Archive for Great Famine

Black ’47

Posted in Beards, Film, History with tags , , , on October 14, 2020 by telescoper

The film Black ’47 was released in Ireland in 2018 (just after I moved here) but although it got good reviews I didn’t get around to seeing it in the cinema. Last Friday however it turned up on TV so I watched it and thought it was excellent.

The film tells the story of Martin Feeney (played by James Frecheville) who returns home to Ireland having deserted from the British Army, in 1847, only to find his native Connemara in the grip of the Great Famine. Witnessing the callous treatment of his people by landlords, their agents and the British authorities he sets out on a trail of violent retribution against the oppressors. In structure the film is very like that of a classic `revenge’ Western, though set in the Wild West of Ireland rather than America. It’s very well acted by a very fine cast and superbly photographed, grimly convincing in its depiction of the extreme deprivation of the time, with gripping action sequences. Among many other things, I was impressed by the realistic portrayal of the unreliability and inaccuracy of mid 19th Century firearms. The rifles in use by the British Army at that time were muzzle loaded, using paper cartridges, so their rate of fire was very low too.

There are some splendid beards too.

I’m sure there will be people to correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think there were any feature films made about the Great Hunger, despite its importance in Irish history, before this one.

Here’s the official trailer for the movie. I think it’s well worth watching if you can get to see it, though somehow I doubt it will be on prime time television in the UK like it was here in Ireland…

About that Statue of Colston

Posted in History with tags , , , , on June 9, 2020 by telescoper

I don’t know Bristol very well. I’ve been there a few times, but mainly for work-related reasons, and I’ve never really explored the City.

I had heard of notorious slave trader (and Tory MP) Edward Colston because I had heard of the Colston Hall (though never been there). I didn’t know until this weekend however that there was a statue of him in the city. Now it is in the drink.

The statue concerned was apparently erected in 1895, one hundred and seventy four years after Colston died, and sixty two years after slavery was abolished. I’m not at all sorry to see it gone, as it should never have been put up in the first place. I was much more shocked to learn of its existence than of its destruction.

Please don’t try to argue that taught people about slavery. People have learnt much more about the horrors of the slave trade as a result of the destruction of this statue than they ever did by looking at it. The better way to teach people about history is in school, but British schools mostly avoid the uncomfortable truth of the imperial past. Mine certainly did. I wasn’t taught much about slavery at all, except that it conveniently provided one very profitable leg of the Triangular Trade, but that slavery was illegal in Britain at that time so that was somehow supposed to make it alright.

I don’t learn much about the Great Famine in Ireland at school either, but you can be absolutely sure that the Irish know all about it, and not by looking at statues of its architect, the genocidal Charles Trevelyan. Imagine what would happen if someone tried to put up a statue to him in Ireland, or to Oliver Cromwell.

So less of the phoney outrage about a lousy statue. It would be a better outlet for your energy to read some proper history and be outraged by that instead.

P. S. I’ve been busy marking examinations over the last few days which is why I’m late commenting on this.