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As mentioned in the history above Waterford was originally a Viking settlement and in the early 10th century BCE became Ireland's first city. Today after all the troubles of the late 19th and early 20th century it's growing again but it's still quite small, about the size of Wagga Wagga in Australia. Yet the hinterland is better watered, verdant farming country, like southern England but much less populous. We had a couple of nights in a well-appointed hotel and a nice room looking onto the river Suir.

Apart from being attractive and apparently prosperous, with ongoing gentrification, the town is historically interesting for its Christian, Viking and Norman history in addition to more recent developments.

Waterford is a well-known name to those of you who like to drink out of or collect leaded crystal glass.  The original Waterford fame goes back to a maker of fine crystal that operated between 1783 and 1851.  Production ceased after the Great Famine, when the economy fell into recession, and glassmaking didn't begin again until after WW2.  In 1947 a Czech immigrant determined to profit from the famous name. As local glassmaking talent was gone long before Charles Bacik brought in European glassmakers to restore the industry.  Yet despite a high quality product, some of which occasionally grace our table, the company struggled financially and was soon taken over.  After that it survived a succession of acquisitions, mergers and receiverships along with the equally famous Wedgewood pottery from England.

In Waterford this small and very labour intensive plant was constructed and kept operating, with taxpayer support because it's a tourist attraction, while the bulk of Waterford crystal is manufactured overseas. 

From our hotel it was a short walk to the Waterford Crystal glassworks that's now centrally located across the road from the historic Bishop's Palace and nearby Christchurch Cathedral (Church of Ireland - Protestant).  Waterford also boasts the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral in Ireland: the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. Like many churches they've hit hard times and want help to restore their windows.

In the same area there's a Medieval Museum that details the town's Viking and Norman origins.  While the museum was informative and engaging our visit to the glassworks was one of the highlights of our Irish experience and is highly recommended.

The old town's quite steep, from the river to the top of the ridge, to keep the residents healthy, and it's interesting to stroll around, with a few remnants of the 15th century city fortifications still visible.  Nevertheless it's not entirely given over to past centuries as the (tastefully?) modernised Apple Market attests.  On leaving we explored some of the outer suburbs in the car and while some dwellings are modest most are in good repair and again we got a sense of general wellbeing - certainly in excess of less well-off areas in, say, Memphis Tennessee.

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# Michael 2020-08-28 06:06
This article is brilliant. I've learnt a lot from reading about these travels
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Bridge over the River Kwai



In 1957-58 the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai‘ was ground breaking.  It was remarkable for being mainly shot on location (in Ceylon not Thailand) rather than in a studio and for involving the construction and demolition of a real, fully functioning rail bridge.   It's still regarded by many as one of the finest movies ever made. 

One of the things a tourist to Bangkok is encouraged to do is to take a day trip to the actual bridge.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The McKie Family








This is the story of the McKie family down a path through the gardens of the past that led to where I'm standing.  Other paths converged and merged as the McKies met and wed and bred.  Where possible I've glimpsed backwards up those paths as far as records would allow. 

The setting is Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England and my path winds through a time when the gardens there flowered with exotic blooms and their seeds and nectar changed the entire world.  This was the blossoming of the late industrial and early scientific revolution and it flowered most brilliantly in Newcastle.

I've been to trace a couple of lines of ancestry back six generations to around the turn of the 19th century. Six generations ago, around the turn of the century, lived sixty-four individuals who each contributed a little less 1.6% of their genome to me, half of them on my mother's side and half on my father's.  Yet I can't name half a dozen of them.  But I do know one was called McKie.  So, this is about his descendants; and the path they took; and some things a few of them contributed to Newcastle's fortunes; and who they met on the way.

In six generations, unless there is duplication due to copulating cousins, we all have 126 ancestors.  Over half of mine remain obscure to me but I know the majority had one thing in common, they lived in or around Newcastle upon Tyne.  Thus, they contributed to the prosperity, fertility and skill of that blossoming town during the century and a half when the garden there was at its most fecund. So, it's also a tale of one city.

My mother's family is the subject of a separate article on this website. 


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Opinions and Philosophy

Discovery of the Higgs boson



Perhaps the most important physics discovery of my lifetime has finally been announced.  I say 'finally' as its existence has been predicted by the 'Standard Model' for a long time and I have already mentioned this possibility/probability in an earlier article on this website (link).

Its confirmation is important to everyone, not just to physicists working in the field of quantum mechanics.  Like the confirmation of the predictions of Einstein's Theory of Relativity we are now confronted with a new model of reality that has moved beyond an esoteric theory to the understanding that this is how the Universe actually is; at least as far as the Standard Model goes.

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