A Boy and a Sea Lion

A Boy and a Sea Lion

Swimming in a sea of love…

My friends and I found the sea lion exhibit down some stairs past a few enormous trees and between giant fake rock formations. It was a thick glass cross-section of a seashore, complete with jagged  outcroppings and deep diving waters. The air smelled like salt, and I could’ve sworn I heard seagulls overhead. The sea lions laid on rocks. They slept. They barked. They swam. But one had the spotlight.

In an instant I was gone, lost in an alternative universe, snatched from this reality à la what happens when you sink into a superb novel or fall into the dark of a cinema.

The beast was beautiful, a whiskered marvel perfectly sleek, some eight feet of smooth muscle slip and gliding with charming elegance. Its eyes were kind and wide, its mouth was almost smiling. It moved effortlessly through smooth waters.

But there was a boy there –  a skinny boy with a white t-shirt and short hair, pants with a blue belt.

So we stood back.

We watched for who knows how long, along with the boy’s parents, who we didn’t notice until later. Mom and dad were as invisible as the zoo landscape as we were, still and silent and watching.

The boy would stand before the glass, lock eyes with the animal as friends lock eyes,and then together, they would go. They would start running one direction, swooping wide left, the nose of the lion pairing the running red cloth in the hand of the boy. Each time they reached one end of the glass, I would gasp as both the boy quick-pivoted and the sea lion flipturned. Losing no time, they took off running back towards where they started, my heart still fluttering. A grand finale to each series, the boy flung his red hand high above his head, the lion flying twice as high, breaking the water’s surface with a flip back down to meet his boy’s eyes. I wanted to applaud and applaud after every move, but I couldn’t. I was paralyzed with something like awe.

So it went, the boy and the lion, side to side, flip-turning and leaping. So it went, my friends and I so mesmerized we could barely ooh and aah. Diving and chasing whatever pattern that somehow led their swings, I caught no breath as they smoothly slid from one sequence to the next. It was an awesome display of something like a symphony or the easy intimacy of old friends, the boy and the lion shared a playful power.

At some point, finally feeling our eyes, the boy stopped and turned to see us; both of them now looked our way. The boy smiled.

“We’ve been doing this together for eight years.” He held out his hand. “Do you want to try? I found that he responds best to the red cloth.”

The boy stepped out of the way and we stepped up to the glass. Silence. My friend stretched out her arm holding her yellow bag of Santita’s tortilla chips.Yellow seemed to work, too. The sea lion played along with our stiff movements until a toddler at the other end of the glass caught the beast’s eye. And, with one flip of the tail, the sea lion was there, spinning as if his nose were on an axle, looking over his whiskers into the child’s delighted eyes.

***

What if I called this love?

This openness, this playfulness, this willingness to say yes to whoever came to the glass to dance, to swing, to create. And not just the sea lion, but the boy who’s come for eight years for all the same reasons.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have the category, but I’ve felt it before and even alone. When with a person or a place or a time there’s direct connection, a surge of “YES, we are here now!” In pauses after long conversations. On a changing wind while walking. With the oranging sky over snowy hills. Together, again, with my brothers on a holiday. A few sets of footprints swept under pulling waves. Some sort of awe, some sort of gratitude, some sort of togetherness. It makes me smile for no reason, even laugh out loud. It makes my back tingle and my skin goosebump, my heart flutter fast or slow, so calmly, down.

What if I called this love?

Their connection and his confidence, their play and his poise– this boy was something special, unusually attuned and exceptionally open, but it was clear this virtue wasn’t his alone. There was something else happening there, a dynamic relationship thriving on trust and willingness and playfulness, and I feel privileged to have been there to see it.

What if I called this love?

And what if I sought it more often, willing to be surprised and awed and open to whatever and whoever new comes next today, the evening commute or the stranger sitting next to me? Or harder yet, can I choose this love again in my same old routines and same old coworkers and same old brothers? What if I said yes more often to that simple question from the boy and his dear sea lion…

“Do you want to try?”

-//-

The cover image, from Flickr user Pedro Lozano, can be found here.

 

 

 

Posted but not written by Louis Sheehan

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Scientists stunned by huge light discovery

Scientists stunned by huge light discovery

Scientists stunned by huge light discovery

Scientists have found a way to create an entirely new form of light that could result in breakthroughts in computers and communications.

