The Irish Story
Location Hunting on the West Coast of Ireland. The trail of "Ryan's Daughter" & "Far and Away" - July 2004
|Read more at|
The 70mm Newsletter
|Written and photographed by: Thomas Hauerslev. This Article first published in Cinema Retro, September 2006.||Date: 3. October 2006|
|Is it Robert Mitchum? - No, it's the editor with his new hat in original Irish tweed. |
During a 10 day visit to Ireland in July 2004 my family and I spent some hours looking for traces from "Ryan's Daughter" and "Far and Away". From the top of a mountain to the very edge of the west coast, join me on a re-visit to some of the worlds most beautiful and fantastic 70mm movie locations. A fully illustrated personal photo album from the west coast of Ireland. See what is left of "Ryan's Daughter" fictional town of Kirrary and see the filming locations including Coumeenole Beach, The shool house and Inch beach.
Memorabilia from both "Ryan´s Daughter" and "Far And Away" can be found many places in the town of Dingle, Tig Slea Head, Krügers Pub (Dunquin) and at the Fahan group bee hives. The visit also included a visit to The Irish Todd-AO Trace - but that is a story that has yet to be written.
Pictures from the West Coast
• Go to Galley 1994: Visit to Dunquin, Ireland 1994
• Go to Galley 2004: Location Hunting on the West Coast of Ireland
• Go to Galley 2016: The school house from "Ryan's Daughter"
Did you ever hear the expression “Location Hunting”? I first came across it around 1992 when I saw a “home movie” filmed in Dunquin and Dingle, Ireland, two small towns on the west coast where David Lean had filmed “Ryan’s Daughter” in 1968-69. The videotape was skilfully edited as a “then and now” montage intercut with footage from the MGM film. I was intrigued to see this. It had never occurred to me that it could be interesting to see where movies had actually been made. This was a completely new and unique idea for a movie buff: travel and visit the sites of your favourite movies.
This story is about our visit to Ireland in July 2004. It’s a country we have come to love because of its friendly people and absolutely stunning nature. We spent a week in a rented house, and I looked forward to visiting the filming locations from “Ryan’s Daughter” and “Far and Away”, both photographed in breathtaking Super Panavision 70mm film in the small village of Dunquin, which was conveniently very close to our house. Numerous motion pictures have been produced on the Dingle Peninsula over the years, but “Ryan's Daughter” is probably the most famous. The film is mentioned almost everywhere in Dingle tourist brochures.
From the remote movie location on a mountain top, to the very edge of the west coast - join me searching for film traces and memorabilia - which can still be found in many places. See the image gallery of the world’s most beautiful and fantastic 70mm movie location, the fictional town of “Kirrary” and the School House, do not miss the Cliffs of Moher, library of Dingle, Tig Slea Head & Coumeenole Beach, Kruger’s Bar and Guesthouse in Dunquin, Inch beach and, at the Fahan group beehives.
There weren’t many movie souvenirs to purchase, and I settled for a miniaturized US 1-sheet “Ryan’s Daughter” poster printed on metal. I did look for a copy of “Movies Made in Ireland” book about “Ryan's Daughter”, but was unable to locate it. A book in Irish about the filming of “Ryan´s Daughter” is available and in Dunquin. Oh, and I did buy myself a hat so I would at least look a little like Robert Mitchum. I settled for a “Hanna Hat” in 100% Donegal tweed and woven wool.
Unlike our first visit in 1992, where we stayed at a Murphy's B&B in Dingle, we had rented a house in Dooneen Ballydavid, literally on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Next door was a B&B fish restaurant, and apart from that, there was no other commercial development, except the road. We could take in the fresh air and the spectacular view of the Three Sisters and the Atlantic Ocean in very unspoilt conditions and surroundings. I highly recommend visiting the Dingle Peninsula for its beauty, not to overlook also their fine beers and friendly people.
|More in 70mm reading:|
Galley 1994: Visit to Dunquin, Ireland 1994
Galley 2004: Location Hunting on the West Coast of Ireland.
