Ronan Lyons | Personal Website
Ronan Lyons | Personal Website

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The Humpty Dumpty threat: Will the euro fall apart?

Ricky Gervais has a very funny sketch about how ludicrous the children’s rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, is. In particular, employing horses, who don’t even have thumbs let alone opposable ones, to put him back together again. Actually, it’s so good, I’m going to embed it here:

[youtube=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=hYytaZ06Hco]

Anyway, spurious introduction aside, apparently according to the Financial Times (thank you irisheconomy.ie), the euro is in danger of becoming our very own Humpty Dumpty, thanks in no small part to the risks associated with Ireland (as well as Spain and Greece). The video is well worth a watch for the spreads he shows emerging for the triumvirate of risky eurozone members. He refers also to intrade prices of 30% for one country pulling out of the eurozone in the near future, which he rightly points out are amazing odds for what would seem to be such an extreme event.

And if that were to happen, would anything policymakers try to do in response to fix the euro as a viable reserve currency be just the equivalent of sending all the King’s horses to mend a broken egg? Interesting times…

Ireland: the Britney Spears economy? The Daft Report (2008 in review)

This is an unabridged version of my commentary on the latest daft.ie report (2008 in review), which is available at daft.ie/report.

When we look back at 2008 in a few years time, I think it’s fair to say we will regard it as the annus horribilis for Ireland’s property market. In late 2006, we issued a report which was the first to spot a slowdown in the property market. At the time, it was our view – unpopular though it was – that rising interest rates and high levels of supply would lead to a levelling off in house prices. This turns out to only have been the start of the story.

Ireland has become a bit of  Britney Spears economy. Bursting onto the world stage at the end of the 1990s, Ireland was heralded as an economic phenomenon and rapidly became a global superstar and poster-child for economic development. But recently it looks like it’s all just falling apart. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ireland’s housing market – until recently the engine of Ireland’s economic growth. House prices have fallen significantly from their 2007 peak, with trends in Ireland’s property market driven by the ongoing effects of overproduction of housing, combined with extraordinary international economic developments.

As the daft.ie review of Ireland’s property market in 2008 shows, asking prices for Irish property fell on average 15% during the last year. That makes 2008, in many ways, the opposite of 2006. While asking prices were static throughout 2007, the 12 months of 2008 have seen the typical home lose just over €50,000 in value, almost the exact amount gained in 2006. Ireland’s average asking price of €295,000 in December 2008 is almost exactly the same as that in January 2006. Even the property market’s quarterly trends were like 2006 in reverse.

The early part of the year was marked by uncertainty about growth in developed economies, as ongoing financial turmoil took its toll on share prices and the dollar. There was still a widespread belief, however, that emerging markets would take up the slack and that we were experiencing a blip rather than a derailment. Asking prices therefore eased back just 1.4% in the first three months of the year. As summer came along, though, it seemed that we were entering a new economic era, one of $200 oil and inflation. As this sank in, confidence took a further hit. Asking prices fell twice as fast between April and June as they had done in the first quarter, with the outer commuter counties of West Leinster, more dependent on petrol prices than elsewhere, particularly badly hit.

As autumn descended, the full extent of the financial crisis was revealed. Long-standing banks and investment houses were wiped out or nationalised on a weekly, if not daily, basis. House prices fell almost 4% in the three months between July and September as a result. There was still a feeling, however, that the financial and real economies, or Wall Street and Main Street as they were dubbed, worked in somewhat separate spheres. As the year came to a close, however, the full impact of the financial crisis on the real economy was becoming apparent, with job losses in retail, catering and manufacturing. The largest fall in asking prices, almost 6%, has come about in the final months of the year (just as the largest rise occurred in the first part of 2006).

South County Dublin has been in many ways the flagship of Ireland’s property market. Average asking prices in the area rose from €530,000 in early 2006 to over €680,000 by mid-2007. They have fallen steadily since then and in late 2008 fell over €50,000 to stand very close to their early 2006 levels. Elsewhere around Dublin, the fall from the peak has been in the region of €70,000 to €80,000. Outside the capital, falls in asking prices of between €40,000 and €50,000 from peak values in mid-2007 are more typical.

