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Friday, July 1, 2011

FEATURE

www.derryjournal.com

My weekend with THE

Quiet Man

Sixty years ago the village of Cong in the west of Ireland was transformed into a Hollywood set for the filming of the movie classic, ‘The Quiet Man’. Thousands of people from across the world - many of them from the North West - travel to Cong each year to visit the film locations and soak up the atmosphere of this special place. Last weekend, the Journal’s BERNIE MULLEN walked in the footsteps of stars of the movie John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and was completely bowled over by ‘The Quiet Man’ visitor experience. ‘The Quiet Man’ really needs no introduction to older generations at least - we’ve all watched the legendary Irish movie since we were knee high. But there’s one introduction you simply can’t miss during a trip to Cong and it’s the irrepressible Gerry Collins, B&B owner, tour guide and all round expert on ‘The Quiet Man’. Last weekend we stayed at the excellent Michaeleen’s Manor B&B run by Gerry and his wife Margaret. We arrived later than expected on a rain-soaked Friday night and were met with what felt like a hundred thousand welcomes. The hospitable couple who are passionate about promoting ‘The Quiet Man’ film location, opened the Cong Holiday Hostel in 1984 when Gerry was working as a bread deliveryman and Margaret worked as a chef in nearby Ashford Castle. In 1985 a guest in the hostel asked if they ever showed the movie and promised to bring a copy the next time he visited. This was the start of Quiet Man tourism big style. Nine years ago Gerry and Margaret opened the modern Michaeleen’s Manor across the road from their hostel and camping site. The B&B has what’s believed to be the biggest collection of Quiet Man photographs in the world. Built up over the last 20 years, classic black and white framed pictures of scenes from the movie, screen legends John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and wooden plaques with the best lines from the movie adorn the walls of the three-storey accommodation. The lines include such classics as, “Woman of the house - where’s me tae?”; “No patty fingers if you please”; and “A man would need to be a sprinter to catch his wife in a bed like that”. The B&B and Quiet Man Museum are believed to be the first of their kind dedicated to a Hollywood classic. Each of the 12 en-suite bedrooms in the Quiet Man B&B is themed on characters from the film with a plaque above the door. We stayed in a spacious family room named after ‘The Bishop’ in the movie, with views of the tennis court and replica Quiet Man bridge in the grounds of the property which also boasts an outdoor hot-tub, barbecue area, pitch and putt and plenty of car parking.

At breakfast on Saturday morning we met an American couple who were staying in the B&B on their honeymoon. Raymond Ullmer and Leeza Forman from New Jersey got married two and a half years ago but postponed their trip to Cong because of work commitments. Leeza is formerly from the Ukraine, and the appeal of ‘The Quiet Man’ is worldwide with translations of the movie in languages including Japanese.

‘Quiet Man crazies’

Gerry and Margaret Collins at Michaeleen’s Manor B&B in Cong - named after the Matchmaker in the movie. (0107BM01)

LEFT: John Connolly outside Pat Cohan’s Bar (The Quiet Man pub) in Cong. BELOW: A detail of the plaque in front of Pat Cohan’s Bar on location in Cong.

“I’ve seen it more than a hundred times and know every line in the movie”, said Raymond, which would put him in the category of fans known affectionately in the village as “Quiet Man crazies.” There were more of them on a CIE coach party we joined for one of Gerry Collins’ fun-packed Quiet Man walking tours - an experience not to be missed. It comes with audience participation and plenty of laughs along the way. The coach party from Pennsylvania produced a few characters when Gerry roped them in to re-enact clips from the movie with one of the most famous fist fights in cinematic history. A retired policeman and his wife stepped into the leading roles of Sean Thornton (John Wayne) and Mary Kate Danagher (Maureen O’Hara). It was a laugh a minute as Gerry whipped them into shape with takes one, two and three just to get romantic clinches as near to the original as possible! Gerry’s rallying cry for us all “to spread out and cheer like good Protestants” as per the movie, is an ice-breaker you wouldn’t get away with everywhere but he works ‘The Quiet Man’ crowd like nobody’s business. But don’t worry if you’re a shrinking violet, this tour will bring you out of your shell. You won’t be forced to participate if you’d really prefer to watch other people vying for an Oscar - Quiet Man crazy style!

Exact replica

Back at The Quiet Man Museum at the end of the tour there’s more fun to be had when costumes are donned. The Museum is an exact replica of the exterior of ‘White O’Morn’, the thatched cottage used in the film as Sean Thornton’s ancestral home and the original


Friday, July 1, 2011

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in a scene from The Quiet Man. movie set in Hollywood where all of the interior shots were made. ‘The Quiet Man’ is close to the hearts of the people of Cong as many of the villagers were drafted in as extras in the movie. They were paid 30s a day - the equivalent of a week’s wages and their descendants all have stories to tell about their roles. A small dedicated band of people like Gerry Collins; Patrick Luskin who runs Corrib Cruises; Denis Ryan of Ryan’s Hotel; and John Connolly of Pat Cohan’s Bar, are passionate about promoting this iconic Co Mayo location as a tourist destination. They’re especially keen to welcome new and old visitors from Northern Ireland - who along with the Americans are the biggest Quiet Man fanatics in the world. Cong will be the place to be in August for celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the making of the film - they are expecting a very special guest for The Quiet Man festival on Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August so start making your arrangements now before it’s booked out. Those in the tourism business are pulling out the stops to keep prices down to make holiday packages affordable in tough economic times. Gerry says: “For those who say the South is dear, it has gone much cheaper. It is time to come back and there is an open door in Cong for everyone from the North. Even John Wayne fans come to Cong because of the film. This is the 60th anniversary of the making of the movie and next year is the 60th anniversary of its release. “I am also looking for a bus company who would be interested

