The Irish film Eat The Peach(1986) was inspired by the true story of two Co. Longford brothers in-law who built a motorcycle wall of death very close to the border with Co. Leitrim, near Granard. From Wikipedia, “The film is based on actual events – the film is based on a true story of two brothers-in-law Connie Kiernan and Michael Donoghue. They build a wall of death in their back garden for fun. The director, Peter Ormond, had seen a huge, wooden tank just off the road when he was looking for items for Irish television.” Released to some acclaim at the time, today this fictionalised version (written by Peter Ormond and John Kelleher) of their story has become a cult film and regarded by some to be weirdly prescient of the Celtic Tiger and its collapse.
At the beginning of the film’s story a large local employer closes, a Japanese computer manufacturer, which was a common event at the time but would of course become more so in the future. The unemployed brothers in-law build a wall of death in a poetic gesture to transcend their stifling lives and uninspiring rural surroundings while also embracing a darker impulse of possible sacrifice as they become unemployed once more. As they dream and build the wall they are ridiculed by friends and neighbours, one of them loses his wife for a time, as she can’t understand his actions. When it is completed and they launch it to the local public they struggle to get media interest and during the display the viewers who do come get nervous that the structure will collapse (it doesn’t) and they panic and leave. One national news crew (featuring a very young Pat Kenny) turns up late and does film them in action and duly broadcasts it on the news that night with a plea for sponsorship or financial investment for them to run it as a business and take it to festivals and elsewhere. No one calls so one of them, perhaps sensing the folly of the idea and realizing what his dream has already cost him or simply because he has the power to do so, destroys it by burning it down. The film ends with them still dreaming anew however.
The wall of the film could be read today as a metaphor for any crazy start-up enterprise and the glimpse they give of it in action to the public at large is the moment of non-comprehension as its difference is too great for most people to fathom without creating fear and rejection (ahead of its time). The film is also thought to give a very perceptive glimpse of the coming success of the Celtic Tiger and its collapse but does promise a more mature second chance at sometime in Ireland’s future.
What happened in reality was not all that different from the film as it turned out. In 1977 the pair had been initially inspired by an Elvis Presley film, Roustabout, (which is also referenced in the film) and while on a visit to Tommy Messham’s wall of death show at Funderland in Dublin they gained an insight to the dimensions and construction of it. The director Peter Ormond did make an Irish news item on them in 1979 but no-one came forward with sponsorship and gradually the wall deteriorated and became spread far and wide after a storm.
It has been estimated that it would take approximately just 1000 people around the world to begin the process of dreaming humanity out of a certain mindset or situation. This type of thinking appears to have been at the core of an Irish initiative that it is alleged was tried here surreptitiously in 1988.
It happened when an element within the Irish state brought in a consultant who promised them he could make the population dream themselves and their country out of recession. Due to its small population and high unemployment rate Co. Leitrim was selected as a low profile county to conduct the experiment.
A number of steps were taken in this process. Due to the large transference failure rate 3000 people were actually directly targeted at random from the live register and each were sent a series of unusual form letters confirming details of their social welfare claim and what they planned to do about looking for employment. Certain well recognized hypnotic trigger words were repeatedly used such as ‘imagine’, ‘you’ and ‘because’. These letters were followed up by scripted phone calls purporting to be from a market research company and again certain key phrases, commonly used by stage hypnotists the world over, were said to be peppered throughout. At the same time signs were being erected on main roads bearing what at the time must have been seen as some very cryptic advertising campaign. They featured slogans like ‘Celtic Tiger’, ‘Property Ladder’, ‘Dream Together’ and ‘Knowledge Economy’ (black text on white background) long before these terms gained any common currency with the population at large. Other more subtle things are said to have been tried on local radio as well but the most blatant example was an advert placed in a local paper with a textbook false reality image of a sleeping family with the line, ‘Something good is coming…’.
An infectious snowball effect was imagined to be set into motion once this positivity was gradually experienced that would eventually manifest in genuine prosperity on a wider scale. We can only speculate how directly successful this effort was but it would take another few years before the recession did end and prosperity visited the country for a time. Perhaps many did begin to innocently dream of better times ahead but if this is true is it any wonder that Co. Leitrim suffered the hangover of success more than most?
If the people behind this think that it worked once wouldn’t they try it again in a more sophisticated and widespread way? (Stephen Rennicks)
Co. Leitrim has by far the highest percentage of ghost estates and empty commercial buildings of any county in the country and there are many sound economic reasons for this. It might also be worth reflecting on the tradition of bad luck to anyone who builds on fairy roads or coffin routes. Fairy roads are generally in straight lines between hills and coffin routes are said to also have been on a generally straight path towards graveyards and were established during the famine. Bad luck would be constantly visited upon anyone who blocked either of these routes consciously or otherwise until they were unblocked somehow. Even opening a front and back door at night was said to accomplish this in some cases. It’s very hard to know how many of these traditional routes could have become blocked during the building boom but one route said to have been is dominated now by this unfinished 7000 feet palatial mansion somewhere in South Leitrim. This area, just on the edge of town, is said to have lain undeveloped for centuries for this reason. Today the house and what would have been its gardens are prey to vandals and lie in ruins since the property collapse. (Stephen Rennicks)