The DIB has a standard format for presenting its entries: surname, forename (birth year-death year) and professional description. It's the last piece that so often makes you want to read on: thus, "BOURCHIER, James David (1850-1920), journalist and Balkan intermediary". If I'd known I could have been a Balkan intermediary I would have studied harder at school. (A fellow postgraduate student ended up as head of the Bulgarian service of the BBC, so even then I should have known it was feasible.) Bourchier, a Limerick man, became a journalist because he went deaf following an attack of measles and had to stop teaching. The DIB entry has a segue that begs a thousand questions: "Having engaged in some journalism - the Globe published some articles he had written on evictions in Ireland - he was offered in 1888 the post of Balkan correspondent of The Times." Of course he was. In Byronic fashion, he threw himself into advocacy of anti-Turkish independent movements, which in a journalistic sense somewhat vitiates the "honesty and disinterestedness" with which the DIB credits him, although that refers more to his relations with the independence-seeking locals. It's claimed he won "the trust and affection of presidents and peasants alike", which sounds like gilding the lily. Regardless, he appears to have been indefatigable in the Bulgarian cause, and was very disappointed when it sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the First Wold War; despite this, he believed that the post-war Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine, which forced Bulgaria to pay substantial reparations and hand over land to Greece, Romania and the newly-formed Yugoslavia, wss unfair. The Bulgarians certainly appreciated his efforts: declared national mourning when he died, named a street in Sofia after him and put his face on three different stamps. If he hadn't caught the measles he probably would have died a schoolteacher.
The de Burghs arrived in Ireland with the Normans around 1175 and spawned a vast array of surnames: de Burgo, de Burca, Bourke and Burke. There are 17 pages of Bourkes in the DIB, but I couldn't get involved with many of the predictable procession of aristos and clergy. However, one such, Patrick Bourke, interested me a lot. His father, a grocer and publican, lost his business and Patrick had to leave school at the age of 14, whereupon he joined the civil service. Two years later, he transferred to the Inland Revenue, and two years after that, he entered Trinity College Dublin, while continuing to hold down his full time job. (Ironically, Trinity was regarded as the establishment - Protestant - college, while University College Dublin, more broadly based and Catholic-identified turned him down because it didn't believe he could make the lectures.) He won a foundation scholarship, three gold and four silver medals. He graduated in four years, began training as a barrister and topped his class in the final exams. All the while, he continued to work as the Inland Revenue, where he became the youngest-ever full inspector of taxes, at the age of 22. He crossed over into the private sector and became a banker, where he oversaw the consolidation that created Allied Irish Bank, one of the country's major retail banks. Just his c.v. made me exhausted.
I have ties to bind me to life and society, as strong as any man in this court. I have a family I love as much as any man in this court does his. But I can remember the blessing received from an aged mother's lips, as I left her the last time. She spoke as the Spartan mother did—" Go, my boy. Return either with your shield or upon it." This reconciles me. This gives me heart. I submit to my doom, and I hope that God will forgive me my past sins. I hope, too, that inasmuch as He has for seven hundred years, preserved Ireland, notwithstanding all the tyranny to which she has been subjected, as a separate and distinct nationality, He will also retrieve her fallen fortunes—to rise in her beauty and her majesty, the sister of Columbia, the peer of any nation in the world.