in bringing down tours from Northern Ireland for a weekend. We are offering two nights bed and breakfast, an evening meal, a cruise on Lough Corrib, a guided tour of the film location and museum, for 99 euro per person. “For all ‘The Quiet Man crazies’ in the North - from all denominations - who used to come down regularly, we want them all to come back on pilgrimage again to Quiet Man country. The biggest following for ‘The Quiet Man’ is not the Americans, although that is massive, it is Northern Ireland.” Rest assured however, it’s not Quiet Man crazy 24/7. Cong is a beautiful unspoilt village with cosy bars and coffee shops, arts and crafts shops, even a rare and antiquarian book store which are all ‘must sees’ come rain or shine. The home cooked and well presented meals at Ryan’s Hotel have the hallmarks of owner Denis’ experience as a chef at Ashford Castle. Over at Pat Cohan’s bar, you can watch documentary footage about the only movie in town while downing a pint of the black stuff. The river walks are spectacular, taking in the Abbey and the Monks Fishing House. No visit to Cong is complete without a visit to the majestic Ashford Castle and grounds where statesmen and women and A-list celebrities have stayed down the years. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara had separate towers in the castle during filming of ‘The Quiet Man’. And where better to see the breathtaking scenery all around this idyllic spot than on board The Isle of Inisfree with Corrib Cruises....

Patrick Luskin, right, captain, Corrib Cruises with first mate , nephew Jack Winters on board the Isle of Inisfree. (0107BM02)

VoyageofdiscoveryontheCorrib Corrib Cruises are synonymous with the not-tobe-missed tourism experience in Cong. Captain Patrick Luskin is not only an expert on the history of the area, his family is closely associated with ‘The Quiet Man’. Patrick’s father John, a capenter by trade, was one of the extras in the film. Now the ripe old age of 81, he was among locals who enjoyed a big payday back in 1951. Patrick tells how his father and friends were paid 30 shillings a day - the equivalent of a week’s wages. Filming went on in Cong for ten weeks and they probably worked as extras for half that period. A sepia photo of cast members from the infamous fight scene with director John Ford, takes pride of place in the Luskin household. It shows a handsome 21-year-old John standing directly behind John Wayne. Son Patrick jokes: “If anything had happened John Wayne my father would have been right beside Maureen O’Hara!” John Luskin and his mates headed to Croke Park “with more money than they could spend” to see Mayo win the All-Ireland for the second year in a row in 1951. “One of his friends bought a new tractor in Dublin and the whole village was out to see it when he brought it back to Cong,” said Patrick. “The movie is very special to the people in Cong because every time we watch it we see our relatives in it,” he says. In 1976 John Luskin founded Corrib Cruises, with his two sons Patrick (10) and David (4) learning the ropes. Seeing his own lad - Mayo GAA fanatic James in the cabin - it could well be ‘like father like son’ for the next generation as well. Patrick is now at the helm while his brother David runs the river cruise from Oughterard.

The daily passenger cruise sails between Ashford Castle with a stop off and guided tour of the 5th century monastic site on Inchagoill Island. It’s a lovely relaxing voyage for all the family, with great service from Patrick and his crew. On the guided tour along ancient pathways you will see: n St Patrick’s Church 450AD n Church of the Saints 1180AD n The inscribed stone of Lugna which marks the grave of St Patrick’s navigator 470AD n The tomb of Muirgeas O Nioc, Archbishop of Tuam 1128AD The entire cruise takes approximately two hours including 30 minutes on the island. A shorter one hour tour is also available, all providing excellent views of 365 wooded islands, the Connemara Mountains and Ashford Castle. Corrib Cruises is also available for private hire and the one hour cocktail cruise with live traditional music is a big attraction during July and August - booking is advisable and you’ll be in very good hands. Bar and snack facilities are available on board and when local historian and author Patrick isn’t giving his rundown on the history of the area - pointing out the amazing fishing as well - there’s music on board to set the maritime and Quiet Man scene. Adult 20 euro - children 10 euro - Family: 2 adults and two children 50 euro and 5 euro for every extra child. Tickets on board. For further information on Corrib Cruises contact Patrick: 0035387 9946380 www.corribcruises.com info@corribcruises.com For further information on accommodation and activities visit congtourism.com

SPECIAL OFFERS MICHAELEEN MANOR

Two nights B&B, one evening meal, guided tour of ‘The Quiet Man’ film locations, Corrib cruise. 99 euro pp Cong Hostel & Cong Caravan Camping - stay 4 nights, get 5th free; stay 6 nights, get 7th free and free entrance to The Quiet Man Museum. Tel: 00353 94 954 6846 Email: info@congbb.com Website: www.congbb.com

RYAN’S HOTEL

B&B 40 euro pp during August. Tel: 0035394 9546004 Website: ryanshotelcong.ie

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FEATURE

www.derryjournal.com

The Quiet Man Museum. Cast members on the set of ‘The Quiet Man’ in Cong in 1951. Extras included John Luskin (now aged 81), standing behind John Wayne. (0107BM03) Photo courtesy of Patrick Luskin

My Weekend with The Quiet Man  

A travel feature from the Derry Journal of July 1 2011. Bernie Mullen visits Cong, where Hollywood classic The Quiet Man was filmed some 60...

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