Today, here in an overcast, breezy England, it is St.George’s day. How much we can say we actually know about the real St.George is very little. I ask my kids, and all that they can come up with is that he killed a dragon.
And they also recognise his flag, of course.
Personally I think St.Aidan should be England’s patron saint. As the Apostle to the English, and with a little more verifiable information available to us, I think he has the greater claim. I love the history and stories of all the Celtic and British saints that have walked these same scattered islands that I do now. Among my favourites are Aidan and Cuthbert. But that’s for another day.
There was a time, when asked what my national identity was, I would reply “English.” But then I began looking into my own family history. What I have discovered, up to now, is that I am at least the fifth generation of Murray born in Manchester, England. Also that I have four different lines of Irish ancestry, and that my surname originates from Scotland.
Now, when asked that very same question about national identity, my answer is decidedly “British.”
It goes further. Having the Y-chromosome of my DNA analysed, that is my paternal line, I have discovered that my genetic signature belongs to a group that is prevalent in Ireland and northern and western Britain. I am from probable Celtic descent, with strong similarities to the genetic signature of the Basques of Iberia. This suggests colonisation of Britain and Ireland by ancient maritime migrations along the Atlantic coast of Iberia, France and Brittany. A journey can be traced through western Europe and the Middle East right back to a particular man who lived in Africa 80,000 years ago, to which all men alive today can trace their paternal line. I have not had my maternal line analysed yet, but with the female, mitachondrial line we can go back even further. Everybody alive today can trace their maternal line back to a single woman who lived in Africa between 150,000-200,000 years ago. So, although they never met, and lived thousands of years apart, we have our Y-Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve.
Back here in the present, I know someone who was very anti-Celt, claiming to be of Anglo-Saxon origin. He immersed himself in the history, writings and culture of that race. Much to his chagrin, he later discovered that he had Welsh ancestry. Of course, when we talk about Celt, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, whatever, it is all a romanticised perception that we hold. But the point is that we cannot be sure of our blood. There is no such thing as a pure race. These islands have for thousands of years been subject to incoming waves of people of all races, either with intentions of peaceful settlement or of conquest. We truly are a mongrel nation. Go back far enough and we are all related. All connected.
What a revolutionary, healing concept this could be, if people would only grasp it. Everybody alive today and tomorrow are descended from the same place, from a people of one skin.
The Irish contingent here in Manchester put on a great show on St.Patrick’s day. Every year it gets bigger and bigger, the town center being transformed into a great sea of green. The English by comparison no longer really embrace St.George’s day. Apart from isolated pockets, it mostly goes by unacknowledged. A few flags fly outside pubs and shops, desperate to drum up trade.
Among the ex-pats throughout the world though, there seems to be more enthusiasm to embrace St.George’s day. Perhaps being cut off from your roots creates a need to continue your traditions, to celebrate your cultural heritage.
Without roots and tradition we become disenfranchised. We drift.
I think we should always be proud of where we have come from. And also of what we contribute to the place where we are now.
Happy St.George’s Day to all of the diaspora, wherever this day may find you.