A range of global economic developments has made it necessary for countries around the world to revise down their growth estimates over the coming years. Russia, which earlier in the year had been expecting growth in 2009 of perhaps 7%, is now fighting talk that it is already in recession. The US may experience its first two-year recession for some time, while the IMF believes that the world as a whole will be in recession next year, according to its definition of global growth of less than 3%.
Ireland was delicately poised atop recent global economic trends. Its two major currency exposures are to the dollar and to sterling, so recent depreciations of both are having a major impact for Ireland’s exporters.

In the midst of all these external developments, Ireland’s domestic sector – so heavily reliant on construction for employment, wages, tax revenues, and general sentiment – has contracted sharply. The government budget shortfall for the year totalled €8bn, with likely implications for public sector pay and employment in 2009 and 2010. It is likely that net migration will change from large inflows in 2007 to outflows in 2009, particularly as unemployment looks likely to reach double digits at some point in the next few months.

What do all of these local and global trends mean for homeowners and prospective first-time buyers? To see where the property market will go next – and when it is likely to recover – it is necessary to look to the past as well as to the future. Over the past few years, Ireland has built perhaps twice as many houses as it needed, due in large part to tax incentives. Between 2005 and 2007, a quarter of a million new homes were built in a country that only had 1.4 million households in 2005. Worse still, due to the nature of the tax incentives, many of these properties were built in areas that did not need them. It stands to reason that if you build twice as many houses as you need for three years, you’ll need to build half as many as you need for six years to get back to equilibrium.

So should we write off Ireland’s property market until 2015? Not necessarily. It’s likely that prospects will vary from region to region. As outlined above, areas like South County Dublin are certainly feeling the pinch now, falling almost €150,000 on average from peak values. In such areas, prices are determined less by wages and interest rates, and more by expected future value and confidence. Therefore, whenever sentiment eventually reverts to a more optimistic outlook, those areas are likely to rebound faster. With the government seemingly tied into a pro-cyclical trap and not able to implement an economic stimulus package, due to large increases in public expenditure in the good times, it is of course an entirely different question whether lower interest rates will be enough to kick-start sentiment in Ireland.

In other regions, the long-term prognosis is very different. For properties close to centres of employment, four elements – employment, wages, interest rates and access to finance – will be crucial. Other areas, suffering from a glut of properties, may need a longer or a larger adjustment. Ballpark figures, based on the 2006 Census and daft.ie listings, suggest that as much as 10% of properties are for sale in counties like Roscommon, Cavan and Leitrim, compared to less than 5% elsewhere. It won’t be impossible to sell properties in these counties in coming years, but sellers must be realistic about the value of their property in a flooded market.

As I mentioned at the start, Ireland has been in many senses the Britney Spears of the world economy over the past ten years. Bursting on to the scene in the late 1990s, we earned worldwide recognition for how much we achieved so fast from such humble beginnings. With all this fame, it was perhaps to be expected that we lost our way in the early years of this decade. Recently, things have got a lot worse. With bank bailouts, budget debacles, job losses and public sector cuts, we’ve been through it all. Nonetheless, like Britney, while a lot of damage has been done, with good management, we can look ahead and spot elements of a brighter future – just look at the cost of petrol, mortgages, food or clothing now compared to a year ago. Ultimately, with the resolve to put right what needs to be fixed, and with a far better starting point than we had in the mid-1980s, we have to be confident about our prospects for the future.

Hair of the dog: With rents fallings, ECB cuts the only thing likely to drag yields above borrowing cost

The third and final (for 2008 anyway) instalment in the visualizations of Ireland’s property market takes a different look again to my recent posts on trends in prices and stock. Building on the measure of affordability on page 10 of each daft.ie rental report and a suggestion made on thepropertypin.com, it measures the gap between the expected yield and the cost of borrowing.

The result is here on Manyeyes. Blue means the cost of borrowing is greater than the expected yield, while brown means the opposite. Below, two quarters are shown – 2008 q3 and an estimate for 2009 q2.

The gap between the cost of borrowing and property yields in Ireland, 2008 q3 and an estimate for 2009 q2
The gap between the cost of borrowing and property yields in Ireland, 2008 q3 and an estimate for 2009 q2

What is clear is if that one takes a measure of this gap as a measure of market disequilibrium, the market remains overpriced. (There are of course plenty of reasons why rents as a proportion of house prices may not be the only measure of a housing market in balance, particularly where rental markets are small or negligible, but bearing that in mind, let’s proceed…)

To look ahead and see if this mass of blue is likely to change any time soon, I made some assumptions about interest rates, asking prices and rents, based on what we know now. I assumed that interest rates fall to 1.5% in June 2009, and that house prices and rents both fall 5% quarter-on-quarter in the first six months of next year, as high levels of stock in both segments take their toll. I’ve also assumed landlords will still get 11 months of the 12 in rent and that the rate at which first-time buyers borrow remains about 1.1% above the ECB rate.

I’m sure there are plenty of ways people might disagree with particular aspects of those assumptions, but I think they make, if nothing, else a starting point for discussion. (Take them as a straw man if you don’t like them!) Anyway, if those assumptions were to be borne true over the coming six months, the first thing to note is that yields would be largely unaffected – i.e. not going in the direction they should be, up towards the equilibrium long-term average cost of borrowing somewhere north of 4%. (It should be pointed out at this stage that yields in certain market segments, e.g. West Dublin 1-beds, are already very close to 5%, so averages certainly hide some interesting sub-county variations. For more check out page 10 of the last Daft.ie report.)

However, a collapse in interest rate – albeit gradually – in a steady-as-she-goes ECB version of the Fed’s record peak to trough interest rate journey would have the not unexpected consequence of turning all those blue spots brown. Well, most of them anyway. Once again, the prognosis is not good for Leitrim and Cavan, two of the counties with among the worst stock overhang in the country, on a per capita basis. Even with interest rates collapsing to record lows, that would not be enough to make the rate of return on property greater than the cost of borrowing.

Is the cure the world is adopting a central banker’s version of the hair of the dog that bit you? Or are we entering a phase of the world economy where caution is so predominant that low interest rates are the appropriate response?

Ireland’s property overhang: Homeowners in Roscommon, Cavan and Leitrim beware

Last week, I posted a visualization of changes in asking prices for Irish property, since 2006, using the IBM Manyeyes tool. It’s proved very popular, not least with the crowd on thepropertypin.com. I’ve been happy to take suggestions on what’s the most important thing to be mapping and one suggestion – which ties in nicely with some ideas I’d been working on – was to measure the number of properties for sale by county, per capita.

What I’ve done for today’s visualization is take the number of permanent households from the 2006 Census – and taken it as fixed. I then plugged in county-level figures for the stock of property for sale from the Daft.ie database, and used the two to calculate an approximate percentage of the total property stock in a county that’s currently for sale. There are a range of potential data issues, from taking the Census figures as fixed to how to capture the size of new developments – it’s my hope that while all those issues are valid ones, the overall story should be relatively clear.

As before, the results are available for all to see and download on Manyeyes. It’s probably pretty clear what the overall message is, though, from the preview below (click on the picture to go through to Manyeyes):

Percentage of properties for sale, by county, Jan-Oct 2008
Percentage of properties for sale, by county, Jan-Oct 2008

Some initial thoughts:

  • First off, Dublin seems among the least affected areas.
  • “Holiday home land”, i.e. counties like Wexford, Kerry, Cork, Donegal and Galway, have seen their overhang increase over the course of the year, but again, they are not the worst affected areas.
  • A trio of counties, Roscommon, Cavan and Leitrim, however, steal the show. Those three, as of start-October, had more than 10% of their properties for sale.

Data on how many properties have churned through the market since the start of 2007 would probably confirm that the hysteresis which has gripped the Irish property market is worst in some of the areas where the property boom probably reached its most irrational. As before, all comments, questions and thoughts welcome.

Brrr… Sure ’tis cold in Sligo: A heat-map of Ireland’s property prices since early 2007

As those who’ve checked out/had to put up with my many word clouds on various different topics from Wicklow genealogy to Barack Obama will testify, I’m always looking for new ways to present data and information. For those with similar interests, a useful tool in that regard is Manyeyes, a free data visualization service offered by IBM. First thing you might do when you click through is have a wander around some of its featured visualizations, such as the OECD economic outlook or the World Cup Finals.

You needn’t stop there, though, as once you’ve registered, you can upload datasets yourself and visualize them. What’s particularly cool, in my opinion, is the ability to do maps with subnational data points, e.g. for the USA, China and, somewhat surprisingly until you remember IBM’s presence in the country, Ireland.

