When Gerry Regan, executive producer of TheWildGeese.com, heard that I was preparing for my journey through England and Ireland, he asked if I could make my way to Leitrim and the film set of 'Jimmy's Hall' and report on the experience. I at first jumped at the chance but then I had to focus on completing the financing to do it as I barely had enough money to carry me through Wexford, my ultimate destination. This was such an amazing opportunity to see Ken Loach's team in action on a very intriguing story that I had to find a way.
I was incredibly spoiled in England by my newly discovered cousins through our connections to hundreds of years of Midlands needle- factory workers, but once I flew from Bristol to Dublin that all changed. My solitary, shoestring, backpacking Irish journey had begun, but the minute I stepped off the train in Carrick-On-Shannon, our Wild Geese teammate Anna Porter was there to meet me and a fabulous new friendship and journey began.
Sixteen Films Producer Rebecca O'Brien had informed me that they would not be on the actual 'Hall' set for another five days and we agreed to wait.
Just before I left England, I learned of the B-Side Hostel in Carrick, which came highly recommended. On the strength of B-Side's positive reviews, Gerry offered now member John Crowe, the innkeeper, a sponsorship package in exchange for accommodation for me, and a deal was struck. My timing as always, was perfect as the summer was winding down and everyone had just left, so most of the time I had the hostel all to myself, along with a private room. The B-Side staff couldn't do enough for me.
Finally, it seemed the whole town was excited about the filming of their local hero James Gralton, and some had very strong, shall we say, reservations about the project.
I went across the road from the remains of the O'Rourke's Castle (more on them later) and the beautiful River Shannon, to Cryan's Hotel (another amazing family-run business) and, with typical Irish hospitality, they were happy for me to sit in their lobby with my phone and bluetooth keyboard. I really looked forward to my mornings in that friendly lobby.
Anna (and sometimes our 'driver' Barney) picked me up everyday to show me the glories of Leitrim and the adjoining counties. We first went to Effernagh and the site of the original Pearse-Connolly Memorial Hall erected by members of the community on a little section of the poor 25 acres of land owned by Jimmy Gralton's parents. The hall was to serve as a meeting place and was dedicated in honour of the Socialist and Republican leaders of 1916. It is at a crossroads in a beautiful spot of the quiet Irish countryside, with the The Swan Inn and Undertakers across the road.
On August 16th, the 80th anniversary of the deportation of Jimmy Gralton was commemorated on the site, with 'Jimmy's Hall' director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty in attendance. Others there included Des Guckian, author of 'Deported: The Story of James Gralton'; Sorcha Fox, director of the play 'Jimmy Gralton's Dance Hall' (linking to the YouTube video made of the play) and members of the Gralton family. Read more on this story in The Wild Geese. I was getting very excited to get to the film set.