An evening of film of Galway in the old days

AS PART of the People’s History of Galway weekend at the Town Hall, the venue is hosting what promises to be a fascinating evening of seldom-seen films showing life in and around Galway from the 1940s to the 1960s. The evening is presented by IFI National in collaboration with the Town Hall and the programme is drawn from the IFI Irish Film Archive.

The films, which are all factual, include works by both amateur and professional film-makers from home and abroad. The documentaries and newsreels uncover a wealth of stories from Galway’s past – island evacuations, air rescues, fishermen’s strikes, and ploughing competitions and a selection of travelogues celebrate the people, the landscape, the town, and the old Claddagh.

The programme is being curated by IFI archivist Sunniva O’Flynn and, over an afternoon phone chat, she outlined some of the attractions audiences can look forward to seeing.

“It’s very exciting for us to be involved in this project,” she begins, “ and to be able to bring these films to Galway and an engaged audience. We’ve shown some of them before at the Galway Film Fleadh but that’s a different kind of audience to what we can expect next weekend at the Town Hall.

“The films we’ve assembled are varied and fascinating,” she continues as she details some of the programme highlights. “There’s a silent film called King of the Tribes which was shot in Ballinasloe in 1947 by an amateur film-maker called Kevin Murray. It’s about a stone-carver called Patrick Regan and his brother as they make a headstone for a traveller called John Ward, and the stone includes the inscription ‘King of the Tribes’.

“It includes portraits of traveller men, women and children – and I use the term portraits because you can see they had a relationship with the film-maker, they take turns standing before his camera to be recorded.

“Another film we have is called Tír na nÓg which also dates from the 1940s and was made by a trio of Welsh film-makers who came to Ireland to pursue their interest in Celtic culture. It depicts the O’Neachtain family from Spiddal and the film affectionately documents their lives as farmers. We’ve been in touch with members of the family and they’ll be coming along, and it’s nice to be able to have that kind of personalised heritage in an event like this.”

The evening is titled The Glamour of Galway, which is also the title of one of the main films in the programme, a colour feature made by Bord Fáilte in 1957.

“It gives a glowing portrait of Galway at that time,” O’Sullivan declares. “It looks at Galway city and I think people will be charmed to see the things that have changed since then and the things that have stayed the same. It was made for promotional purposes and copies would have been circulated to Irish consulates and embassies around the world.”

While films like Glamour of Galway present an up-beat and picturesque image of life at the time, O’Sullivan reveals that there are also works in the programme which address some of the problem issues of the era.

“Some of the films we’re showing will appeal on a nostalgic level but there are others that introduce alternate perspectives on life in the region and give an idea of what people were thinking,” she says. “There’s an American documentary from 1959, presented by Walter Cronkite, titled Ireland, The Tear and the Smile which talks about emigration; it shows a family from Carna whose son is preparing to emigrate.”

O’Sullivan also reveals that there will be live musical accompaniment for the silent films in the programme from local pianist Morgan Cooke.

“Morgan is an intelligent and accomplished musician,” she says, “and I think having the live accompaniment will really enhance the whole experience of watching the films.”

The Glamour of Galway takes place at the Town Hall on Friday June 3 at 8pm. Tickets are €8/6 from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

 

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