Scary stories from a lovely place
(This is my second comment on the book ‘Irish Freedom’. The first is here.)
My trawl through Richard English’s ‘Irish Freedom’ continues (yes that is his name. He should have changed it). I took a pretty long break but brought it with me to Ireland hoping I would be inspired to push on. And I have been. But it’s still slow going, and not just because of the interruptions of two little Irish nationalists.
A quote on the cover of the book describes it as ‘epic’ and this is certainly true. In fact if every grain of sand, or every star in the heavens represented one piece of information about the history of nationalism in Ireland, then English has combed for each one, dissected and explained it.
As I’ve been reading over the last week and a half about the rumblings and explorations of nationalism since the 1800’s I’ve been struck by the way sporting associations were used to promote nationalism and develop young leaders. This wasn’t done in any covert or even overly intentional way – it was just another consequence of the way community functioned in Ireland in the late 1800’s. Lives were intertwined and involement in a Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA – still very active today) was a natural part of one’s youth. As such the nationalism that exploded in Ireland in the early 1900’s, prompted and spurred on by the 1916 Easter revolution, was very much a natural outworking of people’s everyday lives.
Another thing I’ve been surprised by is the way the figures who were promoting nationalism and calling for Home Rule all had some kind of association with the arts. (This makes me feel better about my own potentially useless Arts degree). The vast majority were either poets or had written critically on other poets and authors. Names like Yeats and Bram Stoker (he was a Home Ruler – the author of Dracula!), as well as less well known figures, keep coming up. English comments that the 1916 rising had a real theatrical quality and he concludes it’s not a coincidence that two of the revolutionaries had directed plays for theatre. Literature really seems to have informed and even driven these men and women forward in their pursuit of independence for Ireland.
The Irish history is rich, interesting and surprising.
I’m getting up to post the 1916 revolution and the impact of World War 1 and relations with England. It’s getting tense, and very violent.
More to come.