So I plugged in some county-level statistics from the Daft.ie database, in particular the year-on-year % change in asking prices by county from the first quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2008. The results are available for all to see on Manyeyes – I haven’t been able to put a live visualization up here, but you can get a sneak preview below and indeed the whole shebang just by clicking on the picture.

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What, even clicking on the link is too much hassle? OK, here’s the lazyman’s version:

Heat-map of Ireland's property prices
Heat-map of asking prices for Irish property, 2007/2008

The easiest way to get the overview of the story – but with the minimum detail and surprise factor – is to go straight from 2007-q1 to 2008-q3. As you can see the map goes from totally brown to totally blue! But that naturally is hiding a lot of detail… So here are some other highlights on regional trends in Ireland’s property market:

  • Sligo is a constant underperformer – having enjoyed some of the smallest increases in the first half of 2007, it’s now suffering from some of the largest falls in 2008
  • Aside from Sligo, West Leinster was the first region in the country to suffer from falling house prices, in year on year terms, with Longford and Laois falling in year-on-year terms by (and we can pretty much throw in Westmeath there too, where prices were no higher than a year previously, in the same quarter)
  • In late 2007, asking prices in south-east Leinster (e.g. Carlow, Kilkenny) and neighbouring Munster counties (Tipperary, Waterford) were still rising in year-on-year terms.
  • Limerick was the last bastion of rising house prices. It’s the only county not to have registered two consecutive quarters of year-on-year falls in house prices… yet!
  • Have a look at 2007-q4… poor old Donegal just doesn’t get it! Even in early 2008, it was still at it. In Q3 2008, though, with prices down over 11% compared to a year earlier, it’s landing with a bang.

There are just some initial observations on the figures – overall, Manyeyes is a pretty useful tool, I’d have to say. I’d be interested in hearing anyone else’s observations on regional differences in price trends. What have I missed? Or indeed, what should I be heat-mapping?

The origins of the Beausang surname I – French Revolution? Try East Cork

All of four months ago – seems about a quarter that long ago – I posted about my Cork Smiddy and Beausang roots. Judging from some of the search terms that direct to my blog, it seems there’s a good bit of demand out there for the Beausang part in particular.

So, I’ve decided to put up my thoughts on the roots of the Beausang surname (and of course its many many variants, including Boozan(e), Bouzan(e), Boosean(e), Beausan(e)… well, you get the point.) I guess the aim of this two-part post is twofold: firstly, can we shed any light on where most Beausang/Boozan families in Ireland & North America originate? And secondly, as a by-product, what is the connection or chronology of the name Beausang and its variants across France, Ireland and North America?

Assuming that Beausang, which is clearly not an indigenous Irish surname, ultimately comes from France, there are, as I see it, three options in relation to the roots of the Irish clan – and what I believe is its offshoot North American clan – of Beausang/Boozan/Bouzane:

  • Firstly, they could be descended from French Huguenot emigrants of the 1600s or 1700s.
  • Secondly, they could be descended from those fleeing France around the time of the French Revolution.
  • Thirdly, they could be neither – i.e. they could indeed be of French origin, but may have emigrated at a different point in time and for reasons other than religious persecution or the Revolution. As the Huguenot Society of Great Britain & Ireland states, “people have emigrated from France… for various reasons, not just religious, and at various times. French families moved… both before and after the Huguenots.”

The evidence for the second point – i.e. that the Beausang diaspora is as a result of fleeing the French Revolution – comes primarily from a series of posts by Tom McDonald, based in Newfoundland, on the Bouzane Family Genealogy Forum.  In particular, Tom writes:

Salmon Cove, Newfoundland - close to the home of many early North American Bouzanes
Salmon Cove, Newfoundland - close to the home of many early North American Bouzanes

During the French revolution Thomas (we believe his name was) De LaBouzan from Brittany France, a prominent Baron and land owner, feared for the lives of his family. He had three of his sons shipped of for fear of their lives. Each has money sown into their clothing to help secure their future, and each put on separate ships. One ship landed in Ireland, one in the south seas, and the third in Newfoundland.

