Now that Stephen Hawking has left us, the hunt is on for an intellect of comparable size to shine its light and lead the rest of us dullards through the minefield of Life. You may say “There’s only one Stephen Hawking” and you’d be right. But be of good cheer. His successor in the brain cells department is obvious and, best of all, one of our own. I’m referring, of course, to Ruth Dudley Edwards.
As far back as the 1960s at UCD, Ruth was known for the size of her brain. The Derry boys, who used to cluster around a radiator by the main door, would gasp when Ruth made an entrance. “Would you look at the size of that!” they would whisper to each other in awe, as Ruth make her way across the black-and-white tiles to a lecture hall.
Further evidence of the size and attractive shape of Ruth’s brain was provided by her choice of subject (History) and choice of parent (her father was Professor of – yes indeed, Virginia – History). She also used her enormous brain to attach herself to another student of History called Paddy Cosgrave, who resembled a more youthful Mr Burns from the yet-to-be-created Simpsons but who had a brain, some claimed, even bigger than Ruth’s. A year after Ruth’s graduation, they married and the pooling of brain power was made permanent. Well, sort of.
They moved to England, where Paddy (now ‘Patrick’) became well-known for his right-wing views and in particular for his admiration of a woman called Margaret Thatcher. He was so impressed by her (no, I don’t know if Thatcher had a bigger brain than Ruth or Paddy, Virginia – probably not) that he wrote a reverential biography of her which unkind critics declared a hagiography. Thatcher seemed to take a shine to the man formerly known as Paddy, and he was tipped to be given a safe Conservative seat in Parliament and even a place in a future Thatcher cabinet. But alas, Paddy took to the drink and, Private Eye alleged, ended his political career in spectacular fashion when, emerging from a taxi containing the Iron Lady, he vomited over her lap. Sic transit gloria Paddy.
But that’s getting away from our subject. Ruth went to Oxbridge and later wrote all sorts of history books, including one showing how unbalanced a creature P H Pearse really was and another what a fine institution the Orange Order really was.
With age Ruth’s brain has, if anything, expanded. To the best of my knowledge she has lived her life in England, but that hasn’t prevented her using her magnificent organ to explain the Irish situation to the Irish people. Her glittering grey cells transform complicated and many-stranded issues to an elegant simplicity : if it’s republican it’s bloodthirsty and bad, if it’s British / unionist it’s law-abiding and good. That’s a truly mammoth brain at work.
It can surely only be a matter of time – perhaps before the end of this coming year – before Her Majesty rewards Ruth’s oversize organ with a peerage, or President Higgins places the gold torc around her unique neck and welcomes her to the ranks of Aosdána. There is no truth to the rumour that the torc would have to be expanded first to fit over her head.