The Long Road Back to “White O’Morn” Cottage
By June Parker Beck & Paddy McCormick, Contributors
April / May 2014
It was a magical place – a romantic place – the mythical cottage of Mary Kate and Sean Thornton that was featured in John Ford’s classic 1952 movie The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Sadly, Sean Thornton and Mary Kate’s real-life “wee humble cottage” currently lies in ruin.
There is much more to this plot of land than just a set location. Most people do not know that The Quiet Man cottage was an actual historic family home dating back to the pre-1820s. The Joyce family was still living in the cottage at the time the movie was made. This was possible because only exterior shots were done in Ireland; all interiors were shot on a soundstage in Hollywood.
Historic records show the cottage existed on the same site as far back as 1820. Ongoing research is sure to confirm that it existed well before even that early date.
In a bid to prevent further deterioration of this internationally recognized (and cherished) Irish cottage, Paddy McCormick (formerly of Belfast and campaigner for this cause for 15 years) has begun circulating an appeal and an online petition requesting that Galway County Council add this historic location to the Council’s Register of Protected Structures. Upon learning this, Maureen O’Hara (who has been a supporter of this cause for years) signed the petition to assist all who dream for action in preserving and restoring this landmark. O’Hara said, “If you think about Duke, John Ford and all the people who worked on the picture it is sad to see the cottage in a shambles. How can anyone say anything but wonderful things about it, and see to it that it is restored for them and in their memory – and for Ireland?”
According to the Council’s official guidelines, a “Protected Structure” is: “A structure that a planning authority considers to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical point of view. It may be a building or part of a building which is of significance because of its architectural or artistic quality, or its setting, or because of its association with commercial, cultural, economic, industrial, military, political, social or religious history.” The beauty of this is that the owner does not relinquish his property, but as historical property it would then be eligible for developmental grants and funding.
This location’s real-life history combined with its international recognition and association with The Quiet Man movie creates a very special marriage of history, culture, and art – uniquely fulfilling the Council’s criteria. It also embodies a special symbol to millions of fans throughout the world who came to love Ireland because of the film.
Sixty years have passed since that day in 1951 when John Ford brought in his cast and crew to film on location in and around the village of Cong. Since that time, tourists have flocked to the location to get even a tiny glimpse of how it all began and how it unfolded into a cinema masterpiece with Ireland as the star. We can’t disappoint these people or deny future generations of this piece of history. Maureen O’Hara herself has two words that she uses frequently at the end of many sentences “Please God.”
https://www.facebook.com/quietmancottage carries links to the petition, as well as the official Maureen O’Hara Facebook website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maureen-OHara-Magazine-on-Facebook