The Council is responsible for making sure that the islanders live comfortable and happy lives, and has the power to make laws to make this come about. This gives the Council power to raise taxes, build roads, provide services, control whatever needs to be controlled, and to do whatever needs to be done.
This does not give the Council absolute power, as there is an escape clause in the way the Althing was replaced in 1922. If more than a hundred qualified voters, or 10% of the total number of qualified voters, or more than 20% of the qualified voters in any of Big Ugly, Little Ugly, or the Uglets demands it, the Althing may be convened to discuss any matters referred to it either on the demand of those voters, or by the Council. All voters on the islands meet together, and the vote of a simple majority makes a decision which is binding and final. Only 80 islanders are actually registered as living in the Uglets, which means that as few as 16 people can covene the Althing, given sufficient cause.
Crime is rare in the islands, but may be dealt with either by the Council or a committee created by the Council, with appeal to the Althing as a last resort in serious cases. There have never been any serious cases, so far.
Jane is one of the few Finnegans to have spent time off the islands. She speaks no fewer than five languages, but rarely gets to use them, as out-of-the-way places like the Ugly Islands do not attract the sort of tourist who does not have a functional level of English. She is at present learning two more languages (Greek and Latin) from Hyacinth O'Donnell.
Jane is 27, and married to Shem Penman, who owns and runs a small restaurant and bar in Dead Whale.
Jean Grey is the most unpopular member of The Council, although she seems to be able to get re-elected time and time again, even though she has also been de-elected twice.
Jean Grey is a heavily-built woman, with the ability to look down her nose at anybody and everybody. She owns three of the largest stores on Big Ugly, and specialises in selling expensive goods to tourists, and cheap nasty goods at similar prices to the islanders. One of her stores mainly carries electrical goods and cameras, a second one sells groceries and liquor, the third sells furniture, ornaments and jewellery.
Because Jean Grey often manages to buy up all of a particular item, most of the islanders need to go to one of her stores at least some of the time, so she is always well aware of people's financial standing, and uses this information to her advantage. She also extracts information from her husband Barry, who runs the bank agency in Dead Whale.
Stan left school at the age of twelve, and built most of the roads on Big Ugly by pick and shovel work. Throughout his life, Stan never had much time for education, but when he started to be thrown out of Council meetings for his comments about his grand-niece's (Jean's) schemes, Stan went off to consult with Parrot Williams, and now he enlivens Council meetings with such learned comments as "bovine excreta, Mister Speaker", and Chuffer Harris always rules these to be acceptable statements.
Since that time, Stan has been strongly in favour of anything relating to education, and he has acquired a great deal of knowledge from books over the last five years.
Chuffer runs a steam-powered barge which runs across the channel from Little Ugly to Big Ugly. The barge is also called "Chuffer", on account of the noise it makes. He is an expert when it comes to catching bender fish, but as the main ferryman, he also knows more about what is going on in the islands than anybody else.
If anybody wants to consult Chuffer about Council matters, all they need to do is ride across on his ferry, and persuade him to stop cutting wood for the boiler on the circular saw which is also driven by the steam engine. The consultation can never be private, however, as there are always other islanders and a few tourists riding on the boat, which Chuffer built for himself, after seeing The African Queen. The steam-powered circular saw beside the boiler was his own idea.
Chuffer is also the Speaker of the Council, chairing meetings and also being responsible for ceremonial duties.
Barbara is a talented artist, and does a good trade in drawings of the animals and plants of the Ugly Islands, which she is able to produce in a number of styles, but she is particularly good at imitating the style of Nehemiah Grue.
Sadly, a number of the islanders are not above selling these imitations as the genuine thing.
There is one island newspaper, "The Islander", which is run, written, edited and printed by Steve Lander. The paper is one of the nation's best exports, since Steve has a policy of always slipping a few typographical errors into each edition, usually in the worst possible taste. Anybody who has ever visited the Islands leaves with a taste for Steve's bizarre news reports, and most of them take out and renew their annual subscriptions, just to stay in touch.
In recent times, Steve has moved to desk-top publishing, and so he is able to post some parts of his paper electronically. He only circulates this material to subscribers and friends, but we will probably be able to bring you a few bits and pieces here, with his agreement.
Hamish owns the best herd of short-legged sheep in the islands. These are a mutant strain of sheep with extremely short legs. Having short legs makes them easy to herd, as they cannot jump over even the smallest fences, and they cannot run away very fast.
Unfortunately, short-legged sheep have trouble running away from snarks as well, and so Hamish leads the snark-extermination lobby on the Council, putting him eternally at odds with Buck Mulligan, who believes that snarks are beautiful animals, and in need of protection.
The term "journalist" may be a slight exaggeration in this case. Wanda is in fact the typist responsible for most of the best and most embarrassing errors which occur in the pages of The Islander. When people first meet Wanda, they think there is a gleam in her eye, but soon they realise that it is no more than a bovine glaze.
On Big Ugly, she is generally known as "Wandered", while the slightly better educated folk of Little Ugly know her as "Noncompos". Nobody seems to know quite how Wanda got elected, and nobody is prepared to admit to having voted for her, either as a joke or out of sympathy, but Wanda's presence on the Council is very useful, as her confused questions usually leave Jean Grey in knots -- and everybody else in hysterics.
The questions have the same effect on everybody else as well, but only Jean Grey seems to be upset by Wanda's vagueness.
