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A Proper Pint: The Great Pubs of Ireland!

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Creative Visualization by Keven Siegert

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A Proper Pint: The Great Pubs of Ireland!

October 4th, 2014 · 2 Comments

*All images copyrighted by Keven Siegert

It was bloody good craic, that’s for sure!

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We just spent two weeks in Ireland, shooting a film I’ve been working on for a number of years, about pub culture: “A Proper Pint: The Great Pubs of Ireland”. With me were my dream team crew: two of my best and oldest friends, Greg and Tom. Tom would be the primary Director of Photography and oversee all technical production elements, Greg would handle writing and consents for the show, assist with logistics and generally help where needed.

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It was an amazing experience in so many ways! All of the shoots came together, the weather was beautiful, the food and drink sublime, our host Richard and Gerard were amazing, and we met MANY wonderful people, some of which I have no doubt will be longtime friends!

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We flew into Dublin and picked up the rental car. It was supposed to be a mini van, but was more like a crossover SUV and much smaller than I anticipated, so we couldn’t pack as much gear as we wanted to. This actually turned out to be a very good thing since even a vehicle this size was a challenge to drive on the ultra narrow country roads of the Burren (western Ireland) and Dingle peninsula.

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We drove to my friend Paul’s place to pick up some additional gear, getting lost in the Dublin side streets along the way and ending up on a lane the size of a sidewalk. It was so narrow that we had to bend the side mirrors in, and I think I must have had the car in the wrong gear because smoke started pouring out from the hood as we crept up the hill!

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From there we crossed the country to the village of Ballyvaughan and the home of the Parish Priest there, Father Richard Flanagan. A beautiful little house nestled beside the imposing St. John’s church, this would be our home for the next week or so.

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Richard and another mutual friend (also a priest) Gerard would be our hosts for the next week and they were absolutely fantastic to us. We enjoyed fine meals each morning and evening, wonderful “sessions” at the pubs and comfy accommodations.

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The project focused on one particular pub, O’Loclainn’s in Ballyvaughan, owned by Peter and Margaret O’Loughlen and they were so gracious and generous with their time and access to their pub – THANK YOU!

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The shoot began with a stroke of luck: the church roof had recently sprung a leak and a man named Graham was there with a 50’ scissor lift to inspect the steeple. He agreed to move the lift to the edge of the road and lift us up in it to shoot some beautiful aerial views of the village. BONUS!

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Later that day we drove down the Wild Atlantic Way coastline road to Fanore and stopped at A. E. O’Donahue’s pub for a pint and crab claws. There we met longtime resident and local singer, John Joe, who gave us a few sweet songs. It was a beautiful day, the pints were creamy and cool and the crab legs (soaking in lemon, garlic and butter) were divine, and John Joe’s gentle voice quivered as he sang “A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing”. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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We then explored the Fanore cemetery and continued on to Doolin to scout a potential shooting location. The evening was spent with Richard and Gerard, first with an amazing meal that they prepared (with fine wines) and then an evening at the pub.

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One element of the film is to show a “slice of life” of the patrons of the pub and Richard agreed to participate with this – he leads an incredibly fascinating life as the parish priest and we were allowed to shoot one of his services and interactions with the congregation. Later that day we shot Richard’s interview and he nailed it. The footage looks terrific, thanks to Tom’s expertise and Greg was a great help in feeding me questions and lines of discussion.

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The next shoot was a day with Peter, herding his cattle and then wandering through the family cemetery. Sitting high atop a high with beautiful views, the cemetery holds three generations of his family.

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Back at their home, we interviewed Peter in the Dining Room and again, the footage looked great and Peter delivered some terrific soundbites. Afterwards, his wife Margaret treated us to tea and homemade chocolate cake that was absolute gourmet level. YUM!

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The evening was spent at the pub, enjoying some fine whiskeys and numerous pints of Guinness. When the pub closed, we returned to Richard’s and spent an hour or so on the front porch, listening to opera while Richard explained the nuances of each performance, sipping on fine cognacs and smoking Cuban cigars under the stars. Absolutely sublime!

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I received a tip from my friend Maurice about a musician named Blackie O’Connell who would be playing at McGann’s in Doolin on Monday night. Blackie is considered by some to be the finest Uilleann Pipes (the Irish bagpipes) player in Ireland and so we just had to try to record some of that! Fortunately, the owner was fine with us being there and Blackie and his band (Cyrill and Geraldine) also agreed to be recorded – SWEET!

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We set up two cameras and a digital recorder and waited for them to start – and it was unbelievable. I’ve been in hundreds, of Irish pubs and heard hundreds of musicians and this was the best I’ve ever heard. The musicianship was astounding and powerful – kind of a “Lord of the Rings” vibe, mostly instrumental. At times I forgot I was recording and just got lost in the music, being completely transported to another place for a few moments. THANK YOU so much to Blackie, Cyrill and Geraldine for allowing us to record your performance! Their music will provide the perfect soundtrack to the film.

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The next day was spent capturing landscapes, roaming the west coast in an area known as “The Burren” a geologically important landscape consisting of vast expanses of gray limestone, lush fertile valleys of grasslands and wild coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.

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How lucky were we? Three close friends traveling together in this astounding landscape, enjoying jaw-dropping views, music, food, pints and each other’s company? Lucky indeed!

