[October 30, 2006]

How Daniel O'Donnell beat Big Bertha (Ireland's oldest cow)

(Daily Mail Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) BACK IN 1951 in Co.

Wexford the managing director of Arthur Guinness Son & Co., Sir Hugh Beaver, found himself involved in one of those obscure discussions which arise from time to time: is the golden plover Europe's fastest game bird - or is it the grouse?

After intense debate and lengthy investigation it was decided that the golden plover is faster than a grouse over short distances. But that was not the end of the matter. Further disputes on these lines continued to crop up with Sir Hugh, eventually prompting him to launch a very special book.

Now in its 52nd year, the Guinness Book of Records still lives up to its founder's aim. The fastest, biggest, oldest, tallest and most bizarre are duly tracked down and recorded. Every facet of human endeavour is covered, although given the width of that canvas a certain amount of subjective editing is to be expected.

The world's best- selling copyright book now appears in more than 37 languages worldwide, with sales topping 100 million. That's not bad for an idea originally conceived to settle an argument.

Now a new version of the book has been launched. Instead of appearing like an encyclopedia, the Guinness World Records 2007 more resembles a glitzy instruction manual. The content, while containing hard facts, leans towards the bizarre. For example, American Benjamin Drucker had 745 18-gauge surgical needles inserted into his body in two hours 21 minutes in New Mexico in 2003.

But how has Ireland fared in this edit? Is our stock up or down in the record world of 2007? Alas the news is more bad than good. First off, there's no more space left for Sir Hugh's original Co. Wexford query about grouse.

Neither is there room for the world's oldest cow, Big Bertha, a Fresian, born on St Patrick's Day in 1945 in Co. Kerry, who passed on to the great milking shed in the sky in 1993 aged 48. Big Bertha also held the record for lifetime breeding as she produced 39 calves - but both categories have now been dropped from the book.

OTHER categories and Irish entrants who have not made the new edition include the fastest tap dancer in the world, John Devine, who in 1998 managed up to 38 taps a second.

Although Co. Down woman Greer Garson still holds the record for the longest Oscar speech, for her five minute and 30 second oration at the 1942 Oscars, she is no longer featured. Neither is Bram Stoker's Dracula. In 1999 the creation of the Dublin civil servant entered the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest fiction seller in the world, and for having been portrayed in more horror films than any other character.

Likewise, Ireland's drama entries are no longer noted. In 2000 Irish drama made an appearance for the longest known play - The Non-Stop Connolly Show by John Arden, which took 26 hours 30 minutes to perform - and also for the shortest - Breath, by Samuel Beckett, which can be completed in 30 seconds.

In 1998 book Paddy Doyle held the proud record for 'the most burps' in an hour - 1,840, set in Birmingham in 1994. The following year Paddy Doyle marched a mile while carrying a rucksack weighing two stone in a record time of five minutes 35 seconds at Ballycotton, Co. Cork. Both categories have since been dropped by the Guinness World Records.

Michael Flatley, has sadly suffered the same fate as Big Bertha - in 2002 he was listed as the world's highest earning dancer; now he's gone.

Bob Geldof has also disappeared, despite the fact that no one has beaten his record for Live Aid, which is still the largest simultaneous charity rock concert ever, with approximately 1.5 billion people watching via satellite.

Other Irish record-breakers have been outclassed. Tom Gaskin, the man who managed to raise a keg of beer weighing 62.15 kg above his head 902 times in six hours, has been replaced by a Finn, Juha Rasanen.

Boyzone have likewise been removed. In 2000 they made the most successful debut of all time, with their first 15 singles all reaching the Top 5, but they are no longer the record holders - being replaced by fellow Irish act Westlife, who became the first act to see all of their first 20 releases reach the British Top 5.

And Westlife are not alone in the book. Vincent Pilkington of Co.

Cavan takes pride of place as the fastest turkey plucker in the world, verified at Christmas 2005.

