‘A fine soft day in the spring, it was, when the train pulled into Castletown, three hours late, as usual, and himself got off. He didn’t have the look of an American tourist at all about him.’ This is the opening narration in the movie ‘The Quiet Man’, much of which was filmed on location near the beautiful village of Cong, Co Mayo, Ireland. John Ford’s 1952 film was a resounding success, and 60 years on its popularity continues, for it is said that every minute of every day,someone in the world is watching ‘The Quiet Man’.
John Ford (1894–1973) was born John Feeney of parents who had emigrated from the West of Ireland in 1872. His parents passed on stories of home together with a great love for all things Irish, and so the making of a film set in Ireland had been a pet project of Ford’s for many years. The film’s main character Séan, played by John Wayne, explains: ”Ever since I was a kid living in a shack near the slag heaps, my mother told me about Inisfree and ‘White O’Morn’. Inisfree has become another word for heaven to me.”
The film’s representation of Ireland appealed to the diaspora and to those who longed to be home. The West of Ireland had indeed come to symbolize all of Ireland and had become the image of the country left behind, helped by the interest of writers in the latter years of the 19th century,such as J.M.Synge and W.B. Yeats. The dramatic landscape of the west was a backdrop in modern Irish literature and its remoteness probably led to it being seen as the part of Ireland least affected by British rule and therefore a more ‘authentic’ Ireland. While the image of Ireland portrayed in the film became for many the epitome of romantic Ireland, for others it represented the worst of ‘stage Irishness’ with its Hollywood ‘Oirish’ accents.
Maureen O’Hara played the role of the feisty fiery red-head, Mary Kate Danaher. Now in her 92nd year,Maureen O’Hara returned to Cong, Co.Mayo in recent weeks to mark the 60th anniversary of the beginning of filming. ‘The Quiet Man’ continues to attract huge numbers of visitors to this very special part of Ireland. ‘The Quiet Man’ Cottage Museum in Cong has an exact replica of the interior of the famous ‘White O’ Morn’ cottage and there are many sites of interest to fans,not least of which is the beautiful Ashford Castle, and the many wild and beautiful scenic attractions of Connemara.