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Going Underground

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In these recession times, it is more important than ever that we draw up on our rich cultural heritage to try and regain some standing. That heritage of music, songs, poetry and that most revered and sadly slowly fading Irish art of storytelling. And indeed there was a rich amount of it right here in Enniscorthy. So much so that two films were shot here in the 1960’s. The Violent Enemy, which featured St. Aidan’s Cathedral, The Cotton Tree and the long abolished public toilets across from Kelly’s Pharmacy. The other one was The Underground. A film shot entirely in Enniscorthy. A fact I was not aware of until I saw Mr. Donald Cullen advertising it to be shown on Patrick’s Day just gone.

I have subsequently met Donal on several occasions, and luckily he is keeping the tradition of storytelling well and truly alive. A warm, unassuming and gently spoken man, he is a source of knowledge as regards the town and places, characters and places no longer residing in the town. On this particular occasion, I sat down with Donald over tea and biscuits and we discussed The Underground. A film that has a special place in Donal’s heart as most of it was shot in and around Irish Street Stores, where he worked as a teenager. I asked him if he had any particular memories of the film being shot in the town:

Well, I was a teenager working in Irish Street Stores, which was in close proximity to Paddy Bolger’s Insurance and Getting’s Garage. I remember the Cobbler Wilson taught me a lot about films. He was a great man, and he helped me to make my film choices. His favourite turn of phrase was, “Don’t go see that, that’s a dud.” So I got my first film education from the Cobbler.

Were there many local people used in the film?

Oh, yes. Loads. Peter Mullaly of the Milehouse was the chief mourner in the funeral scene. And Feili Connors was also in it; Ned Earle was also cast as a priest in the movie. They just used people from the town, probably because it was cheaper and ultimately handier!

Do you have any particular memories of the filming of the film in the store itself?

Many, many memories yes. My outstanding memory is Robert Goulet. He never used the catering vans on set. He opted to come into the stores instead and always ordered a Ginger Ale, while wearing a very swanky box jacket. We nearly got cleared out of Ginger Ale. Lett’s got a lot of business. The shop was till operational in and around the filming. And one day, I nearly pulverised him with a curtain shutter!

You nearly pulverised Goulet?

Ha, ha. Yes. Well what happened was I was told to go down to the stores and get some curtain shutters to restock the shop, so I started to bring them back up. Unbeknownst to me, they were filming outside the shop and Goulet had to come through it to get to his mark. I came up the stairs, he opened the doors and I met him head on with the shutter, nearly gutting him! He laughed it off and just went to reshoot the scene!

Having been in the town in the 60’s and 70’s, would you say there have been a lot of changes in the town?

The biggest change for me is that monstrosity in the Market Square. The monument should never have been moved. It should have been left well enough alone. In fact, it’s very similar to the Floozy in the Jacuzzi in Dublin. I think the Market Square was fine the way it was. Now it’s just a bunch of concrete. And Abbey Square should have been left alone as well. Is that supposed to be a bird?

There were two films shot in the town. Is there enough culture in the town?

The town could be used still! There are stories here that have been told, and more that could be told! Actually, Steven Spielberg named one of his houses in Boston, Vinegar Hill. So that could come back, there could be a blockbuster about the 1798 rebellion on the way!

Speaking of stories, there are loads of characters in the town. Do you recall any in particular?

Characters? I remember Paddy Bulmers from Ferns. He was the town’s local wino he used to get wasted on cider wine. A drink that was exclusive to Enniscorthy. And we used to wash the bottles with a long wire brush. They cost the grand total of 3 and 6. Paddy would be sitting on the steps opposite Irish Street stores and he’s be waiting for it to open! Then you wouldn’t see him for a few days on end. Then there was Chalks Leacy, who was actually related to me. And he used to travel around singing with May Malone from Wexford. They sang in Tramore during the summer. . Then there was Joss “Heck” Ramsey, he was another great character from in and around the town.

I can strongly recommend The Underground. Don’t expect great story telling or character development. What you will get is a nice little film that was shot in our little town. And if you spot Donald in the street, I’m sure he’d be quite happy to tell you more about his experience on the set and some more stories that could not in good faith go to print!

 

 

 

 

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Written by thepanch

June 11, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Thoughts

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