Monday 11 December 2017

Famous faces go back in time at folk park

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson poses for a 19th Century-style photo in the Bunratty Folk Park with his wife Cathy
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson poses for a 19th Century-style photo in the Bunratty Folk Park with his wife Cathy
The late broadcaster Gerry Ryan with his wife Morah and their eldest daughter Lottie. Gerry 'wanted to be part of the fun immediately', says the photographer
Gabriel Byrne and his then-wife Ellen Barkin. Byrne initially refused to be in a photo, but changed his mind once O'Brien told him of their meeting in the 1970s
Peter Ustinov: came in his own costume straight from a movie set
Terry O'Brien: behind the camera since 1982

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

THE faces staring out of the photographs are familiar despite the 19th century sepia-toned setting.

They are some of the images of celebrity visitors to Bunratty Folk Park in Co Clare who donned costumes for a pictorial memento of the trip.

The park vividly recreates times past in a 'living' village and rural setting. Every year thousands come to stroll through the charming village.

And the highlight of any visitor's trip is getting into costume to have their picture taken.

Behind the camera is Terry O'Brien, Bunratty Folk Park's resident photographer since 1982, who has captured images of celebrities from Alex Ferguson to Gerry Ryan, actor Peter Ustinov to fellow actor Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin.

"I used an old fashioned plate camera for the first 20 years but I've moved into digital photography lately," Terry O'Brien told the Irish Independent.

But despite this technological advance, his portraits still come in the sepia tones of old.

The 60-year-old has taken thousands of pictures, with the famous ones framed and autographed on the walls of his O'Brien Studio in Bunratty Folk Park.

"People getting their pictures taken get a bit of a shock when they see all the familiar faces that have gone before them.

"English visitors love seeing Noel Edmonds, for instance," Mr O'Brien added.

Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson was happy getting into character too, spending nearly an hour with the photographer.

"I support Leeds United not Man United, but it didn't seem to bother Alex at all. I think he ended up looking splendid in a Victorian long coat and bowler hat," he said.

Late broadcaster Gerry Ryan and his family, including wife Morah and eldest daughter Lottie, were other visitors during the 80s.

"Gerry wanted to be part of the fun immediately he walked in. He wore a cut-off dress coat with a top hat. Having him in here was joy," Mr O'Brien said.

Visitors have a choice of over 100 19th century costumes they can try on before they go before the camera.

But Hollywood actor Peter Ustinov arrived in his own costume when he was midway through shooting a film version of Charles Dicken's 'The Old Curiosity Shop' in Ireland during 1994.

"They were filming a Welsh Village scene in Bunratty and Peter just walked in to have his picture taken. Such an entertaining man," he said.

However, there have been some visitors to the folk park who couldn't be persuaded.

"Gay Byrne didn't want to do it, but he let me take a picture of him anyway, and Pierce Brosnan arrived in just a few weeks after his wedding, so he'd probably had enough of trying on clothes," he said.

But Hollywood actor Gabriel Byrne had a change of heart with his then wife.

"Gabriel Byrne came in with his wife Ellen Barkin. Initially when I asked him if he wanted to dress up, he said 'No'. But when I told him I'd taken his picture for the Dublin Shakespeare Company back in the '70s, he changed his mind. Gabriel just laughed and said 'Where's the camera. I'll do your picture, didn't you know me when I didn't have an arse in my pants'."

Bunratty Folk Park is open from 9am to 5.30pm, with Terry O'Brien at work in his studio taking pictures from April through October from 10.30pm to 5.30pm.

Irish Independent

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