Category Archives: Television

Does Your Mother Come From Ireland?

RTÉ archives are in possession of a 1981 documentary called Does Your Mother Come From Ireland? It was co-produced and presented by Limerick traditional musician and US-based academic Mick Moloney. The film gets an occasional airing, the last for RTÉ being 11/11/2011. Information about the film is not readily available and the following is based on a single viewing.


Does your Mother Come from Ireland? is roughly 45 minutes in duration. The brief was to film the practice and maintenance of traditional Irish music in 80s New York. The film follows Moloney and cameraman Paddy Barron to New York and then back to Ireland where they document the 1981 All-Ireland Fleadh in Buncrana, Donegal.

Opening with the vista of New York from the air, and soundtracked by the Bob Seger rock anthem Rosalie, Does your Mother Come from Ireland? is a unique visual record of many contrasts specific to its time.

An exploration focused on Bronx residents the Tara Céilí Band who were busy preparing for a return to Ireland to compete in the annual All-Ireland Fleadh. These teenagers had previously won the title three times before and would be filmed winning it again. Historically this film is a record of a pan-Atlantic traditional music scene. Embedded in the film was an outline of the cultural mission imitated by an Irish diaspora concerned for the upkeep of tradition. The New York players were conscious of  the possibilities of cultural isolation and insisted on the maintenance of a continuous link with the source of the music.

The NY Irish community was known to harbour talented musicians and families noted for their traditional strengths but no one had investigated, in film, how their endeavours fed back into the cultural cradle in the ‘old country’. Moloney’s film is a singular record of this.


The cast, including the celebrated fiddle player Eileen Ivers, were all young American-born musicians who were as proficient in the language of traditional jigs and reels as they were in typical New York pastimes. Footage of these youths playing baseball was styled in that particular filtered haze, unique to filming in New York in the late 70s. It rendered the Irish-Americans similar to those who shimmered in the otherworldly Coca-Cola television ads familiar to Irish television audiences. When the film cut to the same youngsters in houses in the Bronx, diligently playing the sets that would win in Donegal, it registered as a benign jolt.


The overlap between 80’s America, Ireland, Irish America and TV America on Irish television became more than just a subtext as the film progressed. In the 80s US immigration restrictions ended the steady traffic that had replenished New York’s Irish population since famine times. The special Irish relationship finished and with this ending the cultural update injected from each new group of Irish immigrants did also.

Those who delivered styles to the Bronx from sessions all over Ireland were now without visas. The consequences of restrictions forced a realisation that, for the culture to progressively continue, the response would involve an Irish return. Moloney interviewed parents, teachers and other members of the community after the fallout from the decision of the US government to cap immigration. The annual visit to Buncrana was part of a solution.

Increasing awareness of the lack of immigrants arriving  with new songs encouraged the parents and teachers to support the concept of the return. The passion and commitment of these teachers in this process was very evident. Other vital insights arose in how the culture was being maintained. One involved Martin Mullverhill, a Bronx musician and teacher. He described quickly crafting an original Irish tune underneath the city (in tunnels, perhaps dug by Donegal men). The subway composition flowed easily, “I had it finished by 205th St”, he said proudly.

Heading to Ireland and winning the Fleadh were happy events for the young American passport-holders but those were not the main priorities of the trip. The youth were engaged in a type of journeying, travelling in the sense of a pilgrimage. An undertaking of a type of pilgrimage that sought rejuvenation and reflection. The humble showing of awards at home by the Ivers family testified to this, as did a Bronx bar manager’s dignified imploration while helping to raise 5000 dollars to send the Tara Céilí Band back to the Old Country: “If anyone here tonight hasn’t the money to contribute, please stay and enjoy the music anyway”.

The hazy tone of the 80s New York landscape as a backdrop to the endeavours of the American Irish youth filled the first part of the film. The second part while filmed in colour stock may as well have been shot in black and white such was the contrast of location at the Fleadh. 

Now far from the Bronx the Tara Céilí band are performing on a knocked-together stage in a grey Parish Hall. Their practised reels were clinically measured under the horn-rimmed eyes of a stern adjudicator (the cigire). An impassive seated crowd also measured their performance. A readjustment of viewing was needed as the romance of the previous communal preparations undertaken in the beauty of a New York summer was left behind. The music was the same but it was now heard in the environment of a monochrome Ireland. This 80s island was home to many who wished they had the chance of returning with the American visitors.