Galley 2016: The school house from "Ryan's Daughter"
Saving Ryan's Daughter
The School House
|The School House in 2004 with a 70mm frame blow-up as it looked in the 1970 film. Now a ruin beaten by the weather. In 2015 the roof fell in during a storm.|
In Dunquin we drove along “Slea Head Drive”, road R559, but were unable to see the structure as it turned out to be not visible from the road. I remembered access to the house was a short walk across a field, but I only had a vague memory of it from my first visit 12 years earlier. We asked at the Kruger’s Bar and Guesthouse, and the bartender said he would be a millionaire if he had charged a Euro for every one asking directions to the schoolhouse. With a smile he walked to the window and pointed towards a house, which was easily visible about a kilometre away. “Just beyond that house” he explained.
Kruger’s Bar and Guesthouse in Dunquin is the most westerly bar in Europe and named after Kruger Kavanagh. Cast and crewmembers often visited the bar during filming of "Ryan's Daughter" and also "Far and Away". Local Dingle and Dunquin people were cast as extras in both films and the “wall of fame” at Kruger’s Bar's displays a remarkable collection of stills.
We drove the car as close as we could get to the school house, but had to stop short of the actual site, since fence climbing is unsuitable for children. The schoolhouse is also very close to the The Great Blasket Centre and I believe there is a narrow pathway from the centre along the cliff leading out to the house, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Some days later we came back and my wife dropped me along the roadside. She proceeded to Clogher beach with the children and I was on my own solo challenge! This was it! Fences and sheep are only minor obstacles for a dedicated and intrepid Location Hunter. How deadly can sheep be anyway? On a bright sunny morning I walked towards the house, and it slowly appeared in the distance. It was exciting to see it again. I could see the roof to begin with and gradually, as I came closer, the Atlantic Ocean and house came into full view.
To my right was Clogher Head where Ron Howard built his set for “Far and Away” in 1991. In between, was the land where the military base was built for “Ryan’s Daughter” – both of those sets are completely gone.
|"Ryan's Daughter" school house seen from north. After filming had been completed in 1969, the house was abandoned and has fallen into complete disrepair ever since.|
The property is fenced in to keep the sheep in place and I only had to cross the final line to have a perfect look at the house – which is now a complete ruin. I approached the house from the north and noticed there were other people there. Not so deserted after all and confirming what the Kruger bartender had told us a few days earlier.
After filming had been completed in 1969, the house was abandoned and has fallen into complete disrepair ever since. Only the roof and front walls are intact. There is nothing inside, and the rear of the house is completely gone. The sheep use the house as a shelter and they have left their “business card” everywhere. There is no window glass left in the house - it's really a ruin.
As fascinating as it is to stand right in the middle of the house, it is very sad that nothing has been done to preserve it. It could be a major tourist attraction - as it is already - but the local authorities may not realise the significance of what they have. It’s definitely an international goal for those on 70mm and David Lean pilgrimages.
Unlike other famous location which are “only” used as background and setting, this is the reel deal (forgive the joke). Usually movie-set buildings are demolished and removed after use. The fact that the schoolhouse is still standing is what makes it unique. It’s a fictional house – a movie prop so to speak – never used by real humans. But it’s still standing after all these years.
I examined the house from every possible angle, took a lot of pictures and walked back across the field toward my next goal – Kirrary.
Kirrary on top of the hill
|"Kirrary town" Then and now (in 2004). Do you recognize those hills in the background? It's the 516 meter Mount Eagle.|
Kirrary was a complete town built on top of the 250 meter Cruach Mharthain, a hill just north of Dunquin. It is easily accessible via a narrow path, (unofficially) The Kirrary Way, leading all the way up and across the hills. It is a beautiful 4 kilometer (and 40 min.) walk, and just as you feel completely alone, someone else is up there walking. You greet them. The hill is covered with grass and multicoloured sheep are the only inhabitants. As you proceed onwards the view is fantastic. Mount Eagle in front of you, and behind you the Atlantic Ocean is magnificently visible. The schoolhouse is just beyond a hill so it cannot be seen. The footpath makes a left turn as you go up, up and up the hill. It is a very scenic tour and this day the weather was wonderful and very windy.
