'The Quiet Man' Cottage: On the Brink of Extinction

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 6 August, 2014, our own Ryan O'Rourke had the opportunity to visit the site of the old White O'Morn Cottage in Tiernakill, Maumm, County Galway.  This old site, which now lies in ruins, is better known to the world as "The Quiet Man Cottage."  The structure was depicted as the home of Sean Thornton (played by John Wayne) and Mary Kate Danaher (played by Maureen O'Hara) in the 1952 motion picture "The Quiet Man."

Ryan was met at White O'Morn by Mike Ward of the "Save The Quiet Man Cottage" group, which seeks the complete restoration of the cottage.  They, along with other groups, engage in an ongoing effort to find a solution that will be amenable to the cottage's current owners as well as Galway County Council.

We at The Wild Geese fully support any effort that seeks the restoration of this genuine treasure from Ireland's past.  As the years pass, more stones from the original structure vanish as does the memory of this classic film -- a film which was the world's first glimpse into the magnificent natural beauty of Ireland in color images.

We invite you to join our discussion relating to the efforts to restore White O'Morn Cottage.  For now, we hope you will enjoy this Q&A with Mike Ward of the "Save The Quiet Man Cottage" group:

The Wild Geese:  Mike, in approximately what year was this cottage built, and who were the original inhabitants?

Mike Ward:  The cottage is reputed to be between 200 and 300 years old.  We do know it was well over 100 years old when "The Quiet Man" was being filmed in 1951.  This means the cottage survived the famine years.

The film was earmarked to be shot in the town of Spiddal, County Galway originally.  Cong won out as the filming location because of Ashford Castle's accommodations and the facilities there.  It took about six weeks to make the entire film.  It certainly brought a lot of activity into this area.  The Joyce family were the ones who built the house, and their descendants still owned it and lived in the house when Hollywood arrived.  I think they were paid something in the region of 500 pounds for the use of the cottage.  All the exterior scenes were done in Ireland, but all the interior scenes were shot in a studio in America.

The Wild Geese:  Do you think "The Quiet Man" still resonates with younger generations as a film?

Mike Ward:   The older people would recall the film quite well, alright.  It's left a huge mark on Irish culture and history.   But some people from younger generations will say, "Oh, vaguely I've heard of it," but they're not terribly impressed with it.  What I'm finding is that our biggest supporters come from Northern Ireland.  We also have massive support, of course, from America.  The film is still having phenomenal success with people all over the world, though.  It's incredible to say that after 64 years, it's still rated as one of the top 100 movies ever made.  As for the younger generations, we're getting a huge percentage within the last year who will come up and say, "Oh, I used to watch that film with my mom and dad when I was a child."  They're growing up now and they're telling their own children about "The Quiet Man."  It's lovely to see that the love for the film is being carried on to the next generation.

The Wild Geese:  What would you need to get this cottage, now just a pile of stones, to a restored state?

Mike Ward:  We'd need one of three things: An agreement from the owner to lease, sell, or donate the property.  Nothing is happening there yet, but we're still working on it.  Please God, something will come out of it eventually.

The Wild Geese:  If you are able to secure what is needed to restore the cottage, what are your dreams for it?

Mike Ward:  We'd love to have it all restored and actually have it open to the public ... not just as a private structure.  It wouldn't benefit many people that way apart from just coming and taking a picture.  We want to see it used as a cultural and heritage centre.  Hopefully we will see that happen in our lifetime.

The Wild Geese:  Finally, Mike, please give us the background of the "Save the Quiet Man Cottage" group of which you are a part.

Mike Ward:  The "Save the Quiet Man Cottage" group was an idea I had been a fan of the film, as well as Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne, for all of my adult life.  Starting about 40 years ago, I used to come down to Cong to have a look at the various film locations.  I had an awful time trying to find the actual location of the White O'Morn cottage.  And just typically as in the film itself, I was sent around here, there, and everywhere.  Eventually after umpteen number of failures, I was actually able to locate the cottage.  Like everyone else, though, when I did find it I was absolutely shocked and horrified to find the dreadful condition it was in.  So, I decided maybe there was some way some of us could get together and try to get media focus on it. 

At that time I was just becoming familiar with social networks.  I was discussing the dreadful condition of the cottage with a friend who lived in America who was also a fan of "The Quiet Man" movie.  Between us, we decided that perhaps we could harness the social networks to try and bring universal media focus on the situation.  We didn't have a lot of hope for it, but we had a go at it.  So, we set up a page and called it "Save the Quiet Man Cottage."  That was in January 2010, and it took off.  We couldn't believe the number of people; we thought we'd be lucky to get maybe a couple hundred people to join the group.  In actual fact, it grew in leaps and bounds.  Eventually, newspapers and magazines began contacting us and giving us a little bit of publicity, and then onto radio.  Within about six months of the group being formed, we managed to get in contact with a local politician by the name of Senator Fidelma Healy Eames.  She was a wonderful help for us.  She introduced us to the man who was, at the time, the Minister for Irish Arts, Culture, and Gaeltacht Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan.  After we had a meeting with him, our group actually received Irish government approval. 

We had, in the meantime, gotten into contact with Gregory Ebbitt, the American-based owner of the White O'Morn cottage.  We were able to get Jimmy Deenihan and Gregory Ebbitt talking on the phone.  We had several conversations on the phone and through email.  Everything looked to be terrific and the group was expanding rapidly; however, complications set in where Mr. Ebbitt wasn't as forthcoming as we had hoped.  We had great hope ... things were looking good, then suddenly he was putting in extra stipulations.  This made things more complicated, and as a result we ended up at an impasse.  Four years later, unfortunately, we're still at that impasse.  