Moloney’s Ireland presented itself through another lens. The landscape could have been taken from any Irish documentary film of the 50s. Things moved differently, people acted slower. An officialdom appeared to take over the camera as if the regulations of the Fleadh insisted on it. The adherence to Comhaltas rules and the rigidity that accompanied the reading of them registered even in its recording.

Afterwards, the Americans quietly moved outside with portable cassette recorders recording the open sessions in the unregulated public space of Buncrana. This act of capture was what the journey was about – collecting evidence of native playing. They were capturing the Donegal air to uncap and release on their return. Historically the natives merited recording also. A long shot showed tents surrounding Buncrana. An atmosphere was evident in the attendant mingling of generations and visitors, each with their own agenda.

Another shot on the street captured a suited family man, in town for the day, holding his own as he passed long-haired youths and neatly dressed musicians. Fleadhs at this level were the social midway for the remaining Irish generation of the 80s. The campers in the background sought a music based outlet in this, a transitional time. For the long-haired youth the landscape of this Fleadh was open ground between the depressed dancehall scene and festivals that had yet to appear.

The demand for trad-based groups like De Dannan and Planxty on the festivals that had began to appear came from the transitional long-haired demographic filmed by Moloney. Panning his camera for background filler the filmmaker inadvertently documented a crossover.


Another vibrant shot of overlapping cultures was a brief shot of a native Irish céilí band with a young drummer starkly wearing a Doors t-shirt. There was a minor cult for the ‘poetry’ of Jim Morrisson circa 1981 as the Doors’ back catalogue was being repackaged. But a Doors t-Shirt was a relatively rare and exotic item particularly for a teenage drummer in a céilí band in Donegal. Would one of the American contingent have gifted him the shirt?  Perhaps gifted tapes also? The Americans were now known as regulars and tentatively part of this Fleadh community. It is conceivable that friendships were made, and perhaps cultural exchanges of many sorts were a regular feature.

It is fair to speculate that the New York parents who facilitated their children’s activity to maintain the diaspora’s cultural link to Ireland could have inadvertently instigated a reciprocal musical process. 80s Virtual America, especially the urban otherness of New York, was visually a familiar sight from Irish TV programming which leant heavily on US import drama. A type of virtual American landscape began to merge with an Irish one. A topology that stretched from The Waltons‘ Mountain to Kojak’s Manhattan with the beach of The Rockford Files in between. The virtual West was passively received, indulged as a glamorous contrast to a recession-based Irish vista. An aural insight into the land of opportunity would have delivered a different sensation. This insight may have been on a cassette tape containing excerpts, musical and otherwise ranging from New York radio to trad sessions in the Bronx. Those cassettes may have been left behind in Buncrana.

The content of Does Your Mother Come From Ireland? whether primary, secondary, or speculative remains as entertaining and historically informative 30 years after it was shown, and its concept is a credit to Moloney and his team.

(by Paul Tarpey)

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When I was growing up, Shay Healy was as ubiquitous as anyone in gainful employment in Ireland could be; he seemed to have a hand in almost everything musical in the country. He and Phil Coulter looked to have Irish popular music carved up in their own duopoly. Not much of Healy’s work from those years is remembered now – except, of course, the 1980 Eurovision winner he wrote for Johnny Logan – and that’s not too surprising given his work was almost quintessentially ephemeral, written and performed for a living.

To give Healy his due though, he and his work had an edge and wit that was lacking in most light entertainment emanating from the official culture of Ireland in the 1980s. He also never took himself too seriously, even if he did have the semi-legendary attribute of indirectly causing Charlie Haughey’s downfall. His interview with Seán Doherty on Nighthawks in January 1992 elicited the claim that other members of Haughey’s cabinet knew about Doherty’s phone-tapping while justice minister. Haughey was gone within weeks.

One song I do remember introduced me to the man who is now the head of the London Olympic Games Organising Committee. I was too young to remember the Moscow Olympics but three years later I heard “If I Were Sebastian Coe” and its jangly pub-rock was sufficiently catchy to lodge the middle-distance Olympic champion in my conscience. It was so impressive that I was a bit surprised to discover that Sebastian Coe was not some crusty old dignatory but a fairly young man with a few years on the track ahead of him. The song is an amusing ditty, with the inevitable Steve Ovett reference, and the title and refrain demonstrate a command of the subjunctive mood rare in pop music. As Healy explains on his own YouTube channel, Coe himself was not too impressed at the tribute:

