Liam Lynch Film follows the leader of of the anti-treaty side as he makes his way south from Dublin in February 1923. He follows a route through remote parts of the country. He then crosses the River Suir and through the gap to the Nire Valley. Going west via the Knockmealdown Mountains and makes and he arrives in Goirtín Fliuch outside Ballingeary in West Cork on the 26th of February. While there he attends a meeting of local commanders in Coolea. He also makes a brief visit to Quills in Gort Luachra outside Kilgarvan. During these weeks in West Cork, he is accompanied by a young Todd Andrews. On the 17th of March sets out from Goirtín Fliuch to travel to the IRA executive meeting in Bliantas in Co Waterford.
The filming took place at a number of locations in South Tipperary, Waterford and West Cork.
The photo below shows some of the cast and crew from the second day of filming the re-enactments. We had nearly 30 people taking part as actors or extras over the course of the filming. There were about 25 people involved in production, direction and crew behind the camera. We received great support from about 30 others who give us access to old old houses and land for filming, contributed information & research, and helped in various other ways. It was very much a community project, with that community of participants and supporters stretching from Dublin to West Cork, Tipperary, Kerry and Waterford very much mirroring the areas along the journey taken by Liam Lynch in the period covered by the film. The group below include some of the cast and crew from the second day of filming.
This post looks at the background to the making of the film which is titled The Dying Days and gives an insight to the people behind the story and the making of the film. The initial idea for the Liam Lynch Film goes back to a lecture delivered by Michael Desmond at Waterford County Museum in 2016. He spoke about the executive meeting that took place in the Nire Valley in 1923 attended by Liam Lynch, Éamonn deValeara and many other well known republican figures such as Tom Barry and Sean Hyde. In 2019 while I was attending a course on Television Production in Nemeton and SETU and I was looking for an idea for my main film project. I approached Michael with the idea of making a short documentary film about the meeting in the Nire Valley. Michael deflected me from that idea and I ended up making Díoltas, a documentary film tracing the kidnapping of District Inspector Gilbert Potter of the RIC by the IRA. He was taken across the Knockmealdown and Comeragh Mountains over a number of days in April 1921 before being shot near Kilclooney in Co Waterford.
Making the film Díoltas encouraged me to consider making the Liam Lynch Film. I took tentative steps in 2019 and 2020 but Covid put a halt to the plan. During that time I came across Gerard Shannon on Twitter and a tweet he had posted about Liam Lynch. The reaction to his tweet about Liam Lynch brought a wide range of responses ranging from “principled man” to “fanatic”. This re-enforced my interest in making a film about such a complex character.Gerard is a historian from Skerries in north county Dublin, with an MA in History from the DCU School of History and Geography. Gerard has written numerous articles and done talks on key figures of the Irish revolutionary period. He works as a civil servant in Dublin city. The range of comments on tweet caught my attention.
I then became aware that Gerard was writing a book about Liam Lynch and I made contact with him. He was very willing to get involved and he came and stayed at my house in November 2021 just before the Chrismas Covid lockdown. We recorded extensive interviews on the Saturday morning and the Sunday afternoon. Over the weekend we also visited the Nire Valley, Newcastle and Rathgormack. Having the interviews completed with Gerard meant I was off to a great start. I also interviewed Michael Desmond to give a local perspective on the story. By the end of 2021 much of the research was completed and most of the planning was completed.
March 2023 will see the new release of his book, ‘Liam Lynch: Irish Revolutionary’, the first major biography of Lynch in nearly forty years. It will be published by Irish Academic Press.
Michael Desmond from Ballymacarbry was the main interviewee on my previous film Díoltas from 2012. Michael is a local historian with an in depth knowledge of history from the War Of Independence and The Civil War and in particular the history of the area from The Nire Valley to Newcastel and The Knockmealdowns. Michael narrates the journey taken by Lynch which is illustrated on the beautiful map created by Dolores Lynne. Michael provides great detail about what happened in both The Nire Valley on the day that Lynch was shot. Michael draws on both research and his personal family connection to the events of the time. I am delighted to be able to capture so much local knowledge in the film.
Work started in earnest in early 2022. We decided to supplement the talking heads aspect with extensive re-enactments. Deirdre Collender came on board as the director of drama. Not only did she do the casting, she also sourced the uniforms and costumes from the Abbey Theater. Even more importantly, she did extensive research on the story and wrote the scripts for the re-enactments. She directed all the drama scenes which added significantly to the production quality. Deirdre is also cast as the bean an tí in Lehane’s house in West Cork.
Initially the film was to focus on the meeting at Bliantas and The Nire Vally plus the shooting of Lynch in the Knockmealdowns. Following initial research, and reading Florence O’Donoghue’s book “No Other Law” I decided to include the full journey taken by Lynch from Dublin to West Cork and back up the Comeraghs and the Knockmealdowns. This was an inspired move given the huge connections that Lynch had with Cork for much of his life. Thanks to Mikey Kelly in Ballyvourney, who put me in touch with Nóra Levis outside Ballingeary. Nóra lives with her husband Willie in the house where Lynch stayed for a few weeks with her grandparents in Februray 1923. Nora has two daughters and loves spending time with her grandchildren. She works in the library in Macroom and loves to speak as Gaeilge when every she gets the chance. Nóra’s interview draws on stories she heard first hand from her relation Bina Cronnin who was in the house in 1923. Nóra also draws on the contents of a letter sent by her father Seán Lehane to Florence O’Donoghue in the 1950s. We get a real sense of the admiration of the people from that part of Cork had for Lynch.
Tony Whelan has been a life long friend and like Deirdre has been involved in every day of filming and days spent preparing the locations. He was the location manger for the days filming and ensured the smooth running of the set and everything in the background. On the first day of shooting in March 2022 we had 26 people on site, not to mention onlookers and supporters. On the last day of filming we cast Tony in the role of Dr Lucey in West Cork
This project is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 initiative. Waterford Council Decade of Centenaries – History Ireland.