Saturday, 3 October 2009

Rewriting History

History is written by the winners.

Nowhere is this more (or less) true than the British Isles. The 'English' version of the history of these Isles is the one that has been taught but there is a resurgence. This history is no longer seen as threatening to Great Britain and people are interested so the tales are being told more widely.

Most British people have blood drawn from the four quarters of the Isles so as the history is explored so we are able to explore some of the less English aspects of our family history. I definitely have Welsh and Scottish blood. I have a Liverpudlian branch of the family so given all this, I am likely to have a little irish somewhere in there too. Much of my English blood is fenland and Suffolk based.

Britain is a set of islands, many, many islands. This enabled the many tribes to remain distinct in many ways. Waves of invaders did not settle equally across the islands. The Celts remained strongly present in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. I have also read that the fenlands, being an impenetrable, undrained bog retained a lot of Celtic blood as well.

The islands remained a hodge podge of tribal feifdoms, slowly united. England, Cornwall, Scotland, Wales and Ireland emerged as separate nations of united tribes. Slowly they all came under the sway of the English. The history of this integration is not really taught in schools. A little mention of the whole Scottish Kings and Queens is made perhaps, with Mary Queen of Scots.

My Scottish ancestor was a MacDonald from the Cairngorms who moved to Suffolk to work at the Naval College, as a bursar I think. He must have been well educated for the time but all connection to his Scottish ancestry seems to have been cut. He changed his surname to Donald and married a local farmers daughter. I think he was my great great great grandfather maybe an extra great in there too. My Mum was often told that we were directly descended from Robert de Bruce. This is all I know of my Scottish Ancestry.

Nothing of the Scottish history was taught me. I learnt of Robert de Bruce in films such as Braveheart. Now there is a series on TV about the History of Scotland. I have just sat and heard for the first time, the story of how the MacDonalds and the Stewarts divided Scotland into Lowland and Highland. How the MacDonalds ascended and descended in power. How the Scottish identity became divided. How the Lowlanders became Scots and the Highlanders remained Gaels.

Cornwall is a land of forgotten history as well. I wish more of this had been taught... Good job it is never too late to learn! I am truly British, not English. I am Celt, Angle, Saxon and Dane. I am no one thing. The English didn't win in me, they are just another part... They only won in history. Time makes us complete. Things come full circle.

1 comment:

  1. It's fascinating isn't it rose... we're a mongrel nation arn't we? My gran was Irish on one side, Scottish great- grandparents on the other & goodness knows what else mixed in!! I enjoy historical novels telling some of the other sides to our history, (someone else doing the research for me, lol!)