The young Cormac Thompson impressed both his grandmother and music executives with his sweet tunes.

After the camera on his grandmother’s iPad stopped working, Cormac Thompson knew communication with her would be a struggle during lockdown. The 11-year-old schoolboy, living with his parents in Darwen, Lancashire, and his maternal grandparents, based in Northern Ireland, knew that it would be a while before they could see each other again. His mother then came up with the idea of filming a video featuring Cormac, a keen singer, performing one of “Nannie’s” favorite songs on YouTube instead.

As well as delighting his grandmother, the moving performance of “Danny Boy” was also spotted by representatives at Decca, the record label that went on to sign him up. Cormac’s first album, Hear My Voice, will be released in December. “If you think of rabbits in headlights, that’s a reasonable way of thinking of us at the moment,” Alison, Cormac’s mother, said. “But in a happy way, we’re happy rabbits. We didn’t know how it was going to pan out, we didn’t have a clue how people would receive it.”

Cormac’s talent first became apparent when he was in Year 3 at school. “It was more mum that noticed,” he said. “I was singing in the car and then mum said, ‘You probably could have singing lessons.’ I was like, ‘I’m too cool to have singing lessons,’ because I was a bit younger and thought it wasn’t cool to have them. When I did, I secretly really enjoyed it and it has just gone from there.”

Next best thing: Cormac turned to music when he couldn’t hug his “Nannie,” Colleen.

Cormac’s parents got him a secondhand keyboard from Ebay, which he learned to play alongside his singing. His lockdown video was uploaded in May and had the desired effect on Nannie, for whom Cormac had enjoyed performing when she came to stay. “I think she cried and she got quite emotional as she normally does,” he said, explaining that their efforts to speak via Zoom on a laptop had failed.

The video had not received many views and the family had never expected it to be seen by Decca, which has signed artists including Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Liza Minnelli. Mrs Thompson waited to check that the email from the company was real before telling her son. Cormac went to London for an audition, where he recorded four songs, and there was a short wait before the record company got back in touch to say that he had been successful. His album was recorded over three weeks in the summer at Metropolis Studios, west London.

“If you think of rabbits in headlights, that’s a reasonable way of thinking of us at the moment,” Cormac’s mother said. “But in a happy way, we’re happy rabbits.”

A particular highlight for Cormac had been playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on Freddie Mercury’s piano. He wore plastic gloves so that he could keep them as a souvenir and they now have pride of place on his own piano.

Cormac struggled not to tell his friends about his new-found success. “They have only just found out — a couple of days ago — and I’m glad I’ve been able to tell them now,” Cormac said. “It was quite hard to keep it a secret, especially when things to do with me being out of school came up in conversation. I had to say I was away doing a ‘music thing’ and it was just really hard.” The coronavirus pandemic also added challenges, and the adults in the room had to wear masks while the album was recorded. “We had to be ultra-careful as a family because of the impact it would have had on the recording schedules,” Anthony, Cormac’s father, said. “We’ve been totally isolated, over the summer period in particular, everything we bought was online shopping, we didn’t go out anywhere, and it was purely focused around Cormac and getting this done.”

Cormac, who likes various sports and Warhammer games, as well as music, hopes to be a singer when he grows up. “But I think I’d quite like to be a lawyer or a scientist as well maybe,” he said, adding that he could perhaps be a singer on the side.

Cormac hopes to be a singer when he grows up. “But I think I’d quite like to be a lawyer or a scientist as well maybe.”

His Nannie, Colleen Morrison, 72, said that she was “so very, very proud” of what Cormac had achieved, recalling their “little singing sessions” from her visits to the family in Darwen. The gesture of the YouTube video made her “really quite emotional” when she saw it. “I was really missing Cormac in lockdown and when my iPad took a bit of a tumble and the screen smashed I couldn’t video call any more,” she said. “I was still able to access YouTube so seeing Cormac’s videos really cheered me up. I love Cormac’s singing and I loved his really kind gesture of surprising me with my favorite song even more. I do like to think I played my part though, perhaps if the iPad hadn’t taken a tumble, none of this would have happened.”

Cormac’s album will be released on Decca Records on December 4

Pennywell miniature “pocket” piglets get into the holiday spirit.
Talk about booty: close to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists have just discovered a sprawling, ancient reef.

A coral reef rising more than 1,640 feet from the ocean floor has been found off Australia’s north coast, the first such discovery in more than a century. The top of the reef, which is about 985 feet long, is 130 feet beneath the surface and was described as “thriving” by one of the scientists who found it. It is estimated to be 20 million years old at its deepest part and was found last week by researchers on board Falkor, a vessel operated by the Schmidt Ocean Institute that was mapping the sea bed. The research body was founded by the US philanthropist Wendy Schmidt, and her husband, Eric, a former chief executive of Google. At its tallest, the reef is bigger than the Empire State Building in New York, London’s Shard and the Eiffel Tower.

The structure is a “detached” reef, bedded to the ocean floor and not part of the main body of the Great Barrier Reef near by. “It’s got a thriving coral community at the pinnacle,” Robin Beaman, from James Cook University, who led the research, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It sits among seven other detached reefs that were mapped in the 1800s, but the marine ecosystem on the top of the newly discovered reef appears to be more vibrant than the others. The scientists said that a discovery on this scale had not been made in the region for more than 120 years and added: “When we got to the crest of it we found a lot of fish and a healthy shark population too.”

At its tallest, the 20 million-year-old reef is bigger than the Empire State Building in New York, London’s Shard and the Eiffel Tower.

Detached reefs act as isolated submarine mountains and can evolve unique species because there is a lot of deep water between them and the next coral community. After finding the coral pinnacle the team conducted a dive using an underwater robot. They streamed video images of the dive on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s website. “It’s going to take time for us to work through the imagery and samples we’ve collected before we can say if there are new species [at this reef] or not,” Dr Beaman said.

Scientists are busy mapping the reef with underwater robots.

The reef is 93 miles south of Cape York on the northeastern coast. The researchers found new reef-building within the top 650 feet of the structure, where enough sunlight penetrates the water to allow photosynthesis. During the last Ice Age, when ocean levels were thought to be more than 330 feet lower than today, parts of the newly discovered reef would have been in far shallower water, or even exposed.

The Australian mapping project is being funded by the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Jyotika Virmani, its executive director, said: “To find a new half-a-kilometer tall reef in the offshore Cape York area of the well-recognized Great Barrier Reef shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline.” In April the project announced the discovery of the world’s longest recorded sea creature — a siphonophore, which has a tentacle 148 feet long.