Jim Bennett was my supervisor for my M Phil in Cambridge, and then the external examiner for my Ph D; he’s now in charge of the Museum for the History of Science in Oxford, and it was a pleasant surprise to hear his Belfast tones on Radio 4 this morning talking about his new exhibition on Marconi and the early history of radio.
One point he didn’t make, but has always intrigued me, is Marconi’s Irish connection. His mother was a Jameson, of the whiskey family, and his first wife was the daughter of Lord Inchiquin. We tend to think of him in Italian stereotypes (which given his later political activities, and the fact that Mussolini was his best man at his second wedding, is justified to an extent) but when in the UK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries he was able to present himself convincingly as a member of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, and he used both Ballycastle and Mizen Head as experimental bases (the former providing the title for a poetry collection by Medbh McGuckian).
One thing I didn’t hear on the radio this morning was the Radio 4 UK theme. As it happened the alarm went off at the right time yesterday morning, and so I did hear it for the last time. Well, the new format will probably be easier to get up with, but it feels a little strange all the same.