|Connemara, Co. Galway
You drive out of Galway, on the Connemara road, and soon you take a step back in time as the years fall away and a strange yet familiar landscape emerges.
Suddenly you are in Ireland circa the late 1940s and the scenes and shots from "The Quiet Man" loom large.
The first stop is the little bridge over the river where the famous fight between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen takes place. Although it is a dull, misty morning, already the cars are lined up and the photographers snapping.
The man in front of us is from Los Angeles and a confirmed John Ford fan.
“It has been a dream and ambition” he says as he snaps his wife and daughter leaning on the parapet where John Wayne delivered a famous hay-maker to McLaglen.
He is not Irish, but loves John Ford, real name Sean O’Feeney, whose idyllic vision of Ireland in the movie has shaped the perceptions of millions of Americans since.
Ford did the same for our sense of the Wild West, especially in movies like “Stagecoach”. He was a larger than life presence in Hollywood in his day, but by all accounts "The Quiet Man" which he had battled to have made for several years, was his favorite film.
It is easy to see why. The spectacular Connemaralandscape, where his parents hailed from, stretches in front of us for miles in every direction. Rugged mountains, meadows, stone walls, gorse, heather, and more lakes than you can count provide the perfect backdrop.
As we drive the rain eases off, but is still falling, and in the distance we see a patch of sun illuminating a small corner, a sun shower, a wonderfully Irish phenomenon.
The replica cottage is tucked away off a quiet bothereen or small road. Sadly, the real cottage where the film was shot is no longer accessible. A dispute between the owner and local authorities has led to a stand off that I hope can be resolved some day soon.
The two room cottage replica features life size models of Wayne, Mclaglen, Maureen O’Hara, and Barry Fitzgerald frozen in a tableau around the kitchen table and a bedroom. We take our pictures and depart.
The centerpiece of"The Quiet Man" phenomenon remains Cong, the little Mayo village which hosts a Quiet Man festival every year. Maureen O’Hara, still hale and hearty, attended last year.
The gift shop there is packed with memorabilia and already, by mid morning, is bustling with American tourists.
We lunch at the wonderful Ashford Castle where staff tell us quite frankly that "The Quiet Man" visitors, rather than waning with the passing years, are actually increasing.
Testament to the new popularity was a one-week retrospective on John Ford recently in Dublin with contributors from all over the world.
The new interest is a tribute to an icon of American film who captured a pastoral Ireland and the fond imaginations of Americans for that land.
Even if the movie is not your obsession if you need an excuse to see a remarkable and beautiful corner of Ireland, around Connemara and back in by Cong and Ashford look no more. John Ford, Mary Kate Danaher and Sean Thornton all beckon.
Here's the original trailer for the movie: