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Celtic Lightning

How the Scots and the Irish
Created a Canadian Nation 
 (Patrick Crean / HarperCollins Canada, 2015). 

With Celtic Lightning, Ken McGoogan plunges into the perpetual debate about Canadian roots and identity: who do we think we are? He argues that Canadians have never investigated the demographic reality that informs this book -- the fact that more than nine million Canadians claim Scottish or Irish heritage. Did the ancestors of more than one quarter of our population arrive without cultural baggage? No history, no values, no vision? Impossible.

McGoogan writes that, to understand who we are and where we are going, Canadians must look to cultural genealogy. He builds on the work of Richard Dawkins, who contends that ideas and values (“memes”) can be transmitted from one generation to another. Scottish and Irish immigrants arrived in Canada with values they had learned from their forebears. And they did so early enough, and in sufficient numbers, to shape an emerging Canadian nation.
McGoogan highlights five of the values they imported as foundational: independence, democracy, pluralism, audacity, and perseverance. He shows that these values are thriving in contemporary Canada, and traces their evolution through the lives of thirty prominent individuals -- heroes, rebels, poets, inventors, explorers, pirate queens -- who played formative roles in the histories of Scotland and Ireland.
 In the 19th century, two charged traditions came together in Canada. That reconnection, Scottish with Irish, sparked Celtic lightning . . . and gave rise to a Canadian nation.

From the reviews:

[McGoogan] describes Celtic Lightning as “cultural genealogy,” an exploration of the values and ideas that Scottish and Irish emigrants took with them from their homelands. He zeroes in on five inherited “bedrock” values that he believes form the foundation of modern Canada – audacity, independence, perseverance, democracy and pluralism. The result is an engaging mixture of history, memoir and travelogue as McGoogan explores his own Scots-Irish roots and visits historic sites across Ireland and Scotland. -- DEAN JOBB, The Scotsman

[The challenge] is to blend the two strands of history, Irish and Scottish. This, he achieves brilliantly. . . .  Celtic Lightning is engagingly personal. . . . The book marks another step in McGoogan’s impressive career.  -- DOUGLAS GIBSON, Globe and Mail

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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.