How Long Must We Hear This?

On several occasions in the past, we have denounced revisionists who alter the presentation of history to suit their own purposes.  Equally provocative is anything that tends to support the Divide and Conquer tactics originated by the Brits ages ago to separate the Irish into quarreling communities to keep them from uniting against the Crown.  No less culpable are those who unwittingly propagate such hypothetical theories without first determining the accuracy of their content.  Their intentions may not be as malicious, but the results are certainly no less damaging.

One recent example was televised by the Smithsonian Institute as a 2-part documentary entitled ‘Born Fighting’ narrated by Senator James Webb from his book of the same name.  This documentary corroborates the Scots-Irish myth that the settlers who came to Ulster in the 1600s at the behest of the Crown were a different people than those they were sent to replace when, in fact, they were all Celts.  This is not only verified by recent DNA studies, but by many authorities as far back as the scholar, Venerable Bede, who earned the title “The Father of English History”.  In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede wrote of Scots who came from their original homeland in Ireland to a new domain in northwestern Britain in the 6th and 7th centuries and it started even earlier.

By the time Irish chieftain Fergus MacErc moved the seat of his clan from Antrim across the 12-mile stretch of the North Channel to Argyll in 498 AD, the Irish had been settling the northern part of the island of Britain for 100 years.  Called Scotti by the Romans, they even gave their name to the country.  And, at this point, it should be noted that our Celtic cousins in Alba are called Scots, not Scotch; Scotch is a very fine whiskey that they produce, but by extension, a Scotch-Irish drink would be as undesirable as the Scotch-Irish myth!

History and legend verify the close ties of the Irish on both sides of the Channel from local stories of Finn McCumhall and his Fianna hunting in Scotland’s valley of Glencoe to historic alliances between warriors such as the Irish who traveled to Scotland in support of William Wallace in 1300 and the Gallowglass of Edward, brother of The Bruce, who led a force to Ireland in 1318 to support Irish resistance against the Crown.

The differences that developed between the two branches of the Irish family arose after Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1535 and ecclesiastical ideas became linked to political maneuvering.  The Celts in Scotland fought for the independence of their church from civil control.  Isolation from the outlawed Roman clergy and the growing attraction of Protestant ideas led to provincial councils (1549-59) which acknowledged that new religious concepts were due to the corruption of morals and the profane lewdness of life in churchmen of all ranks.  Thus a difference between the two branches of the great Celtic family was forged in that one remained Catholic while the other became Presbyterian, but they were still part of the same family with similar traits, personalities and conduct.  As powerful and dedicated to freedom as was William Wallace and The Bruce, so too was Brian Boru and Hugh O’Neill. Therefore, defining the two branches as alien is inaccurate and accrediting laudable qualities to one as opposed to the other re-enforces the concept of separate and unequal used to divide and conquer.  Many can point to a close family member who has fallen away from the Church, but they are still family!

In the Smithsonian documentary, Webb shamelessly admits that the Scots took land from the Catholic Irish and offers no logical reason except to say that Con O’Neill ‘handed over’ thousands of acres to the Crown – an oversimplified version of ‘surrender and regrant’.  He then notes that before the American Revolution, hundreds of thousands of Scots-Irish came to America.  Since the entire pre-1600 population of Ulster was less than 40,000 and Professor Nicholas Canny’s highly-praised 2001 book Making Ireland British, documents only 20,000 settlers (English and Scottish) in Ulster by 1650, Webb’s hundreds of thousands must have included some ‘common’ Irish!  The English Historical Review called Canny’s book, Awesome in the scope of its archival research.

Further, in the documentary’s account of the 1641 rising of the displaced Irish against the settlers, Webb refers to the massacre of decent Scottish settlers even though many serious English historians have denounced that account as provocative propaganda intended to inspire public support for an all out war against the original Irish Catholic population of the land they were trying to steal.  He even uses illustrations from the British papers of the time showing Irish rebels cutting open the bellies of pregnant women and swinging infants against a wall to dash out their brains – all of which has been denounced by serious historians as utter fabrications.