This final episode looks at the more recent history of the nations of the Celtic Isles of western Europe. The narrator begins by describing the Celtic languages as ‘dying’. Not a good start. Although it can be said that those ancient tongues are under immense pressure, they are not dying. Across the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland the native Gaelic language has seen a resurgence. More and more children are once again speaking in a language heard there, unbroken, for 2000 years. Hardly dying.
Among other things, the program looks at the Jacobites of Scotland, the increasing control of England over the other nations, and the internal divisions within the Celtic lands that allowed London to eventually dominate but not fully conquer.
The story of the Celtic traditions and the people associated with them is still being written. Today, there is an ongoing battle between Gaelic/Celtic culture and that which is not. The native Celtic traditions have seen more competition from the encroachment of US influences that also, ironically, impinge upon colonial English traditions. A visitor to Ireland will see this conflict everywhere, as those who are aware of the impending loss of true national identity fight fiercely to defend their existence as an independent people.
Of note in this documentary is the section that looks at the genocide of the Great Famine which was perpetuated by the colonial rulers of Westminster. We can see how immigration brought about by hardship and oppression in their own lands had major repercussions across the planet, as the people of Celtic tongues sought new lives, but could not and would not forget the land of their birth. It’s a sad tale, and many still alive today can speak of the emotional wrench that leaving Ireland caused.
The Easter Rising of 1916 is also covered, but it should be remembered that this is a BBC production. The overall narrative may not be entirely sympathetic to Irish Republicanism. It rarely is, but this episode is more impartial than others. Perhaps it is fitting that the story of the Celts, here shown, ends with some focus on Ireland as the Emerald Isle has always, for 800 years, continually fought to assert its right to a free an independent country.
That fight continues.
Episode 5 of this series can be found here: