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