Nostradamus, Malachi and Me
By Mattie Lennon

"He'll romp home". "She'll head the pole". "It's not going to snow". "He won't see morning". All forecasts with not a great track-record of accuracy. I'm inclined to agree with Bacon ".....predictions ought to serve but for winter talk by the fireside". I've encountered prophecies of doom from various quarters. Nostradamus left us some cryptic clues about the END, as did Malachi, nearer home. Heath Watson, a religious leader, says the good among us have nothing to worry about as "We'll glide straight up to Heaven".

My late father found out somewhere that we were promised two thousand years with "a tilly in" not to mention a Dunraven farmer I met last August. I gave him a lift to a match in Dublin, and apart from his endeavours to dispel my na´vetÚ of the wiles of the female, he frightened the life out of me with some lesser-known Biblical revelations which he claimed would have particular relevance in the year 2000. (I nearly picked up a couple of on-the-spot fines in my haste to deposit him in the Metropolis- or somewhere - as quickly as possible).

And now I see where well-heeled film actor, Jean Claude Van Dame, has learned that the end of the world is at hand, through a nuclear holocaust.....but only for Europe and America. So he has bought thousands of acres of land in Australia. There he is going to keep a male and a female of every species he can find. He is rounding up animals two-by-two. But why didn't he pick Asia or Africa? I mean, would you put, say, your sheep in Australia, knowing the pedigree of the inhabitants? Also I'm wondering is Mr. Van Dame a plagiarist. He describes his purchase as "a serene wilderness area where endangered and threatened species can continue to live and evolve". That statement sounds very like a certain No 65 bus driver's description of Donard!!!!.

I'd be the first to admit that futurists have been frighteningly accurate at times, down the centuries. I wouldn't be one to nit-pick and labour on the fact the nobody predicted the nose-ring, autofare, that politicians would be caught taking back-handers or that Clinton would shake hands with Castro.

Since some predictions have been about as accurate as D'Unbelievables' weather forecast, what about historical accuracy if, as Friedrich Von Schlegel claimed, "a historian is a prophet in reverse"?

Yet, the future has been foretold with amazing exactitude, since the beginning of time. Who could argue with T.S. Eliot's assertion that "time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past".

Nostradamus had many accurate predictions under his belt, including the manner of the death of Henry II of France. And even the most severe and skeptical critics of Jean Dixon credit her with some precision. However, despite the informed anticipation and pessimistic augury of the aforementioned et al, my trepidation is tempered by a stubborn if cagey skepticism. It dates back to my first long-trousers.

Let me explain. When, I was growing up it was normal for boys to wear short-trousers up to the age of fourteen. In 1959, my aunt in Coleraine who had a son a couple of years my senior sent me my first hand-me-down long trousers, which had to be consigned to mothballs until my 14th birthday. Since I had ultra-conservative parents, the tradition was honoured to the full. I had to serve the full sentence, with no remission for good behaviour. By the time I was thirteen and a half, I began to see something incongruous about my bear knees and certain "manly" pastimes.

Now, in the late fifties an article appeared in a Catholic newspaper - was it the Standard or The Irish Catholic? - informing the Faithful of the imminent termination of the planet.

We didn't manage to get our hands on the paper at home, but several well-meaning neighbours, enlightened relatives and acquaintances met a fairs and Devotions, relayed the good tidings, piece-meal, to us; THERE WOULD BE THREE DARK DAYS IN 1960. Black pigs would walk the earth. The smell of brimstone would be stifling.

And no family would be together when this calamity would occur. (I interpreted this latter as meaning that in the case of each family, unit, the father would be at the turf Rick, the mother would be in the cowhouse and each of the offspring would be out playing a solitary game in a different part of the inch).

1960 came and went. I attained the age of fourteen (and I haven't used camphor balls since). I got my first bike. There were no dark days, in Kylebeg anyway. (Well not in the sense that we were deprived of diurnal illumination).

There was no smell worse than cowdung and rotten spuds evident, and there hasn't been a dark member of the bacon-providing species seen in the area since the days of the Yorkshire pigs. So, seers past and present, I've heard what you have to say about flooding and disaster. I'm less spiritual but just as doubting as Thomas. 

So if you were to predict that; 
Daniel O 'Donnell was getting married, 
Shane McGowan would visit the dentist, 
Jackie-Healy Rae would be next Taoiseach or 
Wicklow would win the 2001 all Ireland Final 
I would treat it with a healthy scepticism. Wouldn't you, if you had spent in initial years of your teens worrying that you were going to die in short trousers?.

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