I remember it still, Granddad on mandolin, Nana on piano, my aunts,uncles, my cousins and my parents gathered round for a Cockney Ceilidh. This was in Upminster Road near to Hornchurch. It would have been the late fifties, early sixties. The songs were formed of those two peoples. Of Eastenders and the Irish. Rousing verses of ‘Knee’s Up Mother Brown,’ (that is Muvver to the uninitiated) followed by ‘If you ever go across the seas to Ireland and you should see the closing of the day.’ It was, from a lad born in Romford, Essex, who is neither Cockney nor Irish, a wonderful memory.
Before I was born, Granddad Doughty, my mum’s dad, would fly the Union Jack from their house in Upton Park. I often puzzled why? His mum, my great grandmother was a Duff or Duffy and was Irish. She died when my own mother was but a wee child. All my mum could recollect of her Gran was the wheelchair she sat in (she’d had a stroke) and the funny accent she spoke with. My mum also remembered playing with her cousins, the Duffy’s and the Murphy’s along with the Prigan’s and the Doyle’s in the Irish quarter of West Ham.
The family, unlike me, were all patriots. That is Unionists, but first and foremost British. In a funny way, it was the English who sacrificed their national identity rather than the Irish, Scots or Welsh. The latter all remained fiercely loyal to their roots whereas the English, the oldest immigrants on these treasured islands, preferred to overlook their German past.
You see, when the English arrived, in around 400 AD, the capital of Britain, the only capital of the collective nations we’ve ever had, was Camulodunum. It was, of course, the Roman name for what is now Colchester. Prior to the Roman occupation and long before the English settled here, Colchester or Camulodunum was called Camulodunon. Now then that name is from the pagan-Irish god Camulos. The town was Irish. Oddly, that name, the reality behind it, started a myth of its own. One we all are acquainted with even if the English stole it for their own ends.
In the odd shaped triangle of land, that exists now as it did then, between Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium (St. Albans) there is no archaeological evidence, no bones, no artefacts, no broken down villages to show that the English ever lived in or occupied that region. It has been suggested, due to its origins and the manner in which the town derived its name , to have possibly been where the idea of Camelot sprang from. An area where the Romano-Briton’s prevented the immigrant/invaders from occupying.
Yes, my grandfather, the son of an Irish woman, was a Brit through and through. One who fought in the Great War and who undoubtedly would have been opposed to the Easter Uprising. The only reason I can conceive of is that he, like many sons born of Anglo-Irish nationalities, would have been desperate to be on the side of those whose hand fed and lead the Empire. After all, you don’t bite that hand do you? Of course, his parents may have been Unionists. This I don’t know.
What a great deceit that Empire was. Lauding itself over half the globe, more than half in fact. Subjugating sovereign nations whilst assuring them that the British Empire was a benefactor. That by being a member you, the natives, would be better off. The truth is that it wasn’t in reality anything to do with Britain but everything to do with England, with power, with having the upper hand whilst the rich got richer on the backs of the poor.
By 1916, it was clear that the days of Empire, of empires in general, had outgrown the tolerance of all but a few patriots and a whole lot of the wealthy. We didn’t need them anymore. They were dictatorial, uncaring and unpleasant. The words potato and famine spring to mind. Had there been one single visionary among the British elite they would have seen that. And in the recognition of that fact made reparations with the Irish but would have included both the Welsh and the Scots in turning what was an autocratic Union into an autonomous democracy.
Four nation states could have formed, from the dried bones of imperialism, a union based on each sovereign state having control of its own destiny whilst remaining part of a devolved Union. Shared power rather than single state control. Four parliaments each governing their nation’s economy in the better knowledge of their own peoples circumstances whilst being part of a single Union who’s sole purpose would have been the protection of the islands that made up Albion.
We have seen in recent years how Scotland, beaten at the ballot though they were, challenging the way the Union has been run these many years. I agree with them. I think they were, and are, right. How would I like it if Edinburgh or Cardiff were to instruct London and the English how to run their affairs? I wouldn’t. Conversely, this doesn’t mean I am anti-union, I am not, I am a unionist but one who passionately believes in democracy. We are now at a point when localised, grassroots democracies are pushing ahead with their demands. We see it here in Britain but also in Europe. For democracy to succeed it must be paired back. Centralised governments must make way, give provision to local people running their own lives.
Imagine how these islands would have been, how richer, how fairer, how more beneficial to all had the British Empire the vision to have given the Irish, the Scot’s and the Welsh their independence in 1916. There would have been no uprising. There would have been no slaughter, no bloodshed. Innocent lives would not have been lost. Common sense would have birthed a common good. Four nations, independent, sovereign yet unified in one single goal. That of the defence and betterment of its peoples, of its neighbours, of its cousins and kinfolk. Not Great Britain but an Albion forged of a free Ireland, a free Wales, a free Scotland and an England free of its sordid imperialism.