Suddenly the footpath goes from small stones to regular cobblestone street pavement and you can easily see there is an actual a road. Full of excitement you suddenly find yourself in David Lean territory. Traces of something built yet now vanished. No houses remain any more; they were all torn down after the movie’s completion. But the stone foundations can still be seen – even after 35 years.
I had brought frame blow-ups and two cameras to document the tour. Any enthusiast will bring still images to the site - to compare between film and reality. Do you recognize those hills in the background? It's the 516 meter Mount Eagle.
One of the houses was Ryan's Pub - can I have a pint of beer please? I spent half an hour enjoying the view and imagined I could hear the echoes of David Lean, Sarah Miles, Freddie Young, Robert Mitchum and Leo McKern, all who once worked here. The view from the hill is absolutely stunning.
Rather than taking the same route back, I then walked straight down the hill towards Clogher Beach where the rest of the family was playing.
Far and Away
|Mrs. Mary Houlihan showed us all her private photos from the filming of “Far and Away”. She also appears in the beginning of the film, as a mourner dressed up in period clothing. |
To finalize the day’s sightseeing we drove along the Slea Head road to see the famous bee hive huts. Along the way I looked for the “Far and Away” location from the beginning of the film, where Tom Cruise’s character is fighting his brothers on a hillside. We left the car on the parking lot next to the beehives. I compared the landscape with frame blow-ups and became convinced we had found the correct spot. I took the usual pictures, but there is nothing left to see. The set was burned (as you see in the movie), and later the charred remains were removed.
In an attempt to verify if I was correct about the location, I asked a lady across the road. Imagine my delight when she confirmed it, and then she quickly found her photo album and showed me all her private photos from the filming of “Far and Away”. She continued on to tell us that, not only did we find the right spot, but she also appears in the beginning of the film, as a mourner dressed up in period clothing. She owns the property, and her son built the house for the film in 1991, when Hollywood came to this spot for five days for filming "Far and Away".
Her name is Mrs. Mary Houlihan, a widow now for more than 20 years. She has lived in the same house since 1957 and has six children, three boys and three daughters. Her daughter Siophian Houlihan also appeared in “Ryan’s Daughter”. Mary showed us stills of her in full costume as a schoolhouse child.
My family and I had a look at the beehives and were amazed by Mary Houlihan and her story and pictures. On our way home to our rented house we agreed that Mrs. Houlihan had been the highlight of our vacation. Mary was such a completely and totally overwhelming positive surprise. I gave her all my laminated “Far and Away” images as a expression of gratitude for her personal additions to my quest.
Other places of interest
|Cliffs of Moher in County Clare 230 meters straight down to the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.|
The schoolhouse and the Kirrary location are the top attractions, but there are other places worth seeing. The most impressive is probably the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. About 250 kilometers north of, and a full 4-5 hour drive from, the Dingle peninsula. The cliffs are seen early in “Ryan’s Daughter” and they are truly magnificent – 230 meters straight down to the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
On the Dingle peninsula at Minard Head you will find the Minard Castle ruin seen briefly in “Ryan's Daughter”, and of course the Inch beach where much of the film takes place.
At the library in Dingle, they have a ring binder with MGM still images from "Ryan's Daughter" and a couple of books. The kind staff brought them out for me to peruse and visitors can browse the stills.
The title page reads:
“This book of photographs is presented to the Carnegie Library in deep appreciation of the kind and unstinting co-operation we have received during the past year from the people of the Dingle Peninsula. Faraway Productions 6th December 1969. Photographs by Ken Bray and Ken Danvers”.
In Dingle, I was unable to find the old railway station, which was used as the prop shop during production of "Ryan's Daughter" but I did find this undertakers shop on the road leading into Dingle, which was used as costume shop.
