On the BBC TV Eggheads quiz programme recently there occurred a remarkable coincidence of related questioning.

New girl, Lisa Thiel, had faced a question concerning the key location of the (Irish) Easter Rising of 1916, the answer to which she correctly supplied as the General Post Office, Dublin.

The, subsequently, “Tremendous Knowledge” Dave Rainford was called upon to identify the author of A Town Like Alice as Nevil Shute, going on to say that these were the author’s Christian names, his real surname being Snowden.

Now, Irish history seldom features on UK TV, to my mind a sad case of deliberate and officially-inspired neglect. But in this instance of coincidental questioning the BBC TV Eggheads programme was doubly obliging. Because Nevil Shute’s father, Arthur Hamilton Snowden, was Head of the Post Office in Ireland during World War One and was based at the General Post Office, Dublin, when the Easter Rising took place.

Shute, Jnr., who was 17 years of age at the time of the Rising, was commended fort his work as a stretcher bearer and eventually recorded his experiences in Slide Rule, a book about his early life and career in aeronautics.

At this point a question occurs to me to which the Eggheads themselves won’t know the answer, I’ll bet. That is to say, when the GPO, Dublin, was invaded on the day the Easter Rising began, why were there so many “customers” inside the place, apparently doing business? Because 24 April 1916 was Easter Monday – a Bank Holiday, when Post Office personnel would normally have been on holiday.

Or is this simply a fairy tale like the 200 million or so claims to have had an ancestor aboard The Mayflower?

(30 August 2016)

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