This story is at first glance very appealing, for three reasons. Firstly, it gives the entire extended Beausang/Boozan family a nice and interesting story of origin. Secondly, it in some way helps explain how there are branches in North America and in Ireland. Lastly, it offers the hint of even more… ‘in the south seas’.  There is, unfortunately, very little evidence in favour of this version of events, apart from the oral history that Tom has inherited across two hundred years. The only other supporting evidence would seem to come from Stephen Beausang, who says:

It seems unlikely that the [Beausang] name is Huguenot. I have heard reports that two brothers were shipwrecked off the Coast of East Cork, probably around the time of the French revolution. There has been some suggestion that the original name was German, but the family first moved to France.

If Stephen’s and Tom’s stories come from entirely different branches of the clan, that at least is something. However, it is also very possible that two entirely separate families could easily develop stories to explain an unusual surname based on a seminal event in France, the French Revolution – this is particularly the case if the surname first appeared in a country (as is the case with Canada) in the early 1800s.

Ballycotton, East Cork, Ireland - close to the home of many 1800s Bouzans and Beausangs
Ballycotton, East Cork, Ireland - close to the home of many 1800s Bouzans and Beausangs

I’m a little skeptical, however, about the French Revolution story. For that, I’ll offer two lines of reasoning. Firstly, the earliest mentions of the Beausang surname in Ireland suggest that it was in County Cork before the Revolution. Graves in Dangandonovan in East Cork (Ireland), also transcribed here, point to a Boosean-Kenery marriage in the mid-1770s and the birth of Joanna Boosean in 1775/6. The fact that there are four Beausangs born before 1800 in that one graveyard alone works against the idea of one or two shipwrecked stragglers arriving in East Cork in the 1790s.

Secondly, and this may be more controversial (cue scenes of rioting and looting at the Bouzane family conference!), it looks very unlikely that any Beausangs/Bouzan(e)s went straight from France to North America, as per the revolution story. For the pro-North America direct from Newfoundland argument, take, for example, the following from Linda Bouzane, writing in 2001 on a forum no longer online (to show I’m not making it all up, Linda has posted a very similar version here):

The Beausanes of Newfoundland came originally from France and apparently before that from the Basque provinces of Spain and the name was apparantly spelled Beausani. The first Beausan/e/ys in Newfoundland were Maragret and presumably her brother (not proven yet) Thomas. It is believed others of this family may have gone to Ireland, but this also is not proven. Margaret Beausane married William Walsh ca 1815, supposedly in Newfoundland and raised their family there. I am still working on the descendants.

Thomas Beausane (b. ca 1795-1798) married Ellen Walsh ( b. ca 1800) ( possible sister or cousin of the the above William Walsh) on Jan. 16, 1824 in Newfoundland (possibly Carbonear). They first lived in Carbonear then moved to Western Bay, Nfld. We do not know the parents of Thomas or his place of birth and the same goes for Ellen. Their children were: Margaret, Richard, Michael, James, William, Thomas, John, Ellen and Mary.

Aside from the fact that I would argue that the children’s names are entirely Irish, another alarm bell rings when you look at who Margaret and Thomas married. First-generation immigrants almost exclusively marry someone their own nationality. Bearing that very important fact in mind, let’s continue with some other scattered pieces of evidence from across the internet.

Small sample bias, perhaps? After all, a French and Irish family may have just hit it off in Newfoundland! Well, based on a broader set of evidence, again in Newfoundland, the mother’s surname from Boozan births from the 1860s suggest that these are descendants of Irish immigrants, not French:
F/Surname   F/Given  M/Surname  M/Given  Child  Year
Boozaney      Michael      English      Clare      Mary      1862
Boozaney      Thomas      English      Martha      William      1862
Boozaney      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Richard      1863
Boozaney      William      Ryan      Catherine      Honora      1863
Boozaney      Thomas      English      Martha      Margaret      1864
Boozaney      Michael      English      Clare      John      1864
Fitzgerald      James      Boozan      Mary      Bridget      1864
Boozane      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Ellen      1869
Boozane      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Elizabeth      1869
Boozane      Thomas      English      Martha      Jane      1869

Similarly with a Boozan who married a Dooley, another Irish surname. In the USA, a John Boozane in San Francisco born in the 1820s was also Irish. The evidence mounts…

In my next post, I’ll talk about the Huguenot possibility and stick my next out on the line as to where I think the Beausang and Bouzan clans more than likely originated.

