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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

BBC Home Entertainment's The Story of Ireland- Produced with the RTE Highly Recommended by Whom You Know Our Coverage Sponsored By Stribling and Associates

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We’re not sure we have ever encountered a work as thorough as The Story of Ireland presented by Fergal Keane by BBC Home Entertainment which is why we tried to mirror the level of thorough in this review, and we are positive we’ve never found a documentary as riveting as this. Not only did Peachy Deegan watch the five hours nearly straight, but when she got to the end, she watched it all again. You’ll be surprised to learn of the early outside influences on Ireland with migration and invasion and we particularly applaud the unbiased view this work presents: it takes a big story, holistic approach that is new and innovative on a land that is very old, especially by American standards. This true history shows many sides to opposing issues and we particularly applaud them showing Cork City only 5 minutes in as that is the first place Peachy Deegan lived in outside of America. We love how this is a co-production between the BBC and RTE, which is the Irish television station. As Americans however we still find if a bit odd how the government can own the tv station, though… 

Fergal Keane, eloquent, intelligent and particularly brilliant at asking the right questions, will become your friend as you go along the journey and learn what made Ireland what it is today. Fergal-contact Peachy for an interview please! He’ll take you on a journey on the rise and fall of kings, several wars, religious versus secular views and you’re going to learn so much. Did you know that France and Spain came to the aid of the Irish? Unfortunately, it did not work out so well… 

So when did Ireland start exactly? In 8000 BC and we’re not talking Boston College (the most Irish Catholic school in America) this time, early farmers were in Ireland: you can tell by the farming season and importance placed on seasons, and they were part of an overall European race and they traveled to mainland Europe-we like how they show red in the map on spots of Europe that were populated at the time. New Grange dates back to 3000 BC. You’ll see they became “The Celts” in the Bronze Age and you’ll appreciate the preservation of Amber in peat bogs. Since we write about hair a lot (Redken & Pureology we hope you are reading!), Peachy was thrilled to see that the Westmeath man who may have been a King was found preserved in a bog as well after 2000 years-and they found resin from the Mediterranean in his hair which evidences that there was a market for trade then. (2 out of 4 of Peachy’s ancestors are from County Westmeath…so it’s not out of the question.) 

Julius Caesar called Ireland the Land of Winter and considered it a cannibal race. He had no interest in Hibernia and believe they lived a miserable existence because of the cold (Julius you never want to go to New England in the winter then! Ireland is a breeze in comparison.) By 100 AD, the first map of Ireland was created by a scholar and like other Cork-dwellers, we too are happy that the River Lee was mentioned. The scenery and footage throughout this whole work cannot be beat and we are amazed at all the fantastic weather they captured: they must have worked on this for a long time to find so much!

The most shocking aspect we found in this was that the Irish colonized Britain first. Who knew? Irish traders ventured into the heart of Roman Britain during the 4th century and this was discovered by Victorian archaeologists. We found the inscribed stones quite interesting and the lines on them represent the oldest form of the Irish language. Also we learned that the Irish are of multi-ethnic origins. 

Not shocking was the fact that the Irish are intelligent, learned people. They absolutely were not on the peripheral on the edges of Europe. Monks transcribed the Bible and ancient laws developed in Gaelic by the international elite of the day, and Irish was the most abundant vernacular literature in Europe during the 7th Century- the Irish were at the center of the world (we think they still are.) We recall quite a bit along this line in the book “How the Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill that was among the graduation gifts Peachy received when she graduated from Boston College. 

This documentary is so well-done and in-depth that not only is Ireland of course included, but Fergal also travels to Italy, England, the USA, France/Luxembourg, Norway and South Africa to fully tell the tale of the Irish. 

In the 8th Century, it all changed in the Emerald Isle when the Vikings came to plunder the monasteries which had been built up over the previous two centuries. With this came the boom of Dublin which had the largest slave trade in Europe at the time and was a strategic trading spot for the world. Dublin was a highly cosmopolitan place in the 10th century, and the people were of Scandanavian/Irish descent. Next came Brian Boru and the Rock of Cashel and he became the first nationalist hero and High King of all Ireland. So far, Peachy has only talked about the first of five episodes, and each was equally dynamic. We learned the most in the first episode not because the others weren’t as outstanding, but because Peachy studied more recent Irish history in school 

The second episode brings the Norman Empire, feudalism, the black plague, high status of poets and a time when all was ruled by military prowess, land and wealth. King of England Henry II, wooed by Dermont of Ireland, makes a deal and Strongbow the Englishman goes to Ireland and marries Aiofe, Dermot’s daughter. At this stage, England was part of the Protestant Revolution/Reformation until Bloody Mary anyway, and France would have done better for Ireland in better weather and Spain-well for them they need to learn the difference between Kinsale and Ulster it seems. 

Episode Three brings the dawn of the seventeenth century, English versus Spanish and exile for some Irish Earls. Many Catholics converted so they could join the ascendancy. Dublin was part of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century and in aid of the city’s sick, in 1741 the Messiah by Handel debuted there. Famine, Penal Laws and adversity afflicted both the Catholics and Presbyterians alike, the latter of which had many go to America in search of religious freedom and helped them win Independence fighting England. By the end of the 18th Century, there was a period of reform and fear in Ireland which gave way to the emergence of secret societies. With the French Revolution and its emphasis on the secular groups like the United Irishmen emerged in 1791 lead by Theobald Wolfton. 

