Friday, May 25, 2012

My (very) small part in The Great British Story.

Tonight, the BBC broadcast the first episode of The Great British Story: a People's History. The first programme, Britannia, dealt with the period following the fall of the Roman Empire. Throughout the Dark Ages, civilisation clung on in the western fringes of Britain as the east coast was invaded by the Anglo Saxons. The programme followed the voyage of St Columba from Ireland to Iona off the west coast of Mull. He brought Christianity into the northern land of the Picts (who had never been part of the Roman Britain having been isolated  by first the Antonine, then the Hadrian walls).

St Columba had founded religious settlements on many of the islands he stopped at on his route north. The programme showed the ancient Celtic Christian carved stone crosses that still stand on the islands of Islay and Oronsay. Standing at the foot of these wonderful crosses, which are worn by the gales of 1,200 winters, is a humbling experience.

The above photo is of one of the crosses of Oronsay. It was shown for all of several seconds. I was quite pleased. It was one of mine!


  1. Congrats on your TV appearance! Lovely image.

    Small point of order...the idea that there was a 'Dark Age' where Germanic invaders marauded around and only the church held civilisation together is rather questionable; for starters the few contemporary accounts were written by churchmen (centuries after the fact) and there is limited archaeological evidence for such things. Most authorities rather boringly hold that if anything, this was a period of surprising culture and continuity. Francis Pryor is great for this stuff, if a bit Anglo-centric in his books -

    Best wishes,

    Mark R

  2. Thanks Mark, to be fair to the programme makers, they did say the accounts written by churchmen were very much one sided.

    They based their assertion of "Dark Ages" on the great reduction of archaeological finds in the centuries following the Roman evacuation, the fall in the population due to plague and the abandonment of the cities and a return to the village based agricultural practices of pre Roman Days.

    The programme also presented the Anglo Saxon invasion as a reinvigoration of a weakened population. It highlighted the Anglo Saxons' sense of humour and love of language, especially riddles.

    Thanks for the tip about the Pryor book, ordered it!