THE LAST OF THE NAME – FILM REVIEW

THE LAST OF THE NAME, dvd, video. Directed by Kate and Paul McCarroll. Produced by Seamus O’Donnell and Paul McCarroll, starring Paul Kelly. Duration 60 minutes, 2017

The film is a fine example of the rich tapestry of music, folklore, heritage and culture of the Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal. It tells the story of a modest weaver called Charles McGlinchey, born shortly after the Great Famine, in Meentiagh Glen, Inishowen, who had a remarkable corpus of knowledge relating to the history of his community, from its poetry and literature to its heroes and villains. It was indeed fortunate that a Clonmany school principal, Master Kavanagh, recognised the breadth and depth of McGlinchey’s repertoire and managed to record and preserve it in long-hand as he sat patiently by McGlinchey’s fireside over the long winter months of the 1940s and 50s. What emerges in the film is a fascinating insight into a world that had long vanished, from the disappearance of the fairies to the rise to political prominence of a Clonmany native in the USA.

The film opens with playwright Brian Friel, who, in his rich, distinctive tones, speaks in praise of the humble weaver and tailor. He compares McGlinchey to “one of those men and women who have an intuitive sense of themselves” and who in advanced years are keen to relate their story. In subsequent episodes, there is rich commentary and learned analysis from academics and local experts who were associated with the celebrated McGlinchey Summer School, which first opened in 1998 and continued annually for ten years. By far the greatest contribution comes from the insightful portrayal of McGlinchey by  Carndonagh actor, Paul Kelly. By the end of the film, the viewer senses the presence of the real Charles McGlinchey, who entertains his listeners by his own fireside. Who could not be moved by Paul Kelly’s dramatic re-telling of the story of a series of evictions carried out in 1820 by a Catholic priest, Fr. Shiels, in Clonmany?

This is an excellent production not only for its high technical values but also as an invaluable record of a heritage that has vanished. The digital re-telling of the McGlinchey narrative is a legacy that will be treasured for many years. Paul Kelly’s acting is outstanding while the musical interludes by Lorna Henry, the Henry Girls and original material from Finbarr Doherty add an evocative and emotional element that runs throughout the film. Seamus O’Donnell and Paul McCarroll have captured the stunning beauty of the Inishowen landscape so beloved of McGlinchey himself. This multi-media exploration would warm the heart of historians, musicians and folklorists and is an illustration of how our ancient heritage can assert its place through creative technologies in the digital era. Let us hope that Paul McCarroll and his team will continue their invaluable work.

To contact Paul McCarroll, see the website iseanachai.ie for more information.

Seán Beattie, Culdaff, July 2017.

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