By the end of this year almost every resident adult and school child in Ireland will know something about our 1916 Easter Rising in our efforts to gain Irish Independence.
But down here in rural Ireland amid all the ongoing 1916 commemorations, let us not forget the bravery by Thurles native and patriot, the late Paddy O’Connell, in the face of strong English interrogation.
Paddy had won every prize imaginable in the late 1990’s, at every charity driven pub quiz, not just here in Thurles, but also in the surrounding hamlets, latter today mostly inaccessible by road to those of us severely restricted by the use of the normal BMW and Lexus motor vehicles.
Hailed back in the late 1990’s as the most intelligent man in Tipperary, Paddy’s name was the most obvious choice then to be put forward to compete in the successful TV quiz shows; namely Larry Gogan’s ‘Just a Minute Quiz’ and Bunny Carr’s ‘Quicksilver’.
Paddy had reasonable success on both these shows; missing out however on a couple of what he called himself ‘deliberate trick questions’, e.g. “Name a bird with a long neck?” Paddy had replied “Naomi Cambell”, but alas the answer, which the adjudicators were seeking was “Ostrich”.
When asked by Bunny Carr “Where is the Taj Mahal?, his reply had been; “Opposite the Dental Hospital in Dublin.” Latter while true, this answer, alas, was also rejected in favour of a place no one here in Thurles had ever eaten in; (some other Indian curry Take-Away joint I understand), supposedly situated on the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra.
Regardless of these obvious less than fair explorations delved into by R.T.E. researchers seeking correct answers; it was then suggested, by the reigning Board of Tipperary Mensa, that Paddy O’Connell should perhaps try his hand, by entering for the ‘big one’ – none other than the English general knowledge quiz known as, “Mastermind.”
Despite his two previous public embarrassments, forced on him by misinformed R.T.E., researchers, he jumped at the chance of taking part and following a ‘whip-round’ by locals to assist in his travelling expenses, and later bolstered by his success in getting through the usual selection process; Paddy found cheap lodgings and waited to be summoned for his imminent high profile TV appearance.
Glued to the TV, everyone back home here in Thurles sat with sweating fingers crossed, as the ominous Mastermind theme music played, “Approaching Menace”, (by the British composer Neil Richardson), to open the quiz show.
It was a rather nervous Paddy that emerged from the highly intellectual group of contenders that night, gathered at Granada Studios. He placed himself proudly on the large, soft, black, leather office seat and tried to look comfortable. Suddenly the lights were dimmed and a blinding spotlight shone down, firmly illuminating a pale, strained face.
Magnus Magnusson began; “Your name is Paddy O’Connell and I understand you have chosen as your specialised subject this evening; “Irish History – 1900 to 2000.”
A focused Paddy, fully intent on winning the title, responded with a clarifying nod of the head and the words, “Yes Sir” in a strong voice, broke the air of the dimmed studio silence.
Aware of his time constraints, he leaned forward, mouth slightly open and with head turned slightly to the left, Paddy focused his brain while attempting to effect the clearest possible sound in his best ear.
“Very well” said Magnus, “Your first question Mr O’Connell and your two minutes starts now; – In what year did the Easter Rising take Place?”
Paddy responded quickly; “Pass”
“Your second Question Mr O’Connell” said Magnus, “Who was the Leader of the 1916 Easter Rising?”
Paddy again responded like lightening, “Pass.”
“OK” said Magnus, “How many days did the Easter Rising last?”
Paddy responded again like a greyhound let loose from his race trap, “Pass.”
Suddenly a voice shouted from the rear of the darkened studio, “Good man Paddy, hang in there and give those bloody English no information.”