Category Archives: Dublin

When the Cureheads invaded Ballsbridge

It had been hot all week. On Monday 10 July 1989 I was woken by powerful sunshine. “Five days to go” I thought to myself. The Cure were playing in the RDS the following Saturday and I couldn’t wait. I had been to a handful of concerts before but this was the big one. For the previous two months I had been playing Disintegration every night. My favourite way to absorb it was via headphones as I drifted off to sleep.

After a televisual diet of Wiseguy, Snub TV and Degrassi Junior High, Friday afternoon finally rolled around. I left work at 3.00pm and went home to grab my gear. Bus Eireann’s New Ross to Dublin service was taking off at 4.50pm and this quartet of Cure fans were determined to get on board. We touched down in Busáras at about 8.00pm and were met by some friends. Some unimpressive fast food followed. We then toyed with the idea of checking out Bartley Dunnes [none of us had actually been there at that point] but eventually decided on heading towards our base in Sandymount.

Some pints were consumed outside O’Reilly’s pub on Seafort Avenue and additional food supplies purchased from the 7Eleven. The remainder of the Friday night passed by in a haze of smoke, The Smiths on the stereo and some interminably long-winded party game called Personal Questions. We eventually crashed at about 3.30am but none of us could sleep – presumably due to the mounting excitement. Instead we made a quick trip to the nearby beach to welcome in the dawn and watch the tide go out.

Saturday was another glorious day. At times like these I really wish I had the foresight to carry a camera. Thankfully some people did manage to capture the moment. Here is a marvellous snapshot of Cure fans taken outside an Inchicore house on that morning of 15 July.

It was time to use the DART for the first time. The morning was spent in and out of record shops like Comet, Freebird and the Virgin Megastore. All of us bought at least one record. The Fall’s Seminal Live and The Wedding Present’s Ukrainian Peel Sessions were among my purchases. There was no turntable in the apartment so we spent the afternoon listening to Japan and The Sugarcubes on cassette. At about 4.00pm the preparations began. The black clothes went on and the front room was turned into a mini hair-salon. Let the backcombing begin!

By the time we left for the RDS the conditions were extremely hot and sticky. We walked up Sandymount Avenue and almost wilted. Black-clad, mascara-streaked and hairspray-soaked temples. Then we reached the top of the road and gasped. The Curehead army was marching through Ballsbridge. Our time had come; this was our day. We may have been marginalised in our respective hometowns but this was truly a gathering of the tribe. A number 18 bus swung around onto the main road; its occupants stared at us with a mixture of shock and probably pity.

Finally it was time to get out of the searing sunshine and into the fiery, sweaty cauldron that was Simmonscourt. The atmosphere was highly-charged with expectation. I saw a number of guys standing at the side of the arena. They were inhaling Tippex in full view of the St John’s ambulance men. The first support act came on – Shelleyan Orphan – and gave us a competent set, Shatter was the highlight. It was still quite easy to get to a decent vantage point so I made my way towards the front. There were loads of Dead Kennedys Bedtime For Democracy t-shirts. All About Eve came next and Julianne Regan wore a see-through white dress. I thought she looked amazing. Martha’s Harbour and all that.

The Cure finally came on stage to the chimes of Plainsong. Robert Smith sang those immortal opening lines.

“I think it’s dark and it looks like rain.”

A young female goth approached me and asked to get on my shoulders. She wanted to take some photographs. Being a gentlemen I obliged her. The crowd surged forward and I temporarily lost my friends in the crush. I didn’t drop the lady at this point but her dead weight gradually began to have an effect. By the end of Closedown she was thrown on the floor. Sorry again – whoever you are. During A Night Like This I took a breather. The lack of sleep was taking its toll. My mates were at the right hand wall where a guy had fainted and was being stretchered off by paramedics.

It was an epic set. Poppier numbers mixed with brooding epics. Lovesong‘s drift into Charlotte Sometimes was fantastic; A Forest was immense while the “gloom trilogy” of Same Deep Waters As You, Prayers For Rain and Disintegration was thrillingly miserable on a massive scale. We got two encores – a short sharp set of more immediate tunes like Close To Me and Let’s Go To Bed before a longer a meandering seven track sequence of brilliance. Hot Hot Hot was quickly followed by a beguiling version of A Strange Day and the two “Boys” numbers. By the time they concluded with an epic 14 minute best-version-ever Faith (with added lyrics – listen to it below!), almost three hours had passed. I was exhausted. 23 years have passed and I’ve been to hundreds of gigs since then. This is still number one.

