Interview with Bernard Moffatt, President of Mec Vannin, campaigner for inter-Celtic cooperation and Celtic rights

Logo of Mec Vannin

Transceltic is delighted to present this interview with Bernard Moffatt. Bernard Moffatt was one of the founder members of Mec Vannin, the Manx nationalist party. Bernard is now the elected Life President of Mec Vannin which in English can be translated as Sons of Mann. Bernard was born in the town of Peel (Purt ny h-Inshey) on the Isle of Man.

Mec Vannin is a democratic republican organization which has campaigned for the last 50 years on social, environmental and political matters, challenging government policies that are detrimental to the Isle of Man and its people.

Celtic nations

Bernard also held the position of General Secretary of the Celtic League from 1984 – 88 and again from 1991 – 2006. The Celtic League is an inter-Celtic organisation that campaigns for the political, language, cultural and social rights of the Celtic nations of Alba (Scotland), Breizh (Brittany), Cymru (Wales) Éire (Ireland), Kernow (Cornwall) and Mannin (Isle of Man).

Bernard talks about the motivation for setting up Mec Vannin and the movements continued importance today. Bernard goes onto look at the role of the Celtic League and the developments that have taken place in regard to self-determination in individual Celtic nations. In doing so he also calls on the necessity of continued support for Brittany. Bernard condemns the hostility of the French establishment towards Breton culture, language and identity.

Lughnasa - The Celtic Harvest Festival

Celtic Symbol

The last Celtic Feast day of the year is Lughnasa, the harvest festival named after the Celtic God Lugh. God of the sun, light and harvests, Lugh was a great warrior. According to the Ulster Cycle he fathered the legendary Cú Chulainn and is linked to a number of sites in Ireland. Lugh spent part of his childhood in the Isle of Man where he was trained by Manannán mac Lir, said to be first ruler of the Isle of Man. Legend has it that Lir fostered and trained Lugh on Man before Lugh was sent back to Ireland. Lugh is always portrayed as youthful, handsome and athletic.

Traditionally celebrated on the first of August, Lughnasa is the fourth and last of the Feast days of the Celtic year. The three Celtic Feast days preceding Lughnasa include the Celtic New Year of Samhain (Halloween) on November 1st, Imbolg on February 1st which has become the Feast Day of St. Brigid but was originally the day of devotion to the Celtic Goddess of the same name and Beltane celebrated on 1st of May. Beltane is viewed by most scholars as being unique amongst the Celtic feast days in that Beltane observances have survived in essentially archaic form in to modern times due in part to its simplicity in that the celebrations historically included the lighting of bonfires.

Lughnasa is the least known of the four feast days and is described by James MacKillop in his “Dictionary of Celtic Mythology" as follows:

Lughnasa may be the least perceptible in the industrial, secular society, but we know more about its ancient roots than any of the other three. The significance of Lughnasa began to fade and the date on which the shadows of the ancient harvest festival was celebrated began to be moved to suit its connection with modern, often Christian, celebrations observed at about the same time of year. The Christian Church did not oppose the continuation of the festival marking the beginning of the harvest…..but the different names applied to it obscured its pagan origin.

Rushen Abbey – Where the Chronicles of the Kings of Mann and the Isles were written

Rushen Abbey

Rushen Abbey was founded in 1134 by Monks of the Sauvignac Order. It stands close to the Manx village of Ballasalla (Manx: Balley Sallagh) on land granted to them by King Olaf I. In 1147 the order came into Cistercian control and by 1257 the Abbey Church was completed. The location of the Abbey was selected due to its close proximity to Castle Rushen (Manx: Cashtell Rosien), which is nearly two miles away in the town of Castletown (Manx: Balley Chashtal) which was the ancient capital of the Isle of Man (Mannin).

Rushen Abbey is associated with the writing of the Chronicles of the Kings of Mann and the Isles. The mediaeval manuscript was compiled around 1257 A.D. at the abbey. They record, in addition to other topics, events in Manx history from 1000 A.D. to 1316 A.D. and look at the Islands place as the centre of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles. Based on a number of sources, including oral history, this important document is at the present time held in the British Library in London. There has been a long standing campaign to have the Chronicles returned to the Isle of Man were they should rightfully be held.

Mining on the Great Orme, Secrets Uncovered - Mwyngloddio ar y Gogarth, Datgelu Cyfrinachau

Open Caste Section of Great Orme Ancient Mines

On the north coast of Wales next to the town of Llandudno stands the limestone headland of y Gogarth known in English as Great Orme. It is a nature reserve, rich in fauna and flora with significant and rare species of plants. Copper has been known to have been mined on the headland for many years with ore having been extracted until late in the 19th century. However, the hidden history of the area only started to be uncovered in 1987 when a landscaping operation was being undertaken. The archaeological discovery astounded everyone and caused not only the history of Great Orme to be re-evaluated but also the civilisation and structure of society of the people who had inhabited this land some 4,000 years ago. Excavations reveal that there were extensive mining activities dating back to the Bronze Age 4000 years ago.

Green Copper from Great Orme Ancient Mines

This was some 2000 years before the arrival of the Roman’s on the islands of Britain. The scale of mining for the valuable copper ore is remarkable. It demonstrates the civilisation of Celtic society at the time, a civilisation that it suited the subsequent Roman invaders and others since to seek to deny. Throughout Celtic Europe archaeology is uncovering more and more information about the advanced road structures, building techniques and technological ability of the Celtic peoples. Forcing a re-evaluation of previous texts that relied on Roman historical information. Their writings have to be viewed as containing the propaganda of the victors who seek to disparage all that goes before them. Something that was carried on by the Saxons who again tried to undermine Celtic civilisation as something inferior to their own. Unfortunately, this is a practice that some English politicians and historians continue today.

Cape Breton Gaelic College - A Beacon Of Scots Gaelic Language And Culture In North America

To promote, preserve and perpetuate through studies in all related areas: the culture, music, language, arts, crafts, customs and traditions of immigrants from the highlands of Scotland.

– Mission Statement of the Cape Breton Gaelic College

Logo of the Cape Breton Gaelic College

The Cape Breton Gaelic College (Colaisde na Gàidhlig) is located in Englishtown, Nova Scotia on Cape Breton’s northeast coast. The Gaelic College was founded in 1938 by people from the local community who wanted to create a memorial for the Gaelic speaking pioneers of Cape Breton. That year, the Cape Breton Island Gaelic Foundation began the work of raising funds to establish the Gaelic College. The first building at the site on the Bay of St. Ann’s was a log cabin raised in 1939. Classes in the early years included Gaelic language, Gaelic grammar, Gaelic song, bag piping, and the history of Gaelic culture in Scotland, Nova Scotia and North America.  Subjects such as folklore and highland dancing were soon added.

Today the Cape Breton Gaelic College is a modern and innovative institution. From its humble beginnings, this unique institution has expanded and gained an international reputation for its contribution to the preservation and development of the Scots Gaelic language and culture of Nova Scotia. The only institution of its kind in North America, students of all ages and ability travel here from around the world to study.

Aerial View Of Cape Breton Gaelic College

Colaisde na Gàidhlig / The Gaelic College has an international reputation for its contribution to the promotion and preservation of traditional Gaelic culture, offering instruction in over ten disciplines, and year-round learning and fun. As a cultural destination, it will delight visitors with the unique opportunity to experience first-hand the living culture of the Nova Scotia Gaelic people.

The College curriculum reflects the legacy of what was once a thriving Gaelic speaking Celtic nation. The curriculum includes a program in Gaelic Immersion and Gaelic language instruction in Gaelic drama, Gaelic song and Gaelic storytelling.  Emphasis is also placed on Cape Breton’s rich musical heritage with courses in the Bodhran Celtic drum, Cape Breton Fiddling, Cape Breton Piano Accompaniment and the Celtic Harp.

Castell Henllys – Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro

Castell Henllys

In the beautiful setting of Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park) in West Wales there are a number of promontory forts. Castell Henllys is one such Celtic Iron Age hill fort that dates back to 390BC. An interesting aspect of Castell Henllys is that on the site of the excavated remains of the existing hill fort are replica Iron Age roundhouses. This offers the unique opportunity to experience the life of our Celtic ancestors and get a sense of how they lived and worked. The four roundhouses and granary are built on the actual Iron Age foundations that were uncovered by archaeologists. The remains of other hut foundations are on the site to indicate the size of the settlement.

