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Historical Film of Dan Breen’s Wedding Gaining Momentum

Published 1 year ago 24th September 2021 by Caitriona Kenny

An inspiring film re-enactment of the wartime wedding of Dan Breen and Bridget Malone has received great praise and enthusiasm from its audiences.

The 20-minute black and white production has been screened several times at the Tipperary Excel Centre, including a special screening for Culture night on the 17th of September.

Replicating history: An original photograph of the Wedding of Dan Breen in 1921 on the left with the reenactment photograph with actors on the right taken during the 2021 filming of ‘The Wedding of Dan Breen’

This re-enactment depicts one of the most iconic moments in the War of Independence when the wedding of Dan Breen, (a wanted man with a thousand-pound price on his head), married Bridget Malone from Dublin, a member of Cumann Na Mban and a woman whose family had provided a safe house for men on the run.

“Bridget nursed Dan Breen back to health after he was shot, not once but twice, thus sparking a romance between the two,” explained Scriptwriter Mary Alice O’Connor. “The wedding took place at Glenegat House the home of the Purcell family who were well known Republican sympathizers, as the War of Independence raged on June 12th, 1921.

The Purcell family home was just outside New Inn within a five-mile radius of Cashel, Cahir and Fethard, where the military were stationed. Scriptwriter Mary Alice O’Connor was the former Gallery Administrator at The Tipperary Excel and worked on numerous History, Heritage and Tipperary Town committees and projects. “I wrote the script for the re- enactment of the wedding at Glenegat using written accounts and Dan Breen’s own account in, ‘My Fight For Irish Freedom, to set the scene in its historical context.

Scriptwriter of the film, The Wedding Of Dan Breen, Mary Alice O’Connor

She also visited the house, now in ruins, where the opening scene was filmed as a poignant reminder of the events a hundred years earlier.

“I found the writing of the script easy once I’d decided the story would be told from Mrs. Purcell’s point of view, it then simply fell into place.

Her preparations and concerns on the morning of the wedding and her interaction with Mary the maid, sets the scene for the wedding and gives us an insight into the excitement and fear of the assembled group.”

“The threat of capture and death was real, but there was the excitement and daring of the event itself in the face of the enemy. The re-enactment is historically correct and is greatly enhanced by the narration that sets the historical context of the time; the ongoing guerrilla war with severe casualties on both sides, the announcement of the truce a month after the wedding and the mention of the bitter civil war to follow, though those were unknowns at the time,” said Mary- Alice.

The wedding was filmed at Ballyglass House hotel, a couple of miles from Tipperary Town, with the location proving perfect for shooting scenes required to make the film authentic. Local actors dressed in 1920’s costume along with the vintage car and an ancient bicycle for the curate to arrive on completed the set.

The opening narration takes place at the original farmhouse with local actor and Jimmy O’Farrell who set the scene for the events about to unfold. Jimmy O’Farrell played the role of Narrator for the re-enactment and also supplied his 1915 vintage car to add to the setting.

Maria O’Shaughnessy from New Inn played the part of Mrs. Purcell and Tipperary Town’s Lisa McGrath took on the role of the maid Mary. Their interaction on the morning of the wedding tells the story of the arrival of Dan Breen (Sean Mulriain) and Sean Hogan (Riain Cash). Clodagh Ryan plays the beautiful bride from New Inn and Rachel Breen from Granstown plays the part of the bridesmaid Áine Malone. Paddy O’Connor, another veteran of stage in New Inn, stepped into the role of Fr. O’Leary and Paudi Quirke from Golden acts as Fr. Murphy.

Director of The Wedding Of Dan Breen, Jim Keane

The cast of locals played the parts of the volunteers guarding the house and making up the numbers at the wedding breakfast. Former Producer at Tipp Mid West Radio, Actor and Writer Jim Keane, directed the film. “The film portrays the courage and defiance of all concerned knowing as they do that the arrival of the Tans would have disastrous consequences for everyone, especially Dan Breen and Sean Hogan. The cast, drawn from local drama groups with a number of easily recognisable extras, was wonderful and totally committed to the making of this film for which they can be justly proud.”

Filmmaker Caleb Barrett captured the essence of the script and historical importance with his talent and direction from Jim Keane. Dan Breen’s wedding took place in Mrs. Purcell house on June 12, 1921, and the Garden Party was located at nearby Miltownmore in Mrs. Looby’s house, a staunch republican and sister of Mrs. Purcell.

The 100-year anniversary was marked in 2021 in Miltonmore this summer with a Garden Party hosted by John Long and Niamh Hassett with the help of locals to celebrate history. “We’d like to thank everyone who made this historical film possible and many thanks to Ruth O’Connor and the Byrnes Family of Ballyglass Hotel for facilitating this project and for their kindness and hospitality,” added Mary Alice O’Connor. “We’d be very interested in showing this film in cinemas around the Country and abroad.”

For further enquires please contact the Tipperary Excel Reception on 062-80520. The Tipperary Excel commissioned this project with funding from the Decade of Centenaries through the Heritage Office of Tipperary County Council.

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