400 years on: Forget Southfork & Dallas, for family infighting check out the O'Doynes of the 1600s

Recently, inspired by Irish Culture Night, I bought a copy of the O’Doyne manuscript, published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in the early 1980s. The manuscript itself is in Marsh’s Library, Ireland’s oldest public library, and is dominated by documents relating to the lengthy legal battle between Charles O’Doyne (Cathaoir Ó Duinn) and his older brother Thady (Tadhg), the sons of Tadhg Óg Ó Duinn, lord of Uí Riagáin (Iregan – now Tinnahinch in County Laois). Charles was a graduate of Oxford (BA, 1586 and MA, 1591) – “a good scholar and a zealous Protestant” – and was Master in Chancery from 1602. Thady appears to have been more settled in Ireland and whereas Charles had no heirs, Thady had at least ten children, mostly from his second marriage.

I was not aware, when I bought the book, that I had stumbled across a battle that was marking its 400th anniversary. Tadhg Óg Ó Duinn was lord of Iregan from 1558 to 1607. When he passed away, the fighting began. This day four hundred years ago, on the 26th of November 1608, Ireland’s Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester (whose portrait appears in this post), issued his verdict. Sir Arthur, incidentally, came over to Ireland after the death of his brother John during the Battle of Carrickfergus in 1597 – John was apparently decaptitated and his head used as a football by a potential ancestor of mine, Sorley Boy McDonnell (mooted progenitor of today’s M(a)cSorleys through his first marriage).

So, would Arthur choose between the zealous bachelor Charles or the father many-times-over Thady? Read on… what follows is the verbatim letter he wrote:

arthur-chichester
Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1604-1615

Letter Directing Attorney-General to draw up Fiant for Letters Patent. 26 November 1608.

By the Lord Deputie.

To the attorney general.

We greete yow well. Where the King’s most excellent Majestie by his highnes letters under the signet dated the 29th of July 1608 hath signified unto us his Majesties pleasure on the behalf of Capten Thady Doyne esquire Cheiffe of his name, that his highnes is graciouslie pleased in Consideration of the said Tady is good service heretofore done to his highnes to graunt unto the said Thady his heyres and assignes the Contry of Iregaine and all the lands, tenements, tythes and hereditaments therein and thereto belonginge and all fellons goods and deodands therein happeninge, to be held of his highnes, his heyres and successors in Free and Comon Soccadge as of his Majesties castle of Dublin. And further to graunt full power and authoritie unto the said Thady, his heyres and assignes at his and their will and pleasure to hould and keepe within the said Contry of Iregaine in such fitt places at such convenient time Courte Leete and Courte Barrons, marketts and Fayres, as to us shalbe thought fitt. Theise are therefore to will and requier yow forthwith to make a Fyant or Fyants in due forme of Lawe of the particuler appearinge under Mr. Surveyor’s hand in the scedule hereunto anexed, and all other lands of right the said Thady hath or ought to have in the said contrey of Iregaine, Tythes, felons goods, deodans, Fayres, marketts, and other the premisses unto the said Thady his heyres and assignes to be houlden of his highnes as aforesaid. Incertinge therein such further ordinary Clauses as in such letters Patents are usuall. And leavinge blanks for the times and places for the said Courts, Fayres, marketts. And such Fiant or fiants so made to send unto us fayer written ingrossed in parchment under your hand that wee maie give further order for passinge the same unto the said Thadye under the greate seale of this Realme. And for your doeinge thereof this shalbe your warrant.

Given at his Majesties Castle Dublin this 26th of November 1608.

Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle

So Chichester went with Thady, giving him ownership of the land, the right to host markets and fairs, the right to host courts, the whole kit and kaboodle for Iregan… not that Charles took it lying down. Before the year was out, he had replied with a thirty point response to the Lord Deputy’s decision. The letters flew back and forth for the next four years, before the disgruntled Charles realized his options were running out. Ironically, Charles’ death in 1617 sparks the process off again among his own heirs!

So, 400 years on to the day, one thing we can say is that family feuds, wills, land and wealth – some of the staples of soap operas – have a long pedigree!

The Ballad of Barack Obama & Sarah Palin (or Manilow's Nightmare)

Following the success (my targets were small) of Brother, Can You Bail-out My Bank?, and given that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my blog-time blogging about the election, I thought it only right to sign off on the election with a tribute to the election that was.