Scientists have just found a way to create a new form of light that could totally change the future of computing and communications. Researchers in a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were able to link photons and create an entirley new light form that could be used to build light crystals with tremendous scientific applications.

Researchers did this by creating a cloud of chilled rubidium atoms, using lasors to vaporize and create an ultracold cloud that caused atoms to move slowly, but remain very excited. Then scientists used lasers to send photons into the cloud, which slowed down and exited the cloud as pairs or triplets.

The exciting discovery, which was detailed in the journal Science, could be used to create crystals that have major implications in communications and computing.

The full statement from MIT follows below.

Try a quick experiment: Take two flashlights into a dark room and shine them so that their light beams cross. Notice anything peculiar? The rather anticlimactic answer is, probably not. That’s because the individual photons that make up light do not interact. Instead, they simply pass each other by, like indifferent spirits in the night.

But what if light particles could be made to interact, attracting and repelling each other like atoms in ordinary matter? One tantalizing, albeit sci-fi possibility: light sabers — beams of light that can pull and push on each other, making for dazzling, epic confrontations. Or, in a more likely scenario, two beams of light could meet and merge into one single, luminous stream.

It may seem like such optical behavior would require bending the rules of physics, but in fact, scientists at MIT, Harvard University, and elsewhere have now demonstrated that photons can indeed be made to interact — an accomplishment that could open a path toward using photons in quantum computing, if not in light sabers.

In a paper published today in the journal Science, the team, led by Vladan Vuletic, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics at MIT, and Professor Mikhail Lukin from Harvard University, reports that it has observed groups of three photons interacting and, in effect, sticking together to form a completely new kind of photonic matter.

In controlled experiments, the researchers found that when they shone a very weak laser beam through a dense cloud of ultracold rubidium atoms, rather than exiting the cloud as single, randomly spaced photons, the photons bound together in pairs or triplets, suggesting some kind of interaction — in this case, attraction — taking place among them.

While photons normally have no mass and travel at 300,000 kilometers per second (the speed of light), the researchers found that the bound photons actually acquired a fraction of an electron’s mass. These newly weighed-down light particles were also relatively sluggish, traveling about 100,000 times slower than normal noninteracting photons.

Vuletic says the results demonstrate that photons can indeed attract, or entangle each other. If they can be made to interact in other ways, photons may be harnessed to perform extremely fast, incredibly complex quantum computations.

“The interaction of individual photons has been a very long dream for decades,” Vuletic says.

Vuletic’s co-authors include Qi-Yung Liang, Sergio Cantu, and Travis Nicholson from MIT, Lukin and Aditya Venkatramani of Harvard, Michael Gullans and Alexey Gorshkov of the University of Maryland, Jeff Thompson from Princeton University, and Cheng Ching of the University of Chicago.

Vuletic and Lukin lead the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, and together they have been looking for ways, both theoretical and experimental, to encourage interactions between photons. In 2013, the effort paid off, as the team observed pairs of photons interacting and binding together for the first time, creating an entirely new state of matter.

In their new work, the researchers wondered whether interactions could take place between not only two photons, but more.

“For example, you can combine oxygen molecules to form O2 and O3 (ozone), but not O4, and for some molecules you can’t form even a three-particle molecule,” Vuletic says. “So it was an open question: Can you add more photons to a molecule to make bigger and bigger things?”

To find out, the team used the same experimental approach they used to observe two-photon interactions. The process begins with cooling a cloud of rubidium atoms to ultracold temperatures, just a millionth of a degree above absolute zero. Cooling the atoms slows them to a near standstill. Through this cloud of immobilized atoms, the researchers then shine a very weak laser beam — so weak, in fact, that only a handful of photons travel through the cloud at any one time.

The researchers then measure the photons as they come out the other side of the atom cloud. In the new experiment, they found that the photons streamed out as pairs and triplets, rather than exiting the cloud at random intervals, as single photons having nothing to do with each other.

In addition to tracking the number and rate of photons, the team measured the phase of photons, before and after traveling through the atom cloud. A photon’s phase indicates its frequency of oscillation.

