The Story of Ireland
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Story of Ireland, The (2011)
The Story Of Ireland is a five-part landmark history of Ireland presented by Fergal Keane (Wild Africa, Great Railway Journeys). Ireland is living through a significant period in its cycle of history – since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the island has been at peace. This is unprecedented in the history of modern Ireland and so seems like a perfect time to reflect on the Irish as a people and as a modern European nation. The story of Ireland is vivid, exciting and immensely varied. It is far more than the sum of old clichés and myths which set the Irish as a people who were prisoners and victims of history. This series sees Ireland as an international island which is both changed by and helps to change the world beyond her shores.]]>
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"The Story of Ireland" is an intelligently written narrative, beautifully filmed, and deftly presented by Keane. Ancestors are mentioned: the Uí Néill, Brian Boru, Aoife MacMurrough, Richard De Clare (Strongbow), among others. Many if-onlys are explored: if only the Spanish and Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, had united effectively in 1601; if only the French had landed in County Cork with Wolfe Tone in 1796 ("We were near enough to throw a biscuit ashore," wrote Tone in his diary); if only Michael Collins had lived in 1922 instead of the prude-sycophant Èamon De Velara, who, as Keane points out, commiserated with the Third Reich via his condolences after Hitler finally committed suicide. Even the premise that the Irish are a defiant people is scrutinized, strong in confronting challenges from without, but then facing abuse from Church authorities. The advent of ultramontanism in the mid-19th century laid a foundation for later corruption under De Velara's government, with no division between Church and State.
Keane moves from the lyrical myth of St. Patrick, to the near past; recent ghosts haunt. Accompanied by a survivor, he visits an infamous orphanage where a forgotten class of the young, vulnerable, and poor were thrown-away into horrific facilities. It has been shown that these industrial-grade, autocratically run bureaucracies were bastions of abuse. He and Keane wander through a graveyard filled with the poignant gravestones of those victims who didn't make it, their humble grave-markers adorned with plastic saints and rosaries. What a grievous irony that this occurred in a land whose unique Irish Gaelic Christianity produced wonders such as The Book of Kells, gentle spiritual leaders like St. Columba, theologians like Adomnan of Iona, and those who preserved treasures of Western civilization in monasteries and abbeys. In any case, this series is an informative tromp through Ireland's tumultuous stories.
Two disks feature five hour long episodes, all with helpful subtitles (for those of us who have trouble hearing sometimes!): The Age of Invasion, The Age of Conquest, The Age of Revolution, The Age of Union, and The Age of Nations.
You also may enjoy the music of the: High Kings: Memory Lane.
Fergal Keane is a wonderful host and guide through the five hours of this series on Ireland. The two-DVD series was produced by the BBC and RTE (the latter which is nowhere defined, but stands for "Raidió Teilifís Éireann")
Along with the printed volume, I found this series to be very helpful in giving me a broad overview of Ireland from prehistory to the present (through 2011). Given how woefully ignorant I am of Gaelic language, British and Irish history and Irish culture, this combo set gave me just the right amount of (read "dangerous" amount of) information to predicate our trip to Ireland later this year.
The DVDs allow the producers to do something the text could not: Bring in a wide variety of visual images about the topics, including places in Britain and on the Continent relevant to the story. That was very helpful.
Keane also is able to interview a large number and wide variety of scholars and experts throughout the five Episodes. I found almost all of those interviews helpful and enlightening.
My few complaints should not dissuade you from buying these DVDs. The photographer had to be enamored with water and waves. That, and shorebirds flying over water and waves. OK, I know Ireland is surrounded by water, along with all the lakes and rivers and such -- but half the time spent on proving that photographically would have brought the idea home sufficiently. At some point it just becomes monotonous and irritating.
The mileage on your DVD player may vary, but when I put in the second DVD (containing Episodes 4 and 5), what I was treated to (and couldn't for the life of me get out of) was an extended commercial from the BBC for their World War II DVD set. That was unannounced, unexpected, and greatly unappreciated. Just warning you. Then again, maybe your DVD player will give you the option to skip.
I would recommend you get both the book (even with its insufficiencies as I've described in my review of it), AND the DVD set. But if you must choose, I'd probably choose the DVDs.
Also some detail commentary on how Northern Ireland influence the turn of events in Ireland itself. I am starting to better understand why Scotland recently took a vote on separating from England. There is a lot of rich history here about the make up the United Kingdom.
For those history buffs out there this is an excellent 2 disc set by the BBC to add to your collection I recommend you purchase it.