The Emerald Island

Registered : 29th January 1957
Duration: 28 minutes
Feet : 2530 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: BR/E22109
Production Company: Panoramic Film Productions Limited
Photographed in:  "Solscope"

Film Stills:  ​at baimfilms.com (opens in new window)

The Royal Mint, responsible for coinage design and banknote printing comes under scrutiny here in a quite fascinating film which explores in depth the history and traditions of this long established and important British institution. 

Title and Credits:

Kenneth MacLeod take you to ... The Emerald Island

Photographed in Eastmancolor by:  Eric Owen
Research:  Tom Sheehy, Iain McCarthaigh
Continuity: Glenda Baim
Processed by: Rank Laboratories, Denham, England
Produced and Directed by: Harold Baim
A Western Electric Recording


Out of the blue, an airliner descends to touch down on an island in the Atlantic. Three hundred and two miles long and a hundred and eighty-nine miles wide, its west of Britain and on the fringe of continental Europe.     

The green of the air hostesses’ uniforms gives a clue as to where we are, as does the symbolic harp on the cap of the customs officer.     

By ‘Mac and O’ we’ll always know true Irishmen, they say. But if they lack both O’ and Mac’, no Irishmen are they. It’s a good rhyme, but of course not strictly true. Because an Irishman is an Irishman though he be called by any other name.    

All public signs and notices are in the national language of Ireland, Gaelic, and in English.    

Letterboxes and telephone booths are all painted green, the national colour. And the government issues distinctive currency and postage stamps which are eagerly sought after by collectors.     

Dublin’s magnificent main thoroughfare is O’Connell Street, one of the finest in Europe. The view from the O’Connell Bridge is almost Venetian.    

About a mile west are the four courts, consisting of a centre flanked by squares connected by arcades.    

The city’s water artery is the River Liffe, which enters the sea in Dublin Bay. On its banks stands the two hundred years old Customs House.     

Terminus for the mail boat from England is Dún Laoghaire, a holiday resort on the southern shore of the bay.     

The antiquities section of the national museum contains many treasures. One relic of inestimable value is the Cross of Cong, a masterpiece in metal.    

The Ardagh Chalice with its minute decorations of panels and gold spine.    

The Keeper of Irish Antiquities is Dr Raftery.    

Said to be a thousand years old, the Tara Brooches of gilt with inlaid panels of gold.     

Most of the Emerald Island’s traditional dances are not of very early origin. You only have to listen to the musical accompaniment to know its Irish. In fact the music is older than the dancing. In Gaelic dancing, the emphasis is on the intricate footwork, there’s not a great deal of body movement, the dancers hold themselves erect, their hands at their sides and every note of music has its corresponding step, some of which are made more rapidly than the eye can follow. On the western seaboard it’s much more informal, the local boys and girls gather on the sanded floor of the cottage kitchen, the fiddler strikes up and away they go.     

Dublin’s Phoenix Park has a beautiful zoological garden founded in eighteen thirty. It has a full complement of inhabitants and the setting in which the zoo is situated is one of its most striking features.     

On an island in the middle of a lake live the gibbon monkeys.     

Reticulated Giraffes live among the trees. 

Against the background of nine hundred year-old Dunsany Castle, top fashion designer Sybil Connolly stages a dress show. The models wear white monk and tweed emphasis. A hand woven tweed dress, collar slightly away from the neck, a casual tweed and completely unusual.     

This lovely coat has the swirling fullness of the monk’s cloak.    

White monk, a white tweed worn by Aran island fishermen.    

In yellow pastel shade and as light to wear as linen, this is finest handwoven tweed it is possible to achieve. The jacket is in a slightly coarser weave to give a cardigan effect.    

A two-piece afternoon cocktail dress, it’s made of fine silk and printed taffeta. The organza coat is coloured with golden chinchilla.    

Sybil Connolly believes that line is the most important in dress design. Her name is quickly achieving the importance of the first fashion houses of the world. Her collections have been presented in New York and Los Angeles.    

Ireland has practically no coal, she depends instead on the remains of ancient forests which in prehistoric times covered the entire country. Realising the wealth of this natural resource, huge turf-powered generating stations were build sending daily eight hundred thousand kilo watts of electric power into the national grid.     

The giant digger cuts a hundred tons of turf an hour, pulps it and spreads it over the land in strips sixty yards wide.     