“The phase tells you how strongly they’re interacting, and the larger the phase, the stronger they are bound together,” Venkatramani explains. The team observed that as three-photon particles exited the atom cloud simultaneously, their phase was shifted compared to what it was when the photons didn’t interact at all, and was three times larger than the phase shift of two-photon molecules. “This means these photons are not just each of them independently interacting, but they’re all together interacting strongly.”

The researchers then developed a hypothesis to explain what might have caused the photons to interact in the first place. Their model, based on physical principles, puts forth the following scenario: As a single photon moves through the cloud of rubidium atoms, it briefly lands on a nearby atom before skipping to another atom, like a bee flitting between flowers, until it reaches the other end.

If another photon is simultaneously traveling through the cloud, it can also spend some time on a rubidium atom, forming a polariton — a hybrid that is part photon, part atom. Then two polaritons can interact with each other via their atomic component. At the edge of the cloud, the atoms remain where they are, while the photons exit, still bound together. The researchers found that this same phenomenon can occur with three photons, forming an even stronger bond than the interactions between two photons.

“What was interesting was that these triplets formed at all,” Vuletic says. “It was also not known whether they would be equally, less, or more strongly bound compared with photon pairs.”

The entire interaction within the atom cloud occurs over a millionth of a second. And it is this interaction that triggers photons to remain bound together, even after they’ve left the cloud.

“What’s neat about this is, when photons go through the medium, anything that happens in the medium, they ‘remember’ when they get out,” Cantu says.

This means that photons that have interacted with each other, in this case through an attraction between them, can be thought of as strongly correlated, or entangled — a key property for any quantum computing bit.

“Photons can travel very fast over long distances, and people have been using light to transmit information, such as in optical fibers,” Vuletic says. “If photons can influence one another, then if you can entangle these photons, and we’ve done that, you can use them to distribute quantum information in an interesting and useful way.”

Going forward, the team will look for ways to coerce other interactions such as repulsion, where photons may scatter off each other like billiard balls.

“It’s completely novel in the sense that we don’t even know sometimes qualitatively what to expect,” Vuletic says. “With repulsion of photons, can they be such that they form a regular pattern, like a crystal of light? Or will something else happen? It’s very uncharted territory.”

This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

 

 

Posted but not written by Louis Sheehan

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The Eastern Puma Has Officially Been Pronounced Extinct!

The Eastern Puma Has Officially Been Pronounced Extinct!

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Eastern Puma
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In a tragic wildlife development, the majestic Eastern Puma has been officially declared extinct by U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), as of January 22. 

Eastern Puma
Detail shot of a Puma (Source: Getty Images)

The species, known as Felis concolor couguar and Puma concolor couguar, has been officially removed from Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. The Felis cougar were commonly known as mountain lions, panthers and pumas.

Eastern Puma
Low angle view of Cougar standing on wood (Source: Getty Images)

Historically, these majestic cats have roamed every state of the eastern part of the United States along the Mississippi river.

Cougar in hunt attitude (Source: Getty Images)

In the year 2011, USFWS started to review the status of Eastern Pumas under the Endangered Species Act. It was deduced in 2015 that there was no evidence of the existence of the large cats.

Eastern Puma
Puma concolor, also commonly known as the mountain lion, puma, panther, or catamount (Source: Getty Images)

The de-listing of the endangered Pumas will become official on 22nd February.

Eastern Puma
Mountain Lion in the Southwest USA (Source: Getty images)

The big cat hasn’t been seen in the wildlife for more than 8 decades. The Eastern Puma’s quandary has been around for over 100 years now and by the 1900s, the cats were gradually vanishing because of hunting and systematic trapping.

Eastern Puma
Puma concolar in the woods (Source: Getty Images)

According to Mark Elbroch, the head scientist for Puma program at the group Panthera, the Eastern Pumas have been ‘long extinct’.

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Eastern Puma
A cougar resting on a log over black background (Source: Getty Images)
A cute female puma lying in a wooden box (Source: Getty Images)

In the year 2015, the biologists of Federal Wild life deduced that pumas elsewhere in the Eastern United States were beyond recovery and, thus, needed no protection under the Act of Endangered Species.

