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TV Script Bundled into a Book
on 29 August 2010
The sea was the link that brought together the Celtic peoples living in the western stretches of Europe.
The Irish Sea provided a watery highway not only for the Celts but also the Vikings. The Vikings and Celts reached North America long before Columbus and one can only wonder how history might have changed had the earliest incursions by this Norse-Celtic breed resulted in the kind of colonization that occurred in Iceland.
Unfortunately, this work gives little insight into a fascinating story but reads like a television script which has been clumsily joined together.
To call it "The History of Celtic Britain and Ireland" is wildly inaccurate, to say the least. It reads more like a collection of items related to the history of the Celts and Vikings and has no focus. The best I can say is that it is good for dipping into from time to time rather than a straight read through.
Paragraphs jump from one subject to another and subjects disappear as quickly as they arise.
In the middle of historical accounts we have "interviews" with living people, such as a boat builder in Ireland, or a mini-biography of Rob Roy or a description of the cemetery at Dalmore on the Isle of Lewis. This might work on television where it is essential to bombard the audience with anecdotes and pictures to keep it switched on but it has no place in what aims to be a serious work.
I have two main criticisms of this work. One is that the author does not convince us that there is still a strong Celtic influence in England (other than Cornwall*). Some references to place names and traditions like well-dressing are not enough to substantiate this view.
Secondly, he is rather sentimental about the Celts and gives the impression that there was and is some kind of unity among them. This is not the case at all. Welsh archers fought alongside the English against the Scots at Falkirk and Bannockburn and with the Anglo-Normans in Ireland. The Scots under Edward Bruce invaded Ireland and Scottish settlers colonized Ulster. Irish pirates attacked Wales and Scotland and St Patrick himself is believed to have been a fellow Celt who was kidnapped and enslaved.
While Scotland and Ireland have always been linked by migration, language and culture, Scotland and Wales have had little in common.
*If we assume that Cornwall is actually part of England, something many Cornish people do not.