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A passionately written but thoroughly amateur work.,
This review is from: The Last of the Celts (Paperback)
This is a book with a very interesting premise - a study of the last Celtic communities in the British Isles and France. The author is passionate about the subject and his enthusiasm is obvious from his writing - which is in style of a good, very readable quality. However the quality of research leaves a lot to be desired. There are several mistakes and errors which are unforgivable even considering the fact that the writer is by no means a professional historian or linguist. There are several very lazy mis-spellings of place names (both in English and Gaelic) and the view put across is in some instances far from truly representative or accurate ; conclusions which have been drawn exclusively from, for example, interviews with non-native incomers to a region regarding the regions recent history, change in character and future cannot be viewed as fully accurate or balanced.
More serious are some gaffes with regard to Scottish history and the spread of Gaelic (with regard to both geography and proportion of general population speaking it). The author talks of the leaders of the Scottish Wars of Independence as being entirely Anglo-Norman and Flemish; something which is contradicted clearly by the most basic and casual acquaintance with academic works (or even popular) dealing with the period and people. Robert the Bruce, for example, is one of those described as being "Anglo-Norman" in a passage which also states the Scottish Wars of Independence had nothing to do with Gaels as they occurred mainly in the "English speaking south". Bruce was partially Norman (via his paternal ancestry) but he was most certainly not "Anglo". His mother was Gaelic as, indeed, were his lordship and the region contained by his lordship - Carrick which would remain Gaelic speaking until the 17th century - and he appealed to the Irish lords for alliance by drawing on the shared Gaelic ancestry, language and culture of Scotland and Ireland. As for the south of Scotland being "English speaking" this may well have been true of the South-East which had never had anything more than a small, mostly ruling, Gaelic presence and had never seen Gaelic spoken by the majority of the populace but the South West most certainly was not English speaking and in saying otherwise the author prematurely claims the death of Gaelic in the region by between 300-400 years which, quite frankly, is a huge error to make.
The problem with the book is the the lack of a contemporary and in-depth knowledge of the relevant Scottish history by the author. However his portrayal and commentary of more recent events in Gaelic/Scottish history (i.e. post-Jacobite rebellion) and the character of the language revival movements are generally sound and his conclusions sensible.