TIM FANNING MY VIEW
Getting bogged down in the past, and then digging it up, has never been so much fun
Iwas watching Dig WW2 this week when I saw something very strange. This excellent new series is about the history of the war in Northern Ireland, or so I thought. For as I watched what I thought was a group of archaeologists in the North trying to lift great chunks of a Spitfire out of a bog, what did I spot in the corner of the screen, but the familiar luminous jackets of the Garda Síochana. It turns out that the pilot who had taken off from RAF Limavady minutes before having had to bail out with engine trouble had been over the Free State when his plane went down. And so the dig for the Spitfire was taking place in Co Donegal, rather than Co Derry. What this geographical accident also meant was that, back in 1941, the Spitfire’s pilot, a US volunteer, was picked up by the authorities here and transported off to the internment camp at the Curragh.
This fascinating programme, presented by the ever enthusiastic Dan Snow, reminded the viewer of just how much of the detritus of war lies on and around this island. Ostensibly it was about Northern Ireland’s contribution to the war. But as war has little or no respect for political frontiers, much of the programme took place south of the Border. Bud Wolfe, the pilot of the ill-fated Spitfire, managed to escape from the Curragh within two weeks. It has to be said security wasn’t exactly tight. As a sergeant in the modern-day Defence Forces explained, the interned officers, both Allied and German, had access to every conceivable alcoholic beverage known to man. The Irish tipples of porter and whiskey were free. Under such circumstances, it’s difficult to imagine why any of the internees would have wanted to escape. But escape they did. Bud Wolfe was back at his home base in Derry in a matter of days. Of course, de Valera wasn’t too pushed about letting a few Allied flyers find their way home. It saved on the whiskey bill.
A two-part documentary about the history of Irish censorship sounds like a good idea on paper, but TV3’S Banned was anything but good. There was a quick run through the history of film censorship in Ireland, during which the Christian name of one of the most recent censors was incorrectly given twice, then it was on to music videos, computer games and literature, in no particular order. The sole point of the programme seemed to be to show the entire original video for Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, which, predictably was banned here in the early 80s. By the end of Banned, I was wondering if maybe stricter censorship isn’t such a bad idea…