Thursday, 12 June 2014


I'm Irish. Well, partly anyway. My paternal great-grandfather was from Cork in the Republic of Ireland.  And my maternal step-grandad was from Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Now as soon as I tell non-Irish people I have an Irish background, they will react in one of three ways. They will ask why I have no accent (I do - it's called Yorkshire!). They will ask if I am a Catholic or a Protestant (neither. I was raised through the Salvation army, but no longer practise).Or they will ask you about the troubles. They assume (incorrectly) that you know everything about it (I don't, but I'm learning) or that you even want to discuss it (most Irish would rather draw a line under the whole thing). Even though the troubles are essentially over, people have asked about them, as if I can give them a detailed history of the troubles. I've learned to live with it. And the first thing I get asked when I mention my name is, "Oh, are you Catholic?". No. I can see why they would make this mistake, but it's not the case. That's why I prefer to be called Terry. It means I don't have to explain all the time. 

So how proud am I to be Irish? As proud as it is possible to be. Do I celebrate St Patrick's day? Of course I do! Being Irish is awesome and I wouldn't change it for the world. And I wish everyone on the island of Ireland could be as proud as I am to be just plain old 'Irish'. 

Sadly that hasn't happened. From 1969 for nearly thirty years, Northern Ireland was scarred by division and violent conflict. Everyone had to be one side or the other. They were either Loyalist (Unionist) or Republican, and they were either Catholic or protestant. To think of themselves as just one people who lived happily together, but just had a different point of view from one another seemed unthinkable. but then, no-one thought the Berlin Wall would fall down either. Yet in 1989, that's exactly, amazingly, what happened. And on 10 April 1998 the Good Friday agreement was signed.

And here - in 2014 - are the people of Northern Ireland. All one people - just Irish -  living happily together (for the most part) who just happen to have differences of opinion and different beliefs. Brilliant! Long may it remain that way. There is still a lot of distrust, of course. In fact there are more walls up in Northern Ireland now, than there ever were during the Troubles. But everything is peaceful. People are no longer trying to destroy each other and that's a great start. Trust, however, takes time, but it will happen. The trust will build up and the walls will fall down. We are all one people - Irish - who just happen to have different beliefs. Nothing more or less than that. We are just plain old Irish. And I for one am proud to be so!

I leave you with this message I wrote on the peace wall.


There have been many mysteries in regard to missing planes. For instance The Bermuda Triangle is notorious for missing planes and ships and Glenn Miller was on a plane in the English Channel that went missing in 1944. 

My favourite story is of pilot Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan who were attempting a circumnavigation of the globe. They disappeared on route to Howland Island in the Pacific. No trace of them was ever found. The question is: where did they go? As with all mysteries like this, conspiracy theories abound. Some people say they were shot down, some say they ran out of fuel and crashed, and some say they were captured by aliens. 

Sci-fi writers have used missing planes as a plot device for years. From Taylor and Braga writing about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan being found on an alien planet in the Star Trek Voyager episode 'The 37's' to Peter Grimwade writing about a Concorde going missing in the Dr Who story 'Timeflight'. 

Which brings us to the mysterious case of MH370. This Malaysian Airlines plane left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. An hour into the flight, it vanished. There was an extensive search, but no trace of it has so far been found. So.....where is it? Where did it go? In this century of amazing technology, how can one plane just vanish into thin air?

The families of the passengers and crew want answers and have been given none. They have no idea where their loved ones are and no-one can tell them. 

Of course, there are the conspiracy theorists talking nonsense again, but the families don't need to hear that stuff, especially the rubbish about them being kidnapped by aliens. To me, all that does is dishonour the missing victims and it certainly doesn't help the heartbreak being suffered by those who love them. 

The question still remains: where is MH370 and where are the passengers and crew? We may never, ever know. But until this mystery is solved, that's all it will remain: A mystery.

I hope one day we do find out, if only to bring comfort to the relatives.

Monday, 2 June 2014

..........OR DOES HE?

There is a tradition in maritime history saying: "A Captain Goes Down With His Ship". I also found out in research that it's actually the law.

If things start to go wrong, a Captain is supposed to put the safety of everyone on board above his own. He should be the last person he is thinking about.

Or that's the way it's supposed to work. This is such a simple law and yet it seems that a lot of Captains in the last few years are either forgetting it exists or just not caring.

We start with the delightfully named Costa Concordia. This cruise liner capsized off the coast of Isola del Giglio in Italy. The Captain neglected his duties and 32 passengers were lost. 

Then we have the MV Sewol which sank off the Island of Jindo in South Korea. Again the Captain was negligent and there was a loss of nearly 300 lives. The most tragic thing was many of these were high school children who had their whole lives ahead of them.

The Captains of both these ships abandoned their passengers and crew, but why? Cowardice? Stupidity? Or callous disregard for anyone, but themselves? We may never know. Whatever happened, they broke the law and will possibly pay the price for it. 

The Captain of the Costa Concordia was charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. The Captain of the Sewol was charged with homicide through gross negligence. And to add insult to injury, he tried to pass himself off as a passenger.

The sadness of all this is that the deaths didn't stop with the drowned passengers and crew. In the case of the Costa Concordia, one of the salvage crew also died. And in regard to the MV Sewol, there is the emotional and heartbreaking story of the teacher who believed he was at fault and committed suicide because he couldn't cope with his guilt. There is also the parent who threatened to do the same if her daughter was found, because she allegedly pushed her daughter into going on the trip in the first place. And one of the civilian divers also died.

These two Captains broke the law and let people die. They should never have been placed in charge of a ship - ANY SHIP - in the first place and they should not be allowed to serve on a ship EVER AGAIN. They are a disgrace to maritime tradition, maritime history and worst of all a disgrace to their respective countries. 

I must point out that there were other contributing factors to these tragedies. That is not in dispute, especially with the Sewol where the ship was overloaded and the ferry company were also believed to be at fault.

However, once on board a ship, the buck stops with the Captain. 

A CAPTAIN GOES DOWN WITH HIS SHIP. And that's the way it should be.

"There are three things to remember about being a Captain: Keep your shirt tucked in; go down with the ship; and NEVER abandon a member of your crew". ~ Kate Mulgrew   

Flowers for the Victims of the Sewol Disaster (with kind permission from NBC's Bill Neely)