I wrote “If I Were Sebastian Coe” in 1983 as an homage to Seb, one of the greatest middle-distance runners of all time, whose frequent jousts on the track with fellow Briton Steve Ovett were the stuff of legend. I sent a copy to Seb and he said he would sue me…I hope Lord Coe, Olympic supremo 2012 has a better sense of humour…


(I first saw the video for this song on Youngline, an RTÉ youth programme of the day, and a precursor to Jo-Maxi. I have a very dim recollection of Youngline, though it also provided me with my first ever glimpse of The Jam around about that time. I always imagined it to be short-lived but I had in fact only caught the tail-end of it. It ran from about 1978, in which year U2 made their first ever TV appearance on the show. Well, we won’t hold that against it.

(by Oliver Farry)

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Irish people on holiday

One of the more startling discoveries from RTÉ’s Home documentary series (2007) was an illuminating look at Irish summer holidays from the late 1960s. Fr Peter Lemass presented a report from Ballybunion and talked about people leaving their “factory, farm or kitchen” and coming to the seaside resort to enjoy all the good things it had to offer. However this relaxed and carefree buzz is quickly killed when the tone changes to one of concern. He wonders out loud:

“Do Irish people tend to let down their hair a little too much when they come on holiday?”

Such earnest concern about morality is also reinforced by the parish priest – Fr Murphy – as he sternly dishes out advice to prospective holidaymakers from the presbytery’s garden.

Not one commandment but the whole lot!

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Think Safety

This road safety film is known as Gold Star and was produced by the National Road Safety Association in 1980. By then all public information films were shot in colour which was gradually becoming the preferred choice of television set in Ireland. Although we had to wait until the autumn of the following year before ours arrived.

The opening shot features the trendy school bag of the era with the twin snap-locks. A Mustang exercise book is casually tossed in. It contains an English essay.

The theme of horseplay continues with more high jinks on the roadside as they wait for the Bus Scoile. The colour film stock proudly showcases its glorious yellow and white livery. One child veers dangerously into the path of an oncoming vehicle. This causes a stressed motorist to mutter “stupid child” while the sympathetic narrator (Mike Murphy) sticks up for the ten-year-olds. On this occasion the bus driver is calmer than his 1970s colleague and delivers a quick warning to his charges before they board the vehicle.

The key message here is that adults bear the lion’s share of responsibility for road safety. Mike solemnly informs us that when something special happens in a young lad’s day he won’t be able to think about anything else. The camera focuses on a gold star being placed on a copy book. These were a major feature of teaching techniques when I was in second and third class.

So it’s back to the besieged adult as he daydreams at traffic lights:

“They can often be guilty of the same sort of blindness. They don’t remember their own childhood”.

The excited and starred-up boy then crosses the road without paying any heed to the oncoming traffic.

PS – the opposite to a gold star was a red one. A cruel form of negative marking.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Mind Yourself!

The vast majority of Irish public information films seem to only now exist as memories. However there are a couple that have been preserved. Here is one – produced by the National Road Safety Association during the 1970s.

It starts with an alarm clock – both sound and vision. It’s a familiar morning scene; a schoolboy (David) having breakfast with his unseen Mammy. He grabs his bag from the hall and walks to the bus stop. In quick pursuit is his friend Paddy – a messer. A quick scuffle and Paddy is lying on the grass verge. Just then the Bus Scoile pulls up and the stern voiceover solemnly states:

“Horseplay on the side of the road is stupid”.

The bus driver is not a happy man. He grabs Paddy and gives him a piece of mind. The bus continues to the school, the children alight and wait to cross the road.

Now to try and guess a more exact date for the production. There are a couple of clues; the school bus registration plate dates from the first half of 1973, while the closing shot features a sample from the Safe Cross Code film (1975). Therefore, I am guessing: 1976.

A mention must also go to the classic drum action as the National Road Safety Association logo forms on screen. Breaks!

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Finbar’s Class

Finbar’s Class. I remember but snatches from it. A rebellious earring here, some cheeky backchat there, valid teenage angst wrapped up in a threadbare blanket of bad rapping and someone’s hideous ‘90s puffa jacket. It was mid ’90s young adult fare from RTÉ and about as edgy as the channel ever got, outside of rounding on Annie Murphy of a Friday night.

The premise, if I remember it correctly, was that Michael Sheridan was teaching a load of tarmac terrorists in an inner city Dublin school, when, possibly inspired by Whoppi Goldberg in Sister Act 2, he realised the only way to reach them was through glibly modernised music therapy. Cue lots of East 17-style posturing and Carol from Fair City wearing a tracksuit, or something. I don’t really remember.