An impoverished countryside, a very subdivided land and questions about who should rule is where we find ourselves in the fourth episode. Daniel O’Connell, the liberator, leads the Catholic emancipation. One million Irish died of starvation and disease from 1845-50 and 1.5 million went to America. By 1850 there were more Irish in New York than Dublin! The potato blight, Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell round out this episode along with the industrial revolution. We were glad to see University College Cork professors featured and we also saw one from Fordham, but our only criticism would be why no one from Boston College was featured since it is the most Irish Catholic school in America! We would have liked to have seen more Irish women featured as well. 

The final episode brings independence for 26 of the 32 counties, the Easter Rising in 1916, the volunteers becoming the IRA and Sinn Fein set up the first Irish government led by Eamon DeValera and Michael Collins (oooh we love that movie with Liam Neeson!) And you know the recent history of the Celtic Tiger and we were pleased to see on BBC Home Entertainments work on Queen Elizabeth that she was the first British monarch to visit in over 100 years-a step in the right direction….our esteemed panel adds:

Of all the countries in the world, Ireland has to be one at the top of my list of places to visit. When I saw that BBC Home Entertainment put together a DVD titled "The Story of Ireland", I was thrilled. I knew I had to watch it for many different reasons. The first, so I could see Ireland in the comfort of my own home. The second, so I could learn about this great country. I found this documentary to be very thorough and entertaining at the same time. I was so enthralled and found I was learning a lot. I'm sure I could watch this DVD over and over again and catch something I didn't hear before. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to visit Ireland now. I know of a few places I would love to visit. 

As an Irish-American, I have always been fascinated by Irish culture and history. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to take a trip to Ireland, and this past summer I finally made the journey! I loved the time I spent there, but while I was there, I realized how little I knew about Irish history. I learned a lot during the visit, but there were many gaps in my understanding of what went on in the island's storied past. With, "The Story of Ireland," released by BBC Home Entertainment, I was finally able to fill in those gaps. Not only that, but I greatly increased my knowledge and understanding of Irish history and my own heritage. I was amazed at how comprehensive this video was. It includes every important detail throughout the history of Ireland. I was able to understand my origins and what my ancestors went through. Whether you have roots in Ireland or not, this DVD will be sure to educate and fascinate. It is a must for anyone interested in European history or anyone with Irish ancestry! 

If you think you know Ireland, think again! The Story of Ireland, from BBC Home Entertainment is a captivating 5-part DVD which takes a close look at Ireland's history from its earliest days, thousands of years B.C., through the present day. Presented by Fergal Keane, this series breaks new ground in its appraisal of Ireland's past. It takes a balanced, thoughtful, painstakingly researched approach to presenting as close to a true picture of Ireland's story as possible. It looks at both sides of the struggle between the Irish and the English. It lays to rest some popular myths (such as some of the stories associated with St. Patrick), while trying to reconstruct the reality of what actually occurred. It shows the story of a nation created by migrants from all over the world, which has survived takeover bids from foreign invaders such as the Romans and the Vikings. It examines the relationship between religion and politics throughout Ireland's complicated history and provides context and color for important events in its past...and all of these features are just the tip of the iceberg! Interviews with scholars, historians, and professors are interspersed throughout the series, providing interesting insight and information, and also allowing for some differing opinions on certain aspects of Ireland's story. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, and captures the beauty of the "Emerald Isle" - and it makes it easy to see why the Irish are so devoutly devoted to their homeland! Perhaps the best thing about this series is that it is extremely informative and educational, but it is also thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Mr. Keane has an easygoing and engaging personality, and the stories themselves are simply fascinating, and told in an easy-to-relate-to manner. The Story of Ireland, is, hands down, a must see for anyone of Irish descent, or any lover of the Irish culture! 

Open your hearts to the sweet green of Ireland, thanks to BBC Home Entertainment. "The Story of Ireland", written and presented by Fergal Keane is thorough: delving into the far-reaching past of the Shamrock Isle. Not ignoring its past, and clearly accepting its present, Ireland has been the witness to a cultural upheaval, fraught with despair and revolution. But at its core lies the joy, poetry and intellectual engine that has made and sustained the Irish people. Whether your own genetic roots stem from the good earth of Ireland or not, you will be entranced by Fergal Keane as he wends his/our way through centuries of the hows and whys of each step taken. Politically and religiously entrenched, the strength of Ireland reached into the very basis of our own American systems. Not just via the vast majority of citizens fleeing famine, or oppression, but with the music, and art of it's age-old myths and culture, Ireland influenced many a New York, and American neighborhood. In the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, known for the swift changes in reality and industry, the Irish brought their spirit and hard work to build our cities, and join the burgeoning American progress. The BBC gives its public a fascinating picture of the evolution of this island, with spectacular views, and poignant moments. How to learn history? This is most assuredly one quick shot in the arm, and will give an overview that indeed takes you on a journey. 

Whom You Know Highly Recommends The Story of Ireland.


Street Date: February 21, 2012 

Suggested Retail Price: DVD $29.98 ($37.48 in Canada)

Length: Approx. 300 minutes/ 2-disc set

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 country 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 clich├ęs and myths. 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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