..Overt and insidious threats mostly originating in the East!

A wonderful lecture by Michael Houlihan who is leaving the National Museum to work in the great Te Papa in Wellington.
It’s a short leaving speech and worth reading in full but here’s 2 great quotes:

“For over seven years I have had the privilege to observe culture in Wales from what one might describe, in military terms, as one of its cultural stützpunkt, or strongpoints; namely, Amgueddfa Cymru, the national museum of Wales. So this evening I would like to don the mantle of cultural anthropologist to present some specific and personal observations on culture in Wales, particularly around the leadership, governance, and administration of its institutional manifestations, and what we apparatchiks like to call the branding of Wales. I believe that these are issues that Wales should take seriously, structural deficit or no structural deficit, if it wants the culture of Wales to survive, thrive and be recognised around the world. Importantly, there needs to be a more overt recognition, particularly in a time of financial pressure, that what sets Wales apart from, say, Surrey is its culture; that the reason we have an Assembly is because of that unique culture; and that, effectively, culture is Wales and Wales is culture. This should have been a project for the good times; in the bad, it becomes essential.”
“….. Sadly, however, cultural tourism, in its broadest sense, has singularly failed to turn up for Wales, in contrast to, say, Ireland or Catalonia.

So why is this? Let’s take the case of history and its presentation in Wales. In Ireland, history is big and very much part of the brand. In part, this has been down to the Irish school curriculum, which presents a very clear and passionate picture of Irish history. This is in contrast to Wales where, despite the valuable curricula reforms of the last decade, the history of Wales is an option and frequently it continues to be an English perspective or context that is articulated in Welsh schools. Ireland has been particularly successful in conveying a continuous story of resistance, blood, martyrdom and the sword as a determinant of politics. This is in part due to its geographical remoteness from the UK compared to Wales’s porous borders, which in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries drew it, almost seamlessly, into the industrial and economic story of the British Empire. You have to look elsewhere for the hidden and passionate history of Wales and the transmission of cultural memory. This is more likely to be found in the Welsh language, with its shared stories of memories, events and people contributing to preserving a sharp sense of identity, but one which is not effectively articulated in the English language. As a result, those with some responsibility for telling the history of Wales, in the fields of education, heritage and tourism do so in ways that reflect the broad sweep of European and English history rather than the story of daily cultural and social interchange in Wales.”
Thanks to Vaughan via Google Translate
Oh and his replacement is Belfast born.


  • Didlee D O’Squat

    I hope Michael finds New Zealand given that his grasp of geography seems to be pretty poor. For example he does not appear to know that the UK shares a land border with Ireland, a pretty porous one itself.

    I wonder if the folks on the other side of the world will be comfortable with someone who displays such a one-dimensional view of the culture of an island so close to Wales given that the defining aspect of Te Papa is the respect and acceptance shown to both Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti cultures.

  • Anon

    “I hope Michael finds New Zealand given that his grasp of geography seems to be pretty poor. For example he does not appear to know that the UK shares a land border with Ireland, a pretty porous one itself.”


  • drumlins rock

    “a very clear and passionate picture of Irish history.”
    or is it a biased and distorted parocial view?

  • Anon

    A: No.

    Any point in that? The morality/accuracy is irrelevant: its saleable, which is the point.

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    The official name of the political entity often mistakenly referred to as the ‘Republic of Ireland’ is in fact ‘Ireland’ or in Irish ‘Éire’. Ireland is of course also the name of the island where the state of ‘Ireland’ is located.

    Ireland (state) shares the island of Ireland with the devolved region of the United Kingdom known as ‘Northern Ireland’. The two distinct jurisdictions are separated by an internationally recognised land border.

    The ‘United Kingdom’ referred to is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Not a particularly difficult concept to grasp. However that depends…. as Captain James T. might have said “raise shields twat on the starboard bow”.

  • Anon
  • Drumlin Rock

    it was saleable for tourism ok, but not for business, leading to the biggest export being people.

  • wee buns

    People export during hard times yet flood back given the faintest break in the clouds, so it is not just yer tourists who are ‘sold’ on the culture.
    Passion within schools about indigenous history shapes adults who are at least grounded within their cultural groove & context; a remarkable resilience if identity to have been held despite a (800 yr) occupation.
    Wales & Scotland; yes the lack of an ocean may have inhibited their indigenous strength!
    Nonetheless, it is not unrecoverable. Anywhere the embers still glow.
    Good piece, Dewi.

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    Spock! Analysis?

    Captain, the Twat originates from a Parallel Alien Universe its sole purpose is to beam adolescent visual puns into our galaxy. It’s humour Jim, but not as we know it.

