Pioneer Irish Women

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle

Birr in County Offaly is famous the world over for having at one stage the largest telescope in the world.  The 3rd Earl of Rosse was a science pioneer and set an example that has been carried on by his family to this day.

In August 1869, in a sad accident, one of the cousins in the family, Mary Ward, became the first confirmed person in the world to die in an automobile accident.  The Earl’s sons built a steam car and Mary was racing around County Offaly with them when she was thrown from the car on a bend and fell beneath the wheels.

Then, in August 1896, another Irish woman became the first pedestrian to die in a car accident.  Bridget Driscoll was run down by a petrol engined car in the grounds of Crystal Palace.  She also became the first person in the UK to die in an automobile accident.

At the inquest into her death the coroner said that he hoped “such a thing would never happen again”.

I ran over a guy in my car once.  He was on a bike, in the rain.  I pulled out from a side road in front of him.  He crashed into my bonnet and went over the top.  I got out and asked if he was all right.  He got up and said he was fine.  Then he apologized for crashing into my car.  I got off lightly with that one!

Joyride 2; by Aram Stefanian

As she wrapped her car around a tree
A weird thought ran through her mind:
‘If I’m feeling no pain, then my soul is free
I’ll have to part with the daily grind”

She tried desperately to get out of the car
But the door was smashed and didn’t obey
Seeing on her arm an ugly bloody scar
She fainted, wishing she was melted away

When the cops were towing her car out
They were amazed to find no driver inside
Though one of them had a gnawing doubt
That he heard a woman crying over a joyride

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Setting Sail

Image

Harbour Mole: by Willem van de Velde (The Younger) 1693

Long and busy weeks these days with little time for selfish distractions.  The blog is suffering.  My little Mind Ship is careened in the mud on some foggy leeward shore waiting for a good scrape and a change in the wind.

I love those old engraved prints of the days of sail, which show harbors bursting at the seams with ships and boats.  But like a Ryanair plane on the tarmac, a ship locked in harbor is a useless asset.  The trick is to flow in on the tide, unload your cargo, load a new one and be gone on the ebb.  Those harbors packed with ships are monuments to stranded productivity.  They need the right wind and tide to make sail.

Sail ships were doomed as soon as steam was viable.  Why wait a week for a favorable wind when a steam boat can cast off into a headwind?  There is no romance in business, only cold hard brass.  At first they used steam tugs to haul the great sail ships in and out of harbour to find a wind.  Then the complimentary technology became the competition.  Tugs were redesigned to operate as barges on canals and rivers, bigger versions became river and lake boats.  Ultimately the noisy, smelly, dirty vessels even replaced the glorious tea clippers, the zenith of sail trader design, the greyhounds of the sea.

I need a cargo and I need it now.  I need a shift in the wind and a good tide.  I could use a bit of power instead of sail.  I need to get off this desolate shore.  I need a touch of magic.

So, how do I unite a steam ship, a touch of magic and a poem about riding at dawn – ah, a cauldron.  Ships boiler, witches pot and the eye of the sun.

‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath

Stasis in darkness.

Then the substanceless blue

Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,

How one we grow,

Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to

The brown arc

Of the neck I cannot catch,

Nigger-eye

Berries cast dark

Hooks—Black sweet blood mouthfuls,

Something else

Hauls me through air—

Thighs, hair;

Flakes from my heels.

White

Godiva, I unpeel—

Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I

Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.

The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.

And I

Am the arrow,

The dew that flies

Suicidal,

at one with the drive

Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.