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Jeremy Irons opens Union Hall Festival by the Sea

Friday, 26th July, 2013 12:00pm
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Jeremy Irons opens Union Hall Festival by the Sea

Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons


HE'S a West Cork 'blow-in', but you wouldn't know it to see Jeremy Irons working the crowd in Union Hall on Sunday night.

Cool as a breeze, he chatted with locals, posed for pictures and debated the region's hot topics. Clad in a T-shirt, jeans and his favourite hat, Irons took to the bandstand praising the people’s ability to throw a party.

‘The sense of festival is something unique to Ireland,’ he said. Declaring the ten-day Union Hall Festival by the Sea officially open, Irons said the community showed the world its worth in the aftermath of the sinking of the Tit Bonhomme on January 15th, 2012. Locals rallied to support one of the biggest search and recovery operations ever instigated in the country to locate the bodies of five missing fishermen and return them to their families. ‘It was an incredible effort, one that showed the world the kind of community spirit that exists here in Union Hall,’ he said.

That community spirit is evident again in how the village has embraced the revival of the Festival by the Sea, Irons told a packed crowd assembled at the village square on that sunny Sunday evening. The ethos of community living is one of Irons’s favourite aspects of west Cork, along with its incredible landscapes and proximity to the sea, he said.

Irons spent the weekend on his sailboat in Glandore Harbour, taking part in the CH Marine Glandore Regatta, where fireworks and street music complemented the celebrations across the water from Union Hall.

He cruised the village, stopping to admire the fancy dress costumes of the festival's opening parade and ducking into Casey's beer garden for a quiet pint of Guinness with Bina Stutchbury, the architect who worked on the renovations of his 15th-century castle in Roaring Water Bay.

Sampling some of the locally produced delights in Carol's Coffee Shop later, hilarity ensued when Irons designed his own arrangement for a photo shoot. ‘He was funny, easy-going and engaging, he always has plenty of time to talk and people appreciate that. I think he quite enjoys mingling with the locals,’ Myross Choir singer and festival committee member Paddy Burns said.

For a movie star that loves the Irish people's sense of festival fun, Irons might have gotten a kick out of the Cow Pat competition that took place just before his arrival. Tickets sold out at €5 a pop to see Poppy the cow execute the fastest-ever finishing time by immediately dispatching her cow pat upon entering the field. It was all over in seconds.

To complicate matters, her deposit straddled the line between two squares, prompting adjudicators to resort to splitting the winnings between two ticket holders. The festival continues this week, with glamour tips at the fashion show on Thursday, where folks can pick up tips in a bid to be the best-dressed male and female at race night on Friday.

Magic workshops, street stalls, a treasure hunt, festival barbecue in the square, beat on the street, live music, a busking competition and a magic roadshow take place over the weekend before the curtains are drawn on this eclectic yet quite electric little festival, with live music from Bog the Donkey to close the Union Hall Gathering on Sunday night.

Check out the Union Hall Festival by the Sea on Facebook for the full programme and updates.