The Magic and Mystery of Glendalough

Glendalough Cross and Deer Park

The Glendalough Valley in County Wicklow is also known as the valley of the two lakes taken from the Irish Gleann Dá Loch (glen of two lakes). Situated in the magnificent Wicklow Mountains (Irish: Sléibhte Chill Mhantáin) National Park, the Glendalough Valley was carved during the Ice Age by glaciers. When the thaw eventually arrived the melting ice created the two lakes. As well as its beautiful scenery it is home to a variety of wildlife, flora and fauna. It is steeped in history and archaeology with ancient tombs and cairns. The Glendalough Valley is also the location of the 6th Century monastic settlement founded by Saint Kevin (Saint Cóemgen). Legend has it that Saint Kevin was born in 498 and died on 3rd June 618 (3rd June being his feast day). That makes him 120 when he died so there must be something the water at Glendalough!

Danu – The Myth, The Goddess, The Band

Danu

Celtic scholars agree that Danu is the name of a deity that ranked high in the Celtic Pantheon dating from the earliest history of the Celtic peoples. The consensus seems to be that Danu was most likely the Celtic Mother Goddess and that she gave her name to the Tuatha Dé Danann (Children of Danu). But beyond this point the Celtic scholars diverge on the identity and origins of Danu.  A mystical figure shrouded behind the curtain of lost knowledge that died with the last Druid.

There is general agreement that Danu is related and cognizant with the Irish deity Anu, referred to as the mother of the gods of Ireland, and the Welsh deity Don, a mother fertility goddess. The similarity in spelling and the fact that Anu and Don are female deities related to the fertility of the land allows for the argument that Anu and Don are strongly connected to Danu and may be the same goddess in Irish and Welsh form and  thus merging Goidelic and Brythonic.

Patricia Monaghan in the Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore has the following entry on Danu:

Most significantly, we find an Irish divine race, thought to represent the gods of the Celts, called the Tuatha Dé Danann, the people of the goddess Danu”.  Similarly we have this entry from the Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by Peter Beresford Ellis: “A mother goddess from whom the Tuatha Dé Danann take their name. If her (Danu) counterparts in the Welsh tradition are anything to go by, Danu’s husband was Bile, god of death.  The Dagda is her son.

Regardless of Danu’s origins, this deity lives on in the popular imagination of the modern Celtic nations. A survey of the internet discloses a technology firm in Ireland named Danu, the popular Celtic band Danu and many pubs named after the Celtic Mother Goddess. There are countless references to this Celtic deity in what might be called the genre of new age mysticism. Thus in spite of the scholarly speculation which hesitates as to her identity and origins, Danu has seeped into modern Celtic consciousness.

Canow rag Kernow - Songs for Cornwall

Singing Trelawny on St Pirans Day

So, is the Cornish National Anthem 'The Song of the Western Men' otherwise known as 'Trelawny' or is it 'Bro Goth Agan Tasow'  - 'Old Land of Our Fathers'? Well, it seems that as is the case in Scotland, there is room for both popular songs in Cornwall!

Hawker Plaque

'The Song of the Western Men' more commonly known as 'Trelawny' was written as a poem in 1825 by the Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker (1803 -1875), priest, poet and mystic. Hawker was parson of the parish of Morwenstow on the desolate north Cornish coast for forty-one years and an eccentric. He dressed in claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman's jersey, long sea-boots and pink brimless hat. He talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church, and excommunicated one of them when it caught a mouse on a Sunday!

His poem, first published anonymously and later set to music told of the imprisonment of Cornishman Jonathan Trelawny (1650 - 1721) who was one of the seven bishops imprisoned in the Tower of London by James II in 1688.

When Trelawny was imprisoned in the Tower, the Cornish asked 'the reason why'. These words are thought to be an echo of a much older popular ballad, possibly from the time of the Cornish rebellion of 1497.

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