The story of Ireland’s past is being told through Cork’s experience of famine, emigration, and revolution in a Dutch TV show filmed over the past week.
Although it is not strictly a travel programme, viewers on the Netherlands’ NPO2 channel will see a range of attractions highlighting the county and the country’s history and heritage.
Presenter Fons de Poel tries in each episode of the programme to find the soul of a country he visits, and Cork was chosen for its key role in the formative years of the Irish revolution a century ago.
But also key was its role as the birthplace of key revolutionary figures Michael Collins and Terence MacSwiney. Both men’s lives and deaths feature strongly in interviews with local organisations, and with citizens whose families played a direct role in the events.
The crew is calling a wrap on a week of filming today, having started with a visit to Skibbereen, where famine sites were among the locations explained by staff of Skibbereen Heritage Centre.
Dutch viewers of the programme about Ireland, expected to be screened in July, will learn about the emigration that followed the traumatic events of the 1840s and 1850s through the crew’s visit to Cobh Heritage Centre. They will also get to hear about the town’s links to the sinking of the world’s most famous liner at Titanic Experience Cobh.
A big focus will be on the events of late 1920, from the hunger strike and death of Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork and Mid-Cork TD, through the Kilmichael ambush and the subsequent Burning of Cork — all happening in a traumatic six weeks.
After filming artefacts linked to all three events at Independence Museum Kilmurry, Fons spoke to three local men about their fathers’ activities in the IRA and the local impact of events like MacSwiney’s death. They included Connie Long, whose father Denis J Long spent over three weeks on hunger strike in Wormwood Scrubs prison.
From there, the Dutch crew went to the memorial at nearby Béal na Bláth, where Collins was killed in a Civil War ambush in ambush 1922.
“The idea has been to tell the story of Ireland from the Famine and emigration, through to the War of Independence and Civil War, questioning how the country is influenced by events and how things have changed,” said researcher Lia van Bekhoven.
The London-based Dutch radio and TV journalist suggested Cork as a filming location based on many past visits to friends holidaying in the Rebel County.
As well as the city and county’s colourful past, viewers of Fons Bij de Buren (Fons with the Neighbours) can get a taste of contemporary Irish life with a traditional music session at Rosies bar in Ballydehob, and last weekend’s point-to-point racing in Clonakilty.
The prorgamme should end on a positive note, as young sportspeople in Skibbereen tell Fons how things have come full circle with emigration once again becoming a thing of the past.
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