime they were fired from those huge cannons.
Being Elizabethan, West is Up.
Despite having had 'Common myles of Irland', then 'Miliarium Hibernicorum' followed by ordinary English miles, the Republic of Ireland now has 'kilometres' for distances and speeds on the roads.
Such things should stay strictly on the continent I think. After all, there are a lot of towns here called 'Inch'. One famous one is on a spectacular bit of coast in Dingle Bay near the South Pole Inn.
I've never seen a signpost to anywhere called 'Centimetre'.
That sews it up for me.
When you hire a car, of course the speedo is in kph. Which is ok I suppose.
Until you go on the Clancy Centenary Ride with the lunchstop in Enniskillen on the first day.
Or at the Giant's Causeway on the second. Or finishing in Belfast.
Suddenly the speed limits are in mph.
Well, every speedo I've ever seen in Europe has a tiny set of numbers around the outside of the dial to show mph.
Without warning I'm at the mercy of the speed cameras and my mental arithmetic.
And as I've said before, despite all this hormone stuff I'm on, I still can't do more than one thing at a time. And that includes driving and doing sums. (But I do now have a cupboard-full of new shoes - that's another story).
So I potter slowly along the roads in the North looking for a shop to buy a felt-tip, to write my own numbers on the dial. And hope they don't sell shoes as well.
Talking of cupboards of shoes, a long time ago I became hooked on those MBT shoes. The ones that have no heel, just a pivot point underneath the instep so your foot rocks back and forth all the time.
I think they're brilliant. They're supposed to be good for just about everything. Including backs, which is what led the inventor to develop them. I've never had back trouble and still don't so I hope it stays that way.
Well, despite my enthusiasm for them, they never became popular. People look at me as though I'm mad when I describe and demonstrate them. And the inevitable happened. The makers went bust.
It was a Swiss company, and in the classic way, the inventor who did a brilliant job of the design and development never let go of the company to someone who could run it as a successful shoe-selling business.
And MBT shoes suddenly disappeared from the shops. As did some of the shops selling them.
But one or two outlets still had stock so a few enthusiastic types like me decided to fill up their cupboards quickly. And that hormone treatment helped very nicely thank you. I was out there for a while buying shoes as fast as I could find them. Fill yer boots!
Talking of boots, back in Ireland I was wandering around the large graveyard at Bekan (like y' do) whan a local man arrived with gardening gear and boots. He had a few graves to tend, and asked the usual question, what name was I looking for?
Straight away he answered, "Ahh, the O'C'nyons!"
He was the first and only person to put the 'O' on the front. But at least I know now that that form exists.
Followed by, "It's bin a'terrible raining here, I hope the ground's dried out a bit now. I've never heard of any O'C'nyons as far south as Culnacleha but there's a few 'round here. Not that I know them myself now.
There's Mass at 11:30, it could be worth seeing the Priest."
Which I did. But there were no records. Except, "There was a Joseph C'nyarn. He was Archbishop of Tuam until the late eighties. Don't know anything about his family at all."
And Culnacleha is in the parish of Annagh which is in the barony of Costello in the diocese of Tuam in County Mayo in the province of Connacht (or Connaught). Glad I got that straight.
The evening before the start of the Clancy Centenary Ride, I found myself in Bewley's Cafe, where I saw a lot of paintings around the walls, and this notice:
Well, I thought, they may have a lifetime association with Irish art, so maybe it's time they looked at a bit of English stuff. Next time I'm over here I'll bring along a sought-after piece, hot from my hanging at the St Luke's art gallery in arty Guildford.
Over the last few days, I've taken a huge leap into the 22nd century. It might as well be the 22nd century as far as I'm concerned, as I've put my very first video on youtube.
It was a mere 50 years ago that I trundled up to a local radio hobby club having heard that another member would be there with an amateur TV station. Well, I wanted to see that for sure. I had been utterly fascinated by this television stuff since seeing a TV set for the first time about four years earlier, aged about ten. How on earth did a moving picture appear on a screen after travelling through the air from who-knows-where and then along a bit of wire to the aerial socket????
The club member with the TV stuff had spent a small fortune buying a surplus camera set-up from the BBC. He needed a lorry to get it to the school hall, and very nearly a crane to put it in place. Just the camera must have weighed a couple of hundredweight, on a tripod with big wheels of about the same weight. Cables of two inches diameter snaked to a stack of electronics full of hot, brightly glowing valves that would dwarf the sound and lighting gear of a touring band today.
All that to display a dim blurry picture on the tiny round screen of a TV about the size of a sideboard. We took it in turns to stand in front of the camera and wave a hand - just for a moment in case this early incarnation of a Dalek was really a deadly ray-gun.
It was my turn.
The screen showed me and my moving hand, and having shown it, I moved on. And the picture evaporated. A second larger truck would have been needed for all the paraphernalia to record the moment for posterity. Not that any such stuff really existed at the time.
