1066 and All That states (sensibly, I think) that history is what you remember. More than that; at least for me, history is how you respond to what you remember–and perhaps what those responses lead you to.
You can turn inward, recalling only the good things and staying inside the value equivalent of a walled garden, or you can move outward, using what you know to help figure out other things.
I’m descended from Highlanders. I remember my father talking to our upstairs neighbor in Detroit, who was (of course) also from Cape Breton. Frank said to my dad, “Wouldn’t it be great, Hughie, if we could go back to Scotland?”
I don’t think anyone in Frank Gillis’s family had been within a thousand miles of Scotland for two hundred years, except perhaps during two world wars–but this was Frank’s attitude (and my dad’s). Scotland for them was like Paris for Hemingway: a moveable feast, only with more MacDougals.
I treasure this connection to a small place, though not as a Celtic Disneyland frozen in time. I know a little of how my ancestors came to Canada, and then my parents to the States. That knowledge, I think, helps me connect a little with the origins, the journeys, and the memories held by others.
I don’t see Bonnie Prince Charlie as a noble hero, but today’s the anniversary of the last battle on the island of Britain. Jacobite forces under Prince Charlie were crushed by the army of the Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II, on April 16, 1746. The site is known by two names: Drumossie and Culloden.
So here’s Deanta with Mary Dillon, singing Alastair McDonald’s Culloden’s Harvest.