Sixty years a-waiting: O'Hara back for Quiet Man festival

 

SIXTY YEARS after being immortalised in glorious technicolour in The Quiet Man,Maureen O’Hara’s star quality remains as potent as ever.

Thousands lined the streets of Cong yesterday evening to welcome the actor, who just turned 91, for the inaugural Quiet Man Festival.

They watched from the windows of Cohan’s pub and clamoured around the cross at Cong to catch a glimpse of the woman who will always be feted for her role as Mary Kate Danagher – the personification of every fiery Irish redhead.

Her friend Dana sang All Kinds of Everything, and O’Hara told the crowd that, of all the 80 films she made, The Quiet Manwas her favourite because it had her favourite actor, John Wayne, and director, John Ford.

She also recounted the only Irish dialogue in the film word for word, the scene where she has to tell the priest her husband slept in a “mála codlata”, a sleeping bag, on the night of their wedding.

Amazingly, in all the years since the film was made, O’Hara has never been back in a public capacity before. There has never been a Quiet Manfestival either.

It was an occasion of double celebration for her. Not only was she being honoured for the role, she was not slow in reminding everyone her father, Charles Fitzsimons, was once co-owner of Shamrock Rovers. “I’m so proud, oh God, isn’t it wonderful,” she said of their qualification for the Europa League. She is equally proud of The Quiet Man, a film she described as “one of the greatest that has ever been made”.

In Ashford Castle, where the cast and crew stayed all those years ago, she held court among the guests, who included singers Daniel O’Donnell and Tommy Fleming and several politicians including Minister for Tourism Michael Ring and former minister Éamon Ó Cuív. “I used to be Dev’s favourite pin-up girl,” O’Hara told Ó Cuív.

Mr Ring told her, “and I’m not just saying this, you can check the Connaught Telegraphif you want”, that The Quiet Manwas his favourite “fillum”.

Afterwards, she paraded through the streets of the little village in an open-topped Morris followed by John Wayne’s daughter Marisa Wayne and his granddaughter Laura Monoz Bottini. “Ireland held a special place in his heart. He always talked about wanting to bring me over here. Unfortunately, we never got to do that together, but I’m thinking he’s here in spirit,” said Marisa who was not born when The Quiet Manwas made in 1951.

The Quiet Manfestival was instigated by locals to boost the flagging tourism trade. It was their ultimate coup to persuade O’Hara and Wayne’s relatives to attend. The festival goes on all weekend and it is hoped to make it an annual occurrence.