    Mr Checkov set phasers to ridicule and warp factor ten the hell away from it.

    Aye aye Captain.

  • Anon

    This is in part due to its geographical remoteness from the UK compared to Wales’s porous borders, which in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries drew it

    It is painful I have to explain this to you. Northern Ireland did not exist until 1921. Now you could say Ireland was part of the UK prior to this, but in context what he means is England. Ireland, even when it was within the UK, was much more geographically remote to the main industrial centres than Wales was. The Irish sea formed a much more effective barrier to the movement of people and technology than Wales more or less non existent borders. The fact that Ireland was Irish and the people treated poorly did not help

    So the rant on borders and what Ireland means is first mind bending, because it bares no relation to what he was saying. Have a nice day.

  • Anon

    Social cohesion isn’t good for business? Somewhat of a stretch. The extremes of Irish Nationalism undoubtedly contricuted to some stupid economic decisions but no more than the extremes of Irish Unionism, British Imperialism or Cold War Domino Theory.

    It isn’t particularly incompatiable with economic growth. Peple moved because there were no jobs.

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    Nice edit. My pain threshold is obviously much higher than yours so here goes.

    The section you quoted from goes on “….drew it (Wales), almost seamlessly, into the industrial and economic story of the British Empire”. Whereas Ireland was so removed by, as you say, an “effective barrier to the movement of people and technology”, the Irish Sea, that its “clear and passionate” history was of “resistance, blood, martyrdom”.

    Houlihan’s myopic view, which you seem to share, is a counterfeit. Having worked in Northern Ireland, and still retaining a visiting professorship at the University of Ulster, he knows it to be. So, I suspect, do you.

    Ireland’s geographic “remoteness” is at its nearest point some eleven miles from Britain. From ancient times there has been close contact; Dál Riata anyone?

    In the time period highlighted by you Dublin was in the late 18th century only eclipsed by London in size in the empire and at many times, up until 1921 of course, was regarded as the Second City of the British Empire. Many of its residents were as at home walking in Phoenix Park as they were on The Mall.

    Phoenix Park was also the location of the Royal Irish Constabularly Depot which was the training centre for colonial police officers from all around the empire.

    The British Army was also in large parts staffed by AngloIrish both in leadership and rank and file. From Wellington to Sir Alan Brooke this seamless aspect of Irish history is ignored by Houlihan.

    The industrial north-east of Ireland was also an intimate of the Industrial Revolution within the rest of the UK. Its textile, rope and engineering heritage was not a cottage industry for local consumption. Then again perhaps you are one of those people who believe that RMS Titanic was built in Hollywood.

    Now I “could” say that whole of Ireland was part of the UK and indeed I do; I think I may have some tiny historical justification for saying so.

    I also say that your argument that Ireland was so remote from England as the central power within the Kingdom that the part in played in economic and industrial life, and indeed social life, was such that its history is as charactertured by Houlihan is one-dimensional nonsense.

    So run along now, and have a nice life.

  • anon

    Dublin declined after the second Act of Union. The industrial revolution did not take as strongly within Ireland as in other places in the UK. These are facts.That the Irish Sea is a greater barrier than a land border and slowed development seems a simple enough point. It is also not hard to look at attitudes to the Irish and say that probably did too. Also the key thing about the Industrial Revolution was that it profoundly affected the lives of the middle and lower classes. That did not happen to the same degree in Ireland. That the Protestant Ascendancy could mix in Imperial circles is neither here nor there.

    But you’ve elided there. Your original point was a little mini rant on the North having a border with “Ireland”. Which was and remains worthy of a giant facepalm. My life is good , thanks.

  • Alan Maskey

    Interesting that the two nationists now use Irish names when they post. Is this progress or just further signs of their dishonesty?

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    The classic facepalm will cover the eyes so I can understand your inability to read through my original post. Surprised though that it hasn’t prevented your foot-in-mouth response. Hey-ho, such are the ways of things.

    As a glass-half-full type I suppose I should regard you starting to understand that Ireland’s history is more than “resistence, blood, martyrdom” as a small step forward.

    However I see that you have little capacity for further growth. Best to put you in the ‘not up to the mark’ drawer and move on.

    Before I do one last tip. Try reading a few books; that’s ‘reading’ not colouring-in remember. You’ll be surprised to find that history is more than a cardboard cutout. It has sides, and depth and a dark side, all much more than simply “here nor there”.

    Glad to hear your (limited and limiting) life is good.

  • Hi, the video of the lecture is now available to see here:


  • Dewi

    Rhodri – identify yourself!