However, I did come across this recently.

I’d like to say it brought memories flooding back, but alas, my brain is a one-way street and Finbar’s Class, while clearly brilliant in its own scuzzy way, was not very memorable. I remember loving it, but I don’t remember why. And yet, the scenes depicted above would be controversial now – cartoonish moneylenders! Heroin! Bras! – so it genuinely rots my receptors that Finbar’s Class has since sunk into some sort of RTE netherworld: consigned to the vaults, forgotten. That looks like Fair City on GHB, for Christ’s sake! Surely such a show would have been right up the street of me and my teenage devotion to Melvin Burgess books. So why is it that the only thing I remember is bad singing in moody postures and Michael Sheridan’s mildly disapproving smile?

Can any of you other ‘90s kids dredge this up for me?

(by Lisa McInerney)

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Diphtheria, Tuberculosis and Holy Communions: The IFI Irish Film Archive

Greetings, grandchildren. I’m delighted to be unveiling the inaugural Where’s Grandad? interview – with Ms. Kasandra O’Connell, head of the IFI Irish Film Archive (which “acquires, preserves and makes available Ireland’s moving image heritage”). Kasandra kindly took the time to speak to me about the archive’s work, collections and challenges. Hope you enjoy it.

Fústar: First of all, Kasandra, can you tell us a little bit about what kind of public information films (films from State Sponsored Bodies and Government Departments) the Irish Film Archive holds?

Kasandra O’Connell: I think to understand how the IFI Irish Film Archive came to hold so many of these films it is important to understand a little of our history, as the two are closely linked.

When the National Film Institute of Ireland (now the Irish Film Institute) was founded in 1943 under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, it had a clear moral and educational agenda. McQuaid believed that the Church should be actively involved in the production and distribution of film in Ireland to counteract what was seen as the immoral influence of commercially produced films. His main point of reference was Vigilanti Cura (1936), Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on the use and misuse of cinema, which called for the Church’s involvement in all aspects of motion pictures to achieve the “noble end of promoting the highest ideals and the truest standards of life”.

In order to fulfil McQuaid’s objectives the National Film Institute of Ireland (NFI) not only maintained a distributing library of films available to schools, colleges and associations around the country, but also became involved in the production of safety, health and educational films in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. Many of these were commissioned by government departments to offer information on matters of public health and safety, personal finance, and on historical and cultural subjects. The first film, Uachtarán na hÉireann (made in 1945), recorded the inauguration of Sean T. O’Kelly as president of Ireland.

NFI films made for the Department of Health tackled such varied subjects as TB prevention and cure, (Dr Noel Browne’s TB Film in 1946, and Voyage to Recovery in 1953), diphtheria immunisation (Stop Thief, 1953) and food hygiene (Gnó Gach Éinne [Everybody’s Responsibility], 1951). For the Department of Local Government, the Institute produced a series of road-safety films, including Mr Careless Goes to Town (1949), Safe Cycling (1949) and Accident Procedure (1966). The NFI also collaborated with Department of Posts and Telegraphs and An Post to produce films that encouraged people to save in lean economic times: Where Does the Money Go? (1954), Our Money at Work (1957), Love and Money (1961). And A Nation Once Again (1946), and W.B. Yeats: A Tribute (1950) were made for the Department of External Affairs.

When the IFI Irish Film Archive collection came to be created in the mid 1980s, the material from the distributing library was at its core. We also began to gather material from government departments who were in the process of changing from using film to video tape, and so had no need to hold on to their film collections.

Some of the largest collections were those deposited by Bord Fáilte (The Irish Tourist Board), the National Road Safety Association and the National Museum of Ireland’s folk-life collection. Other films come from the Department of External Affairs and subsequently the Dept. of Foreign affairs, the ESB, the Defence forces, Bus Éireann, Irish Dairy Board, and the Departments of Tourism and Transport. We also have films from Fianna Fáil.

Fústar: I believe quite a number of Irish film/TV luminaries were involved in the production of these films (particularly back in the 50s/60s).Can you mention a few names who were closely involved/associated with these productions?

Kasandra: Many of the films of this type are noteworthy for their high production values and for the calibre of those involved in their creation. Luminaries of the Irish acting world such as Micheál MacLiammóir, Cyril Cusack, Maureen Potter, Milo O’Shea, Siobhán McKenna and Niall Tóibín make appearances, and, at a time when the Irish film industry was under-developed and opportunities for technical training were limited, important figures in the Irish filmmaking community such as Liam O’Leary, Robert Monks, Colm Ó’Laoghaire, George Fleischmann, Gerard Healy and Rex Roberts were often involved in making these kinds of films.

Fústar: The title of this blog refers to a well-known 1980s water safety advertisement. I’ve been unable to track down a copy of this, and neither have Irish Water Safety themselves (I’ve been in touch). As I understand it, the archive doesn’t house many such films from the 80s on. Can you explain why this is and the problems associated with acquiring such material?

Kasandra: Unfortunately during the 1980s much of the public information films that were produced were made for television rather than for the cinema, and as such did not find a natural route into our possession, RTÉ may have a copy of campaigns they have run on television as they have a very good archive. In addition many of the films began to be made by advertising agencies rather than production companies and those titles often remained in the collections of those agencies rather than being held by the organisation or Department that commissioned them. We traditionally have little interaction with the advertising industry and I have found it difficult to set up a mechanism through which more recent public information or safety films are deposited with us for cultural and educational purposes.

A search a few years ago in an attempt to locate and acquire copies of recent tourism and road safety campaigns proved fruitless, there was a general uncertainty within the commissioning organisations as to where they might be held and who owned the rights to them. There are often so many different types of organisation involved these days, public private, semi state, commercial etc. and this reduces the likelihood of the end product coming in to us for posterity. The days of a staff member in for example the Dept. of Tourism finding a can of film on a shelf and ringing us to ask if we will look after it are unfortunately over, that film will most likely be in an external agency who will hopefully keep a copy for their own archive. I would love to have the resources to do a proper audit to try and to identify what campaigns or films are out there and to gather them into one collection which was accessible to the public. But unfortunately in the current economic climate and with so many different agencies/departments involved it would be quite a task.

Fústar: So, essentially, there is no formal process for transfer of state films to an archive, and no designated repository for the preservation of this material? Is this situation likely to change do you think? Are other European countries different in this regard?

Kasandra: In many other European countries there is a system of Statutory Deposit for film materials, in the same way that there is in Ireland for books. This ensures that a copy of all moving image material that is produced in that country, that falls within the definition laid out by the state, is automatically added to their national film collection. In Ireland film is not legally assigned to the care of any particular National Cultural Institution, so it is not covered by the rules of statutory deposit. As the IFI Irish Film Archive is not an official National Cultural Institution we have no legal right to insist people or organisations deposit a copy of any moving image material they produce with us.

The existing National Cultural Institutions are already stretched and do not have the specialist facilities to look after moving image, even though they would technically be the legal place of deposit for state records; however there is scope in the current legislation for an organisation such as the National Library or the National Archives to designate another organisation (such as ourselves) to look after film on their behalf. Although this has been previously discussed it has never been done, in the absence of any legal mechanism to collect and preserve Irish film we have put in place our own agreements with the main Irish funders of moving image BAI, IFB and Arts Council. Through these agreements we manage to preserve a large amount of indigenous film production each year, but anything not funded by these organisations does not have to come in to us.

Unfortunately preserving and archiving moving image is an expensive and technically challenging activity and it is difficult to see how the situation is likely to improve given the ongoing economic situation.

Fústar: I believe that the archive also contains numerous amateur films (“home movies” as it were). Can you tell us a little about this type of archived material, and how it usually reaches you?

Kasandra: For the last 20 years The IFI Irish Film Archive has dedicated itself to collecting, preserving and making Ireland’s moving image history accessible to the public. In that time we have amassed a collection of over 27,000 cans of film. In addition to the features, newsreels and documentaries you might expect to find in a national moving image archive, we also have a large and incredibly rich collection of amateur films made by non-professional filmmakers. Regular people who used their cine-cameras to record the world around them and the things that were important in their lives.

Their films are not only a personal record of their friends, family and interests, but are snapshots of the time they were made, often recording an Ireland and way of life that would otherwise be forgotten. Ireland doesn’t have as rich a history of indigenous professional production as other Western countries, which makes these non-professional representations all the more significant. This material gives us an alternative view of Ireland one that reflects the personal interests of members of the population, and these films are often the only record of a specific event, places or a particular aspect of history, culture and society.

