The Force was certainly with the children of Scoil an Fheirtéaraigh in west Kerry when a special visitor from a galaxy far, far away called for a visit.
Chewbacca dropped in on Monday afternoon, fresh from the set on nearby Ceann Sibéal, where Disney Lucasfilm are shooting scenes for the sequel to The Force Awakens.
Even though he doesn’t speak their language, the school children did almost as well as Han Solo in communicating with the 8ft-tall Wookie.
On his arrival, the Millenium Falcon co-pilot was met with a rendition of the theme tune from Star Wars as never heard before — played on accordion and tin whistle.
Oisín Ó Fearghail, 9, from Gortadoo, said the pupils had been told there was a special guest coming but they didn’t know who until he arrived.
“All the kids were really excited. We thought it might be R2D2 but then Chewbacca came in and he had to crouch down to fit in the door,” Oisín said.
“He lifted up a few of the kids and he gave me a hug.”
Oisín explained that a poster put up by his dad, Brian Farrell, near the film set probably attracted the attention of the Star Wars crew.
Addressed to film director Rian Johnson, it simply said how his kids would like to meet “yourself”, “himself”, and “herself”.
Together with pal Ruadhán Ó Dálaigh, 8, from Tíorabháin, Oisín designed a book and made a Star Wars sign out of pottery to present to their guest as gifts.
“He stayed for over half an hour and he could understand us but we couldn’t understand Shyriiwook,” Ruadhán said, referring to the language of the Wookies.
Still, Chewbacca managed to communicate to them that working on set was very busy, there were lots of people involved, and he didn’t like Kylo Ren very much — with good reason, as anyone who has seen The Force Awakens will know.
Resource teacher Míchéal Ó Cinnéide, himself an avid Star Wars fan, said the visit was Disney Lucasfilm’s way of saying thank you to the local community for their co-operation.
“They wanted to do something nice for the community because everyone had been so helpful and cooperative and they wanted to give something back,” he said.
School principal Máirín Uí Chonchúir has been sworn to secrecy since Friday, when she was contacted by location manager Catherine Geary.
“She said not to say anything to the kids just in case it didn’t happen. I told her she had answered our prayers,” explained Bean Uí Chonchúir. “I actually got quite emotional. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan or anything but I knew how much it would mean to the children. It really was a ‘Lá dar saol’ as the saying goes, ‘one of the best days of their lives’.”
Since then, she said, her phone has been hopping with interest in the visit from media all over the country and in the US.
“We’re only a small Gaeltacht school and nothing like this has ever happened before so it’s wonderful,’ she said.
Oisín and Ruadhán said the most famous people they had met up until then were probably members of the Kerry football team such as Kieran Donaghy and James O’Donoghue, but it was now going to be hard to beat Chewbacca.
And as is the custom when any special visitor comes to the school, the 65 pupils of Scoil an Fheirtéaraigh got no homework that night.
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