Ire­land hop­ping

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE - Ire­land With Si­mon Reeve

Con­sid­er­ing the large num­ber of us who can trace our fam­ily sto­ries to Ire­land, it’s lam­en­ta­ble how lit­tle many of us ac­tu­ally know about its his­tory.

This new two-part se­ries pre­sented by Si­mon Reeve may help, as it fol­lows the writer and jour­nal­ist on a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery around the coun­try.

“Ire­land is just a cou­ple of hours away by sea, even closer on a plane, and yet it’s got sto­ries and his­tory that I wasn’t ad­e­quately fa­mil­iar with,” Reeve tells WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine. He be­gins his trav­el­ogue at Ban­now Bay. It was here the An­glo-Nor­mans landed in 1169, a mo­ment that in many re­spects marks the be­gin­ning in earnest of an of­ten prob­lem­atic re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ire­land and Eng­land.and Per­haps in­evitablyinevitably, a re­cur­ring theme is colo­nial­ism close to home. The 19th-cen­tury Ir­ish Famine, Reeve says, would never have been al­lowed to hap­pen in south-east Eng­land, yet as many as one mil­lion died in lands ad­min­is­tered from Lon­don when potato crops failed.

This was a Bri­tish famine, and we should re­mem­ber this bet­ter. “We can­not just for­get his­tory,” Reeve says, “it’s not good enough to say, ‘Oh it was a while ago, can’t we move on?’”

Reeve says he was sur­prised by much of what he dis­cov­ered, for in­stance, the of­ten for­got­ten role of Ire­land’s monas­ter­ies as a repos­i­tory of learn­ing dur­ing the so-called Dark Ages. He also found much that made himhim op­ti­misticop­ti­mistic. In par­tic­u­larpar­tic­u­lar, Reeve cites a meet­ing with Tom Reilly, whose book Cromwell Was Framed – Ire­land 1649, reap­praises Oliver Cromwell’s siege of Drogheda. In Ire­land, this is an event that’s long been taught as an ex­am­ple of English bru­tal­ity, yet Reeve says the Ir­ish are able to con­tem­plate (if not agree with) Reilly’s idea that this might not be the whole truth, some­thing that cer­tainly wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago.

“The Ir­ish are open and will­ing to do this now,” says Reeve, “and I think it’s a re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing time in Ir­ish his­tory where it’s pos­si­ble for there to be this re­dis­cov­ery and re­un­der­stand­ing of the past.” Jonathan Wright

Si­mon Reeve trav­els around Ire­land in a new two-part se­ries

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