This week, I obtained a video in my inbox. It was one I’ve obtained, with none exaggeration, over a thousand occasions, and in each conceivable model and format. It involved an interview I did two years in the past. An interview that began one of many strangest issues I’ve ever been the centre of and which, I now realise, I’ve by no means written about since.

It was August 2021, by which era I used to be getting fairly used to being interviewed. This was the twelfth I’d achieved that week for my ebook, Did Ye Hear Mammy Died. It had stunned everybody by doing fairly effectively, not least as a result of — although clearly glorious and very humorous — it was a ebook about my mom’s demise, and written by a studiously non-famous particular person. 

But it surely did do effectively, and the Irish media have been quickly clamouring to listen to from me, that sensible, humorous man whose mum really had as soon as died.

All of which led me to the inexperienced room of Eire AM. I say inexperienced room, it was actually a holding cell on Zoom, the place me and my charming hosts, Tommy Bowe and Clare McKenna, shared a couple of phrases in the course of the advert break instantly earlier than my interview. 

I’ve an inkling you may know the interview to which I’m referring to, however I’ll get to that in time.

I don’t suppose it’s talking out of faculty to say it was fairly clear that Tommy hadn’t learn the ebook, which is comprehensible. I used to be in all probability one in all 20 folks that they had on the present that week, and masking each ebook, movie, TV present or public assertion from each visitor can be prohibitively time-consuming and, frankly, insane. 

However he and Clare have been pleasant, made me really feel snug, and supplied heat, if obscure, congratulations on the ebook’s success. Maybe enlivened by their appeal, I stored issues mild, and we have been very quickly laughing in that simple, carefree means that I think about all celebrities do on the events to which I figured I’d quickly be invited. Earlier than I knew it, they have been wishing me luck, and we have been going dwell. My display screen stuffed with the swirling IrelandAM emblem, and I watched as my two new, expensive celeb buddies, launched me.

“Now” started Clare, “creator Séamas O’Reilly was simply 5 years outdated when he and his ten siblings…”

“TEN SIBLINGS?!” replied Tommy, with the kindly, open-faced astonishment of somebody who’s been digging of their bag of Tayto and located a extremely, actually huge crisp. Sadly, Clare completed her sentence with a moderately totally different tone: “ … sadly misplaced their mum.”


I’ve tried, many occasions prior to now two years, to explain the noise Tommy made at this level, because it’s nearly definitely essentially the most well-known noise I’ve ever had any contact with. 

My greatest approximation is both “uuf” or “oooft”, however each render the identical distinct that means; Tommy had, totally innocently, reacted to information of my mom’s demise with the muted disappointment of somebody who’d tried to choose up a extremely, actually huge crisp and by chance broke it in half. 

Inside micro-seconds, we develop into the centre of a meme which might entwine myself and Tommy in a braid of mutual empathy forever.

Seamas O’Reilly. Image: Orfhlaith Whelan

I believe it’s value reiterating right here that there was clearly by no means one iota of hurt meant on Tommy’s half, and nor was any hurt by chance achieved. 

My household and I discovered it extraordinarily humorous, and proceed to take action. His tone and phrasing have been, inescapably, hilarious. 

Not least since, whereas he could not have learn the ebook, he did know its title, which made it even funnier for all of us. 

This was handy, since we have been quickly being despatched the clip lots of of occasions by each single one who had our contact particulars at hand. It’s been two years and, as I started by saying, I nonetheless get despatched them on a weekly foundation.


By noon it was trending nationwide, then all over the world. By that night, there have been techno remixes and TikTok dances. 

It was featured on Alan Partridge fan accounts, and later coated on ITV clip present It’ll Be Alright On The Evening, accompanied by voiceover from David Walliams. 

For weeks, each single reply to Tommy’s Instagram posts appeared to say “TEN SIBLINGS!”, and he was getting tagged on social media by avid followers, not as one in all Eire’s premier sportsmen, winner of two Six Nations trophies and a Lions Tour, however as “the ten siblings man”.

By December, novelty Christmas playing cards blaring “TEN SIBLINGS!” have been in manufacturing by an organization who will need to have misplaced my cost particulars, and Brian O’Driscoll gave one to Tommy Bowe on dwell TV. 

As lately as two months in the past, the Awards implored him to ship stated catchphrase right into a roving mic, surrounded by cheering celebrities. He did so, however with an expression I couldn’t assist however intuit as pained.

It has been odd to witness, not least since I’ve principally escaped any such ubiquity with the meme in any respect. 

This has principally been a blessing however has often given me pause. 

As when, three weeks after the interview, I held my first ebook occasion in Dublin and located that it was featured by Lovin’ Dublin with the headline, “Studying Of The E book Behind Tommy Bowe’s 10 Siblings Slip Up In Dublin Subsequent Week”. 

Glad of the promotion although I used to be, I couldn’t assist questioning if this ever occurred to different writers. “Bear in mind Fart Dad? From Viral Hit “Cat Barf Fart Dad”? Turns Out His Title’s Philip Roth And He’s Written A E book!”.

Maybe the best signal that I’m not related to this meme comes once I often write about having ten siblings, and I actually get replies saying “TEN SIBLINGS!”, from folks clearly aspiring to make a cross-referential joke about that now-famous phrase, with out realising I’m myself its unique supply.

I hope Tommy doesn’t really feel trapped inside its ongoing ubiquity, and that the memes, feedback and Christmas playing cards abate finally. 

If not, I can solely provide essentially the most comforting phrases I can. A hearty, and sincerely meant, oooft.

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