Lanes flanked by flowered borders delight the eye as one travels along them. Ireland is indeed a green land.    

It’s a long way to Tipperary but the journey is rewarded by the sight of the fabulous Rock of Cashel upon which stands one of the country’s greatest historic sites. The buildings include a tenth century church round tower and St Patrick’s Cross, the base of which is reputed to have been the coronation stone of ancient Irish kings.     

London, Paris, Rome or New York are no more famous than Blarney. Noted for the castle which has almost become a place of pilgrimage for visitors the world over. The main attraction is of course the renowned and magical Blarney Stone with its supposed power of bestowing the ability of smooth talk on all those who kiss it. You have to bend over backwards to do this and forever afterwards you will possess ‘a touch of the Blarney’, pleasant talk intended to deceive without offending.     

This means ‘Goodbye Now’ in Gaelic and so to Cork the third largest city in Ireland, its history dating back to the sixth century. St Patrick’s Street is its principal thoroughfare.     

The city of Cork is divided by the River Lee and the city quays can handle the largest of vessels.     

The door opens on the garden of the President at Cork’s university. The main buildings form three sides of a quadrangle. In Tudor gothic style, the whole is surrounded by extensive and well-kept grounds and tastefully laid out gardens.     

Cobh spelt ‘c-o-b-h’ is an important port of call for transatlantic liners, familiar to passengers who as they enter the harbour, have a fine view of the town, with its houses rising on a terraced hillside, all dominated by the cathedral, built at a cost of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. A carillon of forty-two bells rings out each day.     

Between Glen Gareth and Kenmare is the Tunnel Road.     

This old lady and her grandson on a donkey-drawn cart are typical of the people you meet en route.      

A familiar sight is the country creamery where farmers arrive from miles around to bring their churns of milk from which the cream is taken to be made into dairy products. It’s commonplace enough, but to the traveller intriguing and interesting.     

Another typical scene is that of a family out for a day’s turf digging. It’s like having an open cast mine in the garden. Using an eared spade called a ‘slane’ oblong slabs of turf are dug and then spread out to dry.     

Our tour of the Ring of Kerry or Grand Atlantic Route starts at Killarney, one of the Emerald Island’s loveliest districts, a wonderland of mountains and lakes, it’s reputation far-famed, Killarney is almost the eighth wonder of the world. The lower lake, one of the largest, can be entered by rowing under a bridge and among the long mountain shadows, the tales and legends of long ago seem to come alive.    

Across the lake is a mountain range called McGillycuddy’s Reeks, with their serrated edges and peaks, including Ireland’s highest which is three thousand five hundred feet high. Around the lake is a profusion of luxuriant woods of oak, birch, holly and mountain ash.     

Sooner or later in Killarney, the jaunting car makes its appearance. The sound of the horse’s hooves, the gentle swaying of the car, the ever-changing scenery, the soft brogue of our driver as he tells the ancient legends of his country, combine to weave a spell of enchantment from which one is loath to return to reality.     

Typical of the south west is the Ladies’ View, a perfect blending of mountains, island studded lakes, wooded shores and glens.     

Part of the Kerry Ring enjoys a sub-tropical climate. Palm trees, azaleas, bamboos and magnolias here grow wild. Because it is warmed by the Gulf Stream, this province has very little seasonal variation.     

From Dinis Island there is a fine view of the Meeting of the Waters, a vista of peace and tranquillity.     

Two miles from Glenbeigh is Rossbeigh Strand, under the shadow of the Curragh Hills, miles of sandy beach stretch out into the bay.     

Against the skyline is the Gap of Dunloe, a huge canyon which runs between the Reeks and the Purple Mountain range.     

At the entrance to the Dunloe Gap is Kate Kearney’s Cottage, starting and assembly point for the never-to-be-forgotten ride through Dunloe.     

The expedition is made on horseback or in a jaunting car and as you move off you feel rather as if you were crossing the Andes. It’s a seven mile journey and if you’re not used to horses, the best thing is to hold on with your knees and admire the massive rocks rising on either side of you and the turbulent streams strung along the road.     

Cars are not permitted here and it’s not long before you feel like the hero of a western film. During the ride, breaks are called for refreshment at conveniently-spaced inns and in about two hours you have reached your journey’s end.   

[End Credit]