Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Born Fighting - coming to a tv near you this year

This year will see the broadcast of a two-part series entitled "Born Fighting". It will be presented by Senator James Webb, author of the book of the same title. Some of the filming took place here in Northern Ireland last August, and Senator Webb spent some time here interviewing a number of people. I provided the producers with a bit of help on sourcing visual material. The series is a three-way collaboration between the Smithsonian Channel, Scottish Television and Ulster Television. More info to be posted here when I get it.


Jenny said...

Well that is interesting.

What's your take on the book from an Ulster point of view? From an Appalachian sense he's pretty close (though I could go on for hours.. :p ) - but I'd started to get the impression he was overplaying the "Celtic" end of things.

What's your perspective on the book from that side of the water?

Mark Thompson said...

Hi Jenny - how's the weather in Alaska at this time of year? I've always wanted to go there!

James Webb's book is one of the most important of say the last 20 years. The purists of this world tend to find scope to criticise every book that's written about Ulster-Scots. Generally Webb gets it pretty right - and he deserves a lot of credit for raising awareness.

The only other one to have been published in my lifetime which is better is "God's Frontiersmen" by Rory Fitzpatrick (1988). There are other more academic books, but Webb and Fitzpatrick are accessible for the general reader and are - as you say - "pretty close" on most of the detail.

The "Celtic" term is a bit loaded over here. It tends to be over-used and is often used to just mean "not English"... or even sometimes, in a slightly sinister way, "anti-English". Ulster has a large, often ignored, English dimension as well as Irish and Scottish elements.

I think the cultural characteristic that is shared across lowland Scotland, Ulster and America isn't "Celticness" but perhaps something that US author Frank Owsley touched on with the title of his book "The Plain Folk of the Old South". It's about a simple austerity, a directness, a sense of clarity about life - rather than any mythical, mystical Celticism with swirly knotwork and so on.

Maybe in our global age these things are being eroded - but I have found that the internet allows us to make transatlantic connections with like-minded people which just wouldnt have been possible a decade ago.

So are you in Alaska or Appalachia?

Jenny said...

Weather in Alaska? Why... it's snowing. :)

Thank you for the Fitzpatrick recommendation! What's your opinion of Leyburn?

To answer your question - I'm presently in Alaska, though I grew up in Southern Appalachia.

As to "swirly-knot Celtic-ness" - over here I'd still say that's very much a subculture thing, but until very recently to the extent any of Ulster extraction paid any attention to their roots, outside of scholarly books that's what there was to explore.

.. but like you said, the easy communication and availability of information is in the process of shifting those sands quite a bit of late. Granted I'm biased, though.

The greater part of folk don't really care I think though, and just say "American." To the extent pre-arrival heritage comes into play at all, it's more along the lines of "yeah, he's Scotch Irish... that means half of him always wants to get drunk, and the other half never wants to pay for it."