In the sporting field we are somewhat underrepresented, but Manchester United player Norman Whiteside is still there. He remains the youngest player ever to appear at the World Cup. The Belfast man turned out for Northern-Ireland in 1982 against Yugoslavia aged 17 years 41 days.

International Rules Football makes an appearance, with Australia and Ireland tying four wins apiece while Cork and Kilkenny scoop the GAA honours.

Irish dance gets a nod on the 'Mass participation page'. In amongst the 'Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Gorillas' and the 'Longest Human Chain' categories, are the 7,664 Cork dancers who took to the streets for a world-breaking jig organised by the city of Cork council.

But with all these ups and downs it is perhaps surprising to hear that Donegal man Daniel O'Donnell is leading the way for Irish record breakers.

Despite the fact that many of us find it hard to believe he is still making records at all, Daniel is, in fact, the most consistent chart artist ever in Britain, with at least one new Top 40 album every year between 1991 and 2006.

His claim to fame puts that of international rock giants U2 in the shade - they have the somewhat less impressive title of ' Lowestselling chart topper'. Their All Because Of You topped the Canadian chart with 'physical sales' of only 85 copies in April 2005.

ALL THE old International favourites are present and correct: the world's tallest man (Xi Shun, China, 7ft 8ins), the oldest person (Maria Esther de Capovilla, Ecuador, 116 years), the oldest surviving conjoined twins (the Galyon brothers, USA, 55 years).

The medical marvels are there too - the longest coma (37 years) the largest foreign object left inside a patient (a pair of scissors).

The bizarre is also documented such as the most compulsive swallower (you don't want to know), and the longest stay in hospitals.

That was Martha Nelson of the USA who spent approximately 99 years of her 103 in hospitals.

We don't have too many superlative animals in Ireland, although we can claim that the world's largest animal, the blue whale (Balaeoptera musculus), occasionally pays us a visit. Its average length is 80ft (24 metres) and has the slowest heartbeat of any warm-blooded animal with between four and eight beats a minute. And you can hear its heartbeat up to 32 km away. Not surprising really - the heart is the size of a car, its aorta so wide you could comfortably swim along one.

You've little chance of coming across the world's most venomous snake in Ireland, however. The Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), measuring almost six feet long, is found in Queensland, Australia. Although this is the world's deadliest viper, you're more likely to be bitten by a snake in Sri Lanka where 800 people die from venom every year. On the other hand the three safest places in the world as regards snake bites are Ireland, New Zealand and Iceland - the only countries in the world without snakes.

And although Irish weather isn't everything we might want it to be - it sometimes seems as if it's been overcast since, ahem, records began - at least we don't have to put up with the parky weather they have in the USA.

On April 3-4, 1974, 148 tornadoes swept the southern and midwestern states.

Oh, and by the way, Ireland is also the EU country furthest from the epicentre of an earthquake, so all in all a pretty safe place to practice any record breaking escapades. Such as the fastest sandwich made by feet (1min 57sec); most Smarties eaten with chopsticks in three minutes (170), or most eggs held in a hand (11).

Good luck now, and see you in the 2008 issue.

In just one minute...

Light travels 11,184,678 miles

150 acres of rainforest - an area larger than the Vatican City - is cutdown The crew of Apollo 10 travelled 413 miles, the highest speed ever achieved by humans (May 1969)

The heart of a clam beats twice, a hummingbird's 1,200 times 50,000 texts are sent globally

112 people die and 260 babies are born worldwide, increasing the world's population by a total of 148 people

150 foreign tourists visit France, 31 of them arriving in Paris, the city that attracts the most visitors in the world

A tiny midge of the genus Forcipomyia beats its wings 62,760 times Nicole Kidman earned $928,800 for acting in a television advertisement for Chanel No 5 perfume

Leonardo D'Andrea (Italy) smashed 36 watermelons using only his head 192 bicycles and 78 cars are manufactured around the world 133 crimes are reported globally.

Copyright 2006 Daily Mail. Source: Financial Times Information Limited - Europe Intelligence Wire.

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