Year: 2006

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Welcome to Diggin in the Dirt: a new series of articles exploring all matters archaeological and historical, brought to you by archaeologist of the damned and Blather's grave-robber in residence, Ender Wiggan. Excavations shall commence with a study of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the infamous 5th century warlord and serial-knobber. Recently, many newspapers have been waxing lyrical about the latest genetic study from Trinity College, involving the tracing of an alpha-male type genetic ancestry in the northwest part of Ireland. Linked with the Uí Néill Dynasty, and their mythical founder Niall of the Nine Hostages, impressive estimates now proclaim that one in twelve Irish males (one in three in Ulster) share direct descent from him. And worldwide, between two and three million males may also be able to trace a common genetic connection to him. A Y-Chromosome Signature of Hegemony in Gaelic Ireland But just who was Niall when...

Hellfire Club, West Wycombe
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In yet another episode in a never-ending series, blather.net returns to the lair of the English Hellfire Club - Sir Francis Dashwood's party-house at Medmenham Abbey, and the fantastically kitsch tunnels in West Wycombe. Back in 1998, blather.net visited the Hellfire Club tunnels, in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire - which, in case you don't know, is about 50km out of London. Back then, I knew very little about photography - I pointed and I shot, and was pleased enough. Now, I know a little more, and hope I've presented some better images of one very, very odd place. I've already written extensively on blather.net about the Hellfire Clubs, both the Irish Hellfire Club and their English counterparts. So, rather than getting into an explanation of 18th century rakes and satanists, I'm going to stick with talking about our recent visit. In November 2005, a crack blather.net & Strange Attractor team descended...

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Seven foot six and eight foot four. One coffin, two coffins, three. Concrete slippers, the smell of kippers and a funeral at sea. Ladies and Gentlemen, Blather.net and the stupendous Mr. Panting present the amazing, the fantastic, the spectacular tale of the Irish giants, Messrs. Charles O'Brien and Patrick Cotter. High-Kings? Or Just high? The remains of Charles O'Brien, the celebrated Irish giant, who died in 1783 from alcohol-induced illness, have long held a macabre place of honour in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons, London. He was one of two Irish giants living in England at the end of the eighteenth century who were household names. The second was Patrick Cotter. Curiously, both men were said to claim to be direct lineal descendants of Brian Boru, the eleventh century High King of Ireland. Confusion seems to abound about O'Brien. There's the spelling of his name and even...

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Over the years at Blather, we have described many of the items we have covered as 'weird news'. Certainly we mean 'weird' in both its strict sense (uncanny, supernatural: like schools closing because of ghosts) and in its colloquial sense (strange, incomprehensible: like a corpse propped in front of a TV for two years without anyone noticing). But did you know that 'weird' originally meant something entirely different? The original word was a noun, whereas we use the word as an adjective (e.g. 'Barry is weird') or an adverb (e.g. 'Barry is acting weird')... AND it was originally spelt wyrd... To understand the concept of wyrd we need to look at history. Britain in the late Roman Empire was Christian, but from around 449 AD pagan Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons and Jutes) invaded and settled. They brought pagan beliefs, as described in Old English literature and Tacitus' Germania. The Germanic...

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In our continuing exploration of the world of the Dead, Blather.net went in search of the Southwark Mysteries - the untold history of London. So, on a cold and gloomy 23rd of December 2005 we met with 'John Crow': a local poet and mystic who talks to the outcast dead... Christmas for the dead It's 7 pm. It's bitterly cold and windy on Redcross Way, but so far there seems to be little threat of rain. Twelve of us look through the iron gates, into Crossbones Graveyard: some pause to read the strips of cloth tied the gate's railings that contain the names of the dead. I can't help but notice that Irish surnames seem to be frequent. People light candles, move around quietly and then, on John's lead, the singing starts: "Silent night", a Christmas song for the ghosts within - the ghosts of the unwanted, the forgotten and...