We walked back to Sandymount afterwards in a state of quiet contentment and unexpressed awe. Sleep finally came after a few beers. Meagre funds and work commitments (a “proper” summer job in an office) did not permit me to stick around for the following night’s gig. My abiding memory of the Sunday morning is being part a group of dishevelled youths dressed in black frantically half-running through a pre-regeneration Temple Bar and down the Quays. We had a bus to catch. Time to return to civilian life.

Set list
Plainsong
Pictures of You
Closedown
Kyoto Song
A Night Like This
Just Like Heaven
Last Dance
Fascination St

Lovesong
Charlotte Sometimes
The Walk
A Forest
In Between Days
Same Deep Water As You
Prayers For Rain
Disintegration

Lullaby
Close To Me
Let’s Go To Bed
Why Can’t I Be You

Hot Hot Hot
A Strange Day
Three Imaginary Boys
Boys Don’t Cry
Homesick
Untitled
Faith

Postscript
4 August 2016: It turns out that somebody had taken a photograph after all. I’m on the left.

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Photo credits
1) Ryaller, 2) Blogtrotter Revival, 3) Where Were You / Vincent McCormack / Gavin Paisley
4) Jarlath Slattery, 5) Impression of Sounds, 6) Jenny Murphy O’Neill

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Canvas Of Life

Minor Detail were an Irish synth pop duo from Blackrock, Co Dublin consisting of two brothers – John and Willie Hughes. They became the first Irish band to secure a deal with a US label – signing to Polydor in 1983. Their debut single Canvas of Life was released in October of that year with their self-titled album following shortly afterwards. The LP was produced by Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame. It’s a curious piece of melancholia with some rather heartfelt themes encompassing world peace, positivity / success in life and tentative romances.

Canvas of Life was also promoted by a video single which received a number of plays on the first season of MT USA. It’s a soaring pop tune with a heavy reliance on the Roland SVC-350 vocoder. The video was shot in Dublin and features some evocative footage of St Stephen’s Green.
I remember Fab Vinnie being particularly fond of it. However sales were lacklustre and the band broke up during the summer of 1984 after their second single (Why) Take It Again?  A brief reunion in 1986 produced two more singles but no meaningful critical acclaim. John Hughes later went on to manage The Corrs.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx

Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx was adapted from a Gabriel Walsh screenplay and directed by Waris Hussein in 1970. The vast majority of the scenes were filmed in Dublin. It remains one of the most unusual films of the decade, sharing a kindred spirit with the likes of Harold and Maude, Electra Glide In Blue and Brewster McCloud. The anti-hero is Gene Wilder’s Quackser Fortune; a man who makes his living in a most unusual way – by collecting waste and then selling it on.

“Horse manure. Fresh dung!”

Quackser’s family do not share his enthusiasm for crap. His parents (Seamus Forde and May Ollis) want him to take a position in the local foundry while the Minister for Transport has condemned Dublin’s delivery horses as “relics of a dead past” and is anxious for them to be pensioned off. But Quackser soldiers on and happily pushes his wheelbarrow through our city centre (shot with a dingy eye by Gil Taylor). His initial female interest is Betsy Bourke (played by Eileen Colgan of Glenroe and Fair City fame). There’s a bizarre scene that shows the two of them discussing jam, marmalade and tea before stripping off at her kitchen table.

But true love strikes in the form of Zazel Pierce, a flakey exchange student from Connecticut who is
studying at Trinity College. Margot Kidder excels in this role – only her second film performance. She is full of tourist-guide information about the city that she quickly imparts to the Quackser. There’s a fairly instant chemistry between them that culminates in a memorable scene in the local pub where Zazel gives up her shoes to leather-expert Maguire (David Kelly).

Just like Godot, Quackser’s Bronx-based cousin never materialises. There is something intangible about his existence – spoken in reverent tones by the family but far removed from their drudge-filled lives in Ireland. Quackser and Zazel’s romance is also difficult to sustain – an underlying edge being present throughout despite their obvious passion for each other. This sense of doom bears fruit at the Trinity College Boat Club ball where Zazel’s boorish friends humilate the gauche Quackser. A hasty trip to a nearby hotel re-affirms their ultimate incompatability. It seems that Zazel has found herself.

