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Friday 22 August 2014

'Quiet Man' town has stars in its eyes with Hollywood-style event

Nick Bramhill

Published 05/08/2012 | 05:00

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IT'S the iconic film which made Maureen O'Hara a global star and transformed the fortunes of Cong, the remote Co Mayo village where it was filmed.

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But The Quiet Man's most avid fans are not, as commonly believed, from the US but from Northern Ireland.

Tourism chiefs in Cong have confirmed that 80 per cent of film tourists making the pilgrimage to the village every year are from Ulster.

And they said they expect it to be no different later this month, when a special three-day event, Cong Festival, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the release of the classic movie, which also starred John Wayne, gets underway.

Chairman of the Cong Festival 2012 committee Pat Luskin said: "The film allowed people to escape into another world from The Troubles. Things have changed now, but the biggest fans are still from Northern Ireland. They just seem to love the movie more than anyone else."

Meanwhile, there are ambitious plans to lure thousands of new film fans to Cong by creating Ireland's answer to Hollywood's walk of fame. It will be modelled on the legendary pavement outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, where hundreds of film stars' handprints, footprints and signatures have been immortalised in cement.

Cong's Hollywood-style tribute will see some of the world's top movie stars invited over to receive lifetime achievement awards, before being asked to leave a print of their hands, which, in turn, will be bronzed and then mounted at various locations in the village.

Irish-born A-listers such as Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell and Michael Fassbender are likely to be the prime targets of the fledgling project, which organisers believe could significantly boost visitor numbers.

But tourism bosses want Maureen O'Hara -- who was in Cong last year to attend the 60th anniversary celebrations of the filming of The Quiet Man -- to be the first star to be honoured.

It's understood the Glengarriff-based actress, who is just weeks away from her 92nd birthday and who has been caught up in a draining legal battle over her estate, is unlikely to be in a position to attend this month's festival.

There are also plans to further honour the Dublin-born actress by unveiling a life-sized statue of her and The Quiet Man co-star John Wayne, as part of Cong's contribution to The Gathering Ireland 2013 -- while a smaller Oscar-sized statue, depicting the same image, will be presented to Ms O'Hara.

Mr Luskin said: "We'd then look at other actors, for example Pierce Brosnan, who has a link as he got married here in Ashford Castle."

He said he expected as many as 5,000 fans from across the world to invade the village for the three-day festival, which runs from August 24-26. For more information, see www.congfestival.com.

Sunday Independent

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