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In Search of Ancient Ireland
Cartographer's Journey
Fortress Ireland
Culture and Commerce
About the Film
Lesson Plans

Companion Book & VHS

The companion book to IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT IRELAND, co-authored by Carmel McCaffrey and Leo Eaton, will be available in September 2002 from publisher Ivan R. Dee.

The VHS of the 3-part series is now available through ShopPBS.
About The Film: Production Diaries
Memories of production

In this section:
About the Episodes
Filmmaker Q & A
Production Diaries
Broadcast Schedule
Web and TV Credits
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I've lived for many years in the U.S. but I'm originally from the U.K., and to be English and make a TV series about Irish history is taking one's life in one's hands; the Irish have suffered through too many centuries of the English rewriting their history. My first meeting with one of our primary scholars got off to a rocky start when he announced that while groveling wasn't necessary, a simple apology for being English would help. But then he and so many of his colleagues across Ireland went above and beyond the call of duty to immerse me and my team in the complexity of early Irish history. The entire IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT IRELAND project took almost three years, with filming taking place over a 12-month period. During that time, there was hardly an inch of Ireland I didn't walk, drive, or fly over. By the end, I was even advising Irish friends on good pubs to visit and places to go on vacation.

Skelligmichael There are so many memories from that year of filming. There was the day my crew sailed seven miles off the coast of County Kerry in a small open fishing boat to Skellig Michael, a remote monastery island that is just a desolate mountain peak sticking out of the Atlantic waves. It was so rough we were all feeling sick and my associate producer was throwing up noisily over the side. As the boat tossed and lurched across the ocean, my cell phone rang. It was my producer from ZOBOOMAFOO in Canada (another series I make for PBS) needing me to deal with a problem about elephants. On Skellig Michael itself, we had to time our leap from ship to shore in those critical few seconds when the ocean swell brought the boat up to the level of the slippery stone jetty, then clamber up hundreds of precipitous stone steps set into the side of the mountain to emerge in a deserted monastery village of stone beehive huts that was first built in the 7th Century A.D. The only sound was the cry of sea birds and the distant crash of waves thundering against the rocky base of the island.

Another monastery island -- Inishmurray, off the coast of County Sligo -- was also reached by a perilous boat crossing in heavy seas. That island was flat and boggy and there'd been a village there until the 1940s, the ruined shells of houses still standing empty and desolate along a coastal path. Just inland, the ancient monastery still stood inside a pre-Christian stone ring fort, hardly changed from a day in 795 A.D. when raiders from the sea landed to enslave or slaughter the monkish population. It was one of the first Viking attacks on Ireland, right at the start of the Viking Age. This was on a scouting trip months before the start of filming, and Alex, my 10-year-old son, had come along with me. We stood, the only people on an island full of ghosts, and I understood that history is always with us: present in the landscape, the buildings, the very air that we breathe. All we have to do is listen.

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