Over time these films can often grow in value and meaning. A film of a family or local event may now be a fascinating record of a custom that has died out or of a landscape that has altered beyond recognition, even though this information was incidental to the filmmaker’s intention at the time of filming. Although many of the amateur collections deal with the things we ourselves probably record – family life, holy communions, birthdays, the arrival of a baby into the family, holidays and local activities – there is also variety amongst the non-professional genre with material ranging from lovingly shot records of family life and events of personal interest to amateur attempts at animation, travelogues, documentary and indeed even non-professional takes on Hollywood genres.

The oldest non-professional collection we hold was made by Horgan Brothers’ films (1910-1920), and contains some of the earliest moving images of Ireland in the archive’s collection. The Horgan Brothers were cinema owners in Youghal who screened their newsreel style films to the public in their cinema. Youghal Gazette excerpts include footage of people leaving mass, praying at Declan’s Well and enjoying a trip to the seaside and the first Irish animation from c.1910 featuring a pirouetting town hall clock. A few years ago we held a Home Movie Heritage Day, where we invited a selection of Home Movie makers to choose one of their films from the IFI Irish Film Archive’s collections and to share their celluloid memories with the public explaining what their film meant to them. It was the first Irish event of its kind and was quite a touching event in many ways as it really showed the power of the moving image to connect generations.

Amateur collections are mostly offered to us by the filmmaker or a member of their family. Often they no longer have the equipment to be able to view the footage or may have had it transferred to DVD, but usually they contact to us because they realise the film has some evidentiary or social value and they are eager to see it preserved in an organisation that will make it available for cultural purposes. We work with the depositor to catalogue the footage and to ensure we have all the information we need to ensure the film they have placed in our care is as well documented as possible, and therefore a richer source for future generations.

Fústar: Have many of these films (I’m thinking of the public information films here, particularly) been publicly shown since the time of their original release? Have any been released on DVD?

Kasandra: We screen these films from time to time within the IFI’s exhibition programmes and a number of years ago we made an 8-part TV series for TG4 called Seoda which drew on the collections preserved in the Archive. This included a number of information or State sponsored films which are described below, the DVD is still available for purchase from the IFI’s Filmshop.

Our Country (1948)

  • Our Country was funded by the political party Clann na Poblachta, and was produced by O’Laoghaire in 1947 in advance of the 1948 general election. The film directly confronts the harsh realities of life in Ireland at the time and is interspersed with addresses from Noel Hartnett, Dr Noel Browne and party leader Sean MacBride TD.
  • Portrait of Dublin, made for the Department of External Affairs in 1952, was designed to promote Dublin to its inhabitants and to potential visitors from abroad. The elegant Georgian squares, the bustling markets, the tranquil parks and the sparkling nightlife present a city that is vibrant, cultured and steeped in history.
  • Coisc an Gadaí/Stop Thief is a dramatised film in which a young Dublin girl becomes gravely ill with diphtheria and her parents are filled with remorse for their failure to immunise her.

Turas Tearnamh/Voyage to Recovery (1953)

  • In Turas Tearnamh/Voyage to Recovery a young man (Joe Lynch) contracts tuberculosis to the dismay of his wife (Joan O’Hara) and to the shame of her aunt (Marie Keane). He
    recovers following a long spell convalescing in a TB sanatorium.
  • In Cá nImíonn an tAirgead?/Where Does the Money Go? A housewife wastes food and electricity, a young woman fritters away her earnings on hats and magazines, and a bachelor puts his money on horses, greyhounds and into the barman’s pocket.
  • A Thaisce agus a Stór/For Love and Money is a bizarre, cautionary comedy starring Milo O’Shea and Maureen Toal as young office workers whose engagement is doomed unless they create some financial security. He daydreams about wildly heroic ways to secure his fortune before doing the decent thing and sorting out his Post Office Savings account.

Love and Money (1961)

Fústar: Are there any plans to release packages of such material in the future? I know that the Charley Says… DVDs released in the UK by Network have proven very popular with audiences old enough to remember (and be haunted by) such material from their childhoods…

Kasandra: We may include some more of these films in the next series of Seoda, there certainly is enough material there, in the meantime some films are available on line here:

(by fústar)

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The Calor Housewife of The Year

In the minds of many a thirtysomething, there is a clear distinction between the Ireland of our childhood and the Ireland of today. We can afford to chuckle indulgently at such historical faux pas as Flahavan’s Tracksuits and institutionalised homophobia, because they belong to a different time. Came the modern age, and these things were swept away. We, mere children at the time, are not implicated. It was all so unimaginably different and all so long ago.

