Jim and Catherine document proud story of Ardfert
IT’S a village that punches far above its weight when it comes to the history books and now, the whole fascinating story of Ardfert - from its origins as the ecclesiastic powerbase of the Diocese to its part in the 1916 Rising - is set for a big screen treatment thanks to a couple of local filmmakers.
Jim and Catherine McCarthy of Digimac Productions are delighted to screen their two-hour feature documentary Ardfert: A Historical Gem in Siamsa Tíre on Friday, November 23 (7pm).
It is the fruit of two long years of painstaking research by the Fenit-based couple, and it’s clear from the moment the footage rolls that it’s been a labour of love.
It is also hoped that Ardfert: A Historical Gem will right what is considered by many to have been a major wrong against the people of the parish - how they were smeared as having been complicit with the crown in the trial and execution of Roger Casement.
But the documentary opens centuries prior, in the heart of the extraordinary national treasure that is Ardfert Cathedral. Jim worked on the massive archaeological excavation and renovation of the Cathedral, one of the biggest projects of its kind in the country at the time and which lasted a decade; effectively saving the ruin from further demise and uncovering a treasure trove of material relating to how the Irish lived in medieval times.
“It was a great time, I worked on the dig for four years myself and it was a brilliant experience,” Jim recalled.
His inside track afforded him great access when it came to getting the whole story on camera, as Jim and Catherine interviewed some of the nation’s leading experts in the field - Senior Archaeologist with the National Monuments
Moore; Senior Conservation Architect with the OPW Grellan D Rourke and Isabel Bennett, who now oversees Múseam Corca Dhuibhne in Ballyferriter to name a few.
How the intact remains of 2,300 locals came to be excavated; the discovery of priceless artefacts, from the extraordinary pilgrim’s badge likely brought back from Santiago de Compostela to a bishop’s ring believed to have been granted 12th Century Bishop David Ua Duibdithrib by Pope Celestine III, and much, much more - it’s all there in a segment that stands by itself as a fascinating
Of great local interest too are speakers like Sean Seosamh Ó Conchubhair, Tommy O’Connor, Donal Stack, Phil Healy, Helen O’Carroll and Pat Lawlor to name but a few.
The local knowledge provides a crucial counterpoint to one dark episode that has dogged Ardfert over the past century - the prosecution of Roger Casement.
“This was one of the main points of the documentary as we really wanted to get across the true story of the trial from the point of view of the locals who were smeared by the UK media as somehow having betrayed Casement,” Jim said.
“A number of locals who witnessed Casement’s movements around the parish were subpoenaed for the trial; but as the likes of Sean Seosamh and Phil Healy demonstrate, no-one had any idea at the time who he was. Casement gave a false name and it wasn’t until Dublin that the RIC realised who they had so locals were entirely innocent and we hope the documentary sets a few of these things right.”
ABOVE: Husband-and-wife filmmakers Jim and Catherine McCarthy with, clockwise from below, Roger Casement on the deck of the German sub; Banna Sea Rescue in action; Ardfert Friary, inset, and a bird’s eye view of the Cathedral the couple captured by drone for their new documentary feature on the famous North Kerry village.
Dramatic footage from the film of the Banna Sea Rescue unit in action. The unit staged a ‘rescue’ specially for the piece, captured to perfection with the use of HD drones and cameras.