The series follows the interwoven stories of a number of inhabitants of the Dublin of the 1910s, still under British rule. It is set in the years leading up to WW1 and the Irish Easter ...
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The series follows the interwoven stories of a number of inhabitants of the Dublin of the 1910s, still under British rule. It is set in the years leading up to WW1 and the Irish Easter Rising of 1916. There are the young wife of a factory worker, a country girl new to the big city, and her husband, a staunch supporter of the unions. Then there is the mighty Union leader Jim Larkin, the elderly priest, who drinks more than is good for him, and his young curate; the delightful tramp Rashers and his dog, and a few members of the better off middle class, some of them sympathetic to those dependent on them, others less so.
Reading the other reviews of this served to remind me what an "event" it was on Irish TV at the time. Prior to this, the extent of 15 year old RTE's TV's drama output were the parochial Sunday evening soap offerings of Tolka Row and The Riordans. Being quite young at the time I hadn't realised how much criticism RTE drew for its commissioning of this huge undertaking and of course 25 odd years on "plus ca change", There are always those, politicians and so called self styled critic and journalist types as well members of the general public who strive to make personal capital out of rubbishing or attacking the creation or good efforts of another, most recently notable with RTE's latest and quite impressive drama commissions The Stardust and Fallout.
A couple of years ago I read James Plunket's excellent social account of the turbulent years in Dublin prior to the Easter rising. Many of the characters so vividly portrayed in this 1980 TV production came rushing back to me off the pages so memorable were their portrayals in the TV adaption.
Amongst the many notable performances, pride of place must go to David Kelly for his career high representation of Rashers Tierney (well before Waking Ned and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory he still looked ancient!). However other performances stand out too, Cyril Cusack's restrained performance as the humanitarian alcoholic parish priest Fr Giffely, Donal McCann as the tough socialist true "Dub" Mulhall, Peter O'Toole's almost fanatical Big Jim Larkin and in one of his earliest roles before hitting the soap big time Bryan Murray as Bob Fitzpatrick.
The series also showcases the appearance of many stars of Irish soaps who were latterly to make prolonged appearance in future episodes of Glenroe and Fair City, people like Brendan Caldwell, Eileen Colgan, Donal Farmer and Alan Stanford.
The range of the book meant that it was always going to take a mini series rather than a 90 minute film to do it justice. Using as it canvas the famous Dublin General Strike and Lockout of 1913, this production takes us convincingly into the backstreets and tenements and oppressive poverty of what was at the time allegedly the worst slums in Europe in what was the British empires supposed 2nd city. However what makes it great is how it equally takes us into the lives of the privileged classes who also shared their lives and the very same streets with these people yet managed to remain largely oblivious and removed indeed one could almost term it unsoiled by these unfortunates. It sheds a great educational light on the pro empire sympathies of Dublin prior to the 1916 rising and also on the birth of Trade Unionism in Ireland from the beginnings of the ITGWU which in later years was to become SIPTU. What it also portrays very well through the bigoted snobbery of Fr O'Connor, is the fanatical grip that Archbishop McQuaid's Catholic Church in Ireland had made on the people of Dublin and beyond, a stranglehold with a litany of abuses and shameful episodes that would extend right into the early 1990's.
A couple of years ago this series was rescreened on RTE TV again on Sunday nights after which the entire re digitised version was released on DVD. For those that want a grasp of Irish history in the early years of the 20th century prior to nationalism and independence I can highly recommend this as an excellent produced dramatic accompaniment to further research
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