Caoineadh info



The killing of Art O'Laoire near Carraig an Ime/Carriganimy in Co Cork in May 1773 is commemorated in the lament composed by his widow, and which is quoted throughout the film.

Ciaran Carty wrote in the Sunday Independent:

"CAOINEADH AIRT UI LAOIRE is the breakthrough I, at least, have been waiting for - the first completely native-produced movie that seems capable of holding its own with the best of the world's new cinema. It is a timely reminder that the future of Irish movies need not lie in the stereotyped cliches of the American and British commercial system which currently dominates what the cinemas show. CAOINEADH AIRT UI LAOIRE shows that movies in Ireland are possible without any Government support and without studio facilities. It shows that the future of cinema for us may well be a matter of looking at ourselves rather than in trying to ape Hollywood by manipulating the preconditioned responses of audiences with contrived formulae.' (SI 9/11/1975). "

II Messagero wrote:

"The director of the show is English, or at least English- speaking, whose haughtiness in front of the "natives" is underlined at every possible occasion. The principal actor rebels against this and the others respond, immediately establishing between screen and scene an ideological and narrative osmosis which shows how the eighteenth-century situation far from having been resolved, repeats itself, even if in different terms, still today. And the film ends in an ancient dance in which all take part, even the nasty but humiliated director." (18/9/1976)


Premiered in the Drumcondra Grand Cinema, Dublin in 1975 (introduced by actress Siobhán McKenna) and on 14 June 1975 (Cork Film Festival). Fergus Linehan described it in the Irish Times as "rough and formless as the Connemara rocks". Ciaran Carty's review (above) was far-seeing.

This film was made entirely in Connemara by Cinegael (Bob Quinn).The original suggestion and support for making the film came (on the 200th anniversary of the death of Art O'Laoire) from the late Eamonn Smullen, then Director of Education, Sinn Féin The Workers Party.

In 1983, a right to broadcast their print of the film was sold by Eamon Smullen (for 2500 sterling) to independent production company, TV Co-op, which incorporated the film in the 'Silent Voices' series commissioned by and shown on Channel 4. The end credits for Sinn Féin were removed from the negative and the broadcast, probably because Channel 4 were still sensitive about acknowledging in their schedules the role of a political party deeply involved in the Northern troubles.

Over twenty years later the long lost original negative of the film, having been abandoned by the UK laboratory in a warehouse in Oxford and emasculated as described above, was tracked down and rescued.

Restoration, Grading and Digital remastering with new subtitles was undertaken by Bob Quinn and was completed in January 2010

The new version's first showing was at 'Fáilte na Brídeoige' in Daniel O'Connell's home at Derrynane, Co. Kerry on Friday, 5th Feb. 2010.

The story of Art O Laoire:

After the fall of Limerick and Treaty of Limerick (October 1691), ending the Williamite wars, the Irish army evacuated to France and entered the French service. Those involved came to be referred to as the 'Wild Geese'. The custom developed of Irish men emigrating to continental Europe to serve as mercenaries in many of the armies of the continent. They also came to be referred to as Wild Geese. Art O Laoire was one such, serving in the Hungarian Hussars. He was unusual in that he returned to Ireland, settled down in Kerry and married Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill. O Laoaire was shot in 1773 arising from a dispute with the High Sheriff of Cork Abraham Morris. The dispute was over O Laoire's horse, which Morris wanted to buy - and under the (anti-Catholic) Penal Laws was entitled to insist upon owning - and O Laoire refused to sell. The lament upon which this film is based and the story behind it comes down through the oral tradition. The composer - Eibhlin Ni Chonaill - was a member of the O'Connell clan of Kerry and an aunt of the nineteenth century politician Daniel O'Connell (known as the Liberator in memory of his leadership of Catholic Emancipation, the repeal of those elements of the Penal Laws still in force during the early nineteenth century). The Penal Laws: The Penal Laws operated as a code restricting the civil, political and property rights of Catholics in Ireland from the end of the seventeenth century (the conclusion of the Williamite wars). Ireland at that stage had its own parliament, which began in 1695 to enact the Laws. There was parallel legislation in England and in Ireland and Britain Dissenters also, who in Ireland were particularly concentrated in the province of Ulster, suffered severe restrictions and penalties. Broadly the corpus of legislation (in Britain and in Ireland) was intended to advance the Episcopalian/Established Church cause and discriminate against Popery and Dissent. By the end of the eighteenth century however some significant proportion of the discriminatory laws had actually been repealed. The widespread expectation of Irish Catholics was that the Act of Union would occassion the end of the policy. However it took until 1829 for the Catholic Emancipation Act to be passed. To a considerable degree the delay in enacting the legislation was the result of an internal dispute (known as the Veto Controversy) within Irish Catholicism about the terms on which emancipation would operate. The poem: Eibhlin Ni Chonaill's lament for her dead husband has become a key work in the Irish literary cannon. It has come in this context to function as a lament for an age gone by, that of Gaelic Irish, and a culture and people defeated and conquered. It has been translated into English on a number of occasions. Among those who have translated it is Frank O'Connor (in his work 'Kings, Lords and Commons'). On the composer and the 'caoineadh' see entries in The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (editor Robert Welch, Oxford University Press, 1996).

The film: This film was made by Bob Quinn at the suggestion of Eamon Smullen, director of the Education Department of Sinn Fein the Workers Party. However the organisation with which it was made was that of 'official' Sinn Fein. The Sinn Fein organisation split after the events of 1969 in Northern Ireland. The split reflected and was preceded by a split in the IRA. One wing of the party continued to style itself Sinn Fein in its claim to represent continuity but came to be known as the 'officials'. The other wing, which came to be the majority tendency, initially styled itself Provisional Sinn Fein, came to be known as the 'provisionals' and is now again simply Sinn Fein. Reflecting their leftist/communist (Moscow) orientation, the officials renamed themselves in 1975 Sinn Fein the Workers Party (SFWP) and in 1982 simply the Workers Party (WP). Eventually (1994?) the Workers Party split with Democratic Left (DL) emerging as an essentially social democratic element from that split. In 1999 DL was dissolved and merged with the Labour Party. The Workers Party remains in existence as a small, left political organisation. This film was made during a period of active development of the officials' education department, their research department, their propagandising, publishing, agitation on left-wing issues and increasingly strident opposition to nationalism and militant Irish republicanism. A key figure in these developments was Eamon Smullen. Another film produced during this period is the 1977 film 'Going, going, gone', on which Smullen is credited as the producer. It also is held in the Irish Film Archive. The film makers: Joe Comerford (on this production the lighting cameraman) is also a film-maker of note. Works include 'Withdrawal' (1974), 'Down the Corner' (1978), 'Traveller' (1981) and 'Reefer and the Model' (1988), all in the Irish Film Archive holding. Bob Quinn (producer/director) is a most prolific film maker (having made more than 70 films). Among his other films are his documentaries 'Cloch' (1975) and 'Atlantean' (1983), the fiction works 'Poitin' (1978), Budawanny (1987), 'The Bishop's Story' (1994), 'Vox Humana' (2008) which are also in the Irish Film Archive. For the past forty years he has based himself in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) district of Conamara in County Galway.

Film also known as: LAMENT FOR ARTHUR LEARY

Note: The 'caoineadh' was a traditional, largely extemporised yet highly formalised and structured type of lament or dirge commemorating the life of an individual on the occasion of the wake and funeral. The lament (keen or keening from the Irish language verb caoin/caoineadh: to cry or wail) was usually performed by female members of the family. There were also professional keeners.

Fáilte go Conamara


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