Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Were Irish
10. The Tallest Dogs in the World
The Irish Wolfhound is a breed of dog that was possibly bred in Ireland, as far back as 500 BC. On all fours, the dogs are about 3 feet tall. If they get on their hind legs, they can easily go over an impressive 6.5 feet. The dogs feature in a famous Irish legend, where a warrior named CuChulainn went to visit an Irish king, but was set upon by the King’s wolfhound. CuChulainn killed the dog with his equipment for the Irish sport of Hurling (sort of an aggressive mix of soccer & baseball), but was filled with so much remorse that he took the place as the King’s guard dog. Despite their size, and this legend, the dogs are actually very friendly and gentle.
9. The Design of the White House
Most people know that there have been a few US Presidents that have Irish roots, including current President Barack Obama. And by “a few,” I mean at least half. But not only have we sat in the White House, we also designed it. James Hoban was born and raised in Ireland and, in 1792, Hoban won the competition for the design of the White House. The design itself is very obviously based on what is now the House of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament), Leinster House. Both have a triangular pediment supported by four round columns, with three windows on multiple levels underneath, and four on either side, with alternating round and triangular crowns above each window.
In 1954, Joseph Murphy invented the potato chip (or crisp, as it is known in this part of the world), the seasoning method, and founded the company “Tayto”, which has grown to become a major manufacturer of chips/crisps and popcorn. The first flavour invented by Murphy was “Cheese & Onion”, which may explain why it is still the most popular (here in Ireland at least). Nowadays, crisps/chips are one of the biggest snacks in the world, with thousands upon thousands of flavours to choose from. And it’s all thanks to Joe being a good ol’ Irish stereotype, and messing around with potatoes.
7. Soda Water
Robert Perceval was born in Dublin on the 30th of September, 1756. Perceval was an exceptionally bright youth, and entered Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest and most highly ranked University, at 16. He went on to Edinburgh afterwards to study medicine, before eventually returning to Dublin. In 1793, he became a lecturer of chemistry, and later, the very first professor of chemistry in Trinity. Then, in 1800, he developed soda water. What’s strange, however, is that we’ve clearly established Perceval as an intelligent guy and yet, after developing the soda water, he suggested it be used for medical purposes.
6. A Lot of English Words
English words have worked their way into a lot of languages. Being one of the most spoken languages in the world this is, of course, inevitable. Sometimes the roots are near impossible to spot, such as the Spanish word “esmoquin,” meaning “tuxedo,” as it was associated with smoking. Other times, they can be ridiculously obvious, like the French term, “la television.” But there are a lot of words you say and hear everyday, that you most likely have no idea came from Irish. One example is “galore”, which comes from the Irish “go leoir,” meaning “a lot.” Smithereens comes from the Irish word “smidiríní”. But probably the most odd would be that when people say, “can you dig it?” “Dig” comes from the Irish word “tuig” which means “to understand”. These are just a few examples of many.
5. Chocolate Milk
Chocolate milk was not just a clever ploy built up by a marketing team as a a way to sell more milk to children. In fact, Sir Hans Sloane first created chocolate milk over 350 years ago! He had tasted chocolate while in the West Indies, but said it made him nauseous, so he added milk and sugar to make it more appealing. By 1700, people would often go to “chocolate houses” instead of coffee houses, where they could choose from a range of different chocolate milk mixes. One last interesting fact about Sir Hans is that he lived to the impressive age of 92! For somebody born in 1660, that was practically unheard of. I’m not saying chocolate milk is the elixir of life, but that is, in fact, exactly what I’m saying.
4. Modern Submarines
John Philip Holland was a proper Irishman, born on the West Coast to an Irish-speaking family and only learning English at 18. Having been experimenting with submerging and explosives since 1858, it took almost 30 years for Holland to get a submarine built. In 1875, after emigrating to the US, he submitted his blueprints to the US Navy, who turned them down. A few years later, the Fenians took an interest in his designs. These were a group of American-based Irish Republicans and, by 1881, they launched the Fenian Ram, a basic submarine. Over the following years, Holland continued to improve his designs, launched the first long-distance submarine in 1897, and sold it to the US Navy in 1900.
3. Polar Bears
That’s right, our endangered Arctic friends have their roots in Ireland, making them the only example in history of somebody leaving Ireland because it was too hot. A recent study conducted on fossils and over 200 bears from 14 locations, showed that polar bears are descendants of Irish brown bears. Polar bears share a DNA sequence with the Irish brown bear that is found in no other bear on Earth. The sequence in question is passed down by female bears, and is now in every polar bear alive. However, with the onset of global warming, the habitat of the polar bear is reclining, and the bears are being forced to withdraw inland. Scientists speculate that the bears will begin to breed with other bears, creating a new hybrid.
2. Colour Photography
John Joly was born in 1857 in County Offaly. He graduated with First Class Honours from Trinity College in Dublin. When he wasn’t busy estimating the Earth’s age based on sodium levels in the ocean, John enjoyed trying to estimate the Earth’s age based on radium levels in the Earth’s crust. Yeah. So not exactly the most exciting guy in the world. But he did give us an unparalleled gift: the ability to embarrass our friends and family with mortifying pictures. The Joly Colour process was the first method capable of developing colour images using just one photographic plate. The method involved using three filters on a single glass plate, then using plates ruled with thin lines in red, yellow, and blue to view the photo.
1. Radiotherapy For Cancer
John Joly was born in 1857 in County Offaly. He graduated with…wait. Oh God, this guy again? There’s not really too much else of interest to introduce him with this time, so I’ll just tell you that he was an extremely prominent physicist, and published over 270 scientific papers. The man’s personal ad just writes itself. But, nerdy as he may have been, Joly did make a big contribution to medical science when he discovered a way to isolate radium and use it to fight cancer, known as “The Dublin Method.” Nowadays, different cancers in different stages and different parts of the body will be treated with different methods, but one of the biggest steps forward in modern medicine came from the same island where polar bears took colour pictures of Irish Wolfhounds inventing potato chips while drinking a delicious mixture of chocolate milk and soda water. Or something like that.