Eat the Peach

The Irish film Eat The Peach (1986) was inspired by the true story of two brothers in-law who built a motorcycle wall of death in a field near Gubadorris, Co. Leitrim, close to its border with Co. Longford at 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 Ormrod, 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 fictionalized 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 story a large local employer closes, a Japanese computer manufacturer, which was common 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 losses 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 is can be read today as a metaphor for any crazy start-up enterprise and the glimpse they give of it in action 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 (its possibility and consequences would have psychologically come too soon for the majority in the 80’s and would also prove to ultimately be so 20 years or so later) 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 1984 the pair had been inspired by an Elvis Presley film Roustabout (which is referenced in the film) while a visit to Tommy Messham’s wall of death show at Funderland in Dublin gave them an insight to the dimensions and construction of a wall of death. The director Peter Ormond did do an Irish news item on them and one came forward with sponsorship and gradually the wall deteriorated and became spread far and wide after a storm.

I found a fantastic picture of the brothers at their original wall at this link which also has many more images and details on the stunts performed by Charles Winter in the film. (Stephen Rennicks)

Approx location of original wall of death on map