Deep in research for the next wave of writing I just finished Bob Quinn’s book The Atlantean Irish. Provocative work. This Connemara man, author and film maker makes a well researched and persuasive argument that the Irish are not, in fact, Celtic people. Fragments and pieces of prior readings are falling into place and I am compelled to purge the term ‘Celtic’ from my writing. But that’s another thread to explore.
Hugely fascinating is Quinn’s idea that the Irish, like other peoples living in coastal communities before any significant road building, were connected to each other and other people by the sea – and that through these interactions and connections the various cultures were so informed by one another they became more similar to each other than to their inland neighbors. Writing about the “continuity of seaborne contact between Ireland and the entire Atlantic coast, from Scandinavia to Senegal, taking in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa,” Quinn concludes that “traditionally, the sea did not divide peoples: it united them.”
At a time when geographic boundaries were pushed back and forth between warring kingdoms, when rulers struggled to declare and then sustain their territories, rallying people around a sense of national identity, those at the water’s edge continued to work and live their unifying coastal and seaborne identity. Inland machinations were irritating, inconvenient and largely ignored.
In a time when countries were warring to unite people under one flag, these people were united by having no countries. Imagine.