This film is part of Free


A terrible beauty: impressive early TV history programme looks at Ireland 1913-23.

Factual TV 1969 55 mins


A terrible beauty is born: this TV history of Ireland evokes a pivotal, turbulent period (1913-23) with intelligence and emotional force. Its events, and figures like de Valera, Collins and Carson, were well within living memory but in many British minds safely filed away in the past. The film was broadcast on 8 July 1969 just as (part of) Ireland began to slide into extreme strife, history repeated first as tragedy - then as tragedy.

With its punchy voiceover and music combined with pacily edited archive footage and a vast array of stills shot by a dynamic rostrum camera, Rebellion broadly follows the style popularised by landmark World War I series The Great War (1964). It’s distinguished in its own right by the effective collaboration between Irish filmmaker George Morrison and British writer-narrator Robert Kee. Kee was one of the great figures in broadcast journalism and has also been described, rightly, as among the fairest of all English commentators on Ireland. His sympathetic fascination for the country and her people would flower in his masterpiece, the blockbuster series Ireland - A Television History (1980). This much lesser-known programme is a fascinating first draft, marked by Kee’s fine balance of clear analysis with humane engagement.