A look at the chronology says different, however. Ireland did not enter modernity at the same time as we entered our teens. Indeed, as we approach middle age, there are many respects in which it still hasn’t entered it now. Many of the most egregious effusions of embarrassing old Ireland died a slow rather than a sudden demise, to the degree that it can often be hard to find the exact date of death.

This much I can confirm. As late as 1995, there was such a thing as The Housewife of the Year Award. It was actually on the telly. Not in the dim and distant past, but in the mid-90’s, a time when we were drinking lattes and you could buy condoms without even having to have a prescription from a doctor or anything.

The fact that the Housewife of the Year, or to give it its full, sponsored title, the Calor Kosangas Housewife of the Year, existed at all will probably be enough to blow certain under-25 minds, and to confirm the view of The Young (which has always been the view of The Young, since the dawn of time), that The Past was fucked up. Lest the Young get any ideas that they were born into a brave new world, I remind them that today, in 2012, The Angelus on TV is still a thing.

I feel sorry for the Young. There they are, with their asymmetrical haircuts and their long-term unemployment, ignorant of most of the cultural shorthand that now dominates Irish popular culture. As we once were, they are maddened by the persistence of certain patently outmoded and reactionary cultural phenomena. And yet, not only will these embarrassing relics of the past not die, but their elders (i.e. us) insist on bringing more of them back from the grave. Because there is apparently nothing, from The Riordans to Tuberculosis, that cannot become a focus of thirtysomething nostalgia. Did you know it’s been almost a dozen years since the big foot and mouth outbreak? Let’s start a facebook petition to “Bring it Back”!

I now understand why some cultural entities just won’t go away. Surely all the people who bought Ireland’s Own when I was young are dead by now. The current audience probably started reading it ironically in the mid-90’s and eventually got to like it. Suddenly, its longevity becomes less mysterious.

The Calor Housewife’s tearaway younger sister, The Rose of Tralee was saved (ironically) by Father Ted. The “Lovely Girls” episode was such a pitch-perfect parody that it seemed to breathe new life into the competition that inspired it. The single, vital ingredient, camp, has saved the Rose for generations to come. It hasn’t changed, but the way we watch it has. The Rose will run and run, because Irish people love it when we can find an easy rationalisation for not changing anything.

I am not so sure the Calor Housewife can be as easily salvaged for the delectation of the sophisticates we have now become. The makeover would need to be fairly radical. But there are still options. I suggest that the competition go one of two ways: the Etsy route, or the Domestic Goddess one. The Domestic Goddess model will appeal to advertisers after that Desperate Housewives/Sex & The City market, and it has the benefit of making explicit the assumptions of the original competition: that wifely duties are primarily focussed on sex and cooking. Admittedly, the sex part was more to do with procreation back in the Calor Housewife’s heyday, but a move towards raunch would be but a small adjustment in the interests of long-term stability. Women will still be forced into narrowly defined and impossible to fulfil roles, and that’s the important thing. You have to change if you want to stay the same.

The Etsy route may not have the same broad commercial appeal, but a niche might still be carved out by an indie-soundtracked night of competitive kookiness, wherein a dozen giggling Zooey Deschanel haircuts are interviewed by Dathaí Ó Sé about their about their quirky personal styles. I would probably watch it.

Whichever approach is chosen, a token house-husband will be required to provide liberal cover for the event. Because at the end of the day, no matter how much you rebrand, there are conceptual problems with the Housewife of the Year. It was won and lost via three rounds. The first, competitive cooking, is more popular than ever. The last, a party piece, or “turn”, can be quite easily glammed up in the style of a Simon Cowell production. But the third event is, er, problematic. It was an interview with Gay Byrne. Surprisingly, given his alleged retirement a decade ago, Gay Byrne is not the problem. He is available for work. The problem is that the interview was explicitly focused on the contestant’s wifeliness.

The contestant would be asked how she met her husband, how many kids she had with him, and how she managed to look so glamorous whilst still looking after them all. Admittedly, Gay Byrne was never known for his progressive attitudes towards the role of women. But there is something about a competition for housewives that has a cooker as its star prize that resists attempts at modernisation. Witness this 1995 attempt (which, by the way, appeared on the same page as a profile of Martin Amis) to salvage the competition for right-thinking Irish Times readers:

“These were no bimbos…since the phrase ‘housewife’ and phrases like ‘I’m only a housewife’ are rapidly disappearing from the vocabulary, I’m told by a spokeswoman for the organisers that they will be reconsidering the title of this event”

Alas, it never happened. In fact, the competition never took place again. Because here was the problem: It was the Housewife of the Year Award. You had to be a wife, and you had to be in the house. And, though it was never explicitly stated, you had to be a mammy. Ideally, you wouldn’t be anything else. As Ireland changed, there were complaints, in the event’s dying years, that too many women working outside the home were taking part. And, in a surprising denouement, competitive housewifery became perhaps the only professional sport to be ruined by the rise of amateurism. It lost its soul. It’s never coming back.

