Saturday 21 April 2018

Turning back clock to 1950s heralds bright new chapter for Toibin's town

Saoirse Ronan in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford during filming of the film, Brooklyn.
Saoirse Ronan in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford during filming of the film, Brooklyn.

Louise Hogan in Enniscorthy

It is hoped a trip down memory lane for one town may just hold the secret to a vibrant future.

There was a newfound energy around Castle Street in the heart of Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, a heady buzz that lingered in the air as Hollywood royalty AKA 'the girl next door' Saoirse Ronan, rolled in.

People eagerly hankered after a slice of the filming action – with around 3,000 people turning up to get one of the roughly 100 positions as extras on the set of a tale about a love-torn woman by one of the town's famous sons, writer Colm Toibin.

Schoolchildren, and even the odd Japanese tourist perhaps wandering away from the 1798 rebellion sites, waited hours to turn back the clock to the 1950s and catch a glimpse of the old 'Graflex' camera in the window of Stafford, normally the haven of photographer Ibar Carty, or peek into the olde worlde sweet shop that now carried the name Kelly over the door.

Genevieve Wilson, from An Siopa Brog, revealed it hoped to keep aspects of its newly-revamped vintage shop front for the flocks of tourists it hopes will follow when 'Brooklyn' hits cinemas.

"I had an old lady in looking to see all the 1950s style," she said. "It has brought excitement."

Next door, hovering anxiously out of the rain in the doorway of the revamped post office were two extras – Rick Smith (26), from Gorey, and Jonathan Bull (20), from Oilgate, who couldn't resist the opportunity to get on to the 'Brooklyn' film set.

"We're unemployed," said Jonathan, as Rick explained it was a chance to "try and get somewhere".

"I'd be into music and you see what's going on and how they film movies. There is a lot of waiting around," admitted Jonathan.

Maureen Smith was one of the on-set hairdressers in charge of the Brylcreem for the men and the waves for the women.

"It was a very stylised, beautiful look, women were very glamorous even though they had very little and the men were Brylcreemed and sparkling," she said.

"They would have had their best dress on, cardigans, very feminine and very pretty. Even if they didn't have much money they would have worn their Sunday best at the dance."


Once again the Athenaeum – or ballroom – was the soul of the town as strains of the ballad 'Boolavogue' could be faintly heard wafting out as Saoirse's character Eilis – who ends up struggling to decide between her two loves in Ireland and the US – filmed a key dance scene.

Photographer Ibar Carty, whose family's business date back to 1600, hopes the town might become a favourite of film makers.

"The Athenaeum was the soul of the town. You had the reading room in there, where all the merchant princes went into and sat down and read papers," he said. "You'd the ballroom upstairs, it was thriving back in the '50s."

Maura Flannery couldn't resist the opportunity to set up a 'Brooklyn' pop-up shop selling antiques.

The musician believes the film will help boost fundraising to restore the Athenaeum to its full glory by 2016, so it can once again play host to musicals and plays.

"This town is like a sleeping beauty that needs a kiss of life, and this could be the kiss of life," said Maura, a director of Enniscorthy Athenaeum, the restoration committee.

"Colm Toibin has brought this town back to life."

Video on

Irish Independent

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