Documentary Film: The Birr to Portumna Railroad
A film by Martin Fahy
" I feel that the era of the Cúirtí houses is well past. They were the Universities of country living. There, we learned the rudiments of life. In order to prolong the hidden stories and monologues of country life, I have undertaken to write accounts of village and country in Facebook articles. Portumna Railway line falls into this category. The local teenagers have probably never realized that the Birr to the east Bank of the Shannon Railway operated from 1868-1878"
Martin has produced a top class history archive on a wide range of subject matter bringing a deep connection to place for locals and also those who now live elsewhere but call Ballinakill and its hinterland home. It is not just the history of monuments of the area (Mass Rocks, Dalystown House, Carrowroe House) that Mairtín has tackled but he uses his storytelling skill in presenting the living history of personalities (Johnny Broderick, Michael and Paddy Rafferty) and even sensitively touches on suffering (The Boating Tragedy of Annaghdown) with what the comments reveal as a 'poignant video [that] highlights again the terrible tragedy for the locality... beautifully done, with great respect.'
Furthermore, cultural history, difficult to document and often all too easily forgotten with the passage of time, is recorded here in Mairtín’s work (The Mummers' Festival of Woodford and the Visiting Houses)
Each video is painstakingly researched by Mairtín through extensive reading and interviewing of key stakeholders. It is a labour of love and a gift to future generations who will benefit from the rich heritage of this locality. The video of Woodford Cinema, in its heyday in the 50s and 60s, required Mairtín made many trips to Woodford to gather footage and information.
The music and footage in the videos are expertly produced and chosen, reflecting and enhancing the soothing eloquent tones of Master Fahy scéalaíocht, further showcasing and creating a history in itself as it generates a snapshot of footage of the area as it was in 2020, a community in lockdown. Mairtín’s grá and command of our native language comes through in almost every publication, with either an apt sean fhocal, a translation of a townland name or a poetry quote in beautiful rolling tongue.
This further resonates with the thousands that are enjoying the videos as he often explains the origins of a particular place’s current name. He has spent many, many hours researching and producing these videos, happy instead to give joy and a lasting archive to the great stories of the people and the area.
Written by: Carmel Scott (Woodford)