Eastern Puma
Detail side shot of Puma concolar (Source: Getty Images)

The genetic cousins of Eastern Pumas, mountain lions are still inhabit Western United States and are associated with the small, endangered population of Florida panthers which are found in Everglades.

Eastern Puma
A cute shot of two puma cubs posing together, cheek against cheek (Source: Getty Images)
Eastern Puma
Portrait of a female Panther (Source:Getty Images)

On average, Eastern Pumas were 8 feet long from their head to tail and, could weigh as much as 63.5 kilograms. The majestic creatures once had a huge population – and then humans happened!

Eastern Puma
Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi, White Oak Conservation Center, Florida, USA (Source: Getty)

The last of such a cat on record was killed in 1938 by a hunter in Maine. The reasons for their extinction are systematic habitat destruction and extermination campaigns; some of these majestic cats were trapped and killed for their fur, while others were murdered to prevent them from interfering with livestock.

Eastern Puma
Mountain Lion cub in winter (Source: Getty)

Some biologists are hopeful that they will be able to test the possibilities of conservation with the help of the plentiful cousins of Eastern Puma.

Puma licking nose behind fence (Source: Getty)

One of the conservation advocates of biological diversity, Michael Robinson, said: “We need large carnivores like cougars, which would curb deer overpopulation and tick-borne diseases that threaten human health, so we hope Eastern and Midwestern states will reintroduce them.”  

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Closeup of cougar sleeping (Source: Getty)

What happened to Eastern Pumas is really alarming and we, as humans, should start playing our part to protect other species from getting extinct!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted but not written by Louis Sheehan

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Japanese Company Claims Experimental Drug Kills Flu Virus in a Single Day

1 dose. 24 hours.

PETER DOCKRILL
13 FEB 2018

In the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in several years, a Japanese pharmaceutical company says it has an experimental drug that could make next winter a lot less sickly – not to mention safer.

Drugmaker Shionogi claims its influenza virus treatment baloxavir marboxil, which is not yet on the market, is faster-acting than any other flu drug available, with just one dose of the medication effectively killing the virus within a single day.

In a Phase 3 clinical trial reported last year, the average amount of time the compound took to wipe out the virus in otherwise healthy adults was just over 24 hours.

In contrast, participants treated with one of the most common flu medications,oseltamivir (sold under the brand name Tamiflu), took 72 hours, and people taking a placebo required 96 hours to beat the virus.

While the overall time to alleviation of symptoms was similar whether participants took baloxavir marboxil or oseltamivir, Shionogi says its experimental drug provides immediate relief faster, which might curb the virus’s contagiousness in people who take the treatment.

The oral drug works via a different biological mechanism to oseltamivir, which is aneuraminidase inhibitor, blocking an enzyme the virus uses to reproduce itself in infected cells.

By contrast, Shionogi developed baloxavir marboxil by leveraging discoveries made in anti-HIV drugs, targeting a different kind of enzyme and preventing cells from susceptibility to virus infection in the first place.

Another benefit is the single dose delivery, compared to oseltamivir’s 10-dose regimen (two doses daily for five days), which isn’t necessarily just a question of convenience, the drugmakers say.

“The advantage is that it’s one pill once, versus a course of therapy, so particularly for pandemic planning, this could be an advantage,” the head of co-developer Roche’s pharma unit, Daniel O’Day, told Bloomberg.

“You don’t have the potential resistance that comes with not completing your course of therapy.”

According to Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, the drug, which targets both the A and B types of influenza virus, received a green light from a Japanese government health ministry panel in early February, indicating a likely go-ahead for imminent manufacture and sale of the drug.

Formal approval to do so is reportedly being fast-tracked and is expected to come in Japan next month, which means the treatment could be on sale there as soon as May.

As for future availability in the US and elsewhere, that’s less clear right now.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Shionogi – together with Tamiflu maker Roche, who will have the rights to distribute baloxavir marboxil internationally – will apply for approval to sell the drug in the US this summer, with a decision expected to come sometime in 2019.

Of course, what that means is that baloxavir marboxil won’t be helping any of us out this flu season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t protect ourselves from the virus in the meantime.

While we all wait for the long-anticipated universal flu vaccine to arrive, the regular flu vaccination is still your best bet at the outset of any flu season.

