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Memories of "Ryan's Daughter"

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Ross Holden Date: 01.01.2013
My dad is seen to the lower left with the tweed flat cap ... he passed on 16th March 2012.

It may interest you to know that back in 1968, I first went to Southern Ireland .....to Dingle. My father Chris Holden (Focus Puller/2nd Unit Camera Operator) was on location with "Ryan's Daughter" and a full team member of Freddie Young's Camera Team. (Freddie had become a must on all David Lean films from "Lawrence of Arabia" onward)

I was twelve at the time and on our 1st visit we stayed at the Skelligs Hotel in Dingle, which was where the crew and cast were mainly billeted. I can remember to this day my first alcoholic drink purchased for me by the actors Douglas Sheldon and Barry Foster (both no longer with us) in the Skelligs Bar. Over the next two years I spent more time in the Kerry area than in the UK, spending most of my days Horse Riding (at Ventry, or from Inch). Those dunes at Inch were spectacular and when you were deep within them on horseback on a Summersday, it was just like being in an Arizona desert in the old Wild West.

In between my horse riding my father took me to the Mountain Village, the School House, to meet Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Christoper Jones, John Mills, Trevor Howard and most of the cast. Robert Mitchum gave both me and my sister a Professional Frisbee (they were almost unheard of in the UK at this time) and signed both of them for us.
More in 70mm reading:

Some Notes on Shooting "Lawrence of Arabia"

On the trail of "Ryan's Daughter"

"Ryan's Daughter" Revisited

There Were Giants in the Land: Freddie Young

School House in 2004

I can even remember sitting in a crew vehicle for hours while the love scene was shot (Jones and Miles), I wasn't allowed too near the set as there was a little too much flesh on display. I remember going fishing with John Mills in just a dingy, taken out of Dingle Harbour...just the two of us.

I can remember Robert Bolts open Bugatti that he left in a side street in Dingle after having yet another tiff with Sarah Miles ..... the car was eventually rescued by the Garage in Dingle and cleaned-up and resided in their showroom until Robert Bolt came back and got it (about 18 months later). I earned £10 one blustery afternoon from Michael Stevenson (2nd Unit director) out on a cliff path (offshore were the Blaskett's) directing Sarah Miles (Stevenson remotely transmitting to me the directions from the Camera Platform via radio). Crazy, me at 13 years of age remotely directing Sarah Miles with a megaphone.

My Father married Maureen Whitty (my second Stepmother) during the filming in 1970. She was Production Secretary on "Ryan's Daughter". My father and Maureen had their Honeymoon later on the return Cruise journey from the South African Cape after the storm sequence ( and a few extra beach shots) was finally bagged. My father and me used to talk a lot about those 2 years down in Southern Ireland which were certainly a couple of our happiest.
Ernie Day is operating the Camera with David Lean lower down Directing, my father and Freddie (Young) are probably off Camera setting up the next shot.

My father told me a very funny story about an inhabitant of Dingle.

It was back in 1968 and my father would sometimes frequent one of the many Bars in Dingle (all seemingly run under the surname "Long", or "Longs"). The particular bar in this story was the last one on the right when exiting Dingle toward Ventry. From what I can remember, they specialised in Jam, Wellington Boots and the serving of copious amounts of draught Guiness (and a curious golden coloured, not too healthy looking Lemonade which tasted so good, for me and my sister). Anyway, on exiting this bar late one evening my father passed a pony and flatbed cart parked up on the side of the road outside, it strangely had a heavy chain and padlock around the cart-shafts and then around a metal lamp post. My father told me he thought nothing really of it at the time, he just saw it as a little bit of eccentric Dingle behaviour. My father saw this sight often as he exited Longs Bar over the next 2 years and got to know that its owner was an aged local Farmer and that most nights he kept Long's Bar company. The local farmer had apparently always been a little worried about losing his mode of transport when ready to go home.

My father returned to Dingle on holiday in the very late 1970's and looked for the pony and cart outside Long's, but it wasn't there.......instead was a fairly modern Rover Car.....with a slightly lighter chain going through it's door handle and around the lamp post. Apparently the aged farmer had sold a bit of his land and decided to retire his animal and cart, but he was far too stuck in his ways to change his security precautions.

I loved that part of Kerry and would have gladly lived there forever, Dingle, Ventry, Inch and Killarney. The village on the Mountain was incredible, most of it facade, but until you kicked a wall, or really got microscopically close...it looked as if it had been there for decades and decades. I can remember walking up the cobbled street like it was yesterday.
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Updated 21-01-24