The final quarter of the film centres on Quackser’s reaction to the ending of this brief affair. He liberates the horses from Spencer Dock (now condemned to death as the engine has taken over) and decides to emigrate to New York. But first there’s a pretty grotesque and hallucinatory pub scene. And then the denouement about his Bronx cousin that neatly determines his future career. The non-conformist has learned from experience and found his proper niche.

Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Park works on a number of different levels – as an offbeat romantic comedy and as a quirky portrait of a man that defiantly ploughs his own furrow. The cinematography captures some wonderful images of late 1960s Dublin. The complete film can be watched on YouTube with the first part here.  I’ll leave you with the official trailer.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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The Liberty Belles

The Liberty Belles were formed in 1969, out of the Francis Street Parish Club in Dublin. The area is known as The Liberties – hence the name of the girls’ singing group. Originally a dozen members, the numbers had swelled to 30 singers and a total membership of over 60 by the time that this album was released. Their mentor was local priest Father Foley who enlisted the support of Tom Gregory (guitar), Shay O’Donoghue (piano and organ) and Frank McCarthy. The LP was recorded in the Eamonn Andrews Studios in Dublin and released by Dolphin Records in 1971; Dolphin Discs being the name of a long-running record shop located in Talbot Street.

The album has been compared to The Langley Schools Music Project which is not too far off the mark. Given the era there is the inevitable Hair connection. Two tracks from the hit musical are featured – a serene Good Morning Starshine and a groovy Aquarius.

Hurry Home and Snowbird (made famous by Anne Murray) are plaintively performed with a maturity that belies the girls’ tender years – their ages ranged between 11 and 15.  A haunting version of Brahms Lullaby concludes a most entertaining first half.

There’s a spiritual vibe on side two with righteous versions of Oh Happy Day and Amazing Grace. After competent takes of the catchy Scarlet Ribbons and harmonious Yellow Bird, the LP finishes on an apt note – the togetherness anthem of positivity known as United We Stand.

However my favourite track on this charming LP is their version of the Cuban classic Guantanamera. I love hearing the spoken word section being delivered in a Dublin accent.

Full tracklist.

Side 1
01 Good Morning Starshine
02 Hurry Home
03 Snowbird
04 Guantanamera
05 I Made So Many Friends
06 The Lullaby

Side 2
07 Oh Happy Day
08 Scarlet Ribbons
09 Aquarius
10 Amazing Grace
11 Yellow Bird
12 United We Stand

(by nlgbbbblth)

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A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton

A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton was directed by Brian MacLochlainn in 1971 and received its television premiere on RTÉ during December of that year. It’s a gritty and accompolished attempt at social realism which proved that we could make urban drama to the same high standard as our British counterparts. And just as downbeat too – as illustrated by John Kavanagh’s well-meaning cleric.

“This is a decaying area. Unemployment is high and the people as a result suffer immense depression. Martin Cluxton is a direct product of this environment. His problems are threefold. They are medical, environment and spiritual.”

We start with a rural scene; a group of boys walking over Galway hills with a Christian Brother in charge. We quickly learn that they are juvenile offenders and that Martin Cluxton (played by Derek King) is one of them. Two key devices are employed by the directors to drive the narrative and provide background and explanations – breaking the fourth wall (by adults) and voiceovers (by Martin). The direct addresses to the camera are made by the religious authority figures (who explain that their resources are wholly inadequate – “we are no substitute for skilled social workers”) and Mrs Cluxton explaining the difficulty that is raising children in relative poverty. On the other hand Martin’s stream of consciousness is more plaintive and demonstrates the hopelessness of his situation.

“Everybody seemed to have something to do or somewhere to go. Except me.”

The premise of the film is simple – it deals with a week in the life of a youth released from the reformatory and back to his inner city Dublin home. The cast includes a number of familiar names including Bill Foley and Laurie Morton as Martin’s parents. Virgina Cole (who starred with Morton in Fortycoats and Co.) plays his sister Chrissie while Going Strong stalwart Ann O’Dwyer is the glamorous neighbour Mrs Boyle. Fair City‘s Jim Bartley stars as the tearaway Cronin (an older sidekick of Martin’s). Hope is in short supply and as the story progresses we gradually learn that the future is going to be just as bleak and aimless as the past was.

