• September 13, 2015


My item on the Celtic Mythology Story competition earlier this week got me thinking about the short lived Celtic book fair ‘Scrif-Celt’ which although set up independently of the Celtic League was very much an idea of members of the (then) London Branch. Indeed all its committee members were drawn from the Branch including the then Secretary, Micheál Ó Laoire.

I contacted Peter Beresford Ellis accomplished author of both non fiction and fiction works who is a former Convenor of the League and was a member of the London branch at the time. Peter was Chair of the organising committee of ‘Scrif-Celt’ and I first asked him about the name:

“When our committee discussed what name should we give to the Celtic Book Fair, we wanted a word that was Pan Celtic in look and reflected that it was connected with books – the word Scríf was ‘invented’ because it had the connotations of Scríofa (Irish), Screeu (Manx), Sgìobh (ScotsGaelic), Skiva (Breton), Scryfa (Cornish) and – albeit buried behind the ‘y’ – ysgrifydd (Welsh).”

I asked how the idea came about;

“I first proposed the concept of a Celtic Book Fair to the London Branch CL on July 12, 1984. Why hold the event in London? Because I argued that we want to showcase the Celtic languages to the world. The point being to hold it at the same time as the London International Book Fair. The main question was – how could the CL fund such an event? I told them it would be self funding. It was to be a one day event held on April 13, 1985, at the London Welsh Centre in Grays Inn Road. Each member of the committee were given specific tasks.

It was hard work and in the end we had the astonishing achievement of getting 72 publishers from the Celtic countries who paid for stands and also for advising in the Scríf-Celt programme booklet. As well as what was going on in the exhibition hall, we had a side hall for a series of talks from publishers and writers. There was a small entrance fee for the public (which included purchase of the programme booklet) and we arranged for refreshments and food.

Scríf-Celt made a profit and folk did come across from the London Book Fair to see what was happening in the Celtic world. I recall that many of the exhibiting publishers made deals with publishers from various countries who came along. The publicity even surpassed my expectations. To show you the range – we had features in The Guardian, even Isvestia and a 15 minute programme on Greek Radio … just to name a few”.

There is a retrospect on ‘Scrif-Celt’ in the archive copy of CARN Summer 1985. (link);


Following the success of the initial Scrif-Celt a second went ahead. Peter recalled:

“This was held over two days – April 4/5, 1986, again at the London Welsh Centre and again hitting the same time as the London Book Fair. I asked Alan Heussaff to come on the committee and a Debbie Mason and Andrew Marshall also. This time we had 36 exhibitors but many of these incorporated groups of publishers on the same stand, so it was not as if we had really lost half of the interest. Our programme book was as substantial as ever with 52 publishers taking advertising. We had the same format, exhibitors; speakers etc and once more, achieved some excellent publicity.”

Peter had to end his involvement with the Committee after the second fair due to his literary commitments which included a tour to publicise his work in North America.

He believes that the failure to continue ‘Scrif-Celt’ surrounded conflicting ideas of whether it should stay in London (linked to the London Book Fair as originally envisaged) or should circulate on an annual basis to some of the larger Celtic capitals such as Edinburgh or Dublin.

There was obviously merit in both arguments but apparently these were never reconciled and the event folded.

However if anything the Celtic countries today are even more endowed with Literary talent and publishing has been stimulated by both the internet and new technologies.

Perhaps ‘Scrif-Celt’ was an idea ahead of its time? Possibly an opportunity awaits anyone with the drive to revive what was a unique idea.

As for Peter Beresford Ellis (PBE) he tells me he still keeps busy. His fiction work, written under the names Peter Tremayne and Peter MacAlan, continues to generate a good following, there is even a International Sister Fidelma Society associated with his – Peter Tremayne – Sister Fidlema medieval detective mysteries. Two additions to the Fidelma list; ‘The Devils Seal’ and ‘The Second Death’ were published this year.

Meanwhile a number of the many non fiction works he has written, including his seminal, History of the Irish Working Class and the Scottish Insurrection of 1820 etc have now been published in Spanish!

PBE has written many books on the Celts including the Celtic Dawn and Celtic Women. His brief History of the Celts was recently reissued on AUDIBLE, producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet.




Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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