Outside Dick Mack's pub in Dingle there are “movie stars” on the pavement. On the corridor walls of the Dingle Skellig Hotel plenty of “behind the scenes” images are displayed.
The shop “Tig Slea Head” is a combined café, craft shop and museum dedicated to "Ryan’s Daughter" memories. Their brochure advertises this as “Museum Memorabilia” for the film. And, indeed, posters (French, British and a US 1-sheet) and images are placed everywhere on the walls between sweaters, snacks and postcards. Even a VHS video of “Ryan's Daughter” is sold (in pan and scan). By an odd coincidence, the storm sequence was playing on the TV when I was there – the scene was filmed just across the road at Couminoole beach with its characteristic road leading all the way down to the beach.
Comments about Location Hunting on the West Coast of Ireland. The trail of "Ryan's Daughter" & "Far and Away"
|News of this article reached UK newspapers too, 28. October 2007.|
Click to see enlargement
I was born and I live in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), but since very young I dreamt of a place that wasn't part of the nature that surrounds me.
When I saw "Ryan's Daughter", long, long time ago, I recognized it and ever since I decide I should go to Ireland… Well, many, many, years and travels later, I decided that this year I´ll send my birthday there and I will visit the site where the film was shot. I am writing you because I found your trip there in 2004 very useful to me. It opened a lot of fronts, and I am sure it will make my trip easier and richer. So, thank you, and the best 2010, with good trips and happiness!
All the best
Suzana, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Hello, I went to Dunquin last week and I wanted to see that school about the film with Mitchum and it was a great emotion to see it. But it's a ruin still bad since you took the pictures in 2006. I think it's a pity that nobody near the place takes good care about because that school owns to the history of cinema. (sorry for my very bad english!).
After I went to Cong where sites about "The Quiet Man" are in better situation of conservation. What we can do about that situation? To sign any text to send to the Mayor of Dunquin? Sincerely to you, because I could recognize the school after seing your photographs on the web!
I am excited to be able to tell you about a new book, printed this year called "TROUBLED EPIC on location with Ryan's Daughter" by Michael Tanner and published by The Collins Press,West Link Park, Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork. My friend, who has just returned from Dunquin saw someone with it and she asked where they had bought it. They told her that the shop only had one copy left, so she went and bought it. It is in three parts. Part1 - A TROUBLESOME DAUGHTER : Rosy's Story, Rosy's Conception, Finding Rosy a Home, The Last Travelling Circus, Trouble on Set: Lean and his Actors, Trouble Off Set: Location Fever and A Legend on Location: Mitch Enters Dingle Folklore. Part 2 - TRACKING HER DOWN : Finding the Principal Locations and The Role of Each Location. Part 3 - BIDDING HER FAREWELL: God Save our Lean: from the critics and God Save Our Lean: for his legacy. There is also an Appendix: Cast, Credits and Awards. It is full of black and white photo's, many of which I doubt you will have seen and it is full of information. I have borrowed it but haven't started to read it yet. I thought you would want to know about it.
Just for your information, Kruger's Bar in Dunquin has closed down. Apparently, the Landlady wasn't a very nice person and locals decided not to go in there any more and they didn't - (we know how the Irish can be very stubborn). It is up for sale for over £2,000,000. I think it is very sad, because it has such a history, and Kruger himself, will be turning in his grave.
Penny Taylor, UK
|The shop “Tig Slea Head” is a combined café, craft shop and museum dedicated to "Ryan’s Daughter" memories. |
Have just read the Irish Story and would like to make one or two comments. Our first visit to the Dingle Penninsula was in 2001 which was inspired by the film "Ryan's Daughter", and we have been back there every year since (twice in 2002) until last year.
