So there we were in Port Arthur, Tasmania, two English tourists eagerly trying to track down our Irish and Welsh heritages, when our guide to the infamous convict settlement (there) treated us to an introductory history lesson of a rather unusual kind. Peter probably didn’t realise, although arguably he should have, that there was such a mixed international audience standing before him, including many who had a much better grasp of the realities of colonial history than he appeared to have accumulated over time.
As ardent historians we have long understood the evils of empire and have never held a great allegiance to Britain’s often grotesque excesses perpetrated all around the world in the furtherance of colonial greed and power. Anglo-Irish history is a particularly gruesome chapter for either the well-read amateur or the uninitiated, even worse for the Irish who experienced it, but we suspected that Peter’s own Celtic roots had laid some curiously myopic and intensely politically biased views within the foundations of his own understanding of history.
We learned for the first time of something called “the English Empire” and that all things bad in days of yore (it’s not really all that long ago in terms of Tasmania) were down to those wretched English people! We were told very bluntly that, “the English invented slavery”, and yet my first thought was to wonder how the Israelites were there in Egypt in time for Moses to lead them to freedom. My second thought was to reflect that slavery is as old as humanity itself, and you can still purchase a human today in many parts of Africa, but Peter wasn’t going to be derailed. Sadly there was no mention that Britain had been the first country ever to outlaw slavery and to pursue its abolition globally, but then Peter clearly hadn’t grasped the subtleties of the English-British relationship and ploughed on regardless with his anti-English loathing.
A little later we had a much more balanced discussion with one of his colleagues who was fascinated to know more about the United Kingdom’s eclectic mix of nation states. She knew that the 4 countries carried their own flags, and even knew that England’s was the red cross (of St George) on a white background, the House of Tudor colours which had joined Wales and England together way back in that era. She’d seen the flag at the rugby matches when the POMEs (Prisoners Of Mother England) came down south to play the Wallabies. She hadn’t realised however, that the English team is lauded by the fans before the game to the sounds of ‘God Save the Queen’, which is the British national anthem not the English one. Why was it, she asked, that the other nations of the supposedly United Kingdom have their own national anthems when the English only have the collective British version? Good question we thought.
But track that discussion over to the political scene and then England really does come unstuck, and remains the only sovereign state in Europe without its own Parliament, or its own national anthem for that matter. We tried to explain that the UK is a bit like the Australian federation in which there are several states, each with their own identity, political assembly, state capital etc, but with the overarching national government based in Canberra. Sadly the loose analogy collapses in the UK simply because England, as one of the 4 states of the Union, doesn’t have its own Parliament or national assembly, nor does it have its own effective ‘state capital’ because these have been usurped as the British capital and Parliament respectively. So England, where most of our people live and where nearly all British taxes are raised, has no English representation other than through the British House of Commons. The Scots, the N Irish, and the Welsh all have their own Parliaments, and in addition they send their own representatives to the British Parliament in London too.
So back in Port Arthur, Peter may be delighted to learn that the POMEs can’t get a word in edgeways, especially when it comes to their taxes being liberally scattered all over the so-called Union, and all around the world too, but we feel sure he won’t let that modern-day reality get in the way of his outrageous latter day propaganda.
#PortArthur #AncestryComAu #Ancestry #AncestryUK