The Field - Press Archive - The Times

 

Source: The Times
04 January 2004

Star quality in Connemara
The area was considered perfect by director Jim Sheridan for his
movie, The Field. With 35 acres of prime Galway land, a run-down
cottage has a good location, writes Colin Coyle

Overlooking Killary Harbour, Ireland's only fjord, in rural Leenane,
Co Galway, the views from this tumbledown cottage are to die for.
But would you kill for a vista? In the 1990 film of John B Keane's
The Field, Richard Harris's Bull McCabe did just that,
bludgeoning "the Yank" (Tom Berenger) to death with a rock. The
unfortunate American paid the ultimate price for daring to compete
with "Bull" to buy the plot McCabe had leased for years and felt was
his by rights.


For the movie, director Jim Sheridan chose this neglected ruin as
the home of McCabe, his wife Maggie (Brenda Fricker) and his son
Tadgh (Sean Bean). It has remained virtually untouched since, its
last real-life residents having left in 1982.

Now on the market, this charming ruin is likely to be bought as a
holiday home by a buyer from Galway or the east coast — exactly the
type of outsider Bull McCabe would have railed against. He would
also surely rage against the price.

In the film, the tenant farmer toils all his life to turn a rocky
outcrop into a lush meadow, only for its owner, a wealthy widow
played by Frances Tomelty, to offer it for sale.

The £50 bid by Harris's Bull McCabe would be considered laughable
now. This abandoned cottage has been given a price tag of €225,000.

As ever, it's all about the land. "The cottage is in very poor
condition but it comes with 35 acres in one of the most beautiful
parts of the country. It's on Leenane Hill overlooking the Maam Turk
Mountains and across the bay to Ben Gorm and Mweelrea Mountain, the
highest peak in Connacht.

"A lovely stream runs through the land and the views of Killary are
truly spectacular. You would think it was a lake from the house but
it's actually a fjord," said May Hickey, the cottage's current
owner.

Even in blustery January, this weather-beaten outcrop attracts hardy
walkers. "The Connemara Way walk is nearby. It doesn't attract a
huge amount of tourists but there's a steady flow," Hickey said.

One mile west of Leenane in an unspoiled townland called
Derrynacleigh, it's easy to see why Sheridan chose the dramatic
backdrop of Killary Harbour as a location.

"The setting is beautiful but the house is very basic inside. There
are two rooms — a kitchen with an open hearth and a bedroom. Two
brothers lived there until about 1982 but nobody has stayed there
since," she said. Although already in poor condition by 1990, the
house is typical of a humble tenant farmer's cottage. "You can see
in the film that they used some props to make it more lived-in but
it's in much the same condition as it was then," Hickey said.

The best-known scenes from the house are the uncomfortable silences
played out between a simmering Harris and his long-suffering wife,
Brenda Fricker.

There are also a number of scenes of the exterior of the house, most
notably one with Harris mending the roof. "Richard Harris did some
work on the roof all right but it's not our intention to charge
extra for these repairs," the selling agent, Connemara Properties,
jests.

Hickey predicts that it will appeal to buyers because "it's very
difficult to get planning permission in Galway, particularly in a
beautiful part of the county such as Connemara". But he says: "The
fact that there's an existing cottage here means that you would
probably get permission to rebuild or extend the house. There is
also a shed off the main house that was lived in until the 1970s, so
that could be incorporated into any plans."

This rugged cottage isn't the first property featured in Sheridan's
film to come on the market. The one that was used as the location
for the widow's house came on the market two years ago. Set on 10
acres on the Westport Road, it was in equally dilapidated condition
but made over its asking price of €190,000 after being withdrawn
from auction.

The film breathed much-needed life into the tiny, one-street village
of Leenane, formerly Ireland's smallest village with a population of
just 14. Gaynor's pub, another set from the film, attracts a stream
of tourists eager for anecdotes about the late Harris.

This once little-known hamlet has also been immortalised by Martin
McDonagh's Leenane trilogy.

The village has its own sheep and wool museum and there is salmon
and trout fishing nearby at Erriff and Delphi. It is about 40 miles
from Galway and 20 from Clifden.

Connemara Properties, 095 21473, www.connemaraproperties.com

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