Sunday 24 September 2017

Double vision as iconic picture reels in the years

Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

IT's an iconic image of the Great Depression in America with links to Ireland.

'Lunch Atop a Skyscraper', by Charles C Ebbets, features 11 construction workers on top of a steel beam on a New York skyscraper.

Locals in the Galway village of Shanaglish outside Gort have long claimed that two of the men photographed on the beam in 1932 came from their village.

And yesterday the world-famous photograph was recreated as part of the Galway Film Festival, with the help of two descendants of the original high-flying Irishmen -- Gerry O'Shaughnessy and Thomas Glynn.

Matty O'Shaughnessy and his brother-in-law Patrick Glynn were working on construction sites in New York at the time the original picture was taken and are believed to be the two men at each end of the grinder.

Matty returned to Galway to raise his family while Patrick stayed in the US.

Matty's son Gerry took his place in yesterday's reproduction, while Thomas represented his grand-uncle Patrick.

"He came home in the 1930s and he had talked to the rest of the family about the picture. It was never up in the house, I suppose there was no value in it at the time," said Gerry.

Matty, spent five to six years working on the building sites including a stint during the Great Depression.

"He worked on the Empire State Building as well. They had no fear of anything, they did whatever work was going," said Gerry.

Matty came home in 1935 and took up farming. After raising a family of nine, he died at the age of 77 in 1978 when Gerry was 11. Gerry went on to work in construction when he was older but kept his feet firmly on the ground.

"I've no head for heights at all," he revealed.

'Lon sa Speir', a feature length documentary for TG4, which reveals the story behind the photograph, will receive its world premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh this week. The film was funded by TG4, the Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The fleadh got under way yesterday and runs until Sunday. Fleadh managing director Miriam Allen said: "Every year we aim to improve on what has gone before, and the team has done an excellent job yet again." For more information, see galwayfilmfleadh.com.

Irish Independent

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