That was before I left school. Now, in what seems like no time at all, I can go to a local shop, hand over not-a-lot of cash and walk away with something that fits in my pocket, films and records an hour or more of HD TV, and sends it over a telephone line to a place where everyone else in the world can see it!!
My mind still boggles. Which is good I suppose as it indicates to me that it's still working....
This is what my mind is boggling at, my first 'youtube'!
The 1922 Henderson in full song.
Dancing pushrods and valve springs exposed to the outside world, just behind the exhausts.
Which neatly brings me to the hot news on the second day of the Clancy ride.
All the analogue TV transmissions across the whole of Ireland (including Northern Ireland) were switched off on that day. Completing the analogue switch-off across the entire British Isles. 24th October 2012.
On the news in Ireland they were asking what happens to the radio spectrum that's now empty.
Well, they couldn't have been paying attention to this blog. I even posted a photo of the phone fitted to the handlebars of the 1922 Henderson. It's a secret prototype that'll go on sale very soon. It may be a bit new-fangled for today's 4G, 5G and 6G mobile phone connoisseurs, but the iMorse Phone is about to hit the shops, with the unique miniaturised morse key.
It's hacker-proof. Once you learn the dots and dashes, no one will have the foggiest idea what you're talking about.
This switch-off of all the analogue TV is big nostalgic stuff for some readers of this blog, my old work colleagues. So the rest of you will have to divert around this anorak stuff, or fall asleep if you haven't already.
Many of those work mates spent a lot more years than me working on the networks that carried all the analogue BBC and ITV programmes. In the 1970s I learned from them what an art it was to link together multiple transmission lines, each 200 miles or so long, with such precision that programmes carried from London appeared in homes in Inverness, and everywhere else, as clearly and as colourfully as they appeared in the studio where the action was taking place.
(Easy to do now, not so in those days).
Part of the art was to be able to stare at the circuit-tester screens for hours and hours, in a little room on some remote hilltop next to a TV mast. And watch the waveforms shown here while making endless adjustments until they met the exact measurements required. The measurements being down to fractions of millionths of a second.
(The website is from the US NTSC system - UK's PAL was similar).
These wave patterns on the screen then became the 'specification record' for the London-to-Plymouth link, or whatever link was being lined up, and a set of detailed photos were taken using huge Polaroid cameras with all those old chemical-filled sachets that leaked in your toolbox.
This morning the sun shone brightly as I left the pool at Crystal Palace. So for old times' sake I took this photo of a place where the 'art' just mentioned above would have been undertaken. Not on a remote hilltop in this case but never mind.
Now, it's best not to have regrets. But I was working once at just such a place somewhere in remote West Wales. The station manager was, like a lot of engineering managers in those days, a WWII veteran and hadn't heard of health and safety. And in the transmitter building he kept all the gear needed for the task he suggested.
Standing right under the four legs of the mast, you couldn't help but look up into the magnificent structure (not as high as the Eiffel Tower but you get the idea). In the nice calm summery weather he suggested, "Why don't you climb up?" All matter-of-fact, like.
Still don't know why I didn't.
There were occasional hiccups in those analogue days.
I had the honour back in 1979 to be the project engineer for the construction of the analogue network to carry the new Channel Four TV service.
On the opening afternoon, 2nd November 1982 (30th anniversary just gone!) there was a real buzz going round the control room in the Post Office Tower. The first welcome announcement was being transmitted from the Channel 4 studios just round the corner in a converted cinema (the old Scala Cinema).
Suddenly, all the screens went blank. The sense of horror that flashed around the room was palpable - all the TVs across the country that were tuned to Channel 4 had also gone blank.
But all those networks were protected with overlays and standbys that were more complex than the networks themselves. So the break was bypassed and made good within a second or so, in time for the start of the first gripping edition of Countdown at 4:40pm precisely.
About a minute later a technician had identified the exact cause. It was in a bit of equipment right there in the control room, at the bottom of a rack in an aisle that was crowded with staff watching the big event on the screens all around the room.
Horror of horrors - in those days some trousers had turn-ups, and the turn-up on one particular pair (not mine, your Honour) had hooked onto a switch low down at floor level, and pulled it....
The horror was that the very few switches fitted to this stuff were supposed to be securely covered up to prevent just such a thing ever happening. Someone had dropped a clanger, but we survived to tell the tale.
So I was very disappointed to see this.
Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters switching off the last UK analogue transmissions just outside of Belfast. At 10:00am precisely.
I mean to say - she's definitely wearing trousers. But used her finger!
All that research we did into using turn-ups - all wasted.
And to add insult to injury, the label at the top of that rack says 'CH4 B'! (See the 'A' rack at 38 seconds in - there are always two)
There's no justice!
This extract from an old journal might help to explain the significance of all this nerdy rambling. Part of 'the article wot I wrote', from International Broadcast Engineer, November 1982.
Plenty of mumbo-jumbo for job titles and department names in those days!
Part 2 to follow at a safe distance.
Posted by Ken Thomas at November 05, 2012 09:02 PM GMT
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