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Thursday 15 August 2002, 9.02 am - 9.30 am.
Melvyn Bragg follows his long historical exploration of the Routes of English with Voices of the Powerless, in which he explores the lives of the ordinary working men and women of Britain at six critical moments across the last 1,000 years.

The extracts of documents that may be read on this page are:
Verses from the Irish Bardic poems.
A Spanish view of the Irish in 1588.
Fynes Moryson - secretary to Lord Mountjoy, Elizabeth I's military commander in Ulster.
Reasons given for Spanish intervention in Ireland.
Sir John Davies - Attorney General for Ireland .

Verses from the Irish Bardic poem 'Woe is me for the plight of the Gael'
Fearflatha 0 Gnimh
"Woe is me for the plight of the Gael !
Seldom now has one of them
A happy mind,
Their nobles all are in sorrow.

They may be likened to
A remnant after their destruction
Writhing from the torment of their wounds,
Or mourners returned from a funeral.

Or to the crew of a ship into which the sea has burst,
Or to men whose days are numbered,
Or to captives in the fetters of the enemy,
Irishmen under a foreign troop.

They have exchanged their strength for weakness,
Beauty for unsightliness,
High spirit for weak dejection,
Manly heroes become unrecognisable.

There is a pall of sorrow over them
Which quenches the glory of the Gaels of Ireland,
As a cloud of showers overwhelms sunlight
So anguish has overspread them.

Foreign bulls have ploughed
In the racing-place of their slender steeds
Every green throughout the land of Ireland.

Troops of English in the meadows of their inheritances,
white-washed towers in their dwelling-places,
Markets lost to them in every region,
Corn-ricks on the heights where were their fairs.

Lugh's Isle does not recognise
Any one of her pleasant greens,
Hills bared of woods after their ploughing
Free Ireland will become an England."

Verses from the Irish Bardic poem 'Tonight is Ireland Lonely'
Aindrias mac Marcuis
"This night sees Éire desolate,
Her chiefs are cast out of their state;
Her men, her maidens weep to see
Her desolate that should peopled be.

How desolate is Connla's plain,
Though aliens swarm in her domain;
Her rich bright soil had joy in these
That now are scattered overseas.

Man after man, day after day
Her noblest princes pass away
And leave to all the rabble rest
A land dispeopled of her best.

O'Donnell goes. In that stern strait
Sore-stricken Ulster mourns her fate,
And all the northern shore makes moan
To hear that Aodh of Annagh's gone.

Men smile at childhood's play no more,
Music and song, their day is o'er;
At wine, at Mass the kingdom's heirs
Are seen no more; changed hearts are theirs.

They feast no more, they gamble not,
All goodly pastime is forgot,
They barter not, they race no steeds,
They take no joy in stirring deeds.

Woe to the Gael in this sore plight!
Henceforth they shall not know delight.
No tidings now their woe relieves,
Too close the gnawing sorrow cleaves.

Her chiefs are gone. There's none to bear
Her cross of lift her from despair;
The grieving lords take ship. With these
Our very souls pass overseas."

Verses from the Irish Bardic Poem 'God be with you Warriors of the Gael' Angus Mac Daighre O'Daly "God be with you ye warriors of the Gael,
Let not subjugation be heard reported of you,
For infamy ye have never merited
In time of battle or of war.

Not lack of active vigour is it, or want of skill in shooting
That hath made you, young men of Ireland,
To be reverential and obedient to them
The pushing and aggressive English crowd.

Torment it is to me that in the very tribal gathering
Foreigners proscribe them that are Ireland's royal chiefs,
In whose own ancestral territory is vouchsafed them now
No designation other than the lowly "woodkerne"'s name.
Again when these English
That with purpose to work universal ruin of the Gael
Are come over the billowy sea
Achieve success over our freemen, I am all gloom."

A Spanish view of the Irish from the letter of Captain Francisco de Cuéllar who was shipwrecked in Ireland in the Armada of 1588.
"Typically these savages live like beasts in the mountains, some of which are very rugged in that part of Ireland where we were shipwrecked. They live in thatched cabins and are all big men, handsome and well-built and fleet as the roe deer. They eat only once a day and this has to be at night and what they normally eat is oaten bread and butter. They drink sour milk, for they have no other drink. And they don't drink water, though it's the best in the world. On feast-days they eat some kind of half-cooked meat, with neither bread nor salt, for such is their custom. They dress accordingly in tight hose and short loose coats of very coarse goat's hair. They wrap up in blankets and wear their hair down to their eyes. They are great travellers and can endure any hardship; they are continually at war with the English garrisoned there by the Queen; against these they defend themselves and don't let them into their lands, which are all flooded and marshy "

