Celtic Lightning strikes: ‘engaging, readable, entertaining, overdue’

Reviews turn up in Toronto, Glasgow, Winnipeg, & Victoria . . .

The Globe and Mail: “Celtic Lightning is engagingly personal. We
follow McGoogan and his wife as they travel enthusiastically throughout
Scotland and Ireland, from Grace O’Malley’s Connemara and Jonathan Swift’s
Dublin to the Dumfries of Robert Burns, and even to the St. Andrews castle
where John Knox was captured and sent to France as a galley slave. . . . [McGoogan
argues that we should] look carefully at the great figures in Irish and
Scottish history, because, in his prologue’s fighting words, they ‘shaped the
values on which we have built

a Canadian nation.’  This poses two great challenges. The
first, obviously, is to blend the two strands of history, Irish and Scottish.
This, he achieves brilliantly. . . .The range is fascinating, from Robert the
Bruce to The Chieftains, and he avoids a strict Irish-then-Scottish rotation.
For example, “Democracy” features the lives, and the Canadian influence, of Sir
John A. Macdonald, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, John Knox, Robert Burns, Daniel
O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. The reader will find it hard to argue
with his specific proposal that McGee and Macdonald formed a vital link in
creating Canada, and his general belief in the importance of Irish and Scots to
the country. — Douglas Gibson 

 The Scotsman“[McGoogan] describes Celtic Lightning as ‘cultural
genealogy,’ an exploration of the values and ideas that Scottish and Irish
immigrants took with them from their homelands. . . . The result is as engaging
mixture of history, memoir, and travelogue as McGoogan explores his own
Scots-Irish roots and visits historic sites across Ireland and Scotland . . . .
There is no disputing his bottom line. The sheer number of Burns statues, Irish
pubs and other trappings of Celtic culture in Canada offer compelling evidence
that values and ideas can cross oceans — and the centuries.”  — Dean

The Winnipeg Free Press: “Like a latter-day Pierre Berton, Ken McGoogan would like history
to be fun. Celtic Lightning is his latest effort at carving a niche for
himself in the field of ‘pop’ history, bringing a delectable dish of
thoughts and anecdotes and just enough facts to make us feel a little wiser. .
. . . McGoogan credits British author Richard Dawkins for the ‘cultural
genealogy’ idea that pervades the thinking behind Celtic Lightning. But the
engaging prose, which made books like Lady Franklin’s Revenge so
readable, is McGoogan’s own, enlightening as it entertains.” — Dave

The Victoria Times Colonist: “The way we think, as well as
the things that we say and do, are influenced by the forces around us. The
early European arrivals in Canada planted the seeds, certainly, and helped
shape our government and our way of life . . . . McGoogan’s work takes a long
overdue look at the forces that helped to shape this land.” — Dave Obee

(Photos of Oscar Wilde and William Wallace statues by Sheena Fraser McGoogan)



Leave a Comment