Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bugle Calls at Dawn

"The Dawn" (1938) was Ireland's first feature length film with sound, what were known then as "talkies." After recently being digitised, it finished a four week run in the Killarney Cineplex last tuesday week. I was there the last night of the screenings with a couple of local comrades. The film tells the story of the war of Independence and focuses on one family, the Malones, who had a name of being turncoats (blameless or otherwise) from the time of the 19th century Fenian rising.

Thomas Cooper
The Dawn was set in Killarney and staffed mostly by Killarney people. It took 3 years to complete. The film was brought into existence by Thomas Cooper. Mr Cooper, besides owning the local cinema, had no background in film, yet he determined to make this movie called "The Dawn." He bought a camera for 500 pounds in London and sauntered back to Killarney to being filming. Given my own endeavor in film took 3 years to make and enlisted the help of many local and far flung aides, I was especially heartened to see a film like the Dawn being rolled out for the public almost 100 years on. Granted, the Dawn holds a special place in the history of Irish film, but with a bit of luck "A Captain Unafraid" will be also be remembered, maybe by just one or two kind souls in the far flung future! The point I'm slowly making my way around to is, we make our own luck, and that is indeed the crux of it. Both Tommy and myself endeavored and determined steadfastly to make our films and because of that made they came to be.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine, film being collaborative, the enlistment and of the local community is what really made the Dawn shine. 80 years on the theatre was full each week, many enjoying the merits of the film, many other trying to spot their long lost relation's cameo appearances.
My father tells me my grandfather worked on the set of the Dawn. So, myself, I was on the look out for unusual furniturings and bits of timber gone astray! My granddad "militarized" some of trucks of the british army convoys, adding various bit and bobs to them to make them suitably intimidating. I saw bits of one of the trucks fall off at one stage. Hopefully this was planned!

One of the scenes from the Dawn was filmed around the corner from where I grew up on Rookery Rd. The railway bridge on Countess Rd, Killarney, was the scene from "up the country" on film. Incidentally, the bridge itself is where an ambush between Free State forces and the I.R.A. occurred. That Civil War battle is commemorated with a celtic stone cross, as four I.R.A. members were killed there a short time after the events of the war of Independence portrayed on film.

Once I had a fever in my room down wind from this cross, I was drifting in and out of consciousness, sweating profusely. At one point when I closed my eyes I heard a bugler play the last stand. I was sure my time was up, that my tune had been played. Thankfully, I recovered from my fever within a few days. A couple of weeks later I was told there had been a commemoration to the fallen I.R.A. men, replete with bugler, on that feverish day in question!

The images in this blogpost were taken by Michelle Cooper Galvin, they appear in a leaflet given out at Killarney Cineplex called "The Dawn Film Trail." 

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