Restored version of first Irish sound film ‘The Dawn’ to be screened

‘The Dawn’ was made by Killarney garage owner Tom Cooper in 1936


A newly restored version of The Dawn – the remarkable feature film written and directed by Killarney garage owner Tom Cooper in 1936 – will be screened for the first time this Friday evening in Killarney.

The film – the first indigenous sound production made in Ireland – was shot by Cooper with the assistance of local technicians, actors, family and friends. Loosely based on events in the War of Independence, it features footage of local landscapes.

The original version is held in a controlled environment in the British Film Institute in order to protect it from deterioration. In co-operation with the Cooper family, Brian Nolan and the digital skills production team at Kerry ETB Training Centre have digitised and restored The Dawn so it can be more widely seen.

“The restoration process took over three months of careful, delicate work at very little cost,” says Nolan. “We used a range of software tools and it was an exciting project in which the digital skills trainees could also get involved. It was a labour of love and it was great to get the support of the Cooper family and in particular Diarmuid Galvin who is the great grandson of Tom Cooper and who was a former trainee on our course.”

Pre-war context

It is believed that, as a boy, Tom Cooper may have been influenced by the visit of Kalem Film studios of New York to Killarney in the years before the first World War to make films such as the Colleen Bawn. Kalem planned to set up a studio near Killarney, but those plans ended with the arrival of war in 1914.

In the late 1930s, The Dawn was screened in England and New York

When Walt Disney visited Kerry in the 1950s, he was introduced to Cooper.

Michelle Cooper Galvin recalls her grandfather with affection: “He was an innovator, his two big passions were films and tourism. I think he made the film to promote Killarney as a tourist destination. He founded the Glebe Hotel and opened a cinema in Killarney, and was the first to bring busloads of visitors to Killarney.”

The film was the inspiration for “The Dawn Workshops”, a series of master classes by international and award-winning filmmakers run by The National Digital Skills Centre at Kerry ETB Training Centre Tralee.

The Dawn will be screened at 7pm on Friday at Killarney Cinema, the cinema originally founded by Tom Cooper. All tickets are sold out, but the family plan to organise further screenings after Christmas.