Baileys origin story is cream of Irish Times Books in 2017
A look at the 10 most popular literary articles of the year
Frank Fenn with the six millionth box of Baileys Irish Cream. Photograph: Alan Betson
“Can we take anything from my Kerrygold butter experience? Is there something in Ireland’s reputation for dairy produce that we can apply to an alcoholic drink?” David Gluckman’s epic and entertaining account of how he and a colleague came up with the idea for Baileys Irish Cream was by far and away the most popular article published in the Books section of irishtimes.com in 2017.
The 6,500-word extract, headlined In 1973, I invented a ‘girly drink’ called Baileys, and taken from his ironically titled book, That S*it Will Never Sell, goes some way to proving that if an article is good enough, it is short enough.
In second place was Diarmaid Ferriter’s review of Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, Shashi Tharoor’s angry history of British rule in India which the UCD historian praised as a timely response to empire nostalgia. “Chronicling the evils of British imperialism is imperative given the impact and legacy of that imperialism, and given the dishonest and selective nostalgia about it, not to mention downright ignorance.”
Ferriter was not entirely impressed, however, by “ the well-connected, -heeled and -staffed Tharoor ... [who} had the generous hospitality and support of ‘His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan’, without whom ‘I would have been unable to write this book or finish it within deadline’. Isn’t it well for him?”
Every day, tell your child you love them, read to them and take them for a walk, a bereaved father’s short essay about the latest in his series of children’s books inspired by the memory of his late son was the third most popular piece. “ The simple idea that a child would be told they are loved by a parent every night in Adam’s memory helped me come to terms with why he had to go,” wrote Benji Bennett.
Tanya Sweeney’s revealing interview with the popular second-generation Irish TV star and author of Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape – Dermot O’Leary: ‘I have an Irish passport. Who’s laughing now?’ – was the fourth most popular piece.
As Ireland was battered by the worst storm in a generation, author and historian Turtle Bunbury’s historical essay, The calm before the Big Wind of 1839 was particularly eerie, struck a chord, hitting fifth place for the year. “4,846 chimneys fell, and waves topped the Cliffs of Moher on the Night of the Big Wind.”
Another Diarmaid Ferriter review was the sixth most popular article, this time of a book nostalgically celebrating the halcyon days of Trinity College Dublin students in the 1980s. The headline, Trinity Tales: dripping with privileged nostalgia, gives a flavour of the dish to come. “What a shower of spoilt, preening, indulged and pampered little brats populated Trinity College Dublin in the 1990s,” it begins, and it concludes: “For those who considered themselves movers and shakers in Trinity in the 90s this book will provide an enjoyable slice of nostalgia pie. Others might be left with indigestion. More of the Trinity students should have gone to UCD, where they would have had a far earthier experience, been more politically aware, spared the consumption of Pimm’s and been much more likely to find marriage partners outside university. Not that I am biased, or tribal, or marinated in the narcissism of small differences.
Diarmaid Ferriter is Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD, where he was a student in the 1990s. You’d never guess.”
In seventh place was Motherfoclóir: The Irish they didn’t teach you in school. Darach Ó Séaghdha, the man behind hit Twitter account @theirishfor, shares his favourite words. The book itself was a bestseller too. The article lists some rare and remarkable words as Gaeilge such as
Cumhracht – The smell of a man’s body after intercourse, this word was used to great effect in Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poem Gan Do Chuid Éadaigh. During the high tide of Irish censorship before 1968, “provocative” texts written in Irish were sometimes given more leeway than English language ones – this resulted in the English translation of Merriman’s The Midnight Court being banned, but the Irish version being available.
The eighth most popular story was a news item by Ronan McGreeevy about the year’s publishing situation, the Atlas of the Irish Revolution – This €60, 5kg, 1,000-page book of Irish history is flying off the shelves
In ninth place was another review of an Indian book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. In this case, however, Eileen Battersby’s review of the Man Booker Prize winner’s second novel was unflattering. “The kindest comment to make about this formless, overhyped and conventional performance is that reading it is comparable to spending years knitting a giant sweater only to discover that it actually has three sleeves.”
In 10th place was David Forsythe’s essay about his book, What have the Irish ever done for us? “The Irish are known for many things, but perhaps not for splitting the atom and curing leprosy,” says Forsythe. “We set the record straight”.
Finally, here are links to the next 12 most popular articles. Enjoy!