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The Quiet Man – Fact or Fiction?

October 5, 2010

Just watched The Quiet Man on matinée TV – beats writing for a living. The movie, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was made almost sixty years ago and yet it’s worth reflecting how little has changed here in Ireland. The more progressive Irish laugh at the fictional world created by John Ford. They say it’s Oirishness at its worse. A bit of blarney for our American cousins. But the movie held up a mirror to Ireland, and unfortunately the reflection today is much the same image. The story revolves around a dispute over land and inheritance, and as I write a farmer in Ireland has barricaded his farm against court bailiffs. The farmer owes a substantial sum of money to another man injured while working for him some twenty years ago. He has spent time in jail and risks another sentence rather than give up his land. The Quiet Man had the IRA lurking in the background, so no change there. Ford’s Ireland was a place populated by drinkers, fighters and gamblers. Much as it is today. Social divisions were shown by the ‘big house’ mentality, the lowly status of women and the unbridgeable gulf between Catholic and Protestant. All very much still in evidence today.

John Ford brought us his view of Ireland in 1952. If he was alive today, Ford would have little difficulty in recognizing old themes.

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