Buck runs a large herd of dairy cattle, and favours preserving the snark at all costs. During the Leaping Lizards Competition each year, many of the lizards learn to enjoy the taste of cheese. Later, when they are released back into the wild, those leaping lizards which come near dairy cattle smell the slightly cheesy smell from a cow's udders, and jump up, biting and damaging the teats with their sharp teeth.
Buck says that snarks eat leaping lizards, and so must be retained at all costs.
The fifth Tom Nantucket on the islands, Tom is the descendant of an American whaler who jumped ship to become one of the very first people on the islands, marrying Eliza Grey in 1859. There are only a few people still carrying the Nantucket name, but Tom is related to about half of the population of the islands.
There is a popular legend that the first Tom Nantucket was actually born with another name, and adopted a new surname in order to disguise who he really was, and that there is a large buried treasure somewhere on the islands. According to the legend, he "acquired" a great deal of plunder during the Indian Mutiny, and brought it with him.
John came to the islands to work at the Dead Whale Cottage Hospital as a pharmacist, but later chose to open a pharmacy of his own, which grew into a general store.
He now takes little interest in the store, which is run by his son, although he still does some of the dispensing for the hospital. His main interest is in working his way through the plant life of the Ugly Islands, screening each and every plant for any possible medicines. He collaborates in this work with Peg Wilkins.
Commonly known as "Hirohito", Hiroshi was shot down during World War II, and chose never to go home after the war was over. There were a number of things that went into the making of the person we all call Hirohito. If any one of them had not fallen out the right way, then the islands would never have acquired him.
For a start, before the war, he had learned English. He wanted to be a physicist, and that meant learning to speak and read English of a sort. The next thing was his getting a copy of Robinson Crusoe. Not the most useful item for a budding physicist, you might think, but that was what Hirohito read as a teen-ager, along with all the science fiction he could find.
Then came the war, and Hirohito ended up as a fighter pilot, but quite late in the war, when the Japanese forces had reached the limit of their advance, and were starting to retreat. He flew just two missions from his aircraft carrier, and never fired a warlike shot.
But the most important thing was that Hirohito got shot down. Well not really shot down, just winged. One of these days, somebody, probably Professor Fenwick, will dig his plane out of the mangroves on one of the larger Uglets and check it out, but Hirohito says that he was hit by two rifle bullets. One wrecked his compass, spraying oil over his glasses and half-blinding him, while the other hit a fuel line. There were no known Allied forces in the area at that time, so he may have hit a bird, but the effect remained the same.
Whatever the cause, Hirohito cleared his glasses to find himself lost and losing height, over the northern islands of the Uglets. With nowhere to land, he pancaked in over the calm waters between the islands.
Still travelling fast, he skidded into a small estuary, ripping his wings off on two trees, and dropping his fuselage into the gluey mangrove mud. Within ten minutes, the fuselage was half-buried, and the rising tide was lapping around it. Another half-hour, and there was nothing to show.
A few days later, there were two dying mangrove trees to tell a story, but nobody was looking for that sort of thing by then. There had been a cursory search, just after he went down, but that was called off, and he was simply listed as "missing".
The problem with truly brave men is that they are often inclined to give themselves a low valuation. So when Hirohito claims that he was overjoyed at being out of the war, who can say if we should believe him or not?
Certainly he made no attempt to do anything other than survive, but even there he had some luck. He found the leftovers of some predecessors, other castaways who had been on the same island, and there were plenty of meadberries. Then after the war, when he learned that all of his family in Japan were dead, killed in a bombing raid, he settled down on the Uglets, and later, moved to Little Ugly, using as a surname, the name of his plane.
In the late 1950s, he opened what is now called "Hirohito's". Hiroshi called it "The Admiral's Bar and Grill", but even tourists call it "Hirohito's". It is a centre for life and social activity on Little Ugly, and the place where most of the decisions are made, certainly for Little Ugly, and even for the islands in general, for this is where most of the older islanders prefer to gather at night. There is a bar in the central room, but around the outside, there are wide verandahs with screens that can be put in place to keep out insects, and taken down in the morning, when Hirohito's is the place to have breakfast.
The strength of the votes for each ten-year age range is calculated by taking the square root of the maximum age of the voters in that group, rounding down and subtracting three. People in the 10-20 age group thus have one vote, those in the 20-30 range get double votes, and so on.
You need to have Islands citizenship to vote, but anybody may stand for election, as one of the four ways to get citizenship is to be elected to the Islands Council. (The others are to marry a citizen, to be born on the islands, or to be voted in as a citizen at an Althing. Hirohito is one of the few to have obtained citizenship this way.)
To make life more interesting, Big Ugly, Little Ugly and the Uglets are allocated a quota of councillors according to their populations. There are eight councillors from Big Ugly, one from the Uglets and three from Little Ugly, as most of the people in the Uglets have permanent homes on Little Ugly.
If any group is over-represented, the other groups run a second election to de-elect some of that oversize group, and a third election is then held by those same under-represented electors to choose replacements, who may be drawn from any part of the islands. In this situation, age is not a consideration, and all electors' votes have equal effect.
To make things more interesting still, when the election is in a year which is a prime number, the Big population elects the representatives for the other two areas, while the people of the Uglets and Little Ugly elect the representatives of Big Ugly.
Also, in each even year, anti-elections are held, at which seven of the twelve councillors are chosen for dismissal, and seven replacements are elected. By this method, the number of extremists on the council is kept to a very low level, since you only have to offend about 14% of the islanders to be tossed out. The system was first proposed by Steven Lander's great-grandmother, and his newspaper keeps everybody informed about who is where on the popularity totem pole.
From here, you can go back to the
Last revised March 6, 2007.