Martin wants to become a mechanic. In a key scene he has an impromptu interview with garage owner McGreevey who appears to be reasonably disposed to him until he learns of Martin’s address in Corporation Avenue. After he leaves the businessman then berates his secretary for not checking the applicant’s background in advance. Curiously the radio in McGreevey’s office features a broadcast about socialism. This theme is further expanded in the pub scenes with Mr Cluxton engaging in dialogue with a revolutionary bar-stooler about the class struggle.

“Babies don’t get bit by rats in Foxrock.”

As the film progresses our sympathy for Martin’s plight increases. His interactions with others – family, friends, social workers, priests, brothers, unemployment officials and the man on Dollymount beach – cement his status as a teenager without hope. By the closing scenes he has made a decision. One is left with the strong impression that it was inevitable.

“You’d like to do something. Anything. It didn’t matter what. Just anything.”

A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton picked up its fair share of criticial acclaim upon release.
– Press Award for Best Overall Programme, Prague International Television Festival, 1972.
– Best Overall Programme, Hollywood World of Television Festival, 1972
– RAI Prize, Turin International Television Festival, 1972

It also features a beautiful jazz soundtrack courtesy of Louis Stewart.

Brian MacLochlainn went on to direct Time Now Mr T., The Spike (with Noel O Briain) and The Burke Enigma.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Dublin: A Personal View…Hector Grey’s

If we had any cop on we would have stormed and ransacked the studios of TV3 years ago and set up a video broadcast loop of the series Dublin: A Personal View by Eamon Mac Thomais.

Besides the proliferation of Spars, apartment blocks and aggro in Dublin we have lost the character of the city. I love this video for many reasons but my favourite part is seeing Hector Grey…the actual Hector Grey, selling at a market.

I never thought he was a real person until my Grandad told me a nutty story about his Da and Hector Grey selling some ripped off bicycle repair kits during the war.

I think Hector Grey’s is now a smoothie bar or something. Perfect.

(by Bob Byrne)

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“That’s Not Berlin! That’s Up by Christchurch!”

In my early teens, I had my first real brush with the movies when the BBC came to my mother’s village in Donegal to shoot for TV an adaptation of Jennifer Johnston’s novel, The Railway Station Man (screenplay by Shelagh Delaney, no less). The long disused Cashelnagore railway station was fitted out for this tale of a war veteran restoring an old station and his burgeoning love affair with a recently widowed Derry woman. The film was heavily trumpeted by the Beeb for reuniting Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie two decades on from Don’t Look Now. It was a much more pedestrian film than Nicolas Roeg’s icy classic but not without its merits. We knew that the interiors were filmed further down the coast in Glenties while the railway station incongruously planted in the middle of a lonesome bog was used only for outdoor shooting. About nine months after filming we watched it in my grandmother’s house. At one point in the narrative Julie Christie’s character Helen has to make a mad rush to the station to avert an incident that could have terrible consequences. She leaps out of bed in the middle of the night, hastily throws on some clothes and gets on her bicycle. Seeing her make her way out her front gate, my uncle, a cinephile with a sense of humour you might call ‘dry’, opined “she has some cycle ahead of her to get to here from Glenties.”

Though I was no ingenue in terms of parsing filmic narrative or understanding how movies were made, I couldn’t get the image of Julie Christie’s long-distance sprint up the Donegal coast out of my mind. Such was my first ever experience of the jarring gap between the landscape of the movies and the one you know in real life. It is something people in cities accustomed to film-making, such as New York, Los Angeles or Paris, have long been used to. These days I am most likely to see the urban geography of Paris rearranged. In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson goes searching for the restaurant in which he has been boozing with Hemingway and Fitzgerald only to find it is now a modern-day laundry; in actual fact, the restaurant — Polidor on rue Monsieur-le-Prince —  is still there, virtually unchanged since the 1920s. As I watched more and more movies throughout the nineties (and, thanks to the tax breaks, more and more movies were filmed in Ireland), I had opportunities to observe how movie-Ireland was different from Ireland-Ireland. Sometimes the geography of the island was boldly defied as in Gorgo, where Dalkey and its Martello Towers is shifted to the Gaeltacht or the Hollywood teen film Leap Year which sees Amy Adams getting landed on a beach, rather than at a port, somewhere in Kerry.

But sometimes movie-Ireland wasn’t even Ireland. It had long been serving as a proxy for other places, such as in John Huston’s Moby Dick where Youghal passed muster as New Bedford and it’s hard to imagine too many of Roger Corman’s Galway-produced Z-movies were set in the City of the Tribes either. I remember watching Mike Newell’s adaptation of Beryl Bainbridge’s An Awfully Big Adventure, in which Dublin stood in for post-war Liverpool. Hugh Grant dines in Bewley’s on Grafton Street (immeasurably more glamorous on screen than the glorified college canteen it had become by the mid-nineties), pays his bill and then emerges out of the front gate of Dublin Castle.

In Braveheart the Battle of Stirling famously took place in the Curragh, with the arses of thousands of FCA volunteers on display as William Wallace defied the Sassenachs with a mass-mooning, which was a definite mark-up on the free boots and army-surplus bag that usually attracted the post-Leaving Cert crowd to Mullingar or Finner Camp for a week of training. Films set in the north during the Troubles were usually filmed in the 26 counties because of the, er, Troubles. Irishtown and the Ringsend gas works became a permanent landmark of Belfast, the North Strand flats stood in for their more famous Divis counterparts in In the Name of the Father; a bomb in Jim Sheridan’s The Boxer went off opposite the Front Lounge, with the dome of City Hall in the background probably convincing the casual viewer that this was indeed Titanic Town under attack.

Even the most iconic buildings in the country were not safe from shuffling. The real Four Courts got bombarded by the pro-Treaty forces in Michael Collins (in the abysmal Kevin Spacey/Martin Cahill vehicle Ordinary Decent Criminal, the courts were moved up the river to the Customs House) but there were other jarring details. The set that Neil Jordan and Co built in the grounds of Grangegorman hospital in the summer of 1995 was probably the most impressive one of its kind in Irish history but its O’Connell Street was all askew, with the GPO standing at the end of the prospect from North Earl Street. A street parallel to the main thoroughfare was also there where it wasn’t in real life (think Marlborough Street, only a couple of blocks further west) and it is here that the insurgents from the GPO are arraigned after their surrender (including Dev, who must have decided there wasn’t near enough action down at Boland’s Mills).

The fiery Dáil sessions were filmed in Trinity College rather than up the street in their actual historical location in the Mansion House; I remember the filming, which I observed as I wandered across Front Square a week before Michaelmas Term began. The building used was the 1937 Reading Room, founded in that very year by none other than… Éamon de Valera. In fairness it was an ideal setting for a parliament session, more so than the side hall on Dawson Street which was more accustomed at the time to raves and Sinn Féin Ard Fheiseanna. Trinity also, of course, stood in for Liverpool in Educating Rita, a film I had difficulty watching as a child, sore as I was over ‘our’ urban landscape being purloined in such a flagrant manner.

An even weirder use of Trinity occurred three decades earlier when the World War I aviation drama The Blue Max was filmed in Ireland. Dublin University was transformed into Luftwaffe headquarters in Berlin, with biplanes parked in front of the Graduate Memorial Building, which, like many other buildings in the city at the time was black from acid rain. There was also a jaunt through the streets of fictional Berlin that almost made sense through real Dublin: down Winetavern Street from the arch at Christchurch (that redoubtable Dublin chronicler Éamon Mac Thomáis recalled Dubliners shouting at cinema screens: “that’s not Berlin, that up by Christchurch!”), down by the Four Courts and on to Trinity, where the magisterial James Mason was hanging out in the GMB.

I watched the film for the first time in my days working in Laser Video on Georges’ Street in the late nineties. A colleague was keen to see it because his mother was supposedly in it and had a scene where she kissed George Peppard. As the film progressed though it became increasingly apparent that his mother, if she did work on the film at all, had ended up on the cutting-room floor and Ursula Andress’ buxom countess was the only lady getting anywhere near Colonel Hannibal Smith’s lips. If my disorientation at Dublin being overrun and ruled by the Jerries was not bad enough, can you imagine my poor colleague who was learning that all these years his mother had been living a lie?

Ireland itself ended up being outsourced too, as our little Celtic cousin the Isle of Man began to undercut our tax breaks, with Waking Ned and Cathal Black’s Love and Rage, among other productions, being filmed there. But there were more location-based ads filmed during the Celtic Tiger years, most notably by Guinness, who seemed keen to rekindle an Irish identity for the stout. Probably the most successful of these was the ‘Quarrel’ ad, where hearing the late Mic Christopher’s Heyday on the radio prompts Michael Fassbender to walk out of his flat, across the Burren and then to swim the Atlantic to be reconciled with a friend in New York. A friend from Kildare claimed that Fassbender was actually walking back into Dublin as he passes by the Perpetual Motion sphere on the M7, though I can’t substantiate that.

Once he gets across the water though it all gets tricky. He storms through a street basketball game, past the Naked Cowboy on Times Square and into…the Dice Bar, on Benburb Street, back in Dublin. He needn’t have gone to all that effort, after all. Of course, the Dice Bar was one of those few Dublin bars that could readily impersonate a Manhattan dive (though, come to think of it, shouldn’t it be on the Lower East Side rather than by Times Square?) and the ad’s director even had the foresight to change the light-fittings, something which regular patronage of the Dice Bar at the time caused me to notice. Any hopes of suspending disbelief for me were dashed however when I noticed standing next to Fassbender’s friend as the two are reunited was Pedro, a shaven-headed Spanish cook whom I worked with in a number of establishments over the years. This was a time when the general Georges’ Street area was central casting for Guinness ads. Pedro beams unobtrusively as the Fassbender and his smouldering friend embrace — it’s a perfect piece of acting by an extra but I sure as hell wasn’t buying it as being set in New York. Still, it is probably a bit petty to pick holes in an ad where the main character swims the Atlantic…

(by Oliver Farry)

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Cad a dhéanfaimid anois?: When Gorgo destroyed Dalkey (kind of)

In the winter of 1959, strange and ancient forces were stirring in the deep waters of Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey. Forces awoken by the destructive meddling of nasty old man. Forces that would soon kick (spectacular) ass while leaving the bubble-gum to one side. But…we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The story begins on November 8th of that year, as announced by The Irish Times the following morning:

“A film unit from King Bros Production Ltd arrived in Dublin yesterday to start location shots for the film ‘Gorgo’. The picture is about a monster which cuts a destructive path through the heart of London. Gorgo (35ft) and Mother Gorgo (200 ft) first appear off an island near the Irish coast”.

On November 10th, the same paper detailed how production supervisor George Mills had shot scenes in Dalkey the previous day (some featuring Dublin-born actor Barry Keegan), before pointing out that “Local extras are being hired – mostly to play the part of fishermen”. Two days later, the cast and crew packed their bags, dried themselves off (it had, predictably, been lashing rain for most of the shoot), and headed back to London. Their 5-day adventure? Soon forgotten. A mere rippling of the surface of Irish film history.

Around this time last year I decided to try and track down some of these local extras, if, indeed, any were left alive. Why? Well, firstly, because I hate the idea of stories being lost, or remaining untold. Secondly, because I bloody adore Gorgo.

The story is a simple one. A salvage vessel operated by the unscrupulous Joe Ryan (Bill Travers) and Sam Slade (William Sylvester) witness an undersea earthquake off the shore of the fictional (and palindromic) “Nara Island” (actually, Dalkey). This releases a pissed-off Gorgo, who’s eventually captured and taken to London for public display. An academic realises that Gorgo, giant though he may be, is actually only a toddler. Cue the emergence of a ferociously maternal, 200-foot-tall Mama Gorgo. She stomps out of the sea, destroys Nara, and heads off to London, where she opens a gargantuan can of kick-ass. Baby Gorgo and Mama are reunited. We all learn something about human hubris, greed and puny attempts to tame nature. The end.

OK, it may not be the most sophisticated or original monster film ever made. It may not be the most technically accomplished. It may not even be the most entertaining. But it still remains unique in a number of ways. It is (to the best of my knowledge) the only Godzilla-style Kaiju (Giant Monster) film ever filmed (at least partly) in Ireland. It is certainly the only Kaiju film ever to feature actors speaking in Irish. Irish? Yes, more of that anon.

I contacted Gerard Coakley, editor of the Dalkey Newsletter (“delivered into every residence in Dalkey every month”), and asked him for help. Gerard suggested running my query as a “Letter to the Editor” in the August edition of the newsletter, to see what memories it might stir. It stirred quite a few, though some were a tad…confused. One gentleman called me to tell me that, yes, he had been an extra – charged with rowing Martin Sheen hither and yon. As I tried to think of a tactful way of raining on this false-memory parade I heard his wife bark: “Martin Sheen was never in that picture!”. Saved.

