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Be part of the fearless Flying Column

February 9th, 2019 5:45 PM

By Emma Connolly

A group of 12 local volunteers like those pictured are needed for Sam Kingston's documentary. Recruitment takes place in Clon on February 9th.

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 Sam Kingston is the driving force behind ‘The Brigade’ which will be televised this Autumn and as part of his living history project he’s looking for 12 men to recreate the Flying Column for what he says will be an incredible experience

THE role that West Cork men, and women, played in the War of Independence and Irish freedom is being explored in a two part documentary, spearheaded by a Clonakilty man. 

‘The Brigade,’ a two-part documentary, is the  brain child of Sam Kingston which will be televised in the Autumn.

And as part of his living history project, Sam is looking for men who think they’ve got what it takes to live like the legendary Flying Column for a week.

The Flying Column was a dedicated unit of men from different units of the West Cork Brigade who were brought together with the aim of ambushing the British.

Sam and Galway based production team Abú Media, with co-producer Pierce Boyce, are holding an open day at Clonakilty GAA Complex on Saturday February 9th where they will pick a group of 12 men for what they say will be an incredible experience.

Sam explains: ‘We’re looking for young West Cork men to live as the Flying Column for a week and understand what life was like for them 100 years ago. We’ll drill them, march them, have them take part in raids – with them attacking and with them being raided. We’ll also stage an ambush to give them the sense of what the men would have gone through. They’ll live as the men did, on the run, wearing 1920s style clothing but we’ll capture them with modern technology, go-pro’s for close up intimate action and drones for the overhead views capturing the beauty of West Cork. 

‘We want to see how men today can fare compared to the men of the original Flying Column. Who could be the next Tom Barry, Tom Kelleher, John Lordan, Ned Young or Spud Murphy?’

Training the column will be former Cork goalkeeper Alan Quirke, Innishannon, who has army experience. 

Outside of the well known ambush at Kilmichael and the Crossbarry Battle, Sam said there were lots of other incidents in West Cork from 1918-21 that people wouldn’t be familiar with. 

‘There were continuous raids against the RIC and British as well as continuous conflict and tension  between the British and the West Cork  Brigade. 

‘People were terrified and in response they stood up and fought back. The kind of people we’re looking for have a passion for this era, and an awareness of what went on.’

Sam, who works with Global Shares in Clonakilty and who has a history and law degree from NUI Galway, said their approach is very much a local one. 

‘We want to hear the local stories and see how West Cork remembers the events that happened. We only have one history lecturer interviewed in the documentary, Gabriel Doherty from UCC whose role is to provide the wider context of why the war happened. Our main interest is hearing from local historians and local people with proud family connections to the Brigade. That involves meeting people in Bandon, Clonakilty, Kilbrittain, Newcestown, Castletownkenneigh, Kilmichael, Crossbarry.’

An earlier strand of the documentary saw a group of students from Essex University travel to the area last October to spend a week discovering what the British, in particular the Essex Regiment, got up to here. 

‘The week was a real eye opener for the students who didn’t really know any of the history beforehand as it is not really taught in the British schools. They were shocked to hear what the British were doing here 100 years ago. These students heard about the boys of Kilmichael and the events of Crossbarry with eager ears, key parts of Irish history but unheard of by our Essex students,’ explained Sam. 

The documentary will also look at the role of Irish men in the RIC and the targeting of Protestants. These perspectives, Sam says, need to examined but the focus is the men of the Brigade and what they achieved against the odds.  ‘The role of women in the war is starting to be recognised and their contribution is something that will feature throughout the documentary, the women did a lot of the unseen, thankless background work that kept the men of the Brigade going.’

Sam, who is currently developing documentaries on Cork’s GAA Double in 1990 and one on the life of Michael Collins in Clonakilty and London, said the War of Independence period has always fascinated  him especially the contribution made by West Cork.

‘I feel it is only fitting that the men and women should be remembered. It saddens me that so much history is going to be lost in the next 10 to 20 years. I’m keen to capture the story before it’s too late. We’re hoping that local people will come on board with us as we remember the incredible contribution that West Cork made towards Irish freedom.’

It’s hoped the documentary, funded by RTÉ, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Cork County Council, will be ready for the Autumn schedule on RTÉ1 with ambitions to have it shown globally.  

*Recruitment takes place on Saturday, Feb 9th from 10am at Clon’s GAA Complex. Filming will take place from Feb 13th-20th. Email abumedia.com for more.

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