Youghal Film Making History
Youghal – Looking Forward – Looking Back: A short film tribute to the town’s rich filmmaking history. A short documentary about Youghal, its Hollywood links and its future in film. This celebratory film features some of the town’s well-loved landmarks, archival footage and photographs.
Several notable films have been made in and around Youghal, a town with a rich filmmaking history.
- Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon‘ (1973) with Ryan O’Neal
- John Huston’s ‘Moby Dick‘ (1954) with Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart and Orson Welles
- Robert Knight’s ‘The Dawning‘ (1988) featuring Anthony Hopkins, Hugh Grant, Trevor Howard, Jean Simmons and Adrian Dunbar.
These films showcase the town’s well-loved landmarks and its Hollywood links. The town continues to look forward to its future in film.
This was the introductory film at the First Cut Youth Film Festival 2021. Thanks to Festival Director Mary McGrath – First Cut Youth Film Festival
Narrated by: Ruth Hayes
The Horgan Brothers: Pioneers of Irish Filmmaking
In the early 20th century, Ireland was on the cusp of a cinematic revolution, and three brothers from Youghal, Co. Cork, would play a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s filmmaking history. Philip, James, and Thomas Horgan, born to a bootmaker, were driven by a shared passion for photography that would lead them on a remarkable journey into the world of motion pictures.
From Bootmaker’s Sons to Filmmakers
The Horgan brothers started as photographers, capturing the essence of their town and the neighboring areas. However, their ambitions extended beyond still photographs. James Horgan, in particular, showed exceptional ingenuity when he ingeniously transformed a projector into a camera. This innovation paved the way for what might be considered the first motion picture created by a native Irish filmmaker.
In May 1904, the Horgan brothers filmed “Visit of King Edward VII to Lismore Castle,” a groundbreaking work that symbolized Ireland’s colonial status and the burgeoning popularity of processions, ceremonies, and spectacles as subjects for motion pictures. Their pioneering efforts garnered the attention of The Youghal Tribune, documenting their path to cinematic history.
Brushes with the Law and Royalty
The journey to becoming Irish film pioneers was not without its challenges. During one instance, as the Horgan brothers set up their camera, they found themselves surrounded by members of the ALO (Royal Irish Constabulary and plainclothes detectives) who mistook their camera for an infernal device. Queen Alexandra’s recognition of the camera and her gracious smile into it defused the situation, highlighting the significance of their work.
Diverse Endeavors in Filmmaking
The Horgan brothers didn’t stop at one film; they founded a production company specializing in capturing local events and places of interest. Their catalog grew, and they even created Ireland’s first animated film around 1910, featuring the Youghal clock tower dancing in whimsical antics.
A Cinematic Vision Realized
In 1917, the Horgan brothers fulfilled their dream by establishing “Horgan’s Picture Theatre” in Youghal. This purpose-built cinema featured an unconventional rear projection method, with patrons entering from behind the screen. It offered a complete evening of entertainment, complete with live music performed by Horgan family members, actualities, newsreels, and feature films.
The Youghal Gazette: A Chronicle of Local Life
In 1920, the Horgans expanded their activities by founding the Youghal Gazette, a publication that provided a glimpse into local life. It featured local views, records of public events, and occasionally, political content. The cinema typically showcased American or English productions, but on occasion, it proudly screened Irish-made films, such as Tom Cooper’s “The Dawn.”
A Legacy Preserved
Horgan’s Picture Theatre continued to operate as a cinema, weathering the transition to sound, and remained in operation until the 1980s when it closed its doors for good in 1988.
Today, the legacy of the Horgan Brothers lives on through their pioneering contributions to Irish cinema. Their journey, from shoemaking to photography, and ultimately, to filmmaking, exemplifies the spirit of innovation and creativity that continues to shape the world of cinema in Ireland.
Preservation of a Century-Old Record
Jim Horgan, James Horgan’s grandson, made sure that the Horgan brothers’ invaluable collection was preserved for posterity. Despite the ravages of time damaging most of the original nitrate rolls, they were transferred to modern safety stock after acquisition. This remarkable effort has safeguarded a century-old moving image record of rural Irish life, allowing future generations to appreciate the Horgan brothers’ pioneering work.
The Horgan Brothers’ journey serves as an inspiration, a testament to the power of passion and innovation in the world of filmmaking. Their impact on Irish cinema is enduring, and their story is a testament to the enduring power of film as a medium of storytelling and preservation of history.