As I was flipping through the TV Guide last week, I was surprised to find a listing for a new tv drama, My Mother and Other Strangers, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War. I’ve been researching and writing stories about the province during that era for several years and I only know a few other writers who are also writing fiction about the province during that period. So I was amazed to suddenly find this new wartime television drama. My initial response to my discovery was somewhat mixed.
My first reaction was to be a bit miffed that the film world had ventured in to what I had almost begun to consider the exclusive territory of a small band of writers. There had only been a few of us, including myself, Alrene Hughes and Anne Doughty, writing about this almost forgotten corner of the war and now someone else was elbowing in.
Then I became curious. What would this drama be like? So I sat down with a cup of tea and one of my cats sprawled on my knee to watch it. It started out rather slow as the scene was set for the story that would unfold. Some viewers expect non-stop action in their television shows but that’s not the kind of programme it is. The drama reflects the rhythm of life in a rural village, not the bustle of modern life that we are more familiar with. I was pleased by this as I also try to find and portray the rhythm of the era in my stories. After watching the first episode of the programme, I think television viewers who like historical and family sagas will enjoy this show. I’m certainly looking forward to next week’s episode.
If you aren’t an historical saga fan, you might say, “Oh no, not another war drama. Don’t we have enough of them already?” My answer would be, no, not like this one. During the Second World War, Northern Ireland fought the same, yet a different, war than the rest of the United Kingdom waged. Due to the political and religious tensions in the province, some aspects of Northern Ireland’s experience of the war differed greatly from the rest of the United Kingdom. They faced rationing, the fear of invasion by Axis troops and many saw their loved ones go off to fight. Though, because conscription was never introduced, those who joined the armed forces did so voluntarily. Unlike other parts of the United Kingdom, they faced the threat of terrorist attacks within the province. The war years in Northern Ireland were complex and multi-faceted, providing a huge number of stories to be told. I hope My Mother and Other Strangers will entertain television audiences and also pique the interest of viewers to delve into other stories about Northern Ireland during the war.