(by Fergal Crehan)

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RTÉ’s Greatest Themes

This LP was released by our national broadcaster in 1987 to celebrate 25 years of television and 60 years of radio. It was marketed by that old reliable, K-Tel, on foot of a vigorous advertising campaign. The premise is pretty straightforward – one side devoted to television, the other to radio. In both instances selections of themes are played with panaché by The RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

The 15 minute suite of television themes serves up a feast of nostalgic thrills for anyone aged over 30 who grew up on a diet of one/two channel television. Most of the memorable ones are present. For the children we have Wanderly Wagon and Bosco while the Wesley Burrowes triptych that is The Riordans/Bracken/Glenroe is present and correct.

Sports fans will be delighted with the theme to that Saturday afternoon staple Sports Stadium (1:40pm – after The Wonderful World Of Disney/Daktari/The Invisible Man – take your pick) and the evergreen stomper that is James Last’s Jägerlatein a.k.a. The Sunday Game.

Current affairs are represented with News and Newstime, Today Tonight and 7 Days. The first two are reasonably groovy. Hats off to the orchestra for their stirring rendition of To Whom It Concerns – theme for the world’s longest-running chat show, The Late Late Show.

Here’s the first part of “Television Themes Down The Years”.

A competent cover of the Dallas theme tune follows. For those of us who grew up in Ireland during the 1980s, Dallas on a Saturday night was a ritual. Usually watched after a bath while drying one’s hair by the open fire.

Side 1 concludes with The American Connection – a medley of three classic cop/private eye shows. Hill Street Blues is reprised towards the climax.

The flipside is a different story and is likely to be of more interest to those of more advanced years. It’s all about the radio. Music On The Move is nicely funky and is taken from the Chappell library. Other melodic choices include Living With Lynch and the Irish Hospitals Trust while Hospital Requests‘ use of a Gershwin melody is oddly sentimental. My favourite remains Tico’s Tune which soundtracked The Gay Byrne Show for all those years.

Two traditional compositions conclude the LP – dramatic and expertly honed versions of An Chuilfhionn and The Raggle Taggle Gypsy (made famous by Planxty).

Full tracklist

Side 1
01 Television Themes Down The Years
(a) 7 Days (b) The Palatine’s Daughter – The Riordans
(c) Here Comes The Wagon – Wanderly Wagon (d) Today Tonight
(e) To Whom It Concerns – The Late Late Show
(f) Eireodh Mé Amárach – Glenroe (g) Strumpet City (h) Bracken
(i) Thrilling Spectacle – Sports Stadium (j) Murphy’s Micro Quiz-M
(k) Tolka Row (l) Bosco (m) Mart And Market
(n) Classical Action – News And Newstime (o) The Shadows
(p) Jägerlatein – The Sunday Game
02 Dallas
03 The American Connection
(a) Hill Street Blues (b) Magnum P.I. (c) The Rockford Files

Side 2
04 Radio Themes Down The Years
(a) O’Donnell Abú (b) O’Donnell Abú
(c) Fish And Sticks – Music On The Move
(d) The Wibbly Wobby Walk – The Town Hall Tonight
(e) A Fair Day – The Kennedys Of Castleross
(f) The Old Turf Fire – Round The Fire
(g) Someone To Watch Over Me – Hospital Requests
(h) Perpetuum Mobile – Question Time (i) Le Jet d’Eau – The Foley Family
(j) The School Around The Corner (k) Three Little Words – Living With Lynch
(l) When You Wish Upon A Star – Irish Hospitals Trust
(m) Tico’s Tune – The Gay Byrne Show
05 An Chúilfhionn – Nordring ’78
06 The Raggle Taggle Gypsy – Nordring ’78

In an ideal world the original versions of all these themes would have been compiled with extensive sleevenotes in some sort of fancy box set. However this highly enjoyable interpretation from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra is probably as much as you’ll ever get.

I’ll leave you with the second part of “Television Themes Down The Years”.

(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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