Once and Future Celt Bill Watkins

A bookreview in preparation for our Celtic Evening on November 30th (Fundraiser for the Library!!)
(I loved the bit of ‘he loves language and isn’t afraid to use it’!)

The Once And Future Celt (third of his trilogy!)

Twenty-one year old Bill is stranded in a Gypsy camp with an injured foot, cared for by the beautiful, unattainable Riena. The Gypsies, or Romany, suffer a negative reputation in Britain, a notion that Bill’s stay challenges. With his prowess on the fiddle and keen interest in their culture, the Gypsies-and Riena-grow to accept him. Bill discovers that his Celtic roots may not be so different from the misunderstood Romany.

After making his way back to his parents’ home in Birmingham, he has difficulty finding work in recession-ravaged England. When he finally lands a position loading dishes at a university cafeteria, he tells his proud Irish mother only the “university” part. Meanwhile, his Welsh father takes him to his ancestral homeland to reveal family secrets. In search of a new love, Bill soon leaves home again and on his travels he comes full circle in his spiritual journey to be a true Celt.

The Once and Future Celt is an engaging, hilarious meditation on the power of family, identity, the origins of language and the opposite sex. It completes a trilogy started by A Celtic Childhood and Scotland Is Not for the Squeamish, and is a gem of a memoir on its own.


“This is a delightful and often touching book, full of sly rebellion. Bill Watkins has a perfect ear for the more nonsensical sides of the heritage instinct, and a shrewd eye on where he came from-and where he’s going. Delicious.” -Frank Delaney, author of the novels Tipperary and Ireland, and the six-part BBC series The Celts

“The title of The Once and Future Celt hints at the good natured whimsy which pervades this delightful book. Watkins has composed a personalized picaresque exploration of what the scholarly constructs of ‘Celtic’ mean to ordinary Britons in the context of modern, post-imperial Britain. Based upon a narrative of his own adventures as a footloose young man and drawing upon his personal Welsh and Irish heritage, the author has created an engaging quest for the ‘Camelot of the Mind.’ Episodes featuring the genuine ‘other culture of Romany (‘gypsies’ or travelers) and the made-up ‘other’ worldly culture of undergraduate medieval role-players will lead readers to wonder how much ‘Celtic’ is a product of individual invention and how much a label based on historical traditions. This book will appeal both to those who enjoy a fast-paced read populated with an array of well sketched characters and to those who enjoy ruminating about the issues which it explores.”
– Frederick Suppe, President, Celtic Studies Association of North America

“They say the third time’s the charm. Bill Watkins’ first two books had charm in spades, but the third in his trilogy tells you the ‘why’ to the other two books’ ‘what.’ In The Once And Future Celt, a young man at once wise beyond his years and goofily open to the whims of the universe sets out on the road shortly before his twenty-first birthday to find his true purpose in life. He encounters Gypsies, privileged-but-clueless college students, his contentious but loving parents, bureaucratic officiousness and strange fellow sojourners on his way. In his travels he also finds love, wisdom, the key to his Celtic roots and his future path (hence the title). Bill Watkins is a born storyteller, descended from a long line (on both sides) of Celtic yarn-spinners. He manages to be disarming, funny, entertaining and possesses a keen grasp of human nature and its foibles, often all within the same sentence. Read this book and be mightily entertained.”
– Sherry Ladig, contributing editor, Scottish News In Minnesota

“It’s obvious that Bill Watkins loves language. And he is not afraid to use it. A very enjoyable read.”
– Alphie McCourt, author of A Long Stone’s Throw

“His knack for storytelling is the equal of any Irish bard, and he knits together fact and legend like a finely crafted Celtic knot.” -Minneapolis Observer Quarterly (Winter 2008)

“Frank, hilarious and honest . The Once and Future Celt is a strong choice for anyone who enjoys real-life, down-to-earth storytelling.” -The Midwest Book Review (August 2008)


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