4,000 Years of Losing Our Shirts! ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), September 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

4,000 Years of Losing Our Shirts! ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION Our love affair with everything equine seems to have been around forever, but who is credited with bringing the first horses into Ireland and when?

THE country's equestrian history goes back almost 4,000 years, when the first horses came in from Asia at some stage during the Early Bronze Age, about 2000-1500 BC.

During prehistoric times and right into medieval Ireland, ownership of a horse was seen as a status symbol.

Having a horse then was the equivalent of seeing someone today with a topof-the-range Mercedes-Benz car.

During the later period of medieval Ireland, up to about 1,600 small riding or 'hobby' horses were much prized by people who could afford them.

At the same time, people started to have small dual-purpose breeds (gearrain) that could be used for both farm work and riding.

Indeed, their descendants survived until the earlier 20th century in more remote hilly areas such as west Kerry and the Glens of Antrim in the North.

Horse racing first began to develop as a sport in the 18th century. Ireland's oldest racecourse is at Downpatrick, Co. Down, where the first race was staged in 1685. Bellewstown, Co. Meath, is almost as old. The first printed reference to a race at Bellewstown came in 1726, but races had been held there for some years. The North has just two race courses, while the Republic has 25.

But horses still remained much in demand for working farms. By the 20th century, when the Irish draught horse was recognised, there were still around 500,000 working horses in Ireland, used on farms and to propel delivery vehicles like bread carts and milk floats.

It wasn't until 1960 that the number of tractors overtook the number of working horses.

These days, Irish draught horses survive as the basic stock for cross-breeding with thoroughbreds to produce the world famous Irish Hunter.

In addition, half-bred cobs and riding ponies, especially the Connemara pony, are bred for riding and trekking. While our love of horses continues unabated, so too does its economic importance.

The horse-breeding industry is worth about e350million to the economy, sustaining close to 20,000 jobs. Gate receipts from over 300 race meetings amount to about e30million a year.

The turnover of the betting industry is vast, around e250million alone. For anyone who wants to learn more about the majestic horse, two excellent museums have lots of material.

The horse museum at the National Stud in Kildare town is open daily, and is a state-of-the-art museum showing the development of horse racing in Ireland.

It also has the skeleton of Arkle, arguably the most famous Irish race horse of all time.

At the height of Arkle's fame, fanmail used to be addressed simply: 'Himself, Ireland' and it reached its right destination!

An equally impressive museum is the Dartfield Museum near Loughrea in east Co. Galway, also open daily, which tells the whole history of the horse in Ireland and its uses, from earliest times to the present.

Mary Murray, Navan Road, Dublin 7.

QUESTION Sky transmits highdefinition TV in 1,080 lines, which is interleaved (i), while HD LCD TV sets can display 1,080 lines in progressive (p) scan, with the latter appearing to provide the higher picture quality as in DVDs. The Sky HD box can process only 1080i. What are the technical difficulties associated with broadcasting 1080p?

INTERLACED TV images were first developed in the Thirties to reduce screen flicker and the amount of bandwidth that was required to transmit the picture. A TV with a cathode ray tube creates its image with a beam of electrons moving across the inside surface of the tube at high speed.

If the speed is too low, the picture will flicker and have uneven brightness. …

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