George Santayana said in 1905 that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
My papa’s family came from Ireland back in the 1700s, and I’ve researched a bit on the 5 Ws, who, what, why, when, where. For instance, I know those two George Carliles who came from County Down, Ireland in the 1700s were distant grandfathers. I can’t tell you why they came, but I can tell you they lived in Scotland before they did in Ireland, so were probably part of the English moving Protestants to Ireland to beef up their land holding and thus voting rights. The resident Irish didn’t think much of them, and it’s possible they took a hike hoping for better reception.
And yes, that led to more research on the relationship of the English and Irish, which is not a pretty story. Then that led to the writing of Rogue Irishman, a novel in both current time and the time of the Troubles in Ireland. Rogue Irishman follows Quinn O’Sullivan on a trip around Ireland that was meant to explore family history and find a fine Irish Sport Horse to purchase, but turned out to be about the possibility of reuniting Northern Ireland and the Republic. I’m immersed in work on it, and hope to have it out this summer. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, a good time to release a book like Rogue Irishman.
Did I mention that another reason I love the history of Ireland is that I discovered Nellie Cashman, an Irish woman who left after the An Gorta Mor, the Great Irish Potato Famine and became a mining woman on the West Coast of America? She was a generous and talented miner and operator of boarding houses, restaurants, etc. But that’s not all, she once saved seventy-five miners from dying of scurvy by pouring lime juice over their blistered gums. I wrote about her in Toughnut Angel, and I think she’d make a great subject for a movie. Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, are you listening?
I haven’t met face-to-face with any of these people. But I research, recreate them in my imagination, and come to love and learn from them. Therefore, I am not doomed to repeat the mistakes of history, and I receive the added benefit of enjoying its victories. (And you can, too)