Beyond vaccination, there’s a handy shortlist of things to know about the flu for this year, and a number of evidence-based things you can do to help avoid the worst of the flu (and to beat colds too) – including some things you might not exactly expect.

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PepsiCo Dips Its Toes Into the Sparkling Water Market

Photo

Bubly marks a big bet by PepsiCo that the fizzy flavored water market isn’t saturated by the segment’s dominant brand, LaCroix. CreditJens Mortensen for The New York Times

In the 1980s, the big brands battled for dominance in the cola wars.

Now, a new fight is emerging: The fizzy water wars.

On Thursday PepsiCo is introducing Bubly, a new brand of sparkling water that comes in eight flavors, including apple, strawberry and mango, in brightly colored cans with lowercase lettering and greetings on the pull tabs. (“Hey u!” “yo!”)

Bubly marks the most direct attack yet on LaCroix, a brand of flavored sparkling waters that has, in recent years, seen sales soar as it developed a near cultlike devotion among millennials.

For PepsiCo, Bubly is a big bet. The beverage and snacks giant will put its formidable marketing and distribution machine behind the rollout. Bubly will land on shelves this month, and two ads will appear during the Oscars broadcast on March 4.

PepsiCo executives say Bubly, with no artificial flavors, sweeteners or calories, fits into its broader corporate initiative to offer consumers healthier snack and beverage products.

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But it is also an acknowledgment that sales of carbonated soda are falling as consumers increasingly shun sugary drinks in favor of healthier options, including water. In 2016, bottled water sales by volume surpassed carbonated soda for the first time, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation’s DrinkTell database. And volume sales for carbonated soft drinks declined for the 13th consecutive year in 2017.

While Europeans have consumed sparkling water for years, the product has only recently started to catch on in the United States. Sales of domestic sparkling bottled water — not including imports like San Pellegrino — doubled between 2015 and 2017 to $8.5 billion, according to the DrinkTell database.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the surge in interest in fizzy water has been LaCroix. With its vivid, neon-colored cans and unique flavors like apricot, peach pear and pamplemousse (French for grapefruit), LaCroix has generated an avid following on Instagram and Twitter. Some websites have created cocktails, mixing various flavors of LaCroix with alcohol.

LaCroix, which has been around for about 35 years, was acquired in bankruptcy proceedings in the mid-1990s by National Beverage, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It has muddled along for years, and in regulatory filings by National Beverage, LaCroix was often mentioned far behind two other brands, Shasta and Faygo.

But in recent years, sales of LaCroix have ballooned. National Beverage stock has more than doubled in the past two years.

Photo

Sales of LaCroix have ballooned in recent years. National Beverage, which acquired the brand during bankruptcy proceedings, has seen its stock more than double in the past two years.CreditJens Mortensen for The New York Times

“LaCroix is a fascinating story because it has been around for so long,” said Gary Hemphill, the managing director of research at Beverage Marketing. “It just happened to be the right product for the right time.”

LaCroix’s growth surge hasn’t gone unnoticed on Wall Street, where some analysts predicted that National Beverage could be an acquisition target for PepsiCo, Coca-Cola or another manufacturer looking to enter the market quickly with a well-established brand. But other analysts say Nick Caporella, the 82-year-old founder and chief executive of National Beverage, who once ran a telecom and cable company and who owns 74 percent of the company’s stock, has not signaled any interest in selling.

National Beverage did not return a call seeking comment.

Even though consumers continue to turn away from sugary, syrupy sodas, the stocks of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are trading near historic highs, in part because they have been able to maintain or even increase pricing on soda. For PepsiCo, whose popular brands include Gatorade, Tropicana, Doritos, Lay’s and Aquafina, North American beverages made up a significant amount of the company’s $63 billion in revenues in 2016.

Recently, PepsiCo has shown a preference toward developing new products and brands in-house. Last year, the company debuted Lifewtr, a purified water with electrolytes that was a response to the success Coca-Cola has had with its Smartwater brand.

Coca-Cola acquired Smartwater as part of its acquisition of Glaceau, the maker of Vitaminwater, in 2007 for $4.1 billion. Coca-Cola also owns Dasani water, and has introduced some flavors of sparkling water.

