I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Narrow Sea, by Jonathan Bardon

A Narrow Sea, by Jonathan Bardon

A Narrow Sea: The Irish-Scottish Connection in 120 Episodes, by Jonathan Bardon, Gill, 302 pp, €24.99, ISBN: 978-0717180592 The history of “the British Isles”, or “the archipelago”, or, simply if awkwardly, “these islands”, has for a long time been seen from Dublin as being principally a history of the relations between Britain, or perhaps England, and Ireland, even between London and Ireland. This is understandable, but there is another relationship between the two islands based on a physically closer connection than that between Dún Laoghaire and Holyhead. If you drive northwards on any kind of a decent summer’s day along the east Antrim coast towards the villages of Cushendall and Cushendun (where you will frequently see young boys carrying their hurleys) it will be impossible for you not to notice the imposing presence on your right hand of a ruggedly beautiful landscape just across a stretch of water. This territory, famously hymned by Paul McCartney and Wings in 1977, is the Mull of Kintyre (Maol Chinn Tire), which at the closest point is only twelve miles from Co Antrim. Scotland is so close to Ireland at this point, and so clearly visible on many days of the year, that it would seem absolutely inevitable that populations on either side of the sea (the Straits of Moyle) should have been curious about the other land and what it might have to offer them. Indeed Jonathan Bardon suggests that the first, post-ice-age, inhabitants of Ireland may have arrived by this route, from Kintyre and Galloway and also from the Isle of Man. It seems that Agricola, Roman governor of Britannia after AD 78, considered invading Ireland from Galloway, but the invasion never happened, perhaps because of a threatened attack from the northern, unconquered parts of Scotland (or Caledonia). Scotti was the name given by the Romans to the Gaelic- or Goidelic-speaking populations of both Ireland and Scotland. Its use as a term to refer only to northern Britons came much later. (“Scots monasteries”, Schottenkloster or Schottenkirchen, which can still be found here and there in Germany or Austria, were originally Irish foundations.) One tradition has it that an Irish king, Fergus mac Eirc, together with his sons, conquered a new kingdom in Argyll and brought the Gaelic language there. But Jonathan Bardon writes that the archaeological evidence to back up the theory of an Irish colonisation is absent and that the close cultural similarities which existed on…

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