" What these people are most inclined to is thieving and robbing one another; so that not a day passes among them without a call-to-arms, because as soon as the people in the next village find out that in this one there are cattle or anything else, they come armed at night and all hell breaks loose and they slaughter one another. And as soon as the English from the garrisons find out who has rounded up and stolen the most cattle, they are sent in to seize them. All that these people can do is to retreat into the mountains with their women and their herds, for they have no other property, furniture or clothes. They sleep on the floor, on freshly-cut rushes, full of water and ice. Most of the women are very beautiful, but badly turned out: they wear no more than a shift, and a shawl that they wrap round themselves, and a piece of linen on their heads which is folded several times and knotted at the forehead. They work hard and are good housekeepers, in their own way. These people call themselves Christians : Mass is said among them and they observe the rules of the Roman Church. Nearly the majority of their churches, monasteries and hermitages have been demolished by the English who are garrisoned there and by those from the region who have joined them, who are as bad as they are. In short: in this kingdom there is neither justice not reason, so that everyone does as he pleases. "

" 'The Savages are well affected to us Spaniards, because they realise that we are attacking the heretics (the English) and are their great enemies. If it was not for those natives who kept us as if belonging to themselves, not one of our people would have escaped. We owe them a good turn for that, though they were the first to rob and strip us when we were cast on shore."

"The chieftain sent four of the savages in his service and a Spanish soldier - he already had with him ten of the survivors who had swum ashore - and seeing me without a stitch of clothes and covered in straw, felt very sorry for me, as did everyone with him, and his women even wept to see how badly I had been treated. They fixed me up as well as they could with the sort of blanket they wear, and I spent three months there, becoming as much of a savage as the savages themselves "

" My master's wife was extremely beautiful and was very kind to me. One day, she and other female friends and relatives were sitting in the sun with me, asking me what life was like in Spain and other countries and, in the end, they came up to me and asked me to have a look at their palms and tell their fortunes. Giving thanks to God, since I could hardly fall lower than to be a gypsy among savages, I set to examining each one's hand, telling them a great deal of nonsense, which pleased them so much that there was no other Spaniard better than I, nor any whom they held in higher esteem. And by night and by day men and women would pester me to tell their fortunes until I found myself under such pressure that I was forced to beg my master's leave to depart from his castle. He declined my request, but gave orders that I was not to be annoyed or my life made a misery. "

"Fynes Moryson - secretary to Lord Mountjoy, Elizabeth I's military commander in Ulster.
"The wild and (as I may say) mere Irish, inhabiting many and large provinces, are barbarous and most filthy in their diet. They scum the seething pot with an handful of straw and strain their milk taken from the cow through a like handful of straw, none of the cleanest, and so cleanse, or more rather, defile the pot and the milk… It is strange and ridiculous, but most true, that some of our carriage horses falling into their hands, when they found soap and starch carried for the use of our laundresses, they, thinking them to be some dainty meats, did eat them greedily, and when they stuck in their teeth, cursed bitterly the gluttony of us English churls - for so they term us. No spectacle was more frequent in the ditches of towns and especially in wasted countries, than to see multitudes of these poor people dead with their mouths all coloured green by eating nettles, docks and all things they could rend up above ground. "

Reasons given for Spanish intervention in Ireland by John De Lacey, an Irish exile in Portugal, in 1593
"The kingdom of Ireland is populated by Spanish Biscayans and the people are warlike and Catholic. If His Majesty becomes their king as is their wish, he will be able to use them wherever war may break out for they will serve him very faithfully as the soldiers of the Irish regiment have done and are doing in the States of Flanders. In Ireland there is an abundance of all types of food except oil and wine; instead of oil there is lard in great quantities and instead of wine there is beer as in Flanders. Ireland has mines of silver, tin, lead, iron and coal from which His Majesty could draw great profit having once conquered the country; there is also an abundance of hides and of fishing grounds which could be of great benefit to His Majesty.
Great advantages for the holy Catholic faith and the service of God and of the King and for all Spain would follow if His Majesty undertook this war; also much expense would be saved for, if the war is carried to the very house of the Queen of England, she will have to call back her corsairs from the West Indies' trade routes and she will be forced to stop sending aid to Flanders. If she does not, she will lose Ireland from which it will then be easy to invade England owing to her proximity and to the fact that there are many Catholics on the coastline of England which is nearest to Ireland. If the Queen, as she is bound to do, attempts to remedy her situation in Ireland, the Catholics will hold out despite her efforts, and His Majesty will save all the expenses in using his fleets to protect the West Indian trade.
That is my opinion so that, with a small army and little expense, the Kingdom of Ireland may be conquered and help be sent to the prelates and gentlemen of that Kingdom who are now risen against the usurping English Queen in defence of the holy Catholic faith and of the liberty of their afflicted country."