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That evening we returned to the pub for more footage. Another band was playing, and they were terrific, but we really wanted to record a quick interview with Margaret behind the bar and the noise was a problem. Margaret brilliantly comes out with a tray of sandwiches for the band and tells them they can take a break! We landed the interview and Margaret was scintillating and gracious. Besides being behind the bar each evening, she teaches cooking classes and is an accomplished baker.

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At that point, we had plenty of footage, so Tom put the camera down and picked up his pint – and from there a mighty craic ensued! It was one of those special nights – a night you could never plan in advance, with loads of singing from everyone in the place, Tom belting out gospel tunes much to the delight of Father Richard, the band joining in and stories being told! Peter and Margaret were also having a great time and we laughed and sang so hard we cried. Much whiskey and Guinness was enjoyed that fine evening!

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Another day of landscape photography followed that, with a final night of shooting in the pub, in which we captured an interview with Father Gerard. Again, the footage looks great and Gerard delivered the goods. At this point I knew I had the footage I needed to make the film.

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During one of the sessions we met a local Sheep Farmer and Entrepreneur, Donal, who invited us to his home for breakfast (well actually his friend Tom invited us to Donal’s place!) and a tour of the area, including Gleninagh Castle and Cemetery.

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To celebrate the end of shooting, we took in a round of golf at the Gort Golf Course with Richard. Again, it was a perfect day to be outside and we had had a grand time hacking away at the little ball all afternoon. From there, the losers (Greg and Tom) treated to the winners (myself and Richard) to pints and seafood at Linanne’s Lobster Bar in New Quay.

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Perched on the edge of the sea and looking out across Galway Bay, this is seafood at its finest. Super fresh, super high quality, and fine pints! Amazingly, we met Irish golf legend Christy O’Connor, Jr., who implored us to visit Dick Mack’s in Dingle, so that became the new game plan.

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The pints were flowing freely that night and before leaving, Tom sang to some women sitting outside the bar. We finished with more pints at the Loge in Ballyvaughan, and that’s where Richard and the bartender talked Greg into played golf in a tournament with them the next day.

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The next day, Tom and I took the ferry across to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands, about a thirty minute boat ride off the west coast. We enjoyed a nice pint in the ancient courtyard outside the island’s only pub, then arranged a ride with horse and buggy from Mike and his horse, Pilgrim. They took us around the island, incredibly interesting in its remoteness and otherworldly rocks.

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We passed a shipwreck from the early sixties, a striking rusty hulk lying amidst stark white rocks, then rode through narrow roads that ran between stone-walled fields. It was yet another beautiful day to be out and about and we captured some very cool images.

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The next day we headed for Galway and spent an afternoon and evening there with Gerard and another priest, Dominic from Rome. The music and sights were relatively unimpressive compared to what we had been experiencing the previous week, but it was a nice change of pace and stroll through some urban settings. Gerard treated us to an outstanding seafood dinner that evening at the Seafood House and that was certainly the highlight of Galway for us!

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From there, we made out way down to Dingle, stopping in Adare for a bit of lunch. When we arrived in Dingle, every room in town had be booked, except for one, the last one on the hill, O’Connor’s B&B. The owner had one room with three beds in it – we’ll take it!

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We enjoyed a night of pub hopping and more fine dining, this time at the Global Village. We met a couple pub owners that night, including the Nephew (Finn) of the owner of Dick Mack’s, the enigmatic Oliver MacDonnell. Finn assured us that we could show up with a camera and interview Oliver. We were excited for the opportunity, but wary that he would decline because he has a reputation for being volatile!

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The next morning we ate a wonderful breakfast cooked by our host Tom at the B&B and then packed the car and headed down to Dick Mack’s. A quirky bar with an even quirkier owner, Oliver is a true character! He agreed to do the interview and was quite entertaining – another score!

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We spent the afternoon driving along the coast, following the “Kerry Ring” to Slea Head and then back around to Dingle. The views were spectacular! Rolling grassy hills and valleys, sheer wild cliffs, sparkling blue ocean and yes… another beautiful day.

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We stopped at Slea Head Beach for an hour or so and then continued on, arriving back in Dingle just in time for the start of the All Ireland Football Final, with Kerry taking on Donegal. Being in Kerry county, this was HUGE. The entire town shut down for the game and people gathered around televisions in the pubs and watched intently as Kerry pulled out a thrilling victory! Awesome.

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Finally it was time to return to Dublin. We returned the rental car, took a cab into town and checked into the Grafton Capital Hotel, located in the center of everything. We enjoyed three nights of touring the capital city, taking in the Guinness Brewery tour, Jameson Distillery, Musical Pub Crawl, Uprising of 1916 Walking Tour and more. It was a fine way to celebrate a successful shoot.

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To Greg and Tom – THANK YOU for you hard work and creative genius. It was an absolute dream come true to be working on a project like this in the place I love so dearly. THANK YOU to Richard and Gerard for hosting us and making us feel welcome. THANK YOU to Peter and Margaret for your cooperation in this project and thank you to all of the people we met and befriended – we felt like we were welcome everywhere and it was wonderful.

SLAINTE! 

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Tags: Ireland · Landscapes · love · motion projects · music · Travel

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kelly Stevens // Oct 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    What a beautiful country. Nice trip!

  • 2 Jen Hartmark-Hill // Nov 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Kev, you look like you are absolutely in your element out there. I am very happy for you! Gorgeous photos–can’t wait to see the documentary on the telly.

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