Mr PinQ and I enjoy learning new things, perhaps more so when we are learning about our (or one another’s) heritage and although we were both born in England, we see ourselves not as English or British but in fact, Irish and Polish.
We love this Country and have both worked in service of its Defence and both now work in Third Sector organisations that support, empower and educate its Young People; but we were raised in Irish and Polish homes, by our Irish and Polish parents and grandparents, learning about our Irish and Polish heritages, eating Irish and Polish food. We love immersing ourselves in one another’s cultures as much as our shared love of Ilkley Moor, the West Coast of Scotland, the Pennines and so on.
As a result, we have spent many happy hours wandering around the places where we grew up and the countries of our roots, sharing memories and local history as well as beautiful scenery and architecture.
Our too short holiday to Poland 4 years ago was a real eye-opener for Mr PinQ. As someone with a keen interest in law and politics and over 24 years of military service behind him, he had a deeper knowledge and understanding of the atrocities of WWII than most; but our visit to Auschwitz-Berkenau made its impression.
I had realised that I didn’t want to return. Standing there, holding my much beloved Grandma as she sobbed was a memory that I didn’t want to revisit, let alone share with the man that I had just married; the pain was still too raw, even 7 years on. That said, I also knew that it wouldn’t be right to take him all the way to Kraków, just a short train ride away from Oświęcim, and not take him, so we went.
There is something about being there that you cannot get from pictures, books, films or documentaries. It gets into your soul.
Last night, it was my turn.
As many of you will already know, we don’t have a television but if we do fancy watching something, we can pop a DVD in the laptop or find something of interest on BBC iPlayer or similar online viewing platform.
Mr PinQ has read a great deal about the Troubles over the years and will sometimes tell me about it or we will watch a documentary or film on the subject but I was somewhat shocked by what I learned last night.
After a tiring day, we sat down to watch Brendan O’Carroll (better known as Mrs Brown) deliver a balanced, informative, sometimes witty and extremely touching documentary about his family’s involvement in the Easter Rising. Particularly moving was Brendan’s hope that the Sherwood Foresters were being remembered somewhere as he stood by the Éire monument at Mount Street bridge where less than 20 of the Volunteers managed to kill or wound over 200 of the British Troops.
This was a part of the Irish history that I had no real knowledge of and looking back, am very surprised about because I remember that when I started GCSE History, we were given a choice about what we wanted to learn and we chose the recent history category which essentially covered 1914 to 1945. Given that the 1916 uprising was a pivotal moment even in English history, how was it missed from the curriculum?
Following the surrender of the Leaders of the Volunteers, they were imprisoned, court-martialed and then executed by a firing squad.
These brave men simply wanted their country back, nothing more.
Almost 1500 Volunteers and many innocent Irish people were then imprisoned in England and Wales with the innocent leaving those prisons not only sympathetic to the cause, but active members. The actions of the British in fact won support for a cause that had not previously been given that much credence by the people of Ireland.
I’m not going to try to give you a full historical account because I wouldn’t be able to do it justice but what struck me was this:
Can someone please tell me how the British could not only denounce but also go to war with Germany, Hitler and the Nazis, whilst essentially doing to Ireland what the Germans were doing to Poland?
Oh that’s easy! The Irish were the underclass.
Maybe that’s why it wasn’t on the curriculum.