“We’re confident in our ability to innovate from within,” said Todd Kaplan, the vice president of the water portfolio for PepsiCo North America Beverages, who oversaw the launch of Lifewtr and, now, Bubly.

While many analysts see continued strong growth for flavored sparkling water, they also note the segment will most likely get more crowded as other beverage makers and store labels fill the space.

“There is going to be a lot of competition in the space from private label,” said Duane Stanford, the executive editor of Beverage Digest. “Every store brand will have its version of LaCroix.”

The risk is that flavored fizzy waters could eventually face the same fate as their flat bottled siblings. There, a market that became saturated with competitors selling the same thing — water — resulted in sharply lower prices and profit margins.

But with Bubly, PepsiCo executives are betting consumers won’t tire of flavored sparkling water anytime soon.

“The category really has the wind at its back right now,” Mr. Hemphill of Beverage Marketing said. “There is room for at least two key players, maybe three. The fact that LaCroix has been so successful doesn’t mean there can’t be room for another brand.”

 

Posted, but not written by, Louis Sheehan

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Scholars Identify a New Influence on Shakespeare’s Works, With Help From Plagiarism Software

Scholars Identify a New Influence on Shakespeare’s Works, With Help From Plagiarism Software

Jonathan Douglas holds a skull as he portrays a futuristic Hamlet at the Shouson theatre in Hong Kong.
Richard A. Brooks/AFP/Getty Images

It may be time to move George North’s sixteenth-century manuscript, “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels,” to the very top of your reading list (assuming, of course, that it wasn’t already there). Two scholars have identified the treatise written by North, a minor Elizabethan diplomat, as a likely influence on William Shakespeare, since several of Shakespeare’s plays not only cover the same themes but also use many of the same distinct words found in North’s manuscript. Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueterexplained their methodology for the discovery to the New York Times, which included checking Shakespeare’s works against plagiarism software WCopyfind to identify unique words and phrases found in other sources.

Here’s how they drew their conclusions, via NYT:

In the dedication to his manuscript, for example, North urges those who might see themselves as ugly to strive to be inwardly beautiful, to defy nature. He uses a succession of words to make the argument, including “proportion,” “glass,” “feature,” “fair,” “deformed,” “world,” “shadow” and “nature.” In the opening soliloquy of Richard III (“Now is the winter of our discontent …”) the hunchbacked tyrant uses the same words in virtually the same order to come to the opposite conclusion: that since he is outwardly ugly, he will act the villain he appears to be.

“People don’t realize how rare these words actually are,” Mr. McCarthy said. “And he keeps hitting word after word. It’s like a lottery ticket. It’s easy to get one number out of six, but not to get every number.”

Other telltale signs include a passage in North’s manuscript that uses the rare “trundle-tail” while talking about dogs, a term which later crops up in King Lear. See, it turns out that plagiarism software is good for something other than your English teacher making sure you didn’t steal your essay from the internet. (Hi, Ms. Coleman!)

The article is careful to clarify, however, that despite the use of the software, Shakespeare is not actually being accused of plagiarism. Rather, he was inspired by North’s work. Good luck using that one as an excuse, high-school students of the world.

Posted, but not written by, Louis Sheehan

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Robert Traill (clergyman)

Robert Traill (clergyman)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Reverend Doctor
Robert Traill
Rector of Schull
Mullins hut.jpg

Mahoney’s sketch of Traill visiting a dying man’s home in 1847
Church Church of Ireland
Diocese Cork, Cloyne and Ross
In office 1832–1847
Personal details
Birth name Robert Traill
Born 1793
Lisburn, County Antrim
Died 1847 (aged 53 or 54)
Schull, County Cork

Robert Traill (1793–1847) was a Calvinist Church of Ireland clergyman. He was rector of Schull, County Cork from 1832 until his death and part-owned a copper mine in the area. Traill complained of losing tithes from the Roman Catholic population due to the 1830s Tithe War but was recognised for his compassion during the Great Famine in Ireland from 1846. He was depicted in an Illustrated London News article of the time and was the subject of a letter published in several newspapers. He died of typhus in 1847.