The crux of the matter is basically this: The Irish government gave Mr. Ebbitt three choices.  He could either sell the property, long-term lease it, or donate it.  He thought a lot about it and discussed it with his family.  It dragged on, and on, and on, and eventually what really spoiled the whole thing was when he came up with one offer that he would be allowed to build a replica "Quiet Man" village within the vicinity of the current cottage when it is restored.  Because of a lot of complications with planning and environmental issues, that would seem to be out of the question.  So, unfortunately, that's the way the situation is to this present day.  There is a stalemate there.  But, we have to keep hope.

Related:

Join the discussion on how to save "The Quiet Man Cottage"

Views: 4511

Tags: Connemara, Film, Galway, Movies, Preservation, United States

Comment by Richard R. Mc Gibbon Jr. on August 12, 2014 at 7:36pm

The Quiet Man, an enjoyable movie on a number of different levels.  It is a snap shot of a Ireland in a particular time with some major Irish type characters.  No computer enhanced fight scenes, so this generation may not even want to view it. The "cottage" seems in a very poor state of affairs which will require a fair amount of funds to restore it. Looks like the big stumbling block may be the current owner and their reasons for not allowing its restoration. If we could find out why they are hesitant to sell, rent or donate then maybe a solution may be found. Slainte !

Comment by Bit Devine on August 13, 2014 at 2:29pm

Ryan, here is a link which Patrick McCormick posted to youtube... the property owner in January 2013:

Comment by Thomas Deehan on August 14, 2014 at 1:49pm

Bit Devine thats actually an interview with owner of the cottage (as you said) but it wasn't an interview with Patrick Mccormack it was with an actual radio host! Patrick Mccormack only re-posted it to You-Tube....just thought I'd point that out to keep you on the straight and narrow you know what its like with copy right on here!!!

Comment by Bit Devine on August 14, 2014 at 3:41pm

Even better..thanks for the information, Thomas!

Comment by Ann V Quinlan on August 17, 2014 at 8:02am

This lovely cottage represents an exquisite art form that is, sadly, fast disappearing from the Irish landscape.  The replicas in colonies of rental and time share properties seem stark and clinical, to me, and simply cannot do justice to this original concept of home, hearth and shelter.  Like the Native American adobe structures and Pueblos, these homes where created from the very earth on which they were formed.  Preservation of this artistic history is paramount. At the risk of committing a sacrilege, knowing that The Quiet Man was acclaimed worldwide, especially in USA, I was never a fan of the film.   That is another whole conversation!  In the meantime,  I would like to see the preservation of this gracious focused on the people who actually created it and lived their lives within its walls, not as a monument to a film!  Just one Irish woman's opinion!   

Comment by Anthony Kurnel on August 17, 2014 at 2:37pm

I think the committee for white O" Morn needs to hire experts in getting the money back that was stolen from the Maureen O'Hara's fund to rebuild the house and have a cultural museum, Maureen O'Hara made many appearances at her age to further this project along only to have he power of attorney and the staff to steal the funds. disgusting!

Comment by Ann V Quinlan on August 17, 2014 at 3:53pm

I was not aware of that travesty, Anthony.  Yes.  Maureen was the real star of that film.  I am sad that her life's work and hard earned money was stolen from her.  Somehow, her spirit will always be a part of this charming place. Ann 

Comment by mike ward on October 1, 2014 at 12:52pm

Anthony Kumel .   Hi Anthony  ,   i am truly amazed  and shocked  at your statement above   ,  for  several reasons  including   the allegation that  money  assigned  towards  towards the cottage  was stolen  from  Miss O Haras fund    by her previous power of  attorney ,   First of all   this has never been proved   and i understand   that  counter legal proceedings are being taken  by Miss O Haras   former  power of attorney and  are currently in progress  , you  may be very very surprised at the outcome of those proceeding  , Secondly im  amazed too that your post above  carrying those   statements  was allowed to be published on this website   by the monitors  / admins of this website  .  ,    

Comment by mike ward on October 1, 2014 at 1:34pm

Thomas Deehan , Hi Thomas   , in reference  to your   reply  to  Bit Devine   regards  the Radio interview    clip above featuring the owner of the cottage Greggory Ebbitt  ,  i was the  person  who set up and arranged that interview   between  Midlands  Radio 103  and Mr. Ebbitt ,  and i took part in that interview   representing  THE SAVE THE QUIET MAN COTTAGE  facebook group  which was the first ever on line  group / community to take up the cause of the cottage   ( in Jan 2010 )  The clip above   uploaded to you tube by  Patrick  McCormac     Founder  of WHITE O MORN FOUNDATION  on facebook   , which he set up in opposition  to my group over a year later  after  i launched SAVE THE QUIET MAN COTTAGE  group   He    ( as he admits himself   ) edited  that audio clip  of the interview   ,and  edited out my contribution to the program    this was needless to say    to  take away any and all credit  due  to me and my group  and our participation on the project  ,  and at the same time  present Mr. Ebbitt  in the worst possible light  ,  and to draw as much negative  attention  to Mr, Ebbitt as possible as well ,  ,  , This action  by Patrick McCormac was without  doubt   very very dubious   and ulterior motivated , the intent being  to  take entire credit for everything and anything  positive concerning the cottage  project  and present himself as the sole advocate of the cottage cause  ,    i have the official full copy of that live broadcast   , in fact   i sent  a copy of  it to one of the page admins / monitors here to upload      and was promised it would be posted here   that was well over a month ago  so far it has not appeared   on this  page  ,   i rest my case   

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