The garbled and partial recollections shared with me meant that investigations never yielded a feature (as was planned), but I did get to talk to local monster-inflater-in-chief Tony Lamb. Over to Tony:

“What we were pumping up was the actual monster than they were using, it was like pumping up a rubber dingy. There was a gang of us down there, and it was only about 12 feet in size, and we used to inflate it up for them. We used to get paid for it, you know what I mean? Just a few bob. Then we used to have to put it into my brother’s boat and bring it outside the harbour into Dalkey Sound. And you’d look at the camera and it was huge then, you know the way they make it into a monster and all that. When we went to see it we were all laughing because a friend of ours was in it. Jim Brown, ‘Coco’ Brown we called him, he’s since dead now he was an old man, you’d see him walking up the slip picking up driftwood. And the next minute he’s in fucking Germany or wherever! Ah we remember it well down in the harbour. We always made a few quid hiring out the boats to them. We used to have to throw old nets over the pier, and make it look like it was a real old place and all. They made loads of films down there, and they still do today. And we’ve been in most of them”.

I haven’t been able to positively identify “Coco”, but I’d like to think it’s this weathered-looking chap:

Or, it could be one of these cagey locals:

Note, you can just about make out the local Martello tower in the background. A better view of it here, squeezed between Bill Travers and William Sylvester:

I initially thought Tony’s memories of an inflatable Gorgo might be muddled, as Gorgo uses the old “Suitmation”, actor in a rubber monster suit, technique. But in a 5-second underwater scene, where Joe and Sam first see the monster, I think what we’re seeing (just about, the water is pretty damn murky) is Tony’s pumped-up pal:

Instead of using a studio-based tank (as you’d expect), the scenes of Joe and Sam diving were, I think, actually filmed on location in Dalkey. Hence the Stygian waters. Anyway, it’s nice to think of Tony’s breath literally making Gorgo come alive.

And what of the Irish/Gaeilge? Well, when Joe and Sam first come ashore on “Nara”, they ask the two sea-dogs pictured above, “Is there a harbour master we can talk to?”. The reply?

“Cad a dheanfaimid anois?”

That’s “What are we going to do now?”, for all you Sasanaigh. An, er, somewhat cryptic reply, and one favoured by the islanders in practically all situations. It’s multi-functional. When they go night-fishing in currachs…

…a local lad announces his intention to chuck a harpoon into the boiling waters with, yes, “Cad a dheanfaimid anois?”. Nara, clearly, is an island of anxious types, crippled by indecision.

In another exchange, Harry (played by Barry Keegan), asks a group of fishermen “Cad tá sibh a dhéanamh?” (“What are ye doing?”). The defensive answer: “Níl am againn caint a dhéanamh le Sasanaigh!”. Harry translates this for the foreign lads as “We don’t have time to talk to foreigners”, which is spot on. Then, when he sees the locals gazing into the waters and looking concerned, he asks, “Cad é?” (“What is it?”) and back comes (once again) good old, “Níl am againn caint a dhéanamh le Sasanaigh!”. This time Harry translates it as “Two of the divers didn’t come up, Joe. They think they’re gone.” Oh, Harry. You mis-translating eejit.

So is Gorgo ultimately just of local interest because of this (slightly Dada-ist) smattering of Gaeilge? Well, no. There’s also a (presumably accidental) “Republican” sub-text. This is, after all, the story of a young Irish monster who is captured, forcibly imprisoned, and taken (against its will) across the Irish sea to be gawked at by punters in Battersea Park. Objections to this dodgy expatriation are lodged by the Irish government (and the “University of Dublin”) and ignored. Bastards!

Seán, the little, apple-cheeked, moral centre of the film affectionately refers to the monster as Ógra, meaning “Youth”. Thus, the re-branding of the beastie as “Gorgo” not only suggests an arrogant contempt for local naming (and a desire to linguistically take ownership of the creature), but the failure to understand the significance of its Irish name leads directly to the flattening of London (by an understandably enraged mother). Big Ben is demolished. Tower Bridge is thrashed. The most iconic structures, of the centre of British power, laid waste – by a vengeance-seeking Paddy Godzilla. My post-colonial-o-meter is going off the fuppin’ scale, folks. And so, humbled Londoners gathered themselves, gazed upon the ruination, and asked: “Cad a dheanfaimid anois?”

(by fústar)

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