Early career[edit]

Traill was born in Lisburn, County Antrim. He achieved the degree of Doctor of Divinity and afterwards was appointed the rector of Schull, County Cork in 1832.[1] He came into conflict with the local people for his religious fervour, being a renowned campaigner for the protestant religion.[1][2] Traill is known to have translated some of the manuscripts of Josephus, the first-century Jewish writer into English.[1] Traill is said to have discovered copper at the Dhurode mine on Mizen Head which first operated between 1844 and 1846. He was a major shareholder in the mine and one of its six shafts was named after him.[1][3] Traill was involved in the Tithe War where many Catholics refused to pay tithes to the protestant Church of England, a fellow clergymen was killed within 30 miles of Schull and Traill lamented that “the ungodly are rising up, and these poor deluded Roman Catholics are caballing to deprive me of my tithes, alas! What wickedness is this?”.[4]

Great famine[edit]

At the outbreak of the Great Famine in 1846 Traill believed that the storage of potatoes in pits would save them from the blight and worked on constructing these from October 1846. However he realised this would not be successful and by December was trying, in vain, to persuade the local landlords to let their tenants keep some grain so that they weren’t forced to eat their seed potatoes.[5] Traill established a relief committee for his parish and wrote widely to persuade people to subscribe to it. He was shown in the Illustrated London News visiting a dying man and his family, having been sketched by James Mahoney who said of Traill that “his humanity at the present moment is beyond praise”.[2]

Traill established a soup kitchen at his home to provide for the needy and wrote that “my house is more like a beleaguered fortress. Ere the day has dawned the crowds are already gathering. My family one and all are perfect slaves worn out with attending them; for I would not wish, were it possible, that one starving creature would leave my door without some-thing to allay the cravings of hunger”.[1] In February 1847 he showed Commander James Crawford Caffin of the HMS Scourge some of those in the parish affected by the famine. Caffin wrote to a friend that “In no house that I entered was there not to be found the dead or dying … never in my life have I seen such wholesale misery, nor could I have thought it so complete.” Caffin’s letter was published in various newspapers, an act which brought some relief efforts from the British Government to Schull. However by March this appeared to have ended when Traill stated “the distress was nothing in Captain Caffin’s time compared with what it is now”.[6] Traill is said to have spent most of his income on relief for the needy.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

He died of “Famine Fever” (typhus) in 1847. He left a large family including two sons – 3-year-old Robert Walter and baby Edmund. The family moved to Dublin where Robert studied civil engineering and Edmund medicine at Trinity College before they abandoned their studies to become ranchers in Argentina. Robert Walter Traill’s son was Johnny Traill, the noted polo player.[8] Another of Robert Traill’s grandsons was John Millington Synge, the playwright.[1] His great-great-great granddaughter is TV producer and writer Daisy Goodwin. Goodwin wrote Traill into an episode of ITV’s Victoria which told the story of the Great Famine. Traill was played by Martin Compston in the episode of the drama’s second series which was shown in 2017.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f Newman, Kate. “Robert Traill”. Dictionary of Ulster Biography. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b Coogan, Tim Pat (2012). The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy. St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 9781137045171.
  3. Jump up^ “Dhurode Mine (Carrigacat Mine), Mizen Peninsula, Co. Cork, Ireland”. Mineralogy Database. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  4. Jump up^ MacKay, Donald (2009). Flight from Famine: The Coming of the Irish to Canada. Dundurn. p. 132. ISBN 9781770705067.
  5. Jump up^ Coogan, Tim Pat (2012). The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy. St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 9781137045171.
  6. Jump up^ “The History of the Great Irish Famine of 1847 (3rd ed.) (1902) by O’Rourke”. Project Gutenburg. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  7. Jump up^ Laffaye, Horace A. (2015). Profiles in Polo: The Players Who Changed the Game. McFarland. p. 54. ISBN 9781476662732.
  8. Jump up^ Laffaye, Horace A. (2015). Profiles in Polo: The Players Who Changed the Game. McFarland. p. 55. ISBN 9781476662732.
  9. Jump up^ Saunders, Tristram Fane (2 October 2017). “Victoria: what is the truth about the Irish Famine, and who was Robert Traill?”. The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 October 2017.

Posted, but not written by, Lou Sheehan

 

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