The Moths of Manchester, 21st Century Lessons taken from a 19th Century Eclipse (ooh!) of Moths – This Week’s #CoffeewithColm Episode 198

I never knew that the Moths of Manchester were famous, did you?

So here’s the story: Back in 1800 ‘n odd there was a pretty innocuous, unremarkable speckled moth in England, known as the Peppered Moth because of it’s camouflage colouring; white wings dappled with grey and black spots – this allowed the moth population survive and thrive as it allowed them hang out on light coloured tree bark, largely undetected by voracious, Peppered Moth-loving birds. Back then, the odd black one emerged (imagine the black sheep of the moth world here) only to be swiftly recognized and dealt with by said same feathered fiends.

Then something changed.

The industrial revolution began and people began pouring into cities in search of work, and soot from coal fires began pouring out of newly built home and factory chimneys lacing the air with tiny black particles. This soot began to cling to everything and over time tree bark, along with everything else became darker in colour – the Peppered Moth was in trouble – what was once camouflage was now, to the bird population, akin to an, Eddie Rocket-esque, neon sign – EAT HERE!

So what did it do? It changed. The Peppered Moth changed to survive and thrive.

The ‘black sheep’ variety, virtually unknown prior to 1811 yet by 1848 incidences were on the rise dramatically until in 1895, 98% of these moths were of the black sheep variety. And here’s the thing – only in Manchester – only around the cities; their country cousins in Dorset remained Peppered!


Then wonder of wonders, when the air began to clear up, the moth population began to change again towards lighter colouring.

What has that got to do with you and me? To find out, watch the video, listen to the Podcast or read on below…

It appears Darwin may have been right – the survival of the fittest seems to be the way of the world. However, Darwin hypothesized that evolution, adaptation happens over millennia; the Moths of Manchester suggest it can happen much, much more quickly when the need is there.

When the need is there, when the need is there.

You and I can change, as quickly as we want to, but only if the need is there.

We can become the person we always dreamed of becoming, we can live the life we always dreamed of living, and if we’re not living it today, it means something’s got to change; for things to change, things must change.

The wonderful news is we can change. The wonderful news is it doesn’t have to take a hundred years (we probably don’t have that anyway!), it can happen in a relatively short period of time, so long as you and I are willing to make the changes necessary.

If, as my mother would say, “a bloody moth” can make those sweeping changes back in the 1800’s, well then, what can you and I do in the early part of the 21st Century, at the dawn of the Soaring Twenties?

I believe we can absolutely, radically change our futures if we decide that the need is big enough.

As mentioned earlier, for things to change, things must change and the only question is, are you going to make the changes required to, em, well… change, to live the life you always wanted to live?

Look at anybody today whom you deem to be successful in your terms, whatever success means to you, and ask yourself, were they born that way? Likely answer is no. Likely they decided to become the first ‘Black Winged Moth’ in their family line.

Maybe you and I need to do the same?

When does it end? When is mediocre going to stop? When is not good enough, not good enough? Perhaps now? Perhaps with you?

And what happens when you change?

By changing, you will have a massive impact all of those around you broadly in two ways:

  1. By changing successfully, your children and grandchildren’s futures will be forever altered. What life, do you want to lead, what legacy do you want to leave?
  2. However, be prepared that some Peppered Moths will look at you like you have two heads (not just black wings) and try to convince you that you should stay Peppered and ‘blend in’ – “What’ll the neighbouring moth families say?” (Some advice here: if the begrudged class don’t and won’t pay the mortgage should you fall on hard times, their opinion is simply that – their opinion thank you very much)

What life, do you want to lead, what legacy do you want to leave? I ask because, if the life you want to lead, and the legacy you want to leave are different to the track you are on, well then, please my friend, change tracks.

And by the way, for those budding entrepreneurs out there, in a survey recently 87% of Irish people admire entrepreneurs now. Long gone are the days when it was said of our American cousins, “See that guy (or girl) with the big house and the fancy car? Some day I’m going to get that too.” whereas in Ireland we were known to opine: “See that guy (or girl) with the big house and the fancy car? Some day I’m going to get that fecker!.” Things changed. Those days are behind us, 100 years after the birth of the State.

The time is now boys and girls. Maybe you come from a long line of employees and you are afraid to step out and start your own thing – step out anyway.

Maybe there was alcoholism or abuse in your home life – that needn’t define you or your family’s future.

As a good friend of mine, Pat Slattery, would ask, “When, now, is a good time to change?”


Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly.


Watch | Listen | Read | Think | Act

FANCY A COFFEE WITH COLM? I have been creating free weekly content for over three years now and am very happy to have the opportunity to do so. That said, if you enjoy my work, perhaps you might consider buying me the odd coffee to help defray the hidden costs around sourcing, creating, editing, uploading and sharing? Some pretty cool rewards await those who do! Check out my PATREON page here.

MORE: Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • The Glass is neither Half Full, nor Half Empty – It’s Refillable! – click here
  • If it ain’t broke… Break it! Before your competition breaks it for you! – click here.
  • Better People Make Better All Blacks and Build Better Businesses – click here

BONUS: My infamous Man on the Train story…

  • The ‘Man on the Train’ story. How my fortunes changed through a seemingly random (is there any such thing?) meeting – click here.

FREE AUDIO BOOK. If would like a complimentary copy of my book “Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks” in audio, narrated by Yours Truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.

LINKEDIN. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here.

Share this

No Comments

Be the first to start a conversation

Leave a Reply
  • (will not be published)