Still south I went and west and south again,
Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,
And far from cities and the sites of men,
Lived with the sunshine and the moon's delight.
I knew the stars, the flowers and the birds,
The grey and wintry sides of many glens,
And did but half remember human words,
In converse with the mountain, moors and fens.
J. M. Synge
Why didn't someone think of it before? Up to now there was a dearth of
celluloid records of my beautiful, historic, serene and inspiring West
Wicklow. Now that has been rectified. West Wicklow Films has brought out
a video A Journey Through West Wicklow. It is directed and narrated by
Julie Phibbs. Julie, who qualified as a broadcast journalist in 2002,
grew up in Blackrock, near Blessington, the gateway to West Wicklow. And,
not surprisingly, this is where the "journey" starts.
Vintage photos and an interview with local historian, Aidan Cruise uncovers
little known facts about the Church 0f Ireland Church, castles, forges,
dances and the legendry Blessington Steam Tram. The Blessington Tram operated
between Terenure and Blessington from 1888 until 1932. It was immortalised
in a ballad The Blessington Tram by Dominican Priest, Father Kevin O'Hannon.
The now beautiful Blessington Lakes didn't come about without human suffering.
Johnny Clarke recounts how 6,500 acres of farmland was flooded when the
sluice gate was lowered at Poulaphouca in 1940. Houses had been demolished
and families whose ancestors had lived there for generations were uprooted.
Kylebeg singer, Ted Balfe gives a very moving rendition of it.
Lacken features prominently and why wouldn't it. Don't mind what they
tell you in Roundwwood, Lacken is the highest village in Ireland. All
you Doubting Thomases from the "backs of Wicklow" can check
the benchmark at Lacken School. The photography is superb with breathtaking
shots of Baltyboys, Carrig, Kylebeg and Ballinastockan. Ballinastockan
was the birthplace of John Balfe ("Balfe the Robber",) a highwayman
who was executed at Saint Stephens Green, in Dublin on Saturday the fifteenth
of June 1706. The opening words of his Gallows speech were, "I was
born in Ballinestocken, in the County of Wicklow, and Barony of Talbotstown,
being tenderly brought up, and Educated as became a Gentleman, until I
was Seventeen Years of Age; and then was by Lewd Women deluded from my
Study..." He went on to say that he was innocent of the murder for
which he was being hanged.
And on to Ballyknockan "The Granite Village" where even the
fencing posts bear the track of a tradesman's hand. Dublin stonecutters
used to derogatorily refer to the Ballyknockan tradesmen as "rowl-me-downs".
But there is evidence in edifices around the world that the stonecutters
of Ballyknockan could hold their own with the best of them. Didn't Seamus
Murphy, in his book Stone Mad say that the Ballyknockan granite was the
most difficult to work? In this video Tom Osborne demonstrates his set
of, probably, 100-year-old chisels, while Michael Freeman gives a vivid
account of the skills, laughs and hardships of the Ballyknockan of yore.
On his last night on earth Michael Collins was asked by his sister, "You
have been all over Ireland, Mick, which of them do you like the best?"
The Answer? "The people of County Wicklow". That is why, in 1965, a 110-ton
granite boulder was transported from West Wicklow to Sam's Cross, Collins's
birthplace. It stands, rugged sturdy and unyielding, like Collins himself
as a lasting memory to the "Big Fellow."
Author and Historian Seamus O Maitiu treats the viewer to an in depth
account of " The Journals of Elizabeth Smith", wife of the local Landlord,
Colonel Henry Smith. Mrs Smith kept a detailed diary during the 1840's.
The fact that nobody died of hunger in the area in the Famine years is
testimony to the kindness of the Smiths. Julie Phibbs and her team spent
considerable time at the cottage at Derrynamuck from which Michael Dwyer,
a Captain in the local unit of the United Irishmen, escaped in 1899. Derrynamuck
was close to his birthplace at the top of the Glen of Imail. He evaded
capture for five years. Kieran Sheedy in his book Upon The Mercy Of Government
claims that the forces of law made only a half-hearted attempt to capture
Dwyer, "...these searches Éseemed to be chiefly motivated by the expenses
which they received for the efforts. Attempting to capture Dwyer had become
a growth industry with them and his actual capture would have brought
a valuable source of income to an end". That may be partly true, but history
shows that the people of West Wicklow were always loyal to their freedom
The camera follows the story of the West Wicklow rebel from the foot of
Lugnaquilla to his final resting place in Waverly Cemetery, Sydney. The
ballad Dunlavin Green (the story of how 36 men were massacred by the Yeomen)
is brought to life and the town of Baltinglass is a historian's paradise.
Whether you grew up in the "Barn Cinema" era or the days of colour TV
you were entertained by the products of Tinseltown. But did you know where
Hollywood got its name? Well, a Guirk man from Hollywood, Co.Wicklow immigrated
to California and made good. He opened a Racetrack and called it Hollywood
Park. The film industry grew up around it and the powers that were decided
to call itÉHOLLYWOOD!!
The camera lingers in the mist-covered mountains around the village of
Hollywood. And we learn of Saint Kevin's "journey through West Wicklow"
on his way to Glendalough. One of the last scenes in this collector's
piece is a grim reminder of the last victim of the Civil War: The plaque
on May Nolan's house, in Knocknadruce, commemorates Niall Plunkett O Ô
Boyle. Donegalman, O'Boyle was Commander of the Flying Column under the
jurisdiction of the Third Battalion, No 2 (South Dublin) Brigade. On Tuesday
15th May 1923 the house in Knockanadruce was surrounded by Free State
soldiers under the command of Colonel Felix McCorly. O' Boyle came out
with his hands up and was immediately shot through the eye. A second shot
to the head finished him off.
From Manor Kilbride to Shillelagh it's all there.
A Journey Through West Wicklow is available from; Ms
Julie Phibbs West Wicklow Films Blackrock, Blessington, Co. Wicklow. Price
25 Euro (including P&P.) Additional information from firstname.lastname@example.org
20th February 2005