Sir John Davies - Attorney General for Ireland - 'On Ireland before 1603'
"This extortion .. was taken for the maintenance of their men of war, but these Irish exactions, extorted by the chieftans and tanists by colour of their barbarous seigniory, were almost as grievous a burden as the other, namely cosherings, which were vistitations and progresses made by the lord and his followers among his tenants, wherein he did eat them, as the English proverb is, out of house and home, cessings of the kern (soldiers), of his family, called kernety, of his horses and horse-boys, of his dogs and dog-boys and the like, and lastly cuttings tallages or spendings high or low, at his pleasure, all of which made the lord an absolute tyrant and the tenant a very slave and villain , and in one respect more miserable than bond-slaves. For commonly the bond-slave is fed by his lord, but here the lord was fed by his bond-slave "

"..the first adventurers, intending to make a full conquest of the Irish, were deceived in their choice of the fittest places for their plantation. For they sat down and erected their castles and habitations in the plains and open countries, where they found most fruitful and profitable lands and turned the Irish into the woods and mountains, which, as they were proper places for outlaws and thieves, so were they their natural castles and fortifications, htither they drave their preys and stealths, there they lurked and lay in wait to do mischief. These fast places they kept unknown by making the ways and entries thereunto impassable, there they kept their creaghts or herds of cattle, living by the milk of the cow without husbandry or tillage , there they increased and multiplied into infinite numbers by promiscuous generation among themselves, there they made their assemblies and conspiracies without discovery. But they discovered the weakness of the English dwelling in the open plains, and thereupon made their sallies and retreats with great advantage. Whereas, on the other side, if the English had built their castles and towns in those places of fastness and had driven the Irish into the plains and open countries where they might have had an eye and observation upon them, the Irish had been easily kept in order and in short time reclaimed from their wildness, there they would have used tillage, dwelt together in townships, learned mechanical arts and sciences. "

" His Majesty did not utterly exclude the natives out of this plantation with a purpose to root them out, as the Irish were excluded out of the first English colonies……but made a mixed plantation of British and Irish that they might grow up together in one nation: only the Irish were in some places transplanted from the woods and mountains into the plains and open countries, that, being removed, like wild fruit trees, they might grow the milder and bear the better and sweeter fruit. For when this plantation hath taken root and been fixed and settled but a few years, with the favour and blessing of God, it will secure the peace of Ireland, assure it to the Crown of England for ever and, finally, make it a civil and a rich, a mighty and a flourishing kingdom."
Listen Live
Audio Help
l - Castles and Cruelty - extracts on programme page.
2 - The Peasants' Revolt - extracts on programme page.
-3 - The Reformation - extracts on programme page
4 - The Plantation of Ulster - extracts on programme page
5 - The English Civil War and the Siege of Chester - - extracts on programme page
Listen to Melvyn Bragg talk about Voices of the Powerless
Listen to Simon Elmes, executive producer, give an unigue insight into the programme.
Listen to the signature music
Go to - Homepage.
Go to Prog l - Castles and Cruelty
Go to Prog 1 - Biography of Orderic Vitalis
Go to Prog 2 - The Peasants' Revolt
Go to Prog 3 - The Reformation
Go to Prog 3 - The Reformation - Key Events
Go to Prog 4 - The Plantation of Ireland in the Counties of Armagh and Tyrone.
Go to Prog 5 - The English Civil War and the Siege of Chester
Read The Sources
Go to Prog 1 - Castles and Cruelty
Go to Prog 2 - The Peasants' Revolt
Go to Prog 3 - the Reformation
Go to Prog 4 - the Plantation of Ulster
Go to Prog 5 - The English Civil War and the Siege of Chester

In Our Time
Thursday 9.00-9.45am, rpt 9.30-10.00pm. Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas. Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.
This Sceptred Isle
This Sceptred Isle
BBC History - the Plantation of Ireland
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg presents In Our Time for BBC Radio 4, a series where he and his guests discuss the "Big Ideas" of cultural or scientific significance.

He also presented The Routes of English, his millennial series celebrating 1,000 years of the English language.

Melvyn Bragg was born in 1939 in Wigton, Cumbria - where many of his books are set. He won a scholarship to Oxford to read history, and in 1961 he gained a coveted traineeship with the BBC.

He has presented a number of television series including: Read All about It, Two Thousand Years, and Who's Afraid of the Ten Commandments? and createdThe South Bank Show.

Melvyn presented Start the Week between 1988 and 1998. In his 1998 series On Giant's Shoulders he interviewed scientists about their eminent predecessors.

As well as presenting for Radio 4, he is Controller of Arts for London Weekend Television. In 1998 he was made a life peer. He's written 17 novels, the latest of which, The Soldier's Return, won the WH Smith Literary Award.

Melvyn Bragg was made a Life Peer in 1998 and he took the title of Baron Bragg of Wigton in the County of Cumbria.

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