Kernow and the Celtic Twilight of Delusion?

I’m just back from a walking weekend in Cornwall.  My first time in the county/duchy/proud Celtic nation.  Being the sad nerdy anorak that I am I can now claim to have visited all six of the official Celtic “nations”.  Was in the Isle of Man last year, been to Scotland and Wales a few times, Brittany in 1997 and again in 2003 for the Inter-Celtic Festival in Lorient and have vague memories of visiting Ireland a long time ago. 

Cornwall can lay claim to being the only English county that has its own language.  However some Cornish people who regard their region as a proud nation as much as Scotland or Wales would resent being described as English.

There are two sides to every story – and the story of the Celts is no exception:

  1.  The Celts – The remnants of a proud people who once roamed the north-western Atlantic seaboard of Europe with a heritage rich in music and art – who constantly fought oppression against the Roman/Norman/Norse/Anglo-Saxon invader
  2. 2.   The Celts: Some bullshit myth peddled by aristocratic 19th century romantics and deluded academics with too much time on their hands to make an excuse to blame the English/French for their shortcomings and create a sense of false nationalism in order to use the working classes as cannon fodder for their own twisted ends

    It’s worth noting however that Mebyon Kernow the Cornish nationalist party currently have three seats on Cornwall County Council – three more than Labour. 

Anyway, here’s Enya with the theme music to the 1980s BBC series The Celts:



  1. Sounds like you had an interesting weekend, Ciaran! Celtic ideas of separateness, and celtic culture are indeed complex and difficult ones. There can be no doubt that the various celtic languages in the British Isles, Irish and Scots Gaelic, Welsh, Manx, and Cornish, are very different to English, and reflect cultural and sometimes even racial differences between England (many of whose people have Celtic blood anyway) and the rest of the British Isles.

    It’s also true that “Celtic Romanticism” and “Celtic identity” was very much a product of the nineteenth century (taking their cue from the earlier German Romanticism), certainly in Ireland and Wales. People like Thomas Davis and the “Young Ireland” movement fostered it in order to kindle the notion of separateness between England and Ireland, a movement which eventually led to full Irish nationalism in its modern sense. Perhaps the most exclusive of such forms of nationalism was expressed by D.P.Moran, patron and leader of the “Irish-Ireland” movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Moran believed that in order to qualify for membership of the Irish nation one had to: speak Irish Gaelic and practise “Gaelic culture” and games; be Catholic; be both anti-socialist and anti-materialist. Although perhaps extreme for our “modern” ears, his views did instruct the founders of what is now the Irish Republic, its culture and ethos, meaning that it was difficult, if not impossible, for northern Unionists to be part of such a society, however much nationalists talked about Irish unity.

    One idea that I do repudiate thoroughly is that of a “Pan-Celtic” nation, touted by some people on the nationalist side of Irish politics, and elsewhere. This is a piece of unmitigated, obscurantist, mystical, ethereal, cloying, nonsense. I cannot abide separateness just for its own sake. Coming from Northern Ireland, and having lived in Wales for a while, I can say that there are many differences between the “constituent parts” of the so called “celtic nation”, of religious affiliation, personality, and culture, which should annihilate all possibility of some form of state ever coming about, even if it were desirable.

  2. Well i’m Welsh, and Cornish and all i know what me and my local community wants is not to be another united kingdom just stuck together with Irish, Scots, and Britannians. Each a separate nation, like the republic of Cornwall, or the republic of Ireland, like that. My Cornish, and welsh family bled for so many years trying to fight getting sucked into an “alliance”, which was just England and Scotland, with me people being annexed into England. I’d hate to see Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Scottish, and maybe even the Britannia loose our sovereignty and just be under one name and one roof, you know wher i be gettin at, so i hope there be no chance of a single state Celtic union.

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