Sunday, 24 May 2015

Reflections on Celtic Obsessions-Part 1

Happy late Sunday!
What follows is the first part of a highly personal view of my forays into Celtic studies which ultimately led to my writing Celtic novels...

Some people might say I’m just a tad obsessive about Ancient Roman Britain and they might be right.

I’ve always been a voracious reader so by a real count that would realistically be for the last 55+ years. As a child, I read everything and anything. As a teenager, I read what I chose from the public library and all that I needed to read for school. That actually meant a lot of reading since my reading for pleasure wasn’t neglected—even though I had a very active school and after-school timetable which included sports and other activities associated with the Girl Guides.

a treasured possession
I loved to read about ancient civilisations, especially tales of the ancient Greeks and Romans. One of the few books I've kept from my childhood is this Robert Graves book.  The image below of Zeus is indicative of the illustrations which accompany the incredibly condensed stories, some only a coiple of pages long, but for a younger reader it was an excellent book to fire the imagination and make me want to read more lengthy versions when I was older.

At the end of my second year at secondary school, it was necessary to make a choice of study between geography and history. My grades were on par in both subjects but there was really no conflict. I wanted to take history.

The first two years of lessons in my history class in Glasgow, in approximately 1964/5, were quite basic and very general covering pre-history through to around 1603—the Union of the Crowns era in Great Britain. There was almost no Scottish history covered: it was never a major focus.

Having elected to study History for my third and fourth years of secondary school, we ‘picked up’ and moved on with a summary of British History from the early seventeenth century through to early Edwardian times. For my Higher History programme of work, I chose to do European History which was intended to give me a general overview of how ‘linked’ European history was due to the intermingling of the monarchies of the countries involved.

Still no in depth Scottish History in any of the above. 

It was when I went to college at 18 years of age that I realised I’d never learned anything of the early inhabitants of Scotland.

At Jordanhill College of Education, Glasgow, Scotland, which I attended since I was destined for the teaching profession, there was a course called Celtic Studies. This was on the Bachelor of Education programme which was affiliated with Glasgow University. It sounded so interesting and part of the course was learning Scottish Gaelic. However, back in 1970, learning about Celtic history or even learning Gaelic was considered by many as a waste of time. Gaelic was seen almost as a ‘dead language’ which would fade into obscurity in time and a study of the Celts would be equally a misuse of learning opportunities.

Those commonly held opinions didn’t mean a whit to me, I was intrigued by the course but unfortunately I was locked into studying French and English and it wasn’t possible to swap to another programme of study. The opportunities of ‘mix and match’ available to students nowadays weren’t an option back in 1970.  The reason I was ineligible was because my English and French grades were better than my History grade in my Scottish Higher Education Exams. 

In retrospect, and that’s always dangerous, I regret missing that opportunity to learn more of the history of the Celts and I really regret not learning Scottish Gaelic.

More of this tale very soon.

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