Two wonderful things have happened recently on the BBC. Or, technically, four. The first ones, I came across by accident on BBC Four when channel hopping: a Christy Moore concert accompanied by the two programmes Folk Hibernia at the BBC (2007), which is a one-hour show with clips from various BBC shows where Irish musicians have performed. Clannád, The Dubliners, The Pogues and many more; and the second, a ninety-minute documentary about Irish folk music called Folk Hibernia (2006). It gave the background of the Irish folk movement, and how it started out being sort of hidden away and only really played in the countryside, and then how it was popularised in America by the Clancy Brothers, who brought it back to Ireland and paved way for groups like The Dubliners. A highly interesting programme to watch for anyone who loves traditional Irish folk music.
The other thing I’ve come across, #4 in order, is a show I came across when flicking through Virgin Media’s Catch up on Demand service. There was a show from BBC Northern Ireland and RTÉ called Story of Ireland, about Irish history, presented by a man who used to be a BBC war correspondant in Africa (ah, the things you learn from Google!). In five parts. SNAP! Starting with the early Celts, ending with the modern day and it’s “Celtic Tiger” – through Brian Ború and the Vikings, the Flight of the Earls, the Ulster Plantation, the potato famine and emigrations, Home Rule, the Easter Rising, the Civil War and the Troubles. HOLY. FRIGGING. SQUEE!
I love history, and Irish history in particular, and especially ca 1790 to the Civil War, so I jumped in at episode three. Fascinated, I followed the next two episodes and then went back to watch the first two before they could disappear off BBC iPlayer. Admittedly, I missed parts about the Vikings, because I fell asleep, but that wasn’t due to the show itself (although that voice was so wonderfully reassuring that you couldn’t help but to relax), more like the late hour in which I was viewing that particular episode.
What’s not to love? It’s got history, Irish history, it’s got breathtakingly gorgeous Irish scenery porn, haunting etchings to illustrate scenes from history and to top it all off, it’s presented by a handsome Irishman with the sort of voice you can listen to for hours. He even speaks Gaelic in some parts. Be still my heart!
Fergal Keane, you have a new fan. You can come and teach me Irish history any day of the week. That’s never going to happen, though, so we’ll have to settle with knowing that the DVD of the series will be released 16 May 2011 and is available for pre-order on Amazon UK.
Oh, and I also finally got around to seeing the Operation Mincemeat documentary. That was deeply fascinating as well. It’s not for nothing I love the BBC. Not to mention History Channel, Discovery Channel and Yesterday. And now it’s way past my bedtime, daylight savings or no, I’m going to be dead in the morning. But at least I can spend the hours until then dreaming of rolling green hills, blue waves and the number of books I have lurking in the bookshelf about Irish history that I still haven’t got around to reading yet.