So, to the unmistakeable tune of – and with sincere apologies to – both Star Wars Cantina and Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, here is ‘The Ballad of Barack Obama & Sarah Palin’ (2008):

His name was Barack, he was half Kenyan
With a daughter on each side and a smile five small states wide
He ran for office, he sought election
And while he said “Oh, yes we can”, people worried bout this man
Across all fifty states, would he get the mandate?
But then he went to Berlin where they thought that he was great…

He was Barack… Barack Obama
Not to be confused with Osama
Here he is… Barack, Barack Obama
Jobs and emissions and TV transmissions
He was Barack…

Her name was Palin, she was Alaskan
McCain had set her loose, she loved to kill a moose
She spent a fistful, on her wardrobe
She talked to CBS, it put her handlers in distress
And then the crisis grew, and the bailout too
Didn’t have a chance, she’ll be back in two oh one two…

It was Barack… Barack Obama
Not to be confused with Osama
Here he is… Barack, Barack Obama
Oprah and Kerry, and even Chuck Berry
voted Barack…

His name is Barack, he was elected
But that was two weeks ago, he has to get on with the show
And pick a new dog, one from a shelter
Also a Secretary of State, a human would be great
John Kerry has the hair, or maybe picking Clinton’s fair?
It could have been Lieberman, but let’s not go there…

He was Barack… Barack Obama
Not to be confused with Osama
Here he is… Barack, Barack Obama
Jobs and emissions and TV transmissions
He was Barack…

(and continue through fade out)

From hope to promise to a new America tonight – Obama's speeches since 2004

There seems to be a bit of traffic to and through this blog, looking for word clouds of and/or commentary on President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech in Chicago. Given that until now there was nothing on that topic, I have a feeling they left relatively empty-handed. Let me fix that now, with a quick zip through Obama’s three key speeches, at the DNC in 2004, at the same event in 2008 and his most recent speech, in Chicago following his election as President.

Obama in 2004: A man of hope

The speech that marked Obama’s “explosion” on to the national scene in 2004 revolved primarily around the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, and the country at stake, America, as might be expected. The key concept aside from that which shines out is hope – one very much associated with the President-elect again since his election. A full word cloud is on wordle.net and previewed below.

Obama in August 2008: A man of promise

Four years later, as I’ve posted about previously, he’d moved from his hope to his promise – very apposite, seeing as his was now the focal points for others’ hopes, on which he was promising to deliver, rather than expressing his own views and hopes.

As I said at the time, this tied in a motif from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech – again, something widely referenced in recent days – on America’s promissory note, of liberty for all, which it had up to then failed to cash.

Obama in November 2008: A new America tonight, people

Earlier this week, when elected President from next January, he gave another speech which was destined to be analyzed to death by those with nothing better to be doing, such as myself! (His inauguration speech will presumably be the next one to be put under such scrutiny…) The link to and preview of a word cloud of his most recent speech is below.

Hope, promise – and indeed that third keyword perhaps most associated by his campaign, change – do not feature in any meaningful way. It’s perhaps surprising that promise makes no appearance, given that his Chicago speech is really the national equivalent of his DNC speech, to just his party. He obviously decided that the time was not right for more promises, it was instead a time to reflect on what his election meant, not for him but about his country.

His clear message from the speech seems to be: “Tonight, people, we have a new America!”. Whatever about the internal reaction to the election – after all, only 52% of voters voted for him – global reaction would seem to agree with his main sentiment!

The genealogy-grammar paradox & Obama's endorsement of T&E Plumbing (or maybe it's the other way around)

The Huffington Post has an excellent collection of pictures from around the world, in response to the outcome of the US election – for more check out Election Day Around The World (PHOTOS).

I had to laugh at one in particular, the one from an hour down the road, Moneygall, County Offaly. The first thing that catches you off-guard is Mr. Obama’s somewhat atypical tan, for an Offaly scion. The second is the photo’s incongruity, following two photos from Kenya. The third thing is the haste to produce the ad, which seems to have produced a somewhat unexpected paradox. While complicated genealogical heritages stretching back over two centuries are no issue for this shrewd plumber, the age-old question of apostrophe or not seems to have suffered!