We actually spotted the schoolhouse from the top of Clogher Head, so finding that was quite easy. Whilst there, a local pointed out a flattish green area across the road from Clogher Head just underneath the crags of rock on the side of the hill, facing South, saying that it was the site of the Military Base. We walked up to it and were convinced that we had found the site of the Military Base, as there was quite a large flat area of overgrown concrete with other remnants of structures. Part of the schoolhouse roof can be seen from there. You say in your article that the site has completely gone, but we have to disagree. We had no idea where the village scene was, but from quite a high vantage point one day, my husband announced that he thought he had seen it, using the binoculars. The next day, we took a walk up the road opposite the Blasket Centre, and sure enough, we came upon the cobbled street. You say that it was built on top of the 250 metre Cruach Mharthain. Although high up, it is not on the top. I climbed Cruach Mharthain (403 metres) last year from a parking area by the mast on top of Mam Classach. We had already been to Inch Strand and Coumeenole and recognised both from the film. We also recognised Minard as the tower where the Major and Rose met on horseback. I didn't know that the old railway station was used as a prop shop. I had always been curious as to where the old railway station was sited, and a couple of years ago I bought a book entitled "A Dark Day on the Blaskets" by Micheal O Dubhshlaine, and quote the following - "Today the station itself is a funeral parlour. The platform behind is covered in rubbish and the site of the turntable a parking site for buses and porter barrels. All that is recognisable as belonging to a train station is the water tower where the engine was watered before setting out." You were right on the spot.
Back in 2002, I searched high and low for a copy of "Movies made in Ireland about the filming of "Ryan's Daughter" but in vain. They did had a copy at Tig Slea Head, but it was the shop copy and I was told that it was out of print. On the way home we called in at Sammy's Store on Inch Strand, and he had quite a number of copies, and so I couldn't believe my luck. He told me that he had bought a "job lot." I haven't seen it since. If you haven't been able to get hold of a copy since, I would be pleased to copy it for you, though it is not like having the real thing. In it, a local says that they shouldn't have filmed the film, they should have filmed Robert Mitchum's wild parties"! We have heard one or two stories about the storm scene itself having been filmed in South Africa and other places, but no-one seems to know for sure. Like you, we have often wondered why everything was left to go to rack and ruin, and can only assume that there was so much opposition to the making of the film in that area. Something else that I read once was that as David Lean was heading towards Dunquin all those years ago, he went through Anascaul where an old forge which stood next to The South Pole Inn was being dismantled. He is supposed to have bought the stone that went into building parts of the village and the schoolhouse.
I enjoyed your Irish Story and would have loved to have seen the home movie filmed in Dunquin and Dingle. No doubt we will be back in Ireland, but not this year. We are heading to Scotland. Before I go, one book that I do recommend is "Hungry for Home" by Cole Moreton. It is fact and fiction, based on a family of Kearney's who lived on the Great Blasket. He follows those who went to Springfield and those who stayed behind on the mainland.
All the best
Penny Taylor, UK
|Local Dingle and Dunquin people were cast as extras in both films and the “wall of fame” at Kruger’s Bar's displays a remarkable collection of stills.|
Just to let you know Thomas that the memorabilia is still hanging on the wall at Krugers. My friend said that it looks like the landlady has just walked out leaving everything as it is, and simply locked the door behind her She wouldn't have any other option, as the pictures belong to the bar and not to her. Whoever buys it eventually, will inherit them, or should do. I can't see the price being achieved, but you never know. There are some very rich people in the world. Shame I'm not one of them!
I´m so happy for having found your site!! I´ve been looking for traces of "Ryan's Daughter" since 1971. When I saw for the first tim this wonderful film. And only today: November 25 (2006) I found the answers for my questions. Traces?... What´s left? Thanks for showing everything I need to see. I'm Brazilian and I have never been to Ireland. Now You've gave to me several images and tips to some day to be in the right places, just to see the places you and your family saw. thanks for the rest of my life!
Some years ago, after reading your articles about the locations of "Ryan's Daughter", I decided to go there. It took me many years, but I did!! And today must say thank you, because I'm sure that would be impossible without your tips. Thanks. I invite you to click in one YouTube vídeo I did. Very short but speaks for itself. There's also a Picture my Facebook cover. It was wonderful to climb that Hill.
Elizabeth Raffo, Brazil
Maps of Dingle / Dunquin
| || |
|Go: back - top - back issues - news index|