Eat the Peach

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.

(Stephen Rennicks)

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