‘A Horse’s Tale’ Farm horsepower era in North Clare to be recalled in The Courthouse Gallery.

 Mowing the hay -  Joe and Michael, Doonbay  A Horse’s Tale’ focused on the last days of the farm working horse in the locality. The Old Ennistymon Society is showing this film on Wednesday next, August 27 at 8pm at the Courthouse Art Gallery and Studios as its contribution to this year’s National Heritage Week. Admission is free.

A special screening next week in Ennistymon of a television documentary featuring local people made over 30 years ago will vividly bring to mind an era when horsepower ruled on Irish farms.

First broadcast on RTE in 1979, Neville Presho’s television documentary, ‘A Horse’s Tale’ features Moy national schoolchildren watching farmer Joe Garrihy from Carrowntedaun, Lahinch and his trusted Irish Draught mare, ‘Doonbay’ at work.

“The overall theme of National Heritage Week this year is ‘Family… Generations Exploring Heritage Together”, so we decided that the screening of this particular film offers an ideal opportunity for young and old today to do just that,” explained Kathryn Comber, Secretary, Old Ennistymon Society.

The documentary, produced in association with RTE, was inspired by prize-winning entries from pupils at the Moy National School, under the guidance of School Principal, Úna Uí Rócháin, in a national essay competition. The competition, based on the theme ‘These Changing Times’ – ‘An Saol ag Athrú’, coincided with the International Year of the Child.

Three schoolchildren from Moy NS, John Garrihy, Seán Curtin and Michael Harhen, were featured observing, and lending a hand to, Joe Garrihy and ‘Doonbay’ as they carried out various tasks on the farm. These ranged from cutting and harvesting the hay to drawing home turf from the bog.

The film also showed the mare being shod at Moloney’s blacksmith forge in Ennistymon while her repaired bridle is retrieved from the local Crowe’s saddlery. Scenes were also shot at Kilmihil cattle fair and the famous Spancilhill horse fair.
On way to bog - Joe, Sean, John, Doonbay
Close links

“Not only does the film call to mind many largely forgotten farm practices and traditions but it also highlights how closely linked local towns were with family farms and rural communities in their hinterlands,” added Kathryn Comber.

The film plot involved a mare competing for her master’s affections with a tractor, symbolising the doomed attempt of old traditions to survive against modern equipment and methods.

‘A Horse’s Tale’ was one of a four-part series called ‘Curious Eyes’ produced and directed by Neville Presho. The series also featured children observing and experiencing skills and traditions practised by older people on the Aran Islands, in North Tipperary and Belfast.

Aside from the film screening, a set of evocative photographs from the era in question will also be shown at the Ennistymon Courthouse event. This will be followed by a group discussion, with contributions and reminiscences from a number of people featured in, or closely associated with, the film including Colman Garrihy, the son of ‘Doonbay’ owner, the late Joe Garrihy.

Hitching a lift from Mick Conlon


Close town-rural links highlighted at well-attended Heritage Week event

The close interdependence of the market town of Ennistymon and its rural hinterland in decades gone by was highlighted at a special National Heritage Week event organised by the Old Ennistymon Society last week.

A screening of Neville Presho’s documentary film, ‘A Horse’s Tale’ originally shown on RTE in 1979 was the centrepiece of the event, held at the Courthouse Art Gallery and Studios. The film attracted a huge attendance, with the venue filled to capacity on Wednesday night resulting in a decision to stage a second showing for patrons the following night that also attracted a sizeable crowd.

In the film plot, a farm workhorse, ‘Doonbay’ vies with a tractor for the attention of its owner, the late Joe Garrihy from Carrowntedaun, Lahinch at a time in the 1970s when old traditions and work practices in rural Ireland were being eclipsed by modern machinery.

Moloney’s blacksmith forge and Crowe’s saddlery in Ennistymon were prominently featured in the film and at the Heritage Week event. ‘A Horse’s Tale’ showed ‘Doonbay’ being shod by the late John Moloney and a repaired bridle being picked up from the late Paddy Crowe.  Various contributors to last week’s events emphasised the close linkages between such town-based crafts and the surrounding communities when Ennistymon thrived as a leading market town in the county.

Photographs and other memorabilia associated with the documentary, forge and saddlery were also shown at the Courthouse. Joe Garrihy’s son, Colman recalled the general background and context to the making of the film. Former Principal of Moy NS, Úna Uí Rócháin recounted the school’s success in a national essay competition that led to Neville Presho shooting the film in the locality.

The three Moy NS pupils who helped Joe Garrihy and Doonbay with various farm chores at the time, Sean Curtin, John Garrihy and Michael Harhen, were present to recall their experiences as 12-13 year-old ‘film stars’.

Christy Petty, a cousin of John Moloney, outlined the Moloney family’s long and proud tradition as blacksmiths while Frances Madigan in a pre-recorded interview with Ennistymon native and now Manchester-based John O’Brien vividly recalled how he spent many of his younger days observing John at work in the forge in a pre-recorded interview.

JJ Crowe, son of Paddy Crowe, described the family’s saddlery skills and central role in the life of the market town. A former employee at Crowe’s, Paddy Gallagher called to mind the heyday of the saddlery, especially during World War 11 when the horse and trap was much in use as a mode of transport.

Other contributors over the two nights at the Courthouse event included Michael Conlon from Deerpark West, Ennistymon whose father Mick appeared in the film and Micheál Shannon from Kilfarboy, son of the late Michael Joe whose bog was featured. Frank Davis from Ennistymon and John Organ from Cahersherkin also spoke about their memories of Moloney’s forge.

“We were thrilled with the response to the Heritage Week event,” said Kathryn Comber of the Old Ennistymon Society. “Not alone did the film and photographs highlight precious local traditions and skills but they also stimulated wonderful contributions from the audience, all of which has led to a heightened awareness in the community of the importance of preserving our rich heritage,” she added.