A COUPLE of weeks ago I spent a day at the Hay Festival, arguably the UK’s best-known literary event where readers get to hear directly from the mouths of writers how and why they put their thoughts on paper.

Casting around for a session to attend, I spotted one by Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe who has just published a second edition of his classic book about The Ancient Celts after more than 20 years.

I enjoy my history anyway but this struck a particular chord because it promised to use the very latest archaeological finds and huge advances in analysing DNA to turn much of what he’d previously written on its head.

Now, as I happened to own a copy of the first edition, the naturalised Yorkshireman in me thought briefly about whether I should be asking for my money back (and I might have done if they’d let me have the microphone during the audience Q&A!). But, mainly, I was intrigued to find out how our understanding of the origins of many of the inhabitants of these islands could have apparently changed so dramatically.

As briefly as I can put it (and as far as I understand it), experts have always thought that many of the people of Scotland, Wales and Ireland (and parts of England) originated from a race of barbarians from central northern Europe who were fierce warriors and skilled craftsmen.

However, the new theories suggest they are much more closely linked genetically to the people of southern Europe, especially Spain and Sardinia, and that their ancestors stretch from as far away as Bosnia and the Middle East. It is also believed there was a second wave of migration from the steppes of Russia and Ukraine.

At least, that’s what I took away from it, although the reality is that no written records exist from that time so it’s still a subject of heated debate among historians and archaeologists.

Why do I mention all this? Well, while I was listening to this fascinating lecture, my thoughts drifted to why we are engaged in the traumatic upheaval that is Brexit and what impact migration had on the Referendum’s majority vote to leave the EU.

It seemed to me that Prof Cunliffe’s theories, as well as the ideas of those who might disagree with him, all point to one inalienable fact: whether we like it or not, the indigenous people of these islands are all European to some degree. If you don’t believe me, buy one of those TV-advertised DNA kits and find out for yourself.

And that fact alone makes a nonsense of Brexit. If you ask most people why they voted to leave Europe, most will either say to escape excessive, centralised bureaucracy or to reduce the number of “foreigners” coming to this country, or both.

As we can see from recent headlines in the Telegraph & Argus, the mere fact we’re engaged in the process is having the effect the Leavers desired; latest statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions, show that fewer EU citizens are registering for national insurance numbers in Bradford than before the Brexit vote.

And we’ve all seen the stories that show agriculture, industry and the NHS are already struggling to recruit the staff they need….

The bitter irony of all this is that 2018 is the European year of Cultural Heritage, when we are supposed to be celebrating our diverse cultural heritage, at EU, national, regional and local level.

The aim is to “encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe’s cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space.”

The slogan for the year is “Our heritage: where the past meets the future.”

I can’t help but wonder what the Barry Cunliffes of the future will make of the fact that “modern” man failed so completely to understand that we Europeans had far more in common than we were willing to accept.

* No right to interfere with bereaveds' grief

I’M NOT a fan of cuddly toys being left on gravestones by the bereaved but I absolutely understand why some people do it and I have sympathy for those who feel the need to express their feelings in this way.

Once there, though, it’s up to the cemetery authorities to decide what to do with them and justify their policy. For anyone else to interfere – as those who removed the teddies from several memorials at Nab Wood Crematorium and lined them up on a bench did – is disgusting. Let people grieve in peace.

* One piece of heritage to take without pinch of salt

ON THE subject of cultural traditions, there’s nothing more “English” than a fried breakfast. I enjoy one as much as anybody but, these days, I see it as an occasional treat.

Why? Because much as I like it, I get the fact that it’s just not good for me. There’s a common thread when local newspapers interview local people who reach the grand age of 100; they almost always put the secret of longevity down to “all things in moderation”.

So I have to take issue with Morrisons supermarket when it says it has introduced its 19-piece “Big Daddy Breakfast” because “customers have asked for one that’s even bigger” than their normal fry-up. Eating too much is as bad for you as eating inherently fattening food. Putting temptation in people’s way is simply irresponsible.