When I was a young lad – not today nor yesterday, one of the many local characters that I knew was an eccentric old periodic alcoholic by the name of Jack Murtagh. Jack lived on his own – apart from sharing his house and bed with a rather independently minded terrier of doubtful parentage. The dog went by the name of ‘Ratter’. (You can work that one out for yourselves!)
Jack was one of the most well-read and intelligent men in the parish. The people said he was ‘mad with brains’ by way of compliment. Perhaps the fact that Jack was contrary and bereft of any tolerance for people of less intellect than himself … the handiest label to file him under was ‘mad with brains!’ He didn’t say much in the pub – but when he did, the assembled listened and some of his ‘good ones’ are remembered to this day.
One evening in Bartley’s Bar, the assembled got to discussing modern inventions and how all such improvements were making life easier for everyone. Farming implements naturally got a good airing, but the general consensus was that the coming of electricity through the Rural Electrification Scheme made electricity the greatest invention of all time. Television, (which few of them yet owned) telephones and electric kettles were high on peoples preference; but as Sal Fay, said; ‘if you don’t have the ESB, the rest of your inventions aren’t worth a tinker’s curse.’
Jack hadn’t yet contributed to the debate, so somebody finally asked him; ‘and what do you say is the greatest invention of your lifetime, Jack?’ Jack took a slug of his pint and a pull of his pipe before replying with one word: ‘DDT!’ Now, dear reader, if you are too young to know what DDT is, you never slept with fleas or with a ‘Ratter’ that shipped them into bed like a mini cargo vessel!
There have been numerous inventions since Jack’s time and there have been more new inventions in our lifetime than has there been since the beginning of time. Just think about that one! When I just this minute asked Mrs Youcantbeserious what was the greatest invention of her lifetime, I know it was just on the tip of her tongue to say, ‘you Darling’ – but she didn’t: Instead, ‘wheels on travel luggage’ got her number one vote
Some older inventions which have stood the test of time are now very much taken for granted; such as cement, for example. It will be 200 years next year since the first cement came into being. I remember learning this story and how it was accidently discovered that it set under water in our English schoolbook. Another one from that same book in Johnstown school, was Jamie Watt’s invention of the steam engine in 1765. The steam engine is no more, but we live with its benefits to this day.
We shall leave all the medical advances out of the discussion for now; other than to give a mention to the X-Ray which was invented at the end of the nineteenth century.
If Jack Murtagh and those barroom philosophers could only come back and see the inventions discovered since that day, they would not believe their eyes. Computers, Internet and credit-cards, are only a few of the extraordinary inventions of recent years. So, if you were involved in a similar debate as Jack – and presuming that DDT wouldn’t feature on your list; what would you put forward as your favourite invention?
Two inventions spring to my mind for my nomination for the ‘Jack Murtagh DTT Award’ One is the Sat-Nav – which makes such a difference to a guy whose wife claims, ‘He has such a poor sense of direction he would get lost in Mullingar!’ After I was made a present of the first one, several years ago, its first tentative trial was when she took me straight to the church for a funeral in Dalkey. Since that day, ‘Wendy’ and I have become close and are inseparable travelling companions.
But I think my number one DDT vote for the greatest invention of my lifetime has to go to the electric fence! Poor fencing and cattle breaking in or out as they choose, was the bane of my young life. The electric fence changed all that and eliminated an awful lot of running and ranting as a result. We take all these blessings for granted after a while, but every now and then, when I see a troublesome bovine get a ‘dart’, I get a flashback to what life was like without the ‘fencer!’
And so, what is your favourite invention, dear reader? Do let us know – and perhaps we can compile a ranking list?
Here’s another new invention for you – a solar-powered clothes dryer. It’s called a clothes line.