Stephen of the dating game rea

But while the parrot in the celebrated Monty Python sketch is well and truly dead, those hilarious exchanges between John Cleese and Michael Palin have winged their way into comedy immortality.

Dr David Waterhouse, a fossil expert and Python fan, has found that parrots not only lived in Scandinavia 55million years ago, but probably evolved there before spreading into the southern hemisphere.

His discovery was based on a preserved wing bone of a previously unknown species, given the scientific name Mopsitta Tanta - and now nicknamed the Norwegian Blue.

The dead parrot script, voted Britain's favourite alternative comedy sketch by Radio Times readers in 2004, was written by Cleese and Graham Chapman and first broadcast in 1969. Dr Waterhouse, 29, said of Mopsitta Tanta: "Obviously, we were dealing with a bird that is bereft of life, but the tricky bit was establishing it was a parrot." He was studying for a Ph D at the University of Dublin in 2005 when he visited a museum in Jutland and spotted a fossilised 2in-long humerus - appropriately enough, the funny bone - among bird remains which had been found near an open-cast mine.

Christmas cards in support of several development agencies also disappeared like snow off the proverbial ditch.

At the end of the morning, a figure of over 1,000 had been raised, those attending had had an enjoyable morning and there was the quiet satisfaction of knowing that a successful effort had been made to help an agency which helps the poor to help themselves, lobbies for justice and peace and is present where people most need assistance.

After appearing on the stage and in television and film for many years in Ireland and Britain, Rea came to international attention when he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the film The Crying Game.

He is a frequent collaborator with Irish film maker Neil Jordan.

No southern hemisphere fossil parrot has been found older than about 15million years, so this new evidence suggests parrots evolved here in the northern hemisphere before diversifying further south in the tropics later on." Details of the Norwegian Blue have been published in the latest issue of Paleontology journal, under the distinctly Pythonesque title Two New Fossil Parrots (Psittaciformes) from the Lower Eocene Fur Formation.

All are invited to come along and enjoy what promises to be a great occasion.

Big kids as well as the small kids are all welcome.

One of four children in a working class Presbyterian family, he attended Belfast High School and the Queen's University of Belfast, taking a degree in English. In the late 1970s, he acted in the Focus Company in Dublin with Gabriel Byrne and Colm Meaney.

During the broadcasting ban on Sinn Féin imposed by Margaret Thatcher's government, in order to cut the 'oxygen of publicity', it was interpreted that Sinn Féin members could not be heard making statements expressing the views of Sinn Féin, so